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Botched Oil Change- serious internal damage?

I have a Chevy Aveo 2005 automatic, in good condition. Have owned car for 3 years, was working perfectly and was scheduled for an oil change. Decided to learn to do this simple task myself. Had folks show me how. Drained pan. Changed oil filter. Car takes 4 qts of oil, so we added that. All seemed well. Took car out onto highway, drove 3 miles when car started pouring white smoke out of the exhaust and the car started lurching and slipping gears. Pulled over, drove another .6 miles home under 30mph. SO- here’s what happened:
Instead of draining the oil pan, we drained the TRANSMISSION fluid. Upon realizing this mistake, we drained the actual oil pan which contained 6 qts of oil and refilled with 4qts new 5w-30 synthetic oil on level ground. Drained remaining transmission fluid and refilled with 2qts O’Reillys T-IV, as the shop said it called for 2.21 qts.
Turned car on and let run for a few minutes. Car is making a rapid clicking sound in the upper left side of the engine and a faint high pitched sound in idle. There also seems to be fluid around the dipsticks, and behind the A/t stick. (overflow oil?)

-What is the possibility of serious internal damage?
-Should I add more transmission fluid?
-Should I drive for a few minutes?
-Is my only option having the car towed and finding a mechanic or are there a few areas I can check for myself? I am interested in learning how my car functions so any help rather than preaching is greatly appreciated. Thanks.

Car is also not overheating in idle and starts slipping when revving up to 3000rpm

If you overfilled the oil and didn’t drive far it should be ok. The transmission probably sustained long term damage. Hopefully it’s ok. Read the owners manual. It probably says read the level warm while in park and engine running.

Draining some of the transmission fluid and driving the vehicle probably damaged the transmission.

Over filling the oil can cause the oil to foam causing lack of lubrication to the engine.

The noise from the engine isn’t a good sign.

Now you need to take it for a drive and see if the transmission shifts properly, and to see if the Check Engine light comes on with a transmission code.


When draining the transmission fluid, there were approx. 3-4 qts. Is it possible that although the capacity is at 2.21 qts, a previous owner or mechanic added more to help the gears shift? How much is too much transmission fluid?

mstephens Don’t beat yourself and your assistants up to bad. Jiffy Lube is capable of much worse.

"Jiffy lube is capable of much worse."
They would have to work hard to come up with something worse. Not because of what you did only, but what you did it to. An Aveo is not a paragon of reliability and ability to withstand punishment. I have done things too I am embarrassed to talk about. Next time, though, you won’t forget which plug is which. Hope all goes well for you. It could be worse…Be thankful you did it now to an Aveo and not that new Corvette you are saving up for in later years. Given the car’s value, <$4k , it may be totaled.

Personally, I think you’re in a bit of trouble with the car now. Overfilling of oil by a considerable amount can cause various kinds of engine issues although it is impossible to tell you what the clicking is. The white smoke is due to oil being forced into the combustion chambers and that can create problems with pistons, rings, etc. Maybe the clicking is a damaged piston…???

An automatic transmission can be damaged in seconds, not minutes, from lack of fluid so that unit is probably damaged goods also. My guess (much like one on the engine) is that the whine you hear is probably from the transmission rather than the engine.

Good luck and unfortunately, in my humble opinion, condolences.

Overfilling the engine caused the oil to foam and the lifters to collapse, causing the clicking noise…That should recover…The transmission…Only time will tell…Don’t be too concerned with published fluid capacities…They are frequently incorrect…Fill the transmission by observing the transmission dipstick, engine warm, idling in Park…

I agree with Caddymans advice. I think once the air works it’s way out of the lifters the engine will be fine. You must get the transmission to the proper fluid level before you drive it. Check per instructions in the owners manual. Cars nowadays vary in checking transmission fluid levels. You may get lucky.

I second re checking the tranny fluid level

I second Caddyman’s advice

A few years ago, there was an astro van in the shop with a clicking noise from the valve train

I discovered the engine oil level was way overfull, due to one of my colleague’s recent oil changes. He overfilled it by 2 quarts. He heard the clicking, and did not make the mental connection between the high oil level and the clicking. In any case, he released the vehicle. And it soon came back, because the vehicle operator was complaining about the noise.

I drained the oil down to the correct level, and the engine was quiet again . . . at least until the next guy overfilled it

Caddyman Don’t be too concerned with published fluid capacities. They are frequently incorrect. I had one of those lessons. I had my car serviced at Wal-Mart which was across the road from my work for years. They did a decent job especially with tire rotations and I could drop off the car, walk to work, and pick it up after work. I was retired when I purchased my current car. Wal-Mart was no longer convenient but I was in the neighborhood and decided to give my new car a 3,000 mile oil and filter change. When I was paying for the service the invoice included an extra $3 for a pint of oil. I questioned this and was told my car required 5.5 quarts which exceeded their 5 quart limit. They showed me on the computer where this was required. I then drove about 300’ to Lowes. As I parked I could smell burning oil! I opened the hood and was treated with slightly smoking oil on the exhaust and oil everywhere! I went into Lowes and took my time to complete my business so I could do a proper oil level check. It was above full so I knew it was not a major leak. I checked the owners manual and oil capacity was 4.5 quarts. I returned to Wal-Mart not feeling at all guilty about dripping oil in their driveway or shop. They were at first puzzled because they have added the amount of oil required by the computer. I showed them the correct amount of oil required by the owners manual. They drained the oil and replaced it with 4 quarts. They did not have the ability for a proper clean-up so took my car to a close by dealership and had the engine compartment and underside steam cleaned. They also refunded my oil/filter change and gave me 2 vouchers for future oil filter changes. I thought I was made whole but never went back.

Drained remaining transmission fluid and refilled with 2qts O’Reillys T-IV, as the shop said it called for 2.21 qts.

Oh boy, based on that statement it appears you never checked to see if the correct amount of fluid was replaced. A fairly large quantity of fluid remains in the system, trapped in the cooler, lines and torque converter when you just drain the system. If you add the full system capacity listed in the manual, it’s going to be significantly overfilled.

Whenever I drain any system, I use some old oil or coolant jugs that have graduated marks on the side showing the qty. I pour the drained fluid into one or more and make a note of how much fluid came out. Then I put in that amount of fresh fluid back in. This ensures you have enough fluid to run the system up to check the actual level on the dipstick. Then add any more, if necessary, to bring it up to full.

Overfilling can be just as bad as underfilling. Using this method, you’ll be in the ballpark no matter what the manual says or in the event you don’t even have a manual…

I do it the same way Twin Turbo does - Works great!