AUSTIN (KXAN) — In an undercover KXAN investigation, we put oil change shops across Central Texas to the test and found some shops making a secret switch, charging customers for expensive, high quality synthetic oil but putting in cheaper, conventional oil. We went back to those shops to see anything has changed.
Since our investigation of oil change shops aired, a second former employee of one of them contacted KXAN.
“That was the main game…sell, sell, sell,” said Rashad Luster, who used to work at the True Balance Automotive shop at Interstate 35 and Hester’s Crossing in Round Rock.
Luster says says managers pushed him and other mechanics to sell high-dollar synthetic oil. But he says something didn’t seem right with the oil they put into customers’ cars.
“My suspicion was when one of my upper ups kept telling me he wouldn’t put that in his car,” claimed Luster. “And I was like, ‘why wouldn’t he put that in his car if we’re putting it in everybody elses’,” Luster continued.
Luster says managers told him it was a blend of synthetic and regular, conventional oil.
“How can you put the same cheap oil in a synthetic engine and it run the same?” said Luster. “And that’s how I figured it out. And then when I saw the test on TV, I was like, ‘oh yeah.’”
Luster says our investigation confirmed his suspicions about True Balance, where he no longer works, saying he left because he didn’t like the service customers got.
Another former employee of True Balance Automotive in Round Rock, Terry Withrow brought his concerns to KXAN saying “it’s a ripoff.” Withrow says he quit his job after taking pictures he says show a mechanic filling a jug labeled as synthetic oil with cheaper, conventional oil instead.
“They’re telling them it’s Don Perignon and they’re handing them a Miller Lite with Don Perignon sticker on it,” Withrow claimed.
We went undercover to get oil changes at all four True Balance locations in Round Rock, Elgin, and in Austin on North Lamar and on West Slaughter. We then sent samples of the oil to Alcor Petro Lab where technicians conducted tests proving we did not get the high dollar, synthetic oil we paid for at any of the locations.
Brannon Harris, who is listed on state records as the owner of True Balance Automotive claimed to know nothing about his former employee’s claims or what our lab results show.
“I don’t understand,” claimed Harris as he was confronted by KXAN Investigator Brian Collister. “This has come out of no where. I haven’t gotten no customer complaints,” Harris said. “Well how is a customer supposed to be able to tell when you don’t give them synthetic oil?” Collister asked. “We had to pay hundreds of dollars to get lab tests done to prove it. Maybe that’s why you do it, because nobody can tell,” Collister continued. “I have no other comment,” said Harris.
We wanted to check to see if anything has changed at the True Balance shops since our investigation so we went undercover again to the Round Rock and West Slaughter Lane locations. Things are definitely different. The same employee who gave us conventional oil last time we paid for full synthetic went out of his way this time to show us the bottle the oil we were getting came from.
We also went back undercover to Lakeway Quick Lube, where weeks earlier the owner claimed to know nothing about why we paid for synthetic oil but got cheaper, conventional oil.
This time at Lakeway Quick Lube an employee fully explained we were being charged more for synthetic oil straight from a bottle.
The lab tests prove this time the shops gave us the high grade, high dollar, synthetic oil we paid for.
Testing your oil is expensive. So, if you don’t have a mechanic you know and trust, you can purchase your own oil and take it to a shop and only pay for the labor.
Locations we tested
Green dots represent stores where our tests confirmed we got synthetic oil. Red dots represent stores where our tests indicate we did not get synthetic oil.