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Car stuck at delaership; what can I do?

I have a 2005 Hyundai Elantra with 30000 miles on it. Due to an embarrassing misconception, I did not change oil for the last 20,000 miles. Eventually I discovered that oil had gunked up; cold weather may have contributed. The mechanic asked me to take it to the dealership. The dealership says fixing it will cost more than $5000, and that it would be cheaper for me trade it in. This may be true of course, but a cynical possibility is that the damage is minor, and a simple engine cleaning will fix it.

The problem of course is that the car is presently with the dealer and cant be started without oil.

My question is, what are my options? Is there any way I could get a second opinion? Is there any way I could trade it in somewhere else for a car that I actually want to buy?

The only way to remove most of the sludge from an engine is to disassemble the engine and clean the components individually. Attempting use a chemical flush to remove the sludge can result in plugged up oil drain back holes in the head and a plugged up oil pump pick-up screen. And this results in a destroyed engine. Here’s a sequence of how to clean the oil sludge from an engine.


I wonder if you can push to have it covered by the 10/100 warranty? If you spilled the beans about 20K with no changes, then probably not.

I think that the evidence of 20k with no oil changes will be very obvious to any mechanic with eyes and a brain. If there is any question about the frequency of oil changes and other maintenance, the dealership will ask for documentation of oil changes–as they should.

In this era of a deteriorating (or totally absent) sense of personal responsibility, it is not reasonable to expect anyone–even a corporation–to bear the expense of someone’s lack of personal responsibility.

Some critical information is lacking.
Oil light on, knocking/rattling noises, the definition of “take to the dealer” which could mean driven or towed, and “can’t be started without oil” which could mean there is little or no oil in the engine right now?

If so, the engine is trashed. If not, it’s got a short lifespan and either way, you’re likely going to take a financial bath on this one because in spite of any numbers game being played, the dealer is going to consider the car wholesale junk and the real trade-in value will be priced accordingly.

Cheapest way out is to find a used engine and drop it in. And hope the used engine is good.

Is the engine frozen up, or if they add oil it will run?

Thank you for your reply. Here is the chronology:
I noticed the oil light blink on/off a several times (less than two seconds each time) when driving. I checked engine oil level. It was low and also noticed gummy residue. So I added a quart of oil, but I had to add it a little at a time because it was entering the engine slowly. Then drove it a further 10 miles or so to a mechanic. The oil light did not come on during this drive. No knocking or rattling or any unusual noises.

The mechanic drained the oil and noticed sludge. He recommended towing to the dealership, which I did. Since the oil was drained, the car cant be driven. If oil is added, it may be possible to drive it a little.

There is no question I was stupid; I misunderstood what “annual inspection” meant. The question is: is there any way I can doublecheck what the dealership is telling me? Are there key questions I should ask? Should I request to see specific parts?

Thank you once again.

My alternate suggestion is tow it to an independent shop for an evaluation. It may end up a replacement engine is in order however you can likely go the used motor route(junkyard). Then again have a shop drain the oil and use Auto-RX product and follow directions and cross your fingers.

Your car at best is worth $5000 running fine. Basically now it may get you $500 at trade in but will likely just raise your purchase price to make the “deal” appeal to you.

You can have the car towed to another mechanic, if you can find one. Just remember, you may get the same opinion from the second mechanic as well.

I think your main problem is that the oil drain back passageways are gunked up. The quickest fix would be to drop the oil pan and remove the valve cover(s). Open up the drain back passageways, then clean as much gunk from under the valve covers as possible. A lot of it will be forced down the oil return passageways, that is why I recommend removing the oil pan.

After all is cleaned up, reinstall the pan and valve covers (use new gaskets), put on a fresh oil filter and fresh oil and it should be good to go. Do frequent oil changes for a while, every 3k or so should help clean out the internals.

If you can find a mechanic that will do it this way, it shouldn’t be more than a couple hundred $$, and I can’t guarantee it will work. It depends on how much damage you have done already.

You can have an oil pressure test performed which can provide at least a little info on the lower end of the engine (crank/bearings) and a compression test performed (pisotn rings) and this will at least help to determine just how bad things are.

Whenever the oil light blinks on this means a loss of oil pressure and on a running engine this means the oil film on the crankshaft bearings disappears; as in a second. This leads to the bearing overlay being wiped off and a short engine life. It may run for a long time like this but it’s a questionable engine at best.

Often the best way to determine bearing condition is to drop the oil pan and remove several bearing caps that are located the fartherest away from the oil pump. These are the ones that usually suffer the most as they are the last in the chain to receive oil from the pump.

Just offhand, sounds like the oil pan has sludged up and when this happens the pickup tube where the oil is sucked out of the pan will clog up. This leads to the oil pressure loss and the oil light coming on.