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Botched oil change. A few questions

This is about a 2015 Honda Fit. 24,000 miles.


I got an oil change on Tuesday, and when I left work Wednesday my engine started making noises and my oil pressure light came on. I pulled over. Called the oil change place and they said I needed to get it towed to them (they would not cover the towing cost) and be there by 7pm. Keep in mind it was about 6pm, and I was over 20 miles away and would have to deal with Detroit traffic and didn’t know the closest towing company. I happened to be in front of a mechanic who was closed. However, the owner came out and looked at my car. Told me my oil was leaking and looked at it in his shop. He said the filter was loose due to not being properly tightened and all my oil had leaked. He fixed it for $100 since he had to reopen his shop, move cars out of the bay, etc. He spent over an hour to help me, I was thankful for the help, despite him making a few bucks on me. He even told me the oil look recycled which it shouldn’t be, since it wouldn’t be that dirty after being in my car for a day. He was professional and informative.

To make a long story short I wanted the oil shop to cover the original oil change and the cost to repair it ($160 total) since this was all due to their incompetence. I had receipts for both. The manager fought me for a bit, but refunded me for the original oil change ($60) but would only give me $50 of the $100 cost to fix it saying he was doing me a favor. I refused that. The owner was very defensive and rude, the mechanic at fault thought I was trying to scam them. They were not very professional about it.

So my questions are:

  1. If this place was using recycled oil do they have to disclose this whether in person or on the receipt? I had all three of my oil changes done there, and am not a “car guy” so they could have used recycled oil in all my changes and charged me the premium price without me knowing any better. Is this something they can do?

  2. My main concern is possible engine damage done to the car that could manifest itself over time. Say 1 or 2 years down the road. Since I drove the car for a day while oil leaked out only pulling over when I heard noise and saw the oil pressure light come on. This is a pretty new car, and I plan to keep the engine in good condition. Is this a legitimate concern despite the car seemingly running smoothly since being fixed?

  3. If I was to pursue small claims court for the full damages, plus possible future damage done by their incompetence. What would I need to prepare, and do I have any standing? I have documented everything and have all receipts. My main concern is the recycled oil and the damage that could have happened to the engine when driving it with a loose filter. I’m not as concerned about the $100, just concerned about the possible damage done to the engine that could cost me down the road.

Sorry if this was a bit long, just wanted to be thorough. Thanks for your time.

Jiffy Lube (and equivalent) are known for very poor quality of their work.

  1. yes, that is possible.
  2. Unfortunately, it is not possible to tell if any damage has been done, if there are no symptoms.
  3. I don’t know if it’s worth it for a hundred dollars. Future damage is very difficult if not impossible to prove.

I’d advise taking the offer of the original oil change place. But keep fighting this if you wish. Long term engine damage is not likely. That is because you did the right thing, shutting down the motor at the first hint of trouble.

What I would do is, remove the oil filter, take a filter cutting tool, and cut the filter open to expose the filter media so it can examined for metal particulates.

If no particulates are found, consider yourself lucky.

If particulates are found, the engine is damaged.


Sad story. Oil looking recycled may have never been changed, heard a terror story the other day, some unreputable shops only put in 2 qts oil, to make some bucks.

Making noises could mean potential problems at some point down the road. If the engine has issues by the time you hit 80 or 100k miles the most likely cause would be this incident.
A 2015 with 24k miles already means this time will come sooner rather than later.

The first thing to be damaged when the oil pressure (or lack of…) light comes on is the crankshaft bearings.
Unfortunately, the only way to inspect these is to drop the oil pan and remove a few rod and main bearing caps for inspection.
If they’re scored and/or copper showing this means trouble a’brewin’…

If it was my car the pan would come off immediately but the difference is that I do my own work and do not have to pay someone.

Get an oil change (and filter) ASAP, no telling what they put in there.

I am with @ok4450 on this, don’t like hearing noises. Even though you did the right thing considering the circumstances, the possibility of engine life being reduced is there.

I would get a piece of paper and write all events, dates, names etc and attach receipts including the one from the shop explaining what they found. Then consider filing something in the small claims court, unless the original shop agrees to buy an extended warranty for your engine.

If this happened to me, and the oil was down low on the dipstick but still visible on the stick, and I hadn’t driven much and didn’t hear any noise I’d probably just have taken the $110. But since you did hear noises and the 2nd mechanic saying all the oil had leaked out, and an almost brand new car, you were probably wise not to take that offer of theirs.

I think you have a valid claim that the oil changing place should make you whole, and cover any future problems that are related to running with low oil. And there’s a pretty good chance you did suffer some internal engine damage. But no way to tell for sure, that’s just a guess I think you understand.

I’m agreeing w/ @galant above, take photos, & get a written statement from the 2nd mechanic of their view of the situation. What to do next? Well, you could try to negotiate a deal or go to small claims court. But I think your best bet is actually to hire an attorney and let the attorney determine the best course. A settlement is best for you and the shop, and an attorney representing you can probably negotiate a better settlement than you could yourself.


Forgot to mention, this issue comes up here frequently. I recommend to posters like this to always do the following after an oil change is done on your car. I know it doesn’t seem like it should be the case, but it’s the owner’s job to check on the work quality. It seems like a lot of work to have to do, but the entire routine, it only takes a total of a few minutes to do all these things, and might well save you untold time, $, and grief later. I do all this stuff every time I change my own oil and filter and I’m lazy so I know it isn’t much of a job … lol … .

  • Before starting the engine and driving away, look under the car for leaks, and check the dipstick; if ok
  • Start the engine, let it run for 2 or 3 minutes, and check again under the car for leaks; if ok
  • Rev the engine a couple times, check again under the car for leaks; if ok
  • Drive to your next destination, and before leaving check the dipstick again; if ok
  • Check the dipstick again the next morning before leaving your house.

Good advice by George.
I change my own oil, and I STILL double check everything! And I trust myself! Well, mostly anyway.

I think all that stuff sounds like a lot of work to most car owners who have their oil changed by a shop, especially since they paid to have the job done correctly in the first place; but it does catch any problems most of the time, and it really takes very little effort or time to do.

I think most people are afraid they’ll mess something up if they lift the hood. Or perhaps they’re afraid they’ll see something they don’t understand and fret for days over it. Both situations may be more common than we think.

Every once in a while I’ll see someone with their hood up and a puzzled look on their face. I’ll stop to ask if there’s anything I can help them with and get told of a very simple problem… but they have the hood up and are stumped, wondering “now what?”. To a great many people everything under there is a tangled mess of tubes, hoses, wires, and unrecognizable metal parts. It helps for me to remember that of I walked into these people’s worksites I’d probably be just as lost.

mountainbike brings up an excellent point

We are pretty much gear heads on this website, and what we consider easy to understand, or to do, other people don’t find it so easy

My brother’s the head of an IT department. I think diagnosing and repairing vehicles is no big deal . . . up to a point of course. I’m not THAT arrogant :wink:

But I don’t consider what he does to be easy

And vice versa, I’m sure

@GeorgeSanJose Your list of things to check is great but that is why I do my own oil change. Essentially the same amount of work and probably less time since I do not have to sit and wait for someone else to have a go at it first.

If I wasn’t able to do it myself (it has happened and I am sure would be more of a problem if I live long enough), I think I might use the dealer for this. I used to always recommend an indy shop, but have noticed a lot of them have around me started using kids to fast lane the oil change. So the risk is higher.

Stories like this make me feel better about my using the dealer for oil changes at least until the warranty expires.
If the OP has engine problems and has to produce oil change receipts they may have trouble .

You have standing, of course. It is your car.
Proving they used recycled oil, assuming they did, and that is something they specifically guarantee not to use, in writing (in their written service contract) may be tough and expensive (i.e., having a lawyer examine their policies) to do. Proving that they did not properly tighten the oil filter will be difficult. To prove your engine suffered damage as a result of this incident will be tough, time consuming and not cheap.
Depending on the court where you file the claim, you will pay a considerable fee to have the case heard. A cap in small claims court is an important consideration. If you go ahead, you may be better off with professional representation otherwise you’ll be on your own, pro-se. They will likely have counsel and you could end up paying their fees, if you lose. Again, it will be time consuming and you may wind up with little to show for your effort and expenditures.
If you could prove you have (in the present tense) incurred significant damages as a result of their negligence, you have a better shot at a successful outcome.