UPDATE [September 28, 2020, 12:34 p.m.]
Inside Edition received the following statement from Meineke today in connection with our report on auto technicians:
The safety of our customers and team members is always our first priority at Meineke. We provide ongoing guidance to all of our independently owned franchises to ensure appropriate safety measures are put in place as outlined by the CDC and in alignment with local regulations in the cities and states in which they operate. We are working closely with this franchisee to ensure such measures are being implemented going forward.
With so many commuters weary of mass transit in the wake of COVID-19, millions of Americans are commuting by car. That means a lot of drivers are flocking to repair shops for basic services like an oil change.
But are you getting what you pay for? And what precautions are they taking in the age of coronavirus?
To find out, Inside Edition rigged an SUV with hidden cameras inside the car, under the car and under the hood. We also placed an Inside Edition sticker on the oil filter to see if it would actually be changed. Then, producer Sarah Chatta took the car to service stations throughout New York.
Major chains like Meineke say they're "committed to keeping you safe" and taking "enhanced safety measures" to avoid the spread of COVID-19. But that's not what our hidden cameras caught at a busy Meineke shop in Brooklyn.
A mechanic was seen putting his dirty hands all over the steering wheel. His face mask was on his chin and his nose and mouth were fully exposed. A service advisor used a tissue to protect herself, but her face mask was down below her chin.
"Those images are shocking,” NYU professor and public health expert Dr. Jack Caravanos told Inside Edition. "The workers working on the vehicle must be wearing a mask, covering the steering wheel with plastic, covering the seats and using every precaution to prevent contamination of that vehicle."
Another worry—are the repairs actually being done? At one service station on Long Island, they charged $130 for an oil change and a new filter. The mechanic put the car on a lift and drained the oil, but never changed the filter.
When Inside Edition correspondent Les Trent paid them a return visit, he asked if there was a reason why they didn’t chain the filter.
“I made a mistake if I didn't change it, because I always change the filter,” the mechanic said.
The owner of the shop said it was an honest mistake and refunded us the cost of the oil filter.