Whistleblowers tell CBS46 what's happening inside many metro Atlanta Havoline Xpress Lube stores is so wrong they quit.

"I was in the pit one day, it was maybe 50 give or take a few, I was told not to change the oil or the oil filter the whole day," claimed a whistleblower.

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When you get your oil changed, a mechanic should remove the oil plug and drain the oil out, then refill the oil pan. At the Douglasville Havoline Xpress Lube, our hidden cameras caught the opposite. The cameras never show a mechanic in the pit. The oil plug was never touched, no oil was drained from the vehicle, but the bill for an oil change CBS46 didn't get was $32.83.

Whistleblowers said they've seen similar practices at nearly all of the company's 25 locations.

Over CBS46's two-month undercover investigation, the station wired six different vehicles with as many as five hidden cameras underneath, inside and under the hood.

Before each trip into the shops, our vehicles got a thorough inspection at Gordy Tire on Howell Mill Road.

Our expert mechanic Roy Acord explained what you should get with an oil change.

"They should of course change the oil, replace the oil filter, check the air filter and check the other fluids," Acord said.

And if they don't?

"Gaskets could go, they could blow if they're not lubricated," said one whistleblower.

"If you don't change the filter that can cause sludge build up in your engine," explained the other whistleblower.

At the Havoline Xpress Lube's Marietta location, they change our oil, but overfill the car which can also do damage, according to CBS's mechanic.

"It could damage the seals, you could end up with oil leaks, and it's just very hard on the engine," Acord said.

We took the same overfilled car to the Havoline Xpress Lube in Smyrna. Our cameras caught mechanics removing the oil filter, but realizing the oil was clean. Instead of asking any questions, mechanics drained some oil out, then put the plug back in midstream.

"Really that should never happen," Acord said.

Under the hood, the mechanics never add any oil. We're handed a bill for $24.32 for another oil change we didn't get.

At the Havoline Xpress Lube on Chamblee-Dunwoody Road, they wanted $92.00 to change the oil and replace our air and cabin filters.

The mechanic told CBS46's hidden camera, "Just your air filter and your cabin were the only two that we suggest being changed due to the condition of them."

The air and cabin filters are just two months old.

"You can see through it and it looks perfectly good, I would not recommend replacing it for any reason," said CBS's expert mechanic.

The insiders told us, managers don't care if customers are hurt.

"They don't care, but you know, they hope it doesn't happen," said one whistleblower.

"It happened three times I know of, motors blowing up. Different shops not the same shop," explained another whistleblower.

Preventative maintenance for your vehicle is critical. Mechanics believe you can protect yourself from fraud with a few simple tips.

"Open your air filter every once in a while take a look at it, air filters, it's every three oil changes," explained the whistleblower about when is the right time to change your air filter.

A mechanic may show you an air filter that isn't yours trying to get you to pay to replace it.

"The air filters are shaped different shapes, and so if they hand you the old one and they show you the new one then you should be able to tell," Acord said.

You should know what type of oil your vehicle takes.

"They all take different grades of oil and it's important that you stick with what the manufacturer suggests," Acord said.

Mechanics recommend popping the hood and becoming familiar with what's underneath.

"If you have just a little bit of knowledge, pull the dip stick and see what the oil looks, like, see how dark it is and then when you have the work done you can check it again and see if it's clean," Acord said.

Whistleblowers told us, "If your vehicle is more difficult or time consuming to work on it could fall victim. Vehicles with skid plates take more effort, making them a target for fraud."

Mechanics encourage you to be observant. A closer look at your tires will let you know if they were rotated.

"The front tires or front wheels usually have more brake dust on them than the rear so, if you get your car back and it's still dirty on the front but clean on the rear, then they haven't rotated the tires," explained Acord. "To check to see if the shop is checking your air pressure of course to take this dust cap off to get to the valve stem to put air in you'll see marks on the wheels from where your fingers just naturally hit it," continued Acord.

Staying on your feet and out of the waiting room can also ensure better service. A standing spot just outside the bay doors while the work is being done can mean the difference between getting good service and falling victim to faulty repairs.

"Watch them, it doesn't matter, just watch them," said a whistleblower.

The experts caution quick service isn't always the best. It could mean more room for error or work that simply wasn't done.

Click the photo for a printable PDF of the checklist:

Copyright 2014 WGCL-TV (Meredith Corporation). All rights reserved.

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