And people wonder why the automotive industry has a reputation for being sleazy.

Dear Car Talk

Dear Car Talk | Sep 01, 1991

Dear Tom and Ray:

When I brought my 1980 Toyota Tercel in for an oil change, a minor oil leak was discovered. The oil-change place wants me to leave my car there all day to do a series of tests to find out where the leak is coming from. However, I see no oil on my garage floor. Can there be oil leakage without my knowing it? Could it be spotted during a routine oil change? I would like to know before I go through this expensive procedure. One other thing. While I was in the waiting room, I overheard the mechanic saying the very same thing to another woman about an oil leak in her engine.

TOM: And people wonder why the automotive industry has a reputation for being sleazy.

RAY: Well, Joni, there are several issues here. The first is whether you really have an oil leak. The second is, if you do, whether it's coming from the engine or the transmission. And the third is whether these are the guys who should work on the car if it needs to be repaired.

TOM: The oil leak story sounds a little fishy to me--especially since another customer got the same exact "bad news" that you did. On the other hand, there is some possibility that you really do have an oil leak. If a significant amount of oil is leaking from the engine, you would notice that when you check it with your dipstick. You can check it everytime you fill-up and determine that for yourself.

RAY: But if it were the transmission, and not the engine that were leaking, you might not notice it until it was low enough to have done some serious damage.

TOM: So our recommendation is that you take the car to your regular mechanic for a second opinion. Although we've heard that most of the guys who work in these quick-change places are former NASA technicians who were laid off due to cut backs in the space program, you obviously don't trust them. So take the car to a mechanic you know and trust, and I'm sure you'll feel a lot better about the diagnosis, whatever it is. Good luck, Joni.

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