I purchased a 125k mile 2005 Toyota Camry in good condition and with a good service history about 5 months ago. It was due for its second oil change since we've owned it so my wife took it in to a nearby Meineke Car Care Center. After the car was in the garage for 10-15 minutes, a technician told my wife we had an oil leak. He took her back to see it and she saw oil all over. It was splattered on the underside of the car hood, on top of the manifold, and basically everywhere else. The oil was not dirty or grimy. He explained that there was a leak in the valve cover gasket. They wanted to charge $500 to fix the leak.
We declined the repair and took it to the place we bought it. He told my wife that the leak was so bad, she would likely not make it home without ending up on the side of the road. The oil was seeping from the side of the valve cover. When he would wipe it off, more would immediately flow out, almost like wiping blood from an open wound. He expressed his opinion on what happened and repaired the leak for $40. He also showed me the valve cover gasket. It was split cleanly in half.
After the repair, I've driven 500+ miles and have not lost any oil.
I've intentionally left out his opinion and have only included absolute facts because I want to hear unbiased, third-party thoughts on what may have happened.
I know very little about automotives, but I had no reason to think anything was wrong with my car prior to taking it to Mechanic. The oil light was not on, there was no obvious indication of oil under the car where we park, and there was no smell of burning oil. In fact, just a few days prior to taking it to the shop, we had driven the car 300 miles in one day with no indications of trouble.
Is it possible that I had a leak before taking it to Meineke?
What does it sound like may have happened at the Meineke?