Dealer Did Not Replace Oil Dipstick!

Unbelievable. I took my 1999 Honda Accord to the Dealer to have the 105K maintenance done (timing belt and all that). I went back after 7500 or so miles when the wrench came on to have the oil changed and they come to tell me the dipstick is missing. I never even opened the hood of the car so it either 1) somehow came out while I was driving 2) Someone got into my car, opened the hood and stole the dipstick (instead of my GPS) or 3) They forgot to put it back in at the 105K maintenance. I believe the screwed up. They have temporarily plugged it while they order a new one - which they are paying for.

I spoke directly to the tech that did the oil change and he said there was plenty of oil in the engine. I took a look under the hood and there is oil all over the engine compartment and the insulating pad on the top of the hood is stained with oil.

Question - how bid of deal is this? Was the engine damaged? What about the oil all over the engine compartment - do I need to be concerned about that? Any other advice?

I believe the dipstick was left out at the 105K maintenance interval since oil was on the engine and other areas. Question…You never check your oil between oil changes? It’s something that you should do in addition to checking the engine for minor leaks or other things out of the ordinary. They are paying for a new one and if there was “plenty” of oil in the engine then no harm was done other than an oily engine bay.

It really depends on how much oil was in the engine. Just one quart of oil on an engine will look like a lot. Chances are the engine is fine. But I’d have the dealer clean the engine.

For future reference…You should check your oil every 2k miles. You never know what could happen in just 2k miles.

If there is any damage it’s YOUR fault. You didn’t even open the hood and check the oil for 7,500 miles. That’s negligence on your part.

It’s unlikely the engine was damaged. It doesn’t take a lot of oil to make a mess under the hood. I’d clean the engine if it were my car, but that’s up to you.

Advice? Yes. Get in the habit of checking the oil, and the other fluids as well, periodically.

Ditto to what mcparadise said.

If you want your car to continue to run properly and to last as long as it should, you need to check all of the fluids under the hood periodically. On a vehicle with over 100k miles on the odometer, I would suggest that you get under the hood at least every couple of weeks.

Edited to add:
The more that I think about it, I have to say that the OP is too trusting–in more ways than one.
The dealership has admitted fault, but has stated that there “was plenty of oil in the engine”.
Maybe that is a truthful statement, or maybe it is not. Let’s face it–The dealership goes into full damage control mode once a situation like this arises, so “plenty of oil” could actually mean that there was still a small amount of oil in the crankcase.

Since the OP never bothered to try to check the oil between changes (and since there was no dipstick present anyway), it is entirely possible that the amount of oil remaining in the crankcase after 7,500 miles was not really “plenty”. The OP has no way of verifying this statement.

This is just one more example of why a person needs to do an under-hood check after servicing and also needs to check fluids on a frequent basis.

If the oil level is not terribly low then no engine damage should have been done. However, the lion’s share of the blame should be laid on you for not ever bothering to open the hood and check the oil level.
You’re not asking, but begging, for a trashed engine due to not only this bad habit but possibly going 7500 miles between oil changes based on your driving habits and enviro conditions.

The caught their mistake, admitted to it without stonewalling, and are paying for the dipstick. As to whether they should be responsible for any potential engine damage I would say no based on your neglect, not theirs.
You assume a 12 year old, 100k miles+ car will never use any oil between changes, much less a 7500 miles interval? Ouch.

Clearly, they weren’t ever checking for oil drops or puddles under it either.

Since you asked for other advice, I’ll echo the other folks here and say that it’s a terrible idea to never check your oil. Do you have money set aside and ready to spend on a new engine if the car ever starts using oil and the engine destructs?

You should also be checking the oil immediately after service at the dealer. Although it’s their responsibility to send the car out with the correct amount of oil, mistakes do happen. You’re better off finding an issue right away.

I agree about checking immediately after service…I check oil, tire pressure and whether they actually rotated tires, lug nut replacement and torque and air pressure…

If the oil pressure warning light came on, then there was damage. How much depends on how much further you continued to drive.

But even if you shut the engine off immediately, the crank has spun thousands of times without a pressurized lube barrier between it and the main bearings and rod bearings. And, since you wree running for a long period with less and less oil, the oil that was lubing the engine was getting dirtier and dirtier. Best case, you shortened the life of the engine.

OSU Buckeye…

This is a very bid deal indeed.
It is VERY LIKELY that damage was done to the engine.

  1. The truth of the matter is that you will NEVER know how much oil was really left in the engine. The ONLY person who MIGHT know exactly, is the tech who initially checked your engine oil, if he indeed did do that. Unless he just removed the engine oil drain plug first, and only later noticed the missing dipstick. In which case, he is just saying there was enough oil in the engine, in order to soothe your concerns, and to completely deflect any potential liablity for them.

  2. It is very likely that you lost a minimum of 1 qt of oil, probably in the first 500-1000 miles, after the oil change. The insulating pad of the hood acted as an absorbant mat, and it is now hiding much more of the lost oil than it is observable at first blush. As the oil level in the crankcase dropped more and more, your loses were smaller and smaller. Driving around for 6500 miles with a minimum of 1 qt of oil low, while not catastrophic in the immediate future, did not do any favors to your engine for the long run.

  3. Most of the rubber parts and hoses under the hood are attacked and degraded by petroleum distilates, i.e. engine oil.

  4. Why don’t you think with your dipstick ??? If you drive a car, you should always open the hood and check your fluids AT LEAST once every 1000 miles. I promise you, it won’t take more than 60 seconds.

I would get the engine cleaned up and motor on. If the engine is running without any odd noises and the read oil light never came on I would not give it a 2nd thought.

My only suggestion is check your engine oil every 3-4 fuel fill ups. In those 7500 miles you may be burning a bit of oil(very normal) and letting it get low with extended mileage is really hard on engine oil.

You didn’t pop the hood once in 7,500 miles? What’s up with that?

The dip stick in your engine is pretty short, so if it came loose, it could fall out without it being your mechanic’s fault, but how can you blame them for making a mistake when you admit you never check your oil in between oil changes?

According to your owner’s manual, you are supposed to check the oil every time you stop for fuel. This might seem excessive, so if you check the oil every other fuel stop, that would be acceptable. If you don’t get into the habit of checking your engine’s fluids, you are asking for trouble.

Be thankful your car still runs, and thank the dealership for owning up to what might not not be their fault.

One last thing to add: If there was plenty of oil in the car, the dealership was probably not at fault. If the dip stick had been missing that long, there would probably be very little oil left in the engine.

I think some of these posts are a little on the harsh side, but you REALLY need to check your oil more often. I suggest at LEAST every other time you fill up. In addition, I’d check your transmission fluid often - your model year of Accord was known for very high transmission failure rates, particularly on the V6 models, though even the I4s were unacceptably high. You can often prevent thousands of dollars in damage by just a little bit of extra attention paid to your car.

What DID they teach you at OSU? you sound like management material, you know the “delegating” type. This is totaly on you, how does the Dealer know it was not you that forgot to replace the dipstick durning a check? Some cars won’t blow any oil out of a tube that is missing it’s dipstick but some will empty the crankcase in just hundreds of miles.

Are you sure that the message that this “wrench” symbol was trying to tell you was “change the oil” and not “your engine is toast”? did it specifically say “oil change due”?

Never assume the pros have done it correctly. Check your oil immediately after an oil change just in case they forgot to actually add oil or put in the wrong amount. This is why I do everything myself, I don’t trust that somebody else will be more careful with my car than I am.

Buried amongst the lecturing (excuse us, we mean well) are some important points here. I thought it might be good to summarize them for clarity.

Always double check the work that was done. I do. Even if I did the work.
Learn to check your oil routinely. It’s free and necessary. Check your other fluids too.
Yes, there was engine damage done. Anytime the oil light comes on the engine has lost its oil pressure and lubrication. Anytime that happens some damage is done. How much damage is hard to guess from here. It could range from a shortened lifespan to immenent bearing failure.
The dealer shop may have left the dipstick out. Had you checked their work it would have been caught immediately and they’d be solely responsible. 7500 miles later you need to share responsibility. You’ve been neglecting your car.

If the engine seems to run okay, all you can do is keep track of everything and hope you haven’t shortened the life too much.

I’d recommend you take it to a shop that does engine steam cleaning and have them clean the engine compartment. They’ll know how to do so without damaging anything. You may have to change the underhood mat.

I’d bet that everyone here wishes you all the best, and hopes the damage is minimal. But we all want to drive the “routine maintenance necessary” message home emphatically. We hate to see a good car damaged or a good person stranded.

I believe that the OP referred to the “it’s time to change the oil light”, not the “there’s no oil pressure, it’s time to change your engine light.”

You’re right. I stand corrected.
So all we’re talking about is a missing stick and a mess in the engine compartment.

I’m always happy to be wrong when the problem turns out to have been less severe than I first understood.

Thanks everyone for your thoughts. There are times I do check the oil in my cars but for whatever reason did not check it this go around. I looked around the drive way and there is a small stain but not very large/noticeable and we have gotten a ton of rain here so that could be part of the issue (the car sits outside on a blacktop driveway. I did look at the insulation above the hood and it did take the brunt of the overflow and there is some oil in the compartment that is going to have to get taken car of. I guess I am most upset because I have religiously done all the maintenance on this vehicle for over 10 years at this dealer and just got done spending $900 to get the 105K maintenance done to be sure the car would last. Oh well…that was a waste. Like you all pointed out some damage had to have been done and yes if I had checking the work immediately I could have caught it. I guess when I pay that kind of money I expect the mechanic involved to check their work…that is why I hired them. Good lesson…I will be double checking everything I can check in the future and will be having a conversation with the manager tomorrow when I go to pick up my new dipstick. Just super frustrating. Hopefully the dealer will make it right - I will give him/her an opportunity make it right and I measure people based on how they handle the mistakes since mistakes happen - but this one really sucks. At least no one got hurt and my wife and kids did not get stranded somewhere.