The Jiffy Lube spill of 2017
Reflecting back on various news stories of the year, this is one that didn’t make headlines or change the world. Did it involve thousands of barrels of oil? No. Did it take months of clean up? No. Did it damage precious coastlines and wildlife? Of course not. But did it anger me almost the same and did I want heads to roll for it? Hell yes.
I am a mechanics daughter. Also, the proud owner of my practical, but peppy, 2014 Volkswagen Tiguan, also known as Heidi. A 2.0 L turbo, with 200 hp and 207 lbs of torque, Heidi has served me very well the last couple years. She goes in for regular servicing, usually at my local VW dealership in Calgary, with the odd appointment at a Jiffy Lube, convenience prevailing.
Being raised by a meticulous mechanic, I have been educated and coached over the years to take special care of my vehicles. Dad orders in cases of AMSOIL synthetic oil for me and MANN oil filters, not only for the cost savings, but for the stellar quality. He lives in Edmonton and I’m in Calgary so he keeps me stocked with these. When Heidi goes in for an oil change anywhere, I supply my own oil and filters regardless of whether this is at Volkswagen or a franchised shop.
On a recent visit to Edmonton this past November 12th, Heidi was due for an oil change and Dad had just restocked me with oil and filters. Instead of me doing it back in Calgary upon my return, he volunteered to take her in to the neighborhood Jiffy Lube for me. $48.28 for the service.
Cue dramatic music… On Tuesday, November 21st, back in Calgary, as I left my garage to drive to work, my ‘Check Engine’ light came on. Otherwise a pretty trouble-free ride, this was odd to me. When I drove home that evening, the light came on again, this time with the EPC warning light and I noticed a concerning noise coming from the engine each time I accelerated. What did I do?? I called my Dad of course, attempting to troubleshoot with him over the phone.
In reading what the EPC light signified, I knew I needed to book Heidi in for an emergency appointment at Volkswagen. I was puzzled. I called Volkswagen and I couldn’t get in until the following week which was a bit concerning. On my drive into work, 2 days later, just as I got up to 60 km/hr, Heidi groaning in protest, my dash lit up like a Christmas tree, dinged, and yelled ‘CHECK OIL PRESSURE’ on my dash. I was worried now. I called Volkswagen again and explained to the advisor what had just happened and he encouraged me to get in that afternoon.
After Google-mapping the safest way to Volkswagen South Centre, avoiding Deerfoot Trail, to keep from being stranded on the highway during rush hour, I made the slow and painful drive to the dealership on Thursday afternoon.
On Friday morning, November 24th, I received the call from my service advisor, Chad, at Volkswagen. He started with saying “Looking at your service reminder sticker on your windshield, did you just have an oil change done? Because you’ve got an issue with Jiffy Lube”. In the 12 days since my oil change, Heidi had leaked four out of the five litres of oil from her engine due to a faulty drain plug. How Chad explained it was that the installation of the oil pan drain plug was incorrectly installed, and had slowly been leaking. Being that the initial concern was the EPC light on the dash, they had run a diagnostic on the vehicle first, and within 45 minutes had discovered the leak from the plug. When drained, only 1 litre was recovered. I explained to Chad that Jiffy Lube in Edmonton had done my service less than 2 weeks before. He went on to inform me that the work they had just done could not be covered under my warranty, being that it wasn’t their initial service, so I was on the hook for the diagnostic and the new oil change; $332.93 out of my pocket.
Chad didn’t have to, but he did, call and speak with the Manager at the Jiffy Lube to explain their findings. The call wasn’t well received as the Manager, Mitch, took the stance that they couldn’t warranty the work because I had supplied my own oil and filter. He wouldn’t take any accountability for the service they had provided. Chad then emailed me the photos of the drain plug and the oil that had leaked while Heidi had been there at VW. These were also forwarded to Mitch at Jiffy Lube.
At this point, I called my Dad to explain what had happened. I knew he had been taking his car, my moms, my brothers and his girlfriends’ vehicles there for the last 5 years. When I explained to him what Chad had shared, Dad called Mitch at Jiffy Lube as well. Again, Mitch would not accept any responsibility for the service because I had provided my own product. He blamed the filter; he said he watched the video footage of his lube tech tightening the plug, and that we couldn’t prove this had been faulty.
Then I called Mitch. Mitch had an attitude. He continued to blame my oil filter. To which I replied, nothing was wrong with my oil or the filter, it was the drain plug installation. Had it been the filter, I wouldn’t have made it out of Edmonton, let alone made it two weeks. He asked how I hadn’t noticed an oil leak, and I explained that we had had heavy wet snow in Calgary that week, so any melt off in my shoebox sized garage, had been obscured. Additionally, my parking at work is in a different stall everyday. I felt that he should cover the VW invoice at the very least. I shared that my family was a regular customer and I asked if he was willing to lose dozens of customers for $333, to which he replied “why would I pay it and lose those customers anyway?”
I had learned a lot about drain plugs and gaskets and oil filters over the last 24 hours. I learned that there is a drain plug seal required for your drain plug. VW will charge you $7 for one on your service which they change each oil change. I learned Jiffy Lube does not do this. Which leads me to understand that the drain plug seal was reused from my previous oil change. When the drain plug was tightened, it either was over torqued, not tightened enough, or not threaded properly. End of story. This is the $48.28 of service I was paying for. This cost me that, plus $332.93 for their subpar workmanship, plus the cost of the oil and filter that was wasted, plus my lost time.
At this point, I’m grateful that I run a quality synthetic oil because I think this saved Heidi. I’m keeping my eye on her, in hopes that there’s no long term damage to her engine. Going forward, I will not be visiting a Jiffy Lube again, nor will my family, nor anyone I share this with. I learned that this is the exact reason why you should take your vehicle to the dealership for service (your welcome Volkswagen), because I at least know they’ll stand behind their work or accept responsibility should something go south.
Mitch tells me he owns a couple Jiffy Lube franchises in Edmonton, including the North Town Centre location at 13731 97 Street NW, where I visited. I think he can use some lessons in customer service and professionalism. And I hope that Jiffy Lube’s Customer Service executives will take a good look at their mission statement and hold their franchise managers to this promise. Because their service might be Jiffy, but not thorough.
-The Jiffy Spiller