Don't Get Your Oil Changed At Walmart

We understand why you might buy socks at Walmart. We even understand why you might buy food there, god help you. What’s the worst that can happen? Salmonella peanut butter? Cold feet? A Walmart oil change, however, is something that gives us pause. Reader Jason writes:

The employees and their manager spent most the time spraying each other with air hoses and windshield fluid. 3 hours later, after seeing other folks come and go, we were told our vehicles were ready. We paid and left quickly, trying to avoid any other confrontation that would delay us even more. Flash forward to last week, my wife told me that her check engine light came on while going to work and the same on the way home.

We have to admit we didn’t know there was such a thing as a Walmart oil change before this letter.

Walmart’s website claims that the most basic oil change package costs $18.88. For that price Walmart’s technicians will:

•Add up to five quarts of oil
• Install new oil filter
• Lubricate chassis (when applicable)

First of all, we hope they meant “change” rather than “add,” but we’re willing to give them the benefit of the doubt. The real question is whether it’s a good idea to cut costs when it comes to your car. From Jason’s email:

I’m no mechanic by any sense of the word, so I was pretty clueless as to what was wrong. I called the local mechanic and made an appointment for today. I get a call from my wife, said that she spoke with the mechanic, fearing the worst, I braced myself for a huge repair bill. The mechanic said that when the oil was changed, oil was spilled all over the engine compartment, after the tech at Wal-Mart realized their mistake they washed the compartment with water, allowing water to seep into the engine where the spark plugs are housed, thus causing the engine sputtering. Our bill ended up being $80.00, not too bad I guess. Should’ve been nothing. Damn you Wal-Mart!

Was it worth the savings? We say the best way to save money on an oil change is to learn to do it yourself. If your lease won’t let you, borrow a friend’s driveway. Cars are fun! If you don’t like getting dirty, consider the fact that car repairs are expensive. Find a qualified person and give them your business. Save 10 bucks on Cheerios or toothpaste, instead. —MEGHANN MARCO

Jason writes:

My wife and I made our first mistake by going to our local Wal-Mart (Kansas City, Missouri) convieniently located among the sprawl near our apartment. We needed to have the oil changed on our cars. I would’ve done it myself, but our lease prevents us from doing any kind of car maintenance in the parking lot. So one fine Saturday afternoon a week or two ago we drove to the automotive side of the building, parked our cars, and went inside. Once inside, we decided on what oil change “package” we wanted. Trying to save a little money, we went with the basic package. I inquired about the wait time and was told about a half hour. While I was sitting in the waiting room I had a good view of the garage bay. The place was a dirty, messy, clusterfuck. The employees and their manager spent most the time spraying each other with air hoses and windshield fluid. 3 hours later, after seeing other folks come and go, we were told our vehicles were ready. We paid and left quickly, trying to avoid any other confrontation that would delay us even more. Flash forward to last week, my wife told me that her check engine light came on while going to work and the same on the way home. She said that it sputtered while accelerating. I’m no mechanic by any sense of the word, so I was pretty clueless as to what was wrong. I called the local mechanic and made an appointment for today. I get a call from my wife, said that she spoke with the mechanic, fearing the worst, I braced myself for a huge repair bill. The mechanic said that when the oil was changed, oil was spilled all over the engine compartment, after the tech at Wal-Mart realized their mistake they washed the compartment with water, allowing water to seep into the engine where the spark plugs are housed, thus causing the engine sputtering. Our bill ended up being $80.00, not too bad I guess. Should’ve been nothing. Damn you Wal-Mart!

Walmart Lube,.Oil & Tire
(Photo: Brave New FIlms)

Comments

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  1. mopar_man says:

    Just another reason not to go to Wal-Mart. About 6 months ago, a Chevy Blazer showed up at the shop I worked at. The lady who owned it just had her oil changed at Wal-Mart. The sticker in the windshield said it was changed less than 300 miles ago. We changed the oil and found it to be a tar-like substance. Long story short, they billed her but didn’t do anything. The engine had no compression because of the sludge that was in the engine. DO NOT BUY ANYTHING AT WAL-MART, NOT EVEN SOCKS.

  2. DaveInTheCorn says:

    I’ve got a question about changing your own oil…once you change it, what can you do with the used oil?

    Back in my day (15-20 years ago), the gas station at the corner would accept the used oil for a small recycling fee. Do places still recycle oil?

  3. jurgis says:

    I once had my oil changed at Walmart (in Denver). I never shop there, but this time I was really pressed for time and my friend needed to go there for some reason.

    1) Apparently the washer fluid they use does not contain enough alcohol to keep it from freezing. Not a problem for some, but when you are stuck in traffic, going out to Vail on a Sunday morning, it kinda sucks. After some inquiries, I learned that people who know this always pump their washer fluid dry and replace it, post oil change.

    2) Even though they had one other car, it still took over an hour and a half to change. So much for saving time.

    3) The guy who drove out my car managed to not only park it in two spaces (crooked), but with one wheel on the curb. Additionally, he neither put the car in first (manual tranny) or pulled up the parking brake. He did, however, have plenty of time to scoot my seat all the way up and raise the steering wheel. It was also, so crooked that I had to do an n-point turn to get it out (the end was diagonal to a corner and a shopping car return). It was so messed up… it was like a professional “bad parking” hit.

    Thankfully, when I took it to the dealer two months later, they said it was ok. I think I lucked out.

  4. jurgis says:

    @DaveInTheCorn: Yeah, go to a Checker/Autozone/etc with your milk jug of gunk.

  5. ironchef says:

    @DaveInTheCorn: it’s required by law in California. And no fee is charged as long as it is 5 qts and not a 50gal drum.

  6. cudthecrud says:

    @DaveInTheCorn:
    Lots of places will take your used oil. Just about any of the quickie-lube style oil changes places have a used oil receptacle available without a charge. I used to take mine to Autozone, who had a dumpster sized oil trap in the back behind their new oil. I’ve been tempted to just change my oil at the Autozone before, but I fear the hot pavement.

  7. jendomme says:

    I, like many people, choose not to give Wal-Mart my business for many reasons. However, I think mopar_man is jumping too conclusions regarding Wal-Mart.

    First, 2005 was the last year that Chevrolet produced a blazer. It wasn’t as though she was bringing a brand new car into the dealership. For all we know that car could be as old as the hills.

    Second, who’s to say that the woman had changed her oil on regular basis before going to Wal-Mart and then to his shop. She could have been driving that thing for a year or longer on the same oil. The damage was likely already done.

    My suspicion is that it was no Wal-Mart’s fault. Let’s look at the evidence:
    1. She is a woman. Women know as much about cars as straight men do about fashion.
    2. She is driving an American SUV. The only people who drive these vehicles are rednecks, Latinos and deep-south dwellers.

    So what we’ve got here is a dumb, redneck woman from somewhere south of the Mason-Dixon line.

  8. bambino says:

    @jendomme: holy canoli, the jokes write themselves! All the comments I’ve read from you have been baseless and ignorant. Can we get a ban here?

    Back on topic, our girlfriend had her oil changed at walmart once when the situation was dire and options were limited. When the work was done, the employee summarily backed the car into a row of shopping carts. Sam Walton, what disease hath thou wrought?

  9. oilman says:

    >>2. She is driving an American SUV. The only people who drive these vehicles are rednecks, Latinos and deep-south dwellers.

    oilman looks in the mirror then out at his American SUV in the driveway and makes a mental note to determine how much damage the bush bar will do to jendomme’s import…

    sure there’s a lot of potential loopholes in the Chevy Blazer story but I don’t care what sort of damage was done it doesn’t account for sludgy oil in 300 miles. Dunno maybe your import does that…

  10. etfe says:

    Um, this is theft. It’s illegal! It also makes consumer prices rise. How can anyone encourage this?

  11. andyfranklin says:

    I used to take my car to Wal-Mart for oil changes until one time I decided to do it myself. I found that they used the wrong filter. It was smaller in diameter so it barely covered the machined surface of the filter mount. I thought I picked up the wrong one from pep-boys but I double checked FRAM’s site and I had bought the correct one. The filter they used was undersized. However, it was designed for use on other Honda engines – motorcycle engines, that is. I have never gone back.

  12. mopar_man says:

    @jendomme:

    Wow. I have to agree about the ban statement.

    As for the loopholes, I’m not sure there are any. She had the last 2 services at Wal-Mart and at/around the 3000 mile mark (overkill but she was dilligent about it). So not only had they screwed her once but twice (maybe even more, there were only 2 service records available).

  13. iambeaker says:

    Regarding Wal-Mart’s great oilchange policy… Part of their “policy” is to roll the window down so they don’t lock your keys in the car. No problem there, but they should know when to stop rolling down. Long story short, I had a broken driver side window, a terrible oil change, a dirty air filter, and NO APOLOGY. “We sell for Less… including our souls!!!”

  14. etfe says:

    “Don’t Get Your Oil Changed At Walmart” is just a knee-jerk response for failing to assume some responsibility. Here’s why;

    First, the couple watched for hours while the mechanics played. Horesplay is not allowed in any workplace like this. Why wasn’t the manager alerted? As they couple left the store, just what confrontation were they trying to avoid?

    Secondly, if you had a mechanic indicate that water was sprayed to wash oil off of the engine, then WalMart could have been held responsible for any damage. I find it hard to believe water got in the engine (I assume it simply created a misfiring on the outside of the engine).

    So, step up, speak up, and don’t let shoddy work be performed on your vehicle! Jason is at fault for letting anyone get away with this. I hope he can manage to avoid all “confrontations” in the future, so that he won’t be inconvenienced. Stop whining if you don’t want to take care of business.

  15. WhatThe... says:

    @jendomme: “She is a woman. Women know as much about cars as straight men do about fashion.” You are one ignorant S.O.B. It’s that attitude that makes it hard for the women who do know about cars to be taken seriously. I know my car inside and out – better than my husband and every other guy I know combined. I second the ban!

    I recall reading a similar story a few months back. While googling for it I came across so many I couldn’t find it again.

  16. velocipenguin says:

    Given all the quick-lube horror stories Consumerist has run in the past, I find it hard to believe that anyone familiar with this site would even consider trusting Wal-Mart to do an oil change. Change your own oil – it’s the only way to make sure an inept 16-year-old won’t ruin your car (unless, of course, you are an inept 16-year-old.)

  17. jendomme says:

    @mopar_man: You didn’t mention that she had two services at Wal-Mart, nor that they were at 3000 mile intervals. That does shed a different light on the situation. It is quite scary to think about what might happen if Wal-Mart was to get into the brake business.

  18. guroth says:

    for 18 bucks it sounds like all they do is ADD oil.. and it is going to be cheap ass oil. (One of the best things you can do for your engine is use a high quality synthetic oil and get it changed regularly) if she had her vehicle serviced there before then she could have gone 10k+ miles without a “real” oil change, just adding new oil which would certainly cause sludge and “tar like” substance

  19. niteflytes says:

    I suppose it depends on the Wal-Mart you go to. I’ve been getting my oil changed at my local Wal-Mart in Indiana for years and never had a problem. They’re fast, courteous and even alerted me to when my car was unusually low on oil a few times. Now I check my oil every week and it does slowly lose oil but not because of anything Wal-Mart’s done. It’s just an old car and has lots of miles on it.

  20. jendomme says:

    @WhatThe…: Oh please. It is a generalization. I love it when women claim to know so such and such or can do this and that. These generalizations come from the public repeatedly observing these events take place in daily life. Of course people don’t take women seriously. Try having a conversation with one.

  21. defectiveburger says:

    My family is super cheap and love the walmart oil changes, but stopped going after numerous problems, like being given the wrong oil weight, being given too much/too little oil, getting terrible oil filters, and having oil filters overtightened to the point where you need a screwdriver to pry it out. yeah. walmart bad.

  22. yeah, i made the mistake of getting a Wal-Mart oil change once, since it was only a block from my house and I was pressed for time. About an half an hour later I noticed the temperature gauge was getting a bit high, so I pulled over to see what was wrong. The dipshits had removed the hose-clamp that kept one of the coolant hoses attached, and all the coolant had leaked out as it got hot and expanded. Let me point out that there is NO REASON WHATSOEVER to touch anything related to the coolant system when changing the oil. Had I not been watching the gauge, I could have burned up my engine. While I briefly considered going back to Walmart with a baseball bat, I haven’t let them touch my car since then.

  23. jendomme says:

    @oilman: I would imagine any internal combustion engine might produce sludge. However, I am willing to argue that a precisely engineered German engine will produce less than an equivalent domestic engine following manufacturers maintenance schedule.

    I cannot comment about how much damage your SUV might do to my G55 AMG.

  24. Type-E says:

    I know how to do oil change but it’s totally not worth to do it yourself.

    The cheapest oil are like $2.xx a quart and it only cost my local mechanic $15 to change oil + filter change.

    You might go at, they put crap oil in your car, I will use Synthetic Oil as comparison. They are like $35 from walmart and a filter is around $5. It only cost $45 for synthetic oil change.

    When you do it yourself, you got to drive to somewhere that will dump your oil for you which is extra work.

    The right thing is to find a shop that you can trust and do it there.

  25. velocipenguin says:

    @Type-E:

    When you do it yourself, you got to drive to somewhere that will dump your oil for you which is extra work.

    I don’t know about you, but I don’t have a Jiffy Lube in my driveway. Getting to one requires driving there.

  26. mopar_man says:

    I would imagine any internal combustion engine might produce sludge. However, I am willing to argue that a precisely engineered German engine will produce less than an equivalent domestic engine following manufacturers maintenance schedule.

    Heh. That was entertaining. Thanks for the laugh.

  27. categorically says:

    @jendomme: I’m lucky or unlucky enough to own one of those “precisely engineered” German engines and have gotten myself knee deep in sludge.

    Volkswagen owners receive sludge warning

    I’m stuck having to use Synthetic Oil per VW’s recommendation and waiting until my engine dies a slow painful death.

  28. mr_pants says:

    I have to question the validity of Walmart at fault here. I’ve sprayed my engine compartment with water before which shorted the electronics (spark plugs, distributor, etc), but after an hour or so of drying the car runs fine. The fact that they drove the car away from the oil change fine but then it did some funny things later in the week makes me wonder how water could be the problem. There is no way water is going to be left inside a 280° engine compartment after driving around Maybe your CEL was telling you to change your oil.

  29. mac-phisto says:

    @guroth: you should disclaim here. ATTENTION: if you have an older engine that leaks/burns a bit of oil, DO NOT USE SYNTHETIC.

    @jendomme: g55 amg? let’s all say it at once…SUCKER!

    @Type-E: i have a mechanic friend that i trust w/ my car for repairs. he unequivocally denies the ability to oil/filter/lube with any oil you’d want to put in your car for less than $25. if you’re paying less, you’re getting less.

    & for the rest, come on. it’s wal-mart. does anybody think they’re hiring ASE mechanics here? i don’t even trust my car to monroe b/c an old friend lost an engine to an oil change there. turns out gomer forgot to put the plug back in. WHOOPS!

  30. jendomme says:

    @mopar_man: anytime, douche bag.

  31. WhatThe... says:

    @jendomme: A Ben’s g55 amg – oh, you’re a rich prick. I guess that generalization explains it all.

  32. FishingCrue says:

    Bragging that you drive a $110,000 tank that hasn’t been updated for a decade (and hasn’t been colorably changed in 25 years) really doesn’t give you much street cred. as a savvy consumer.

  33. @bambino: can I second that nomination? I checked through the comments and I am all for being offensive and such, however I dont think I could find a single positive or constructive comment from this fool. Then I go and fall for the troll by responding like this.

    Dont trolls go away if we ignore them? How does it go?

    Dont feed the trolls.

  34. Bay State Darren says:

    @jendomme: Fuck off.

  35. appleface says:

    The true sign of an intelligent debate is when one of the parties involved starts name calling. Oh wait, that happens when one can’t defend their viewpoint. Bring forth the ban!!@WhatThe…: ^5

  36. Ass_Cobra says:

    @WhatThe…:

    jendomme actually gets off on letting people know what a rich prick s/he is.

    s/he is a B-School grad that expected to make $145,000 per year post MBA.

    s/he doesn’t have time to polish his/her own shoes…who does??

    jendomme also likes the gawker approved put-down douchebag. Try and find a thread where s/he doesn’t directly call someone a douche bag, or a group collectively douche bags. It’s about a 50/50 shot.

    What puzzles me? Who is the real jendomme? Jendomme claims to be going into his/her fifth decade on the planet, yet claims his/her B-School loans will be paid off in 8 years with very little interest paid. Can we assume jendomme is a recent business school grad? A B-school grad in his/her late 30′s rocking $100K truck and having little people deal with his/her shoes? Who in the fuck is making enough at that advanced stage of their career to afford such a truck, but needs to head back to B-school for that extra bump? Are you in it for the love of learning? You know an MBA doesn’t actually teach one much, right? er du dansker?

    Will you clear up this mystery for me? For the children? Please?

  37. karmaghost says:

    My favorite part is when they used water to wash the oil away. lol.

  38. traezer says:

    The fact that someone just bragged about driving a mercedes was a real lol moment.

    Also, he needs to find some other women to talk to besides the escorts he hires.

  39. Welcome_to_Oakas says:

    Can I charge Walmart with ‘Arsehole and Battery’?
    I went to a Walmart to get one of their Everstart Maxx batteries because it was ranked highly by Consumer Reports, but I made the mistake of also letting them install it. It probably took only an hour to get it installed, but for an extra two hours the guy at the counter kept saying it wasn’t ready because his query of the ‘completed’ pile of orders had a search depth of one. But lucky me, at least I got an insincere ‘I appreciate your patience’.
    Oh yeah, then I had to wait in line at Customer Service because they charged me for the ‘core’ even though I left my previous battery with them.

  40. sammy303 says:

    My sister got her oil changed at Wal-Mart when they first opened in San Diego. Turns out the tech (if you can call them that) forgot to tighten the drain plug correctly. After about 20 minutes of driving, the vibration loosened the drain plug, the drain plug and all the oil were now on city streets. By the time the engine light came on and she pulled over, the engine was already wrecked.

    Luckily she was able to get them to pay for the cost of rebuilding the engine (fun!), but it was a pain in ass (not fun!).

    Needless to say she never took it to Wal-Mart for an oil change ever again. I still shake my fist in the air every time I drive past a Wal-Mart.

  41. adam2dot0 says:

    Walmart uses recycled oil. A friend of mine had his old Buick Regal serviced at WM, and a few days later the oil pump gummed up and killed the car. A jalopy succumbing to old age, or substandard oil/filters used by Walmart? You decide…

  42. kenposan says:

    I swear by Valvoline quick oil changes. Been using them, at various locations, for about 7 years now and never once had an issue with them.

  43. velocipenguin says:

    @mac-phisto:

    I have an old car that leaks a little bit of oil. Switching to Mobil 1 actually halved the rate of leakage.

  44. Triteon says:

    Just to continue beating the discount dead horse:
    Don’t get anything at Wal-Mart.

  45. amalgamator says:

    I dont’ know what the big deal is…I have had my oil changed at wal-mart many times and I have never had a problem. It’s actually pretty nice. I go there and drop off the car. Do all my shopping and then pile in the groceries and leave.

    Unless you have all the equipment and time and good weather (or a garage) then it makes more sense to go somewhere. It dosen’t take a rocket scientist to change oil, might as well get it done cheap. Now don’t get me wrong, I wouldnt take a brand-new Lexus there, but my 98 Saturn feels right at home in Wal-Mart!

  46. Bay State Darren says:

    @Bay State Darren: I just wnt to go ahead and apologize for my above remark. It was way out of line. This site deserves much more intelligent discouse than I contribute and tonight even more so.

  47. appleface says:

    @Bay State Darren: I was typing in response to the douche bag reference. Your post was kind of funny, but I’m a little jaded, I think your remark while a little harsh, was direct and to the point, and spoke what I can assume others may have been thinking.

  48. jendomme says:

    FishingCrue, I wasn’t bragging. Just stating that the vehicle I drive is large and heavy thereby calling into question the damage some other SUV might inflict on my vehicle.

  49. jendomme says:

    @RowdyRoddyPiper: Good, you’ve been reading my posts. It was an EMBA for clarification. Yes, it was for the love of learning and, yes, it does not teach much. School wasn’t for the career, rather it was for the fun of it. Happy now?

    As for the car, it is a company car.

  50. mantari says:

    I hate to jump into this thread, because it is getting nasty, but…

    My problem is that I regularly catch them _not_ checking the tire inflation. Last time, I brought it to the attention of the service manager, who came up with all sorts of excuses how his people actually did it, just their gauge was wrong or something. “His people absolutely did everything they were supposed to.”

    I caught them because one of my tires has a very slow leak. Part of the package I purchased included tire pressure check. It was marked off on the paperwork as done / 30psi. So after it was serviced, I checked the tire with the slow leak. 20psi. Should have been 32. The rest of the tires were at 30ish.

    If I can’t trust them not to cut corners on the tires, how do I know that they haven’t cut corners elsewhere in the work? That they actually changed the oil filter? Or done anything else properly unless I watch them like a hawk?

    I know, my example is very specific. But I need to trust a place that does work on my car. I just can’t trust Wal-Mart.

  51. Esquire99 says:

    I have used Walmart on numerous occasions in the past for oil changes and replacement tires, and while at times the less than stellar customer service has gotten to me, i’ve never had an issue with their work on the car. As long as you don’t show up at 5:15 when everyone just got off work, they are typically fairly swift. The price is right, and they don’t continuously try and up-sell you like Jiffylube and the like. While I always changed the oil in my Audi (synthetic Mobil 1 only), I typically used Walmart for my wifes Lumina sedan. The people that say they don’t “trust” Walmart to do the work, what reason do you have to trust Jiffy Lube, or any other 15 minute oil change shop? I mean, lets be real here, if you’re getting your oil changed anywhere other than a dealer, or an independent mechanic, you’re in most cases looking to save some cash. I’d venture to guess that if jendomme were to take his Mercedes to the dealer for an oil change, they would either be very swift about it, or offer a loaner. Yes, they are going to charge an arm and a leg, but thats the service you get when you pay for it. And i’m not entirely conviced that I consider an oil change “work on my car”. They aren’t doing any sort of major mechanical work on it, and why is everyone afraid of a “16 year old” doing the work? A trained monkey could change oil. I suppose I am a bit biased because I truely am a big fan of Walmart. I think the company takes a lot of flack that is undeserved. THey employ alot of people, and while the benefits may not be the same that a professional would get at a big company, they are benefits none the less. Most of the employees there are uneducated (no college) and probably aren’t terribly motivated to excel in life. What do they expect?

  52. Ass_Cobra says:

    Explanation for everything I suppose.

    So your company will give you a $100K car but won’t pay for your executive MBA?

    You’re setting off my bullshit detector in a big way pal. Keep frontin’ like you’re something though. It’s amusing at least.

  53. br549xt93 says:

    I worked with a guy who once took his car to Walmart for an oil change. On his way home, at about 60 MPH, the hood of his car flew up and shattered his windshield. This was because the people who changed his oil couldn’t latch the hood down. I guess the hood was a little tricky to close, but they should have told him that they had trouble closing it before he left. He went back to Walmart, irate of course, and they said that they couldn’t do anything about it because the damage was too much for them to pay for. Apparently, they have a limitation on how much they will pay out for a major fuck up like that. Now the poor bastard is stuck with a shattered windshield and a bent-to-shit hood that won’t close anymore at all.

    Who in there right mind would take their car to Walmart for an oil change? That’s asking for disaster.

  54. The Walking Eye says:

    Maybe he meant Electronic MBA, like University of Phoenix? But why would you brag about that? :)

    I’ve never had problems w/ oil changes at Wal-Marts, but I’ve only gotten oil changed there 5 times or so over the last 12 years. It really depends on the store, just like it does w/ any quick oil change.

    I just change my own oil since it’s so easy and I can control what oil is put in much easier.

  55. PhongTran says:

    I’m a mechanic and the best advice I can give is don’t go to a large chain for your car service.

    Canadian Tire [aka. Crappy Tire]
    Walmart
    Mr Lube

    Take the time to find a good mechanic that you trust. If you don’t know of any then ask a friend who they take their car to.
    Dealerships tend to do good work though also charge by far the most for service, but if you can’t find a good mechanic are worth the extra charge for the minor stuff like oil changes.

    In regards to oil, here are the basic facts

    1. Synthetic oils are superior than regular oil.
    2. Synthetics cost ALOT more
    3. MOST cars don’t really benefit much from synthetics.

    If your owners manual does not require sythetic oil don’t bother using it, its a waste of your money SAME goes for buying a higher grade of fuel when all you need is regular 87 octane.

  56. dieman says:

    I stopped going to Valvoline when they started upselling to death. Nevermind their employees are just kids sometimes.

    I just head down to my trusty mechanic and have them do it. It costs me $29, but I know its being looked over by an actual ASE certified mechanic.

  57. 0x12is18 says:

    I previously worked for Walmart for nearly four years (in 4 different stores). I still love Walmart and am a Walmart apostle, but I do not recommend using the TLE (Tire Lube Express). I have witnessed the receiving end of numerous phone calls from irate customers in need of repairs after mistakes were made by the TLE at Walmart.

    To a store manager, the TLE is a huge liability, but the corporate office dictates whether or not you get one. In my experience, the TLE reduces the stores profitability, and in doing so, reduces the bonus the stores (and employees) get at the end of the year.

    So please, save yourself and the poor Walmart employees money and get your oil changed elsewhere.

  58. Tool says:

    I’m a blue collar consumerist. I change my own
    oil in my VW Jetta and have used Wal-Mart lube service on occasion for my ’97 Ford Aerostar (the manvan designed like NASA’s Shuttle).
    Never had a problem with Wal-Mart’s service – always has been a fast, friendly and convenient service not to mention a lot of fun. Fun you say? Yes, fun – because while you wait for your auto to be finished up you can wander the isles of Wal-Mart to find those hidden gems awaiting in each isle.
    Would you like a new iPod nano case for .99 on clearance – they got it, need a some pots or pans to try new culinary creations? They got that too, for $2. Sweet store, great service and a wonderful place to purchase bulk synthetic oil at a great price.

    Your choice, go to a quick lube other than Wal-Mart and purchase the $50 filter which really doen’t need replacing. While your at it why not spend another $50 on some wiper blades, and don’t forget the $6 turn signal bulb which you aren’t even sure there was a problem with.

    Good Luck

  59. Ben Popken says:

    Johnny Page writes:

    “Your Walmart Oil change story reminded me of a similar one that occurred to my parents. I’ve never thought to let you guys know till I saw that one!

    My parents had a similarly horrible experience at Walmart last year here in South Edmonton Common, Edmonton, AB. They took their car into get an oil change, and left it there to do other errands. When they got there, the clerk at the desk could not ‘find’ their car and got all nervous. After about 15 minutes of ‘checking the lot’ the clerk gave in and said one of the mechanics had taken their car to go pick up a friend who’s car had broken down! My parents immediately got the manager involved, and the manager seemed to be taking the appropriate actions, and when the tech came back ~10 minutes later he wasen’t even apologetic about stealing their car to get his friend, he seemed to think he had the right to! My parents, being the nice pushovers they are, and seeing it as someone helping someone else and no harm was done other than ~20 minutes of time let it go. Walmart even made them pay for the oil change! The manager said he would call them back with a resolution, but none ever came.

    I told my parents they should have called the cops and reported their car stolen as soon as they heard that, and demanded to talk to the regional manager asap and raised all holy stink. The tech is lucky it wasen’t me who’s car he stole, or he would be in jail right now, and walmart would have had some serious questions to answer.

    Moral of the story, get 2 ramps and do it your self for $15

    unbelievable.”

  60. Caveat says:

    I have used Wal-Mart many times for oil changes in Southern California and I have had no problems. I opt to have them put in brand name oil. The do inspect the rest of the car because they properly flagged wipers that needed replacement. The service area is very clean and visible through a large window in the waiting area. Clearly mistakes can happen, though. I would advise all consumers to check their own oil dipstick after the service to ensure that the pan is full and that the oil has a clear clean look. Also look for any unexpected oil drips under the car. This is a good approach no matter who you use to change your oil.

  61. webcaster68 says:

    Never get your oil changed at Wal-mart my mom did once and she had the check engine light come on the very next day. Me I like to help put are small town shop they change the oil,check the tires,and fill up all fluids for 20 bucks. Another thing is they don’t try to replace stuff that dosen’t need replacing like air filters something almost every place will try to upsell.

  62. Lacclolith says:

    My fondest memory of going to Wal-Mart for any kind of automotive service was in 2004, when they refused to change the oil in my 93′ Nissan 240SX because they claimed “the engine bay is too dirty”. I’m not shitting you. That was the best excuse they could come up with.

    Needless to say, I’ve been changing the oil myself for the last three years.

  63. medalian1 says:

    I’ve been changing my own oil for about 10 years … roughly as long as I’ve been allowed to drive. I had some real bad problems with those 10 minute oil change places and walmart. It’s just easier to know it was done correctly when you do it yourself.

  64. mikesfree says:

    Why is it that it is almost impossible ot hire anyone to do anything now and get it done right?
    I dont have time to change my own oil!

    I drive an 06 Accord VP, and pretty much just take it to the dealer. Honda now has a quick change system at the dealer, and they charge about $25-30 for the service. They seem to always be dilligent and some even wash your car. I have been very happy with that.

  65. mikesfree says:

    Oh yeah, they havent ever tried to upsell, but the car doesnt have over 26k yet.

  66. Raanne says:

    wow – pretty nasty for a consumerist thread….

    That being said – I’m not surprised at all with Walmart’s service – its on par with what you get when you pay minimum wage, and don’t put forth the effort to train your employees.

  67. nffcnnr says:

    Wal-Mart: BANNED!!…still.

  68. Emrikol says:

    Wal-Mart changed my oil this weekend. They were wonderful, just as they had been for many years. I’m sure it’s just like any other business…it all depends on the workers. The last time my wife had her oil changed (not Wal-Mart…some name brand place that costs a pretty penny (only because she had other work being done, and thought she might as well change the oil also, as it’s due)) it was overfilled by over a quart, and she never knew. Wal-Mart was nice enough this time to tell us about it, note it on the paperwork, sign it, and give us the Tire & Lube manager’s name and permission for the previous shop to call them to confirm what they had found. Now, she is going to call the other shop today and see what they say.

    As long as Wal-Mart here has good staff, I will continue to go there. It’s a much friendlier experience than these “We’re better than Wal-Mart” mom and pop shops we have (They are so bitter that they almost drive customers away. I’ve heard from good sources that one of them in town has gone as far as firing an employee or two for their good praise of Wal-Mart).

  69. LionMan says:

    I have a relative who is a manager at a Wal-Mart (in KC even). Apparently, they do pay a lot in damages from bad oil changes. Probably the only new thing about this story is they actually did do the oil change this time.

  70. cynicalifornia says:

    I think I’ll add to the Anti-Wal-mart oil change woes here.

    We USED to get our oil changed at Wal-mart (notice the fine use of emphasis)

    Once they stripped the oil pan drain bolt on our Astro Van, but in their defense, they did repair it (in a timely 5 hour fashion)

    Then they scratched our car’s hood, down to the metal. No apology, no restitution, only a stiff denial.

  71. Ben Popken says:

    @jendomme: Stop being an asshole or I will ban you. This is your only warning.

  72. bryankd says:

    I don’t shop Wal Mart for socks, and I would never shop there for food, their produce is very low quality. More importantly I don’t believe Wal Mart considers factors beyond the cost of the produce, such as do the source farms they purchase from practice good pesticide procedures, and are there chemical residue on the produce.

    However, I get my oil changed at Wal Mart all the time.

    Every 3,000 miles I have them change the oil with full synthetic. They pull the oil from their shelves, have always been quick and professional, and the cost has been around $32 about half of what other oil change places charge.

    I have been very happy with their oil change service.

  73. zibby says:

    I’m just going to say here that my college g/f’s rotten mother killed a year-old GMC S.U.V. when she ignored the “Service Engine!!11!” light long enough for the engine to croak due to lack of oil. I think my jubilent reaction upon hearing this totally believable tale of complete idiocy (The information wasn’t volunteered, oh no; I had to ask, “Hey! You guys got rid of the new GMC already?”) contributed to the break up (LULZ!!!) soon thereafter…

  74. latemodel says:

    What a buffet of comments. As a former WalMart supplier, I chose to quit shopping there years ago. Their business practices are appalling. Their cheap oil change service is done with recycled oil, which is more prone to create sludge. Anytime you take your car to have an oil change, always insist on oil from a unopened container, never from their bulk tank.

    The original post does mot mention a particular car but there are at least a few which could have developed the issue he had due to the use of water on particular areas of the engine.

  75. velocipenguin says:

    @latemodel:

    They’re putting USED OIL in people’s cars?! I smell a class-action.

  76. mopar_man says:

    @velocipenguin:

    Recycled oil. As in, filtered and reused.

  77. ngwoo says:

    I’m not sure why there’s so much WalMart hate on this site. I’ve been shopping at WalMart stores for years and have never experienced stupid employees, disorganized shelves, or messy bathrooms. I’m not sure if WalMart Canada has different policies than American WalMart stores, but any one I’ve shopped in up here has been a very respectable retailer.

    That being said – why get your oil changed at WalMart? That’s like getting booze at Toys R’ Us.

  78. 0x12is18 says:

    @velocipenguin:

    It goes through a process of filtration because oil does not go bad, it just accumulates impurities which can be filtered out. It’s actually a very-applauded process in environmental responsibility.

  79. Miggell1 says:

    In defense of Walmart and its associates, here’s my 2 cent bit.
    To all of you who criticize and give all kinds of undeserved flack, lighten up!.
    I’ve been working there for 15 years and yes, I will admit that we make mistakes (who doesn’t?). But a lot, and a mean a whole lot of people tend to blame Walmart for something that happens to break due to normal tear and wear, especially 10 to 5 year-old vehicles.
    NO we do not hire 16 year-old boys. It’s Federal Labor Law.
    Also, I had a penny for every time that I heard a customer say “This is the last time I shop at Walmart, I am telling everybody I know about the terrible experience I lived there and you are not getting any of my business, ever”, I would be rich, very rich. And I want to say to all that people, that they are not doing a good job on it, because we, at Walmart can’t keep up with so much traffic, both in the regular store and the Automotive Department.
    I also have to thank all of our regulars, our loyal customers, who trust their vehicles to us every time the need for an oil change or new tires, or a battery need, arises. Thank You!

  80. Kalik says:

    @ jendomme

    I’m a woman and I know how to change a tire, and oil, having had to do so many times on my parents’ cars.

    My mother drove an SUV and she neither a redneck, latino, or a southerner. For the record, we’re Asian.

    Stop generalizing everything and maybe (just maybe) people wouldn’t hate you so much.

  81. Hexum2600 says:

    Holy schnikes…

    My ex (I am a male, she a female) was amazing with cars. I have trouble figuring out how to change the air filter, but that woman changed the thermostat, brakes, alternator, spark plugs, and always changed our oil and other assorted maintanence.

    As far as women knowing about cars… if experiance is the true test, than I would have to say that men have no business under the hood of any automobile. Give me an equation or a software problem any day, and I’ll rock out. Astrophysics or literary analysis? I got you covered. Muffler replacement? Sorry… no vagina here.

  82. Pilot1 says:

    I’ve been using Wal-Mart brand ©oil for years in my ’99 Jeep Wrangler. It’s called Super Tech. I doubt it’s recycled oil but if it is, it hasn’t hurt my engine at all. As long as that bottle of oil has that stamp on the label ,(ASE approved or something), then it’s all right by me.
    I also use the Super Tech oil filters they sell. I read that Walmart buys their oil from otherwise reputable Oil dealers and just re-labels them with their own SuperTech label. Whomever they can get the best deal is who they buy from. (Quaker State comes to mind). Filters from Fram?

    Anyway, being from the South and college educated, I appreciate the comments regarding rednecks. Here is a news flash, rednecks are everywhere and not just the south, and you know it!

  83. macsnjets says:

    Just my 2 cents, When the Walmart by me opened up a few years ago, i took my Forerunner for an oil change. Got it back and the protective sheild was missing a bolt. I brought it to their attention and the missing metric bolt was replaced with a standard american thread along with an oil stain on my tan colored floor mat. I’ll never go back there !

  84. It goes through a process of filtration because oil does not go bad, it just accumulates impurities which can be filtered out.

    Motor oil also contains a very sophisticated additive package – chemicals and compounds which protect the metal surfaces in your engine from corrosion and acidity. As motor oil ages – especially on short stop-and-go trips – it accumulates moisture, which reacts with the oil to create acids in the oil. These additive packages help to combat this breakdown.

    I will never use recycled oil. Having worked in a refinery, I know that: 1. ‘Recycled’ products are an excuse to let the quality control of a particular process go to hell and 2. The additive package cannot be adequately restored to a recycled motor oil product. It’s better to recycle it into a heavier product (bearing grease, for example) and avoid using it in an IC engine, period.

    My 285,000 mile 1996 Infiniti G20 says: “Use Mobil 1 every 7000 miles with a new filter, and do it yourself to make sure the job’s done right.”

  85. It goes through a process of filtration because oil does not go bad, it just accumulates impurities which can be filtered out.

    Sorry, one more thing to add to this horrifically inaccurate statement:

    Motor oil degrades from the first start of your engine after an oil change. Motor oil consists of long molecular chains of hydrogen and carbon atoms. If you paid attention in chemistry class, you know that compound like this can be reduced or changed by applying energy. Two ways motor oil breaks down are by the heat and physical energy applied constantly to these long chain hydrocarbons while the engine is running.

    Just like a mace is used to tenderize meat by breaking the connective tissue, oil is broken down by the shearing and pressure of the metal parts of an engine. Heat plays a role by cooking the oil and changing it’s composition, bit by bit.

    Heat and physical energy gradually changes engine oil from a product that protects parts by maintaining a thin film of oil while keeping impurities in suspension to a soupy mass that allows engine parts to physically touch each other, and which ‘cooks’ onto engine parts, creating sludge.

    That’s why you should change your oil regularly and with good (expensive, synthetic) oil – not just to carry contaminants out of the engine (that’s why you should change the oil filter every time, too) but because the additive package and the oil itself both decompose on a molecular level over time due to the heat and physical energy released in an internal combustion engine.

  86. asherchang says:

    @jendomme: WTF?

    Seriously.

  87. latemodel says:

    @Miggell1:
    Also, I had a penny for every time that I heard a customer say “This is the last time I shop at Walmart, I am telling everybody I know about the terrible experience I lived there and you are not getting any of my business, ever”, I would be rich, very rich.

    A WalMart employee that seems satisfied when his service is so bad that customers vow to never return. He did not address the issue of recycled oil being put in customers cars. Recycled or re-refined oil does meet the requirements for new cars and customers are suing because auto service companies used the wrong oil in their cars and the dealers denied warranty claims.

  88. Yogambo says:

    First of all, no fan of Wal-Mart here, but if you pick your location wisely you can get a decent oil change without too much trouble at Wal-Mart. True, changing oil isn’t really mechanical work but it’s surprising what can go wrong: boogering up the threads putting on the filter so that eventually it leaks; not tightening the drain plug , etc. But Wal-Mart is the same as every other speedy change service, aside from the bad reputation they continue to generate and likely the sheer volume of work they do. Yes, it is best to change your own or develop a relationship with a local mechanic who you can trust. But, you may be lucky enough to find a decent Wal-Mart to do the work. I’ve done the synthetic oil change there many times, walked with the guy to the floor to pick out my weight and let them do the work. They’ve yet to fail me, though I do yearn to have a place to do it myself. Bottom line: Wal-Mart is about the same as all the other speedy places But keep in mind the context of the sheer quantity and the animosity against them.

    But these stories that keep popping up have to be challenged. I’m sorry, washing the engine compartment with water and it getting into the spark plugs is a big old pant load of crap. Sometimes engines need to be cleaned, sometimes called steam cleaning. You buy a can of engine de-gunker for a few bucks. You cover a few electrical (electric being key) parts, spray it on, wait a bit, then hose it off with a high pressure hose — filled with WATER. I’ve done this for decades, even without covering things. Cleaning the engine is a great idea, as it lets you see potential troubles – leaks – in the engine compartment and on the engine generally. You spray that gunk off with a high pressure hose, like at the car wash, and away you go.

    Ask yourself how many thousands, perhaps millions, of people are cleaning their engine compartments — with water — and it’s not getting into the spark plugs. Then consider this: You put the spark plug in there, tighten it down to spec and guess what it does? It’s supposed to resist the combined pressure created in the combustion chamber below into which it sparks – it’s a lot of pressure. That would mean exhaust gases do not leak out, nor oil or anything else for that matter. So, how, if these substances can’t get out with all that pressure … how can water just seep in there. It can’t. More? An engine block gets quite hot. Most water will evaporate in minutes from its surface; weeks and it should be dry as toast.

    This idea that they got water on there and it seeped into the plugs is just chicanery from one end or the other. It defies logic and experience.

    How about the: “The hood flew up and cracked the windshield” story. That one seems suspect as well. Hoods have two stage stops. You’ll notice when you pull the handle to open the hood, it goes up one click but will not fully release until you manually go up and squeeze/pull to release it. This safety measure has been on cars for eons. If the hood is not fully closed, it usually catches the first stop so that it might buffet at speed but would not fly up. And if it didn’t, it should appear obvious that the hood is up. But, let’s say it hadn’t clicked at either point and the driver for some reason could not tell. A hood will not fly up and crack a windshield. It is on hinges that are designed specifically to prevent this. Many hoods/bonnets are replete with springs that also slow any progression toward the glass. I just don’t buy this. If the hood was as loose as suggested, it would be bouncing and buffeting about long before 60mph was hit.

    Look, Wal-Mart has many problems and oil changes are certainly one. Be as with much of life, mileage may vary. Some Wal-Marts have decent service departments too. The only real safe bet is a local mechanic with whom you have a personal relationship and trust or you do it yourself.

    But the lies, the urban mythology that’s developing, has to stop so that the real stories can get out and be believed.

    Let’s be honest, it’s the luck of the draw at these places. They see hundreds of customers, they are paid crap and the level of expertise is not going to compare to an ASE mechanic — though some of my locals are training for certification. You can avoid the hassle and skip them. But don’t make up stories about it. It sounds to me like the mechanic that came up with the “water seeped into the spark plugs” story was playing this poor guy.

  89. Trackback says:

    The latest article about Walmart on the Consumerist made me think about the last run-in we had with Walmart and oil changes. About a week or so after having my fiancee’s car’s oil changed at a Walmart, we noticed that there was a grayish film creeping up the front of her hood.

  90. jmartin89 says:

    I’ve read all the comments, many amusing stories, alot of fake tall-tales. My sister has a 98′ dodge stratus, now I don’t trust dodge or any american car except chevy (don’t jump at my head for that judgement). I laugh at jendomme’s statement on women, but I also know that some women can very well take care of themselves and work on their cars with no penis hovering over them or doing it for them, my sister and previous said car are like rob zombie to metal music. she knows it inside out, backwards, side-ways, its practically her child. she does everything to it herself, she brought it to Mieneke once (big mistake), they completely screwed her over by over charging her for a oil changing to 60 bucks, she told my dad and he complained, and since then she read up on her car/cars and got down and dirty with her car and I wouldn’t doubt she can become a mechanic now.

  91. esmith512 says:

    I had been having my oil changed into a VG30E engine (Nissan Maxima) at Wal-Mart for years and noticing over about eighteen months (about seven changes), that occasionally the engine would start with the cam-shaft oil-starved. We checked the entire engine, seals, oil pressure, senders, (but nothing deep like chemical analysis of the oil) and were confounded–the engine was starving with new oil, no leaks. The engine is a very high mileage engine (167000+), but VG30Es are extremely well designed engines which when treated respectfully will cheerfully run for decades and well over 200000 miles. We and another mechanic replaced the oil with Pennzoil 10W40 crude-based (not synthethic), and all oil starvation symptoms after the first post-change startup immediately and consistently disappeared. We had been changing with 10W40 at Wal-Mart on a 3000-mile schedule and oil levels were consistently correct throughout this period and the oil seemed of normal consistency. But we still can’t figure out why Wal-Mart-serviced Pennzoil 10W40 starved the camshaft on startup when our Pennzoil 10W40 non-Wal-Mart-service oil didn’t. Other engine parameters have remained consistent throughout. Anyway, the engine doesn’t show starvation symptoms now.

  92. XxZenniaxX says:

    Listen…I work at Wal-Mart TLE, and I have to say, every place is different and considering the millions of people that go to the TLE these few “horror stories” will not make me sleep less.

    I’d like to let everyone know, that at least at my Wal-Mart, if someone were to come in with sludge in their engine, we would tell them we will not do the oil change…I don’t care if Wal-Mart was the last one on record for their oil change, someone else obviously got ahold of that car since.

    I am a single mother, a wal-mart employee, and was raised by a mechanic, and since I can’t change my oil at my house (lease doesn’t allow it) I will gladly take it to wal-mart, and not just because I know the people there, because I know at least to people at my wal-mart are well trained.

    As for the stereotypes…I guess I blow them all away by being a female who is also ASE certified. Good luck to everyone, maybe if you go down to your wal-mart and see how things are going on other people’s cars you can judge for yourself…I know how to use my own brain, I don’t listen to what other people have to say about a place, I go check it out for myself first!

  93. BREWNinja says:

    I’ve been having on-and-off oil changes at Wal*Mart for the past 8 years, across three vehicles in that time span. Never once have I had any issue with the changes other than time waited to have it done. I’m usually standing at the window watching them do it when my car shows “In Bay…” on the barcode readers.

    I have changed my own oil in the past, but living in an apartment now and in a city that doesn’t allow it on their streets, I can’t do that anymore. I’ve also moved in the last year, so I haven’t found a mechanic I trust. I usually end up checking the car the moment it’s done so I can dispute whatever they’ve done while I’m still there. Personally, I find that not complaining is just as bad and wussy as complaining to a consumer-driven web site. Sure, you’re preventing others from doing things, but you’re just a small percentage of those that report and prevent. What about the rest of us that have thus far been fortunate not to have problems with big corporate Wal*Mart. I really only go because after car payments, rent, insurance, credit cards, student loans, groceries and utilities, I only have about $20 I can spend on my car. And Wal*Mart is the only place in the Bay Area that will feasibly do my change for $20. I once had a place estimate the oil change to my previous Honda Civic at $75. I never paid more that $25 for my first car, a 1998 Mercury Tracer. And, I don’t want to pay $60 or more for an oil change at the Mazda Dealership. I no more trust them than I do Wal*Mart.

    But, I do understand that everything is a business. And my further question, does anyone know if that 17,000-mile synthetic is any good? I drive a lot and it would just be great if I could have a long-lasting oil in my car other than having to change it every 6000 miles (owner’s manual recommended).

  94. Brandonlee24 says:

    I have a chevy Lumina that I have been very happy for and never had problems with until I took it to walmart. Now I can’t even drive my car and it sounds like someone is under the hood knocking the crap out of it with and hammer. When I went to see what was wrong I found out that they had used the wrong oil in the first place and that it was over filled at that. I called them about the problem and what I was told was that they were not able to do anything about the problem and that it was the miles that I had on the car. Well when I opened up my engine I had my lifters go out and that the real problem was not in the car but that the car had to much oil and that they had not got all the old oil out. Plues to top it off I’m still working on it. I don’t think that anyone should go to walmart to get there oil changed nor do I think I should have to be the one paying for what they messed up. My question is, is there anything that I can do to get my money back???

  95. mike2008 says:

    i went there, and they left my oil cap off.Oil blew all over my belts, and motor.I had to replace the belts, and alternator, oil cap , and get my motor pressure washed to the tune of about 300 dollars.But after threatining to sue they paid for it and gave me more oil..dont go to walmart!!!!!!!!!

  96. Kathy Constantine says:

    I recently had my oil changed at walmart and when I got home saw that I was leaking oil all over the driveway. I took it to another mechanic (knowing the Walmart must have done something wrong) and they told me that Walmart had stripped the plug into my oil pan and sent 3 bolt into my oil pan trying to fix the bothced problem. They also informed me to fix it will set me back 500.00. I took the evidence to the manager of walmart and they gave me a number to call the insurance agency. Of course after 3 weeks of “investigation” they denied my claim because I took it to another place to fix the problem. incompetant assholes!

    • Anonymous says:

      @Kathy Constantine: You got robbed. Drain plugs strip frequently and every auto parts store has replacements (just a bit larger) intended to fix that. About $5.
      You’ll find incompetance everywhere–not just Walmart.

      BTW their basic oil change is up to $30 now. No longer any reason to get the job done there.

  97. Anonymous says:

    A few years ago, I took my Plymouth into a Wal-Mart Supercenter, Springdale, Arkansas (A few miles from their world headquarters) for a standard oil-change.

    About a 30 minutes later, I heard an announcement for me to return to the automotive service area. The clerk informed me that they were unable to perform an oil change on my car.

    The reason?

    The drain plug on my car was too wide for their socket. Rather than informing them of the normal procedure of changing the socket, I thanked them and left. That was the last time I ever entered that area again.

    At least those with an ultra-low mental capacity have a place to work

  98. Anonymous says:

    Well they pay us shit wages and hire about any moron. I’ve only been at my TLE for 2 months and do more than at least 5 of the 7 guys that have been there for a number of years. Even the manager doesnt do more then watch the rest of us do work aka shitty leader. Thank God this is only a stepping stone for me. I will tell you this, you bring it to the TLE where i work(2023) and i wont let that kinda crap happen.