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Bottom fell off my car, who's fault?

So, 3 months ago I took my car in for its 20,000 mile service. I have done nothing since–no oil change, nothing like that.

Yesterday, I was driving along and suddenly BOOM, the front panel that covers the underside of the car fell off–or, more specifically, it was dragging along hanging by one screw.

I took a look underneath and saw the other screws were all gone. This leads me to believe that either the mechanic only put in one screw and forgot the rest, or that he put all the screws in but forgot to tighten them and it took 3 months until they all finally shook off.

Before I go storming back in there, is there ANY other logical explanation for this happening?

And what would the ethical response be by these guys? I’ve gone to them for years with no problem.

If you only change the oil every 20,000 miles, leave the lower engine shrowd off. That way it’ll be easier to change the engine when it fails from the lack of oil changes.


If you had all the maintenance done at the dealer is should be no problem to get it fixed under warranty, no matter what the cause.

Oh, no I get the oil changed regularly and responsibly. I meant the LAST time it was changed was 3 months ago, when the car had its 20,000 mile tune-up.

The car has super low mileage because I don’t drive much, but it’s actually 5 1/2 years old, so not under warrantee, and i no longer go to the dealer for repairs or tuneups.

Okay then.

This shrowd is held on by plastic clips. When removing these clips repeatidly for things like oil changes and other maintenance they break. And if there are no replacements on hand they’ll try to reuse the broken clips. Not a good idea as you’ve found out.

They should have least substituted wire ties for the broken clips.


But they should take care of fixing it also right?

Auto repairs / maintenance usually come with a warranty, either implied or stated on a sign or something like that…

Even though its been 3 months, it sounds like you don’t really drive much so conduct yourself professionally and explain to them what happened, DO NOT go storming back in there.

My shop replaced some belts for me back in the summer, and they started squealing a few months later. I took the car in to have the problem corrected and they wanted to charge me $40 for the labour until I pointed out that I was still within the warranty period.

To paraphrase others on this board, you don’t ask, you don’t receive. Best of luck to you.

Just asking the obvious…is it necessary to remove the lower engine shroud to change the oil?

oh, uh, yeah, funny, Tester. But, I think he was actually talking about the shroud, not the shrowd.

"Before I go storming back in there, is there ANY other logical explanation for this happening? "

Yes, there is…Over a 3 month period, ANYTHING can happen when dealing with plastic splash shields and sheet-metal screws… If “Fault” must be assessed, then the designer of your car would be the likely suspect…

First inspect the plastic shield that came loose, several import makers call them undercovers but more commonly they are lower deflectors, engine shield, etc. See if the shield has torn mounting tabs or screw holes. Do the same for the lower portion of the front bumper cover, see if there are torn tabs. If there are see what direction the car might have been traveling in to tear them, kind of like a csi thing. The reason is that plenty of people unknowingly scrape over a parking block and tear them.

If not, return to the shop and explain this to the service writer that you dealt with. That person would then get a service manager involved, go up the chain of command instead of demanding to see the service manager right now. Otherwise they might dig in their heels as it may appear you are going over their heads. Do this in a mature CONFIDENT manner with out a lot of screaming and “#%^&(&^%$$%^&*&”. This will show you have a head on your shoulders with confidence and facts instead of mindless emotional rants. This is the way I do it and normally I get what I go after. As long as I know I am right I am ok with doing this. Present clear facts.

Don’t know the car specificaly but under car shrouds are very easily damaged and on some models not securily fastened even when new.

The plastic “screws” tend to break easily or snap. I would not blame anyone as it could have been the “guy” before. Also bumping a parking curb can tear the plastic off too so the person to blame may be in the mirror or the other driver.

Go to the dealer or mail order site and order double or triple plastic snaps what you need and keep them handy.

Resolution: The engine shield (I guess that’s what it’s called) is held on by 7 bolts. 6 of them had fallen out. The mechanic said, “It looks like something got loose that shouldn’t have,” and replaced them. No charge, obviously. So, sort of, though not fully, accepting responsibility.

This mechanic has serviced two other cars of ours over the past 20 years (they do Volvos and Toyotas). Do we stick with them, or is this a sign we should move on?

Oops. I didn’t mean bolts. I meant screws: 7 T-30 Torx headed screws.

Over a span of three months, there are other likely causes for this body part falling off. Odds are, this was caused by something other than the last person to service your vehicle.

I see no reason to change mechanics or shops, based on this one instance. You got good resolution, so time to move on.

I worked at a Volvo dealer for 5 years as a mechanic, up till late 2008. I’ve changed the oil on scores of these models. Yes, you absolutely have to remove the splash guard on these things to change the oil.

Yes, you need to have this splash guard on there, since not only does it protect the engine from splash, it also has ducts that vent air on under-car components that need to be kept cool. Yes, there are 7 T30 torx fasteners–resembling sheet metal screws. (The heads of the screws have the “torx” configuration.) 5 of the screws screw into plastic inserts which are a poor design–no matter how careful you are, the screws never get tight in these plastic “nuts”.

The other 2 screws screw into more reasonably designed metal clip nuts, but even these strip out easy, so Caddyman is right: part of the problem is the design. But even so, they should have used wire ties; zip ties; tie straps, whatever you want to call them–to hold the splash guard up, so Tester’s right, too.

This can happen to a good mechanic once in a great while, so I would still go back there.