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2016 Ford Explorer - No oil after oil change

What legal rights do I have if dealership fails to replace engine oil during a regular maintenance service — and the engine is damaged.

You need to contact a lawyer. Do you have documentation of the error? What response have you gotten from the dealership?

You can bring a civil lawsuit. It’s not criminal case.

You have the legal right to be made whole. In other words, put back into the position you were in prior to the error that caused your loss. Sometimes, companies step up and do the right thing without much convincing. The other end of the spectrum requires legal means to force them to make it right…

It’s not criminal, but it is legal.

Need to get a lawyer, or at least threaten to get a lawyer.

Maybe. Small claims court may be a non-lawyered option in this kind of situation.

No lawyer needs to be involved, but it’s still part of the LEGAL system. And if a new engine is involved we’re way beyond small claims court.


Didn’t change oil or didn’t didn’t add oil after draining?
How much time between service and damage ?

Going to small claims court is like trying to do surgery on yourself. The statutory limit is fairly low ( $5,000 in NJ), and a lawyer’s knowledge is helpful to have. If you get a lawyer to take the case on contingency, you pay nothing up front and simply a percentage ( usually 1/3) of what the lawyer recovers for you. Would you rather have 2/3 of the cost of an engine, or 100 percent of nothing?

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Your “legal rights” would be to have your engine repaired if possible, or replaced with a working used engine if unrepairable. Any licensed business carries liability insurance for just this type of situation.

Reputable shops – most are imo – will take responsibility for this sort of thing when it happens without much complaint. They’ll fix the car whatever that takes, or at least offer to buy it from you at its value before the problem they caused happened. Shops usually carry insurance for this sort of thing. If they are complaining, it is b/c they are unsure whether they in fact forgot to add engine oil or if somebody else is to blame. Your best bet is offering undeniable proof to them (to the shop’s owner specifically) that they were the only one who had access to the car who could have caused the problem. Suggest to focus on that. It might make sense for you to hire a mechanic from a different shop who will help you formulate the needed proof from the evidence available.

btw, the advice here when obtaining any work involving the oil, like an oil and filter change, is pretty consistent: always check the dipstick before leaving the shop; then check it again when you get to your next destination; then again the next morning. I know in an ideal world that shouldn’t be necessary, but the problem is that this isn’t an ideal world. If you can come up w/the needed proof I doubt you’ll have much difficulty w/this.

So how much time between the oil change and the current disaster?

Thanks for your input.

As there was no malicious intent, I agree it would not be a criminal case.
I’d like to avoid a civil case since the legal fees would likely evaporate my settlement.

Can you advise on the negatives on

  1. Repairing the engine
  2. Replacing the engine with a refurb, with similar mileage [as suggested by the dealer]
  3. Replacing with a new engine [not yet in the options offered by the dealer]

Greg Davis

The time between the service was approximately one hour, and 4.7 miles.
The dealer has taken full responsibility and has offered a refurb engine [unknown history].
He has also offered to sell me a new car and take my damaged car as a trade-in;
that saddles me with about $40,000 n new debt, to replace my existing $19,000 debt left on the car loan

I am reluctant to take the car back with a refurb engine since it may be a pull from a wreck and rebuilt,
or, it may be rebuild from a similar non-oil incident – putting us in jeopardy on a long trip in a remote area.

I’m not sure how a new engine would work with the existing transmission; and, I’m unsure if there was transmission
damage during this incident; I would think that with the engine seizing, it would have put enormous stress on the


I say take this offer and then decide if you want to keep or trade . The longer you wait the more likely the dealer might change their mind. Seriously I see no reason to worry about the transmission .

The refurbished engine will come with a warranty. Not a hugely long one but a warranty nonetheless. You’re not going to get a new engine. See my prior post in this regard. The best you will do is to get something used or rebuilt. Personally, I would accept their offer pretty quickly as it’s unlikely to get much better if you wait or threaten to pursue other options…

You need to call or meet with the folks in authority and get these details worked out. I would think they’d want you to be satisfied with the resolution. It shouldn’t be a vague procedure and you need to fully understand what will occur.

Is a dealer principal involved in this? If not and you are not satisfied with the offer they are making (including a loaner car) then you will have to escalate this and have a principal player involved.

Be polite at all times, but be insistent, persistent, and consistent.

Ask ( or demand) that the dealer install an engine remanufactured by Jasper. The shops my employer owned and operated installed between 12 and 20 Jasper engines per year. Not one comeback.

Remanufactured by Jasper has a reputation and a fairly agreed-upon definition of “remanufactured.” Probably what used to be called “overhauled.” But buyer beware.

“Refurbished” doesn’t mean anything well defined when applied to car engines. Probably “used, from a wreck, with an oil change and maybe new plugs.” Buyer beware.

A properly-written Civil Court Complaint will specify that the plaintiff is suing for legal fees, in addition to the actual damages that were incurred. If you win your case, your legal fees–as well as the cost of repairing/replacing the engine–would be paid by the defendants.