Big Changes and Little Changes

Spending time in our new place in South Carolina is a big change from our home in New England. With that big change comes a lot of little changes and challenges. Where is the best grocery store (there is no Whole Foods or Trader Joe’s), hardware store and fish monger? At first we are like tourists, going to the rustic and colorful local establishments. Today we went to the local farmers market and got she crab soup, it was delicious but probably not a wise purchase for someone trying to be diet conscious. It isn’t long before the prices will make me feel foolish and I start looking for alternatives. One particular guy thing that I am having to face is, “Where do I get the oil changed on the car?” This is particularly troublesome for me because I am a bit of a gear head.

Back in Connecticut the oil change issue has evolved into a social happening. I take my car over to Bob’s. Bob has a pit in his garage. I buy a five gallon jug of Mobile 1 and a Fram filter at Walmart (about $26.00 for the oil and less than $10.00 for the filter). Drive to Bob’s and can change the oil in about fifteen minutes. Bob even recycles the oil, he has a buddy that uses it to heat his garage. But, in reality the oil change process takes over an hour. We talk at length about cars, projects we are doing around the house and politics. When I am under the car I check for any other damage or issue with the car that cannot be seen from above.

I tend to be fussy about my car. Perhaps this one in particular because it is new. I do not trust, at all, the dealer in Connecticut because they have a bad service reputation.

That reminds of a story told to me by Bob about his son-in-law. The lad brought his new car to the dealership for service religiously. He would not let Bob change the oil on his new car, his pride and joy. Finally, years later he deigned to let Bob do the honors. Great effort was required to get the filter off. When it finally came off, the oil was so thick that it nearly did not drain from the filter. Seems that although paying top dollar for service, the service was seldom if ever performed. The last time I owned a new car, I also took it to the dealership for service the first couple of years I owned it. Finally I stopped. When it eventually came time to change the cabin air filter I had a revelation. To change the filter, required the removal of the glove box and the removal of a brace that had been used to support the dashboard during assembly. The brace was still in place. Without the removal of the brace it is not possible to get access to the filter. Although I had paid the dealership in the past for a new cabin air filter, it had never been replaced.

So, what to do about changing the oil in Bluffton?

  • I can’t take it out in the desert and open the drain plug. No, I didn’t ever do this but it has been known to happen back in the day. Besides, no desert here.
  • Bob’s garage pit is 900 miles away.
  • I would be embarrassed to let the local dealership rip me off. I would have to wear a disguise after my comments above.
  • I could ask a local guy. A local guy would know.

I asked Pete. Pete is working on the place next door. As it turns out, Pete changes his own oil and doesn’t trust any of the local dealerships. Pete called over the carpenter supervisor. After some in depth discussion we settled on a local place. By the way, the carpenter supervisor also changes his own oil and doesn’t trust the dealerships. It made me feel good to be in the company of other gear heads and comforting to know that any readers of this missive will understand that I am not alone with my peculiar ideas regarding oil changes. It should be noted that I was also cautioned to go over the process with the mechanic and mark my oil filter so I could make sure that the filter was changed.

So I phoned the shop and made an appointment for next week, the earliest I could get in. It was good to hear that they are so busy that I had to wait a week.

There is another extreme to the oil change dilemma. When I lived in Pittsburgh I worked with a senior engineer, Regis. Regis had the notion that one added oil but should not change it. He would keep the oil at the proper level but left it in place for as long as he owned the car. His idea was that the built up sludge would prevent oil leaks. I don’t believe I would buy a car from Regis.

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