Dealer mechanic did not tighten oil drain plug properly

Hi everyone, I purchased my first new car this January, a Subaru Outback 2019.

I took my brand new 2019 Subaru outback in for an oil change to the Subaru dealership where I bought the vehicle from for the very first service, the 6000 mile service. 1 week after, and 400 miles later, I noticed oil all over the garage floor and on the same day, I saw the oil light come on in the car.

My husband said the vehicle may not be safe to drive, we had the vehicle towed to a nearby subaru dealership (not the same dealership where the vehicle was purchased from and vehicle 1st service was done). The subaru mechanic wrote on the service sheet 2 quarts of oil were replaced, oil drain plug was half way on, and they tightened it. He assured me, engine is okay, and I should not lose sleep, and the car is fine.

I am worried the vehicle could have issues later on. So my questions are:

  1. The mechanic from 2nd dealership said, oil light comes on when oil is even a little low, even 1 quart. Sounds like bs. When really does the oil light come on? How low would the oil had to have been. (i’m kicking myself for not checking the oil myself)

  2. What can I say to the 1st dealership that caused the issue by leaving the drain plug off? How do I approach the subject with them? I read this post: Dealer fails to tighten oil pan plug properly but I have never done this myself, and I’m concerned I will say something wrong and get stuck in a corner where they won’t do anything. I want them to take liability.

  3. Should I ask the dealership to (a) provide extended warranty (b) pay for a check up from a third dealer © transfer my free initial services from their dealership to another dealership of my choosing. anything else?

  4. I plan to call the national phone number for Subaru. What should I say to them?

  5. Do I need to get an attorney involved?

Thank you, thank you thank you so much for your help!!! I am so grateful to find this chat and to be reading from experienced people.

#1 If your Subaru has an oil LEVEL sensor as well as an oil PRESSURE sensor, then yes, it can read one quart low. I don’t know if your Subie has such a sensor, that information is in your owners manual. The level light will likely be Yellow. The pressure sensor light would be Red. If you see yellow, no harm was done.

#2 Since the 2nd dealers is describing a level sensor, then no harm is done. I’d suggest always taking your car to dealer #2 for service. Beyond that, I can’t comment because this is CarTalk, not CarLegalTalk.

#3 No, because there was no harm

#4 What CAn you say to them? “Dealer #1 left my oil pan plug loose, I’ll never go back there.” What Subaru does after that is up to them.


I don’t see why… No Harm Done

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Did the second dealer write on your service report that the drain plug was night tightened?
If the first service was free, and you have had it performed, what is there to transfer?
In as much as you had it towed, no harm was done except oil on your garage floor.

The second dealer did in fact write on the service report that the drain plug was not tightened.

With the purchase of the Subaru, the 1st dealer provided the first 4 services free. For the remaining 3, I do not want to go back to the `1st dealer. So I wanted to transfer the remaining 3 to another Subaru Dealer.

Won’t hurt to ask.

Thank you!

I will find out the differentiation in the manual between the level sensor and pressure sensor! That is a great point! Thanks for helping!

Yes, that model has an oil level sensor as well as an oil pressure sensor, and its level sensor will cause its yellow warning light to go on if the oil level drops by 1 qt.

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Oil and coolant are the “life blood” of vehicles.

I have that feature on my GM cars, oil level (low) senor and oil pressure (low) sensor, as well as an oil pressure gauge.

My oil level sensors (located in the side of the engine’s oil pan) are designed to trigger an alert when oil is about one quart low. That feature allows a driver to replenish the oil, if necessary, before there is ever any chance of the low oil volume causing damaging low oil pressure.

I add another level of engine protection by religiously checking oil and coolant levels in all my vehicles, weekly, and adding make-up oil whenever/if ever the oil is 8 ounces below full.
I have never had either a low level or low pressure warning and don’t intend to.

So, if the warning was low oil volume and never progressed to low oil pressure, then I’m confident that damage was not done.

Oh, that regular checking for any fluid drips underneath a vehicle is a good idea and adds another layer of protection in an “early warning” system.

I have the same regimen, and as a result, I have never had either warning light start glowing on the dashboard. I will add some oil if the level falls by ~1/4 qt. So far–in total–I have only needed to add 1 qt over a distance of 95k miles. :smiley:

Again, +1

I will skip to question #5 first: YES.
It’s for situations like this that I married one. Many folks on here will say “lawyers are expensive, take other steps first”. Well, doctors are expensive also, but unless you are in the habit of practicing medicine on yourself, involve a pro now.

Hire a lawyer to recover the cost of two quarts of motor oil?

Since dealership #2 noted on the repair order that the drain plug had been left loose, and you can show through paperwork trial that dealership #1 did the first oil change, then I would drive on.

It appears no damage was done, and you have several thousand miles to check things out thoroughly before warranty runs out- and then perhaps a little more since you have paper trail showing how dealership #1 was negligent in service. (I wouldn’t count on that ‘extra’ though, but you may be able to sweet talk Subaru if engine fails just past warranty.)
Drive on, keeping a close eye on things.

I would verify that your drainplug is still tight after a week or so of driving- just to make sure there isn’t a drain plug issue here (even though that is unlikely.)

You’re lucky. Sometimes the plug falls out leading to loss of all of the oil and most people don’t notice or ignore the lack of oil pressure light being illuminated. At that point they’re in trouble.

If you’re not doing so I would suggest you get into the habit of checking the motor oil and other fluids on a regular basis. Too many people make the assumption that things will remain constant from one service to the next and that is not normally the case.

Even running an engine a quart low is detrimental to the engine to some extent because it leads to the remaining motor oil running much hotter which in turn can lead to oil coking or sludging.

Well you can go back to dealer 1 with the information from dealer 2 and maybe they’ll cover the cost of the tow and the oil change. But then why would you go back to dealer 1? Let them know if you like then drop it and consider yourself fortunate for no damage. That’s one reason I change my own oil.

Roadside assistance is provided by Subaru for 3 years/36,000 miles so there should not be a towing charge.

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