Dealership ruined my engine...(?)

However, they made sure to spend plenty of time telling me that none of the work they had done was possibly connected to the problems the engine was having.

I’m going to say that this line is BS. If they replaced the oil pan gasket, then they had to drain the oil. If they did that and forgot to fill the oil again, that would wreck your engine. If the low oil sensor were malfunctioning, then you wouldn’t know anything about it until it was too late.

Your engine is also an interference engine, which means if the timing belt breaks or “jumps a tooth” (think of it as slipping) then your engine will start clattering and destroy itself.

So, whether they actually borked your car or not, we don’t know. But denying that any of the work they did could possibly have wrecked it at all, is a flat out lie.

Thanks everyone for the input and suggestions. No matter what happens now at least I’ve learned a lot just from reading the comments on this thread.

Based on the replies it seems it is likely the dealership is (at least partly) to blame, but, ultimately, there is no way to prove this (short of them confessing to any wrongdoings/accidents). In any event, I’ve called around town and there are no decent used engines available, meaning the car is (I believe) not salvageable at this point – at least not for any reasonable amount of money.

I visited a mechanic the next town over (that a family member recommended) and inquired about having him open up the engine to determine what had gone wrong (as per some of the suggestions I read here). He said he could do it, but that he felt he’d just be wasting my money. His conclusion was, “don’t waste your time. Best thing to do now is go out and find a nice used vehicle to replace yours.”

I spoke with the dealership this morning and asked them what they thought had happened. I was told that it was likely a result of “normal wear on a high-mileage engine”. If that were the case, is it reasonable to assume that there would have been signs of problems during the previous repairs? For example, when they drained the oil the last time, wouldn’t there already have been metal shavings? Or is it possible that this was just a parts failure that occurred, as they claim, and the timing is a coincidence?

At this point, my two options seem to be either 1) argue with the dealership in the hopes they’ll backpedal or offer some sort of compromise, which so far seems unlikely as they are sticking with their story of no wrongdoings; or 2) get what I can for my car the way it is now and purchase another vehicle. Neither is ideal, but such is life.

Thanks again everyone for the invaluable input.

I was told that it was likely a result of "normal wear on a high-mileage engine"

Bull. Cars these days are considered junk if they can’t make it to 150k and well beyond. Hell 3 of my cars are at or near the 200k mark on the original engines and still running perfectly fine.

If that were the case, is it reasonable to assume that there would have been signs of problems during the previous repairs?

Yes, very likely. I find it telling that they didn’t bother mentioning this high-mileage engine BS before they charged you a small fortune to do a lot of engine maintenance. Why would they suggest that work on an engine that, according to them, is naturally ready to die?

After all, when a person is on his deathbed, you don’t update his vaccinations and do dental work on him, yes?

Or is it possible that this was just a parts failure that occurred, as they claim, and the timing is a coincidence?

Possible? Sure. Likely? Not so much, especially since they’re busy lying about whether or not doing the jobs that they did could cause engine failure. My read on this is that they’re in butt-covering mode.

Your third option is to make as much noise as possible. Call local media, write the attorney general explaining that these guys charged you a lot of money for work on an engine that they then only admitted after getting paid was ready to die because it had all of 145k on it. Get on social media and tag the hell out of them asking why they lied to you about your car.

At the very least if they really think engines won’t last past 145k (which they don’t, unless they’re a really special breed of idiot) then they knowingly ripped you off by getting you to buy all those services from them.

I would also get in touch with Hyundai corporate. Hyundai is in the middle of a BIG push to get out from under the reputation that their cars are rolling piles of crap, because for many years their cars were rolling piles of crap. That’s no longer true, but the reputation is still there. In light of trying to shed themselves of this bad rap, Hyundai is likely to take a dim view of a dealership who says their cars won’t last beyond 145k.

You’re very astute for catching things like this. If the dealer changed the oil pan gasket this means the oil pan should have been cleaned while off and the oil obviously drained before the removal of the pan. If your engine was in as bad a shape as claimed the pan should have been full of shavings along with other debris and noticeable to a blind man while the pan was on the bench.

Now that your engine is cratered they notice shavings…

I think there was an error made during these repairs and your engine was essentially a dead man walking when you left the premises. As I’ve often stated, I hate to condemn a shop due to unknown details but this one stinks.

Without an engine teardown and analysis as to why it failed beyond all doubt, and considering the dealer line on this, you’re between a rock and a hard place.

Even taking them to court would be tough to do without an engine disassembly and testimony (verbal or written) that it was due to their negligence.

A 145k miles is nothing if the vehicle has been maintained half decent. My current vehicle is almost at 250k and it’s one of the lower miles totals on any of my cars that I own or have owned.
My old Mercury Sable was still running and driving well at 400K+ miles. The only reason I even got rid of the car was because a nasty storm threw a tree branch into the windshield and I was so screaming bored with the car the broken glass was enough of an excuse to say goodbye to it.
Same with one of the Subarus I had; 13 years of use and 300k miles it was time to go.

They replaced your oil pan gasket on your second appointment and this should have been the same pan that they showed you that had metal chops in it.

I’ll bet you are right and the oil change tech forgot to put oil back in, but noticed early enough to put in the oil before he pulled the car out of the bay.

By then the damage was done. Now it gets towed in and the same tech removes the oil pan, finds the shavings…or puts some there. Now he’s off the hook with his boss and there is no way to prove it. If that tech was a new hire, or maybe not on the best of terms with the boss…he may have tried to cover his mistake at your expense.

AS far as another mechanic checking it out. There is no way he could prove that the Tech forgot the oil.

I think your best bet is to talk to the manager and offer to buy another car from them, using this one as a trade in and they give you a fair price for the trade.
See what blue book is and ask what they will offer in trade, but be prepared to take some loss from what the blue book is. Do some homework on the blue book before you go so you are up to date with the info.


Another mechanic could not prove they forgot to add oil but there should be signs of oil starvation on the crank bearings, cam lobes, cylinder walls, and so on if they did forge the lubricant.

Again, this goes back to tolerance for financial pain on a teardown and the ensuing greasy pig wrestling match even if signs of oil starvation are present.

The oil pan must have/should have been cleaned while off for a gasket change. If there were any signs of serious engine issues with debris in the oil pan the mechanic should have put things on hold and they should have notified the car owner of impending problems before even reinstalling the oil pan.

Hyundai’s reputation, not sure if it is deserved or not since I haven’t owned one, but their reputation is they sell a good car with a lot of accouterments – leather seats, power everything, plush everything else, etc – that in other brands you’d have to pay extra for. And they are fairly reliable. For a time. So they make for a economical purchase, especially if you want and appreciate all those extras. That’s the upside.

The downside is their cars can start to display problems that become un-economical to fix at around the 10 year mark. In other words if you plan to own the car for 5-10 years, Hyundai’s can be an excellent choice. 20 years? Not so much, better buy a Toyota or Honda for that.

So this 2004 Hyundai is at the 11 year mark? And having all these problems? hmm … I think I wouldn’t spend any more time or money on figuring out what happened. It is probably time to retire it and buy another car.

@meanjoe75fan writes …

have you ever owned a 10-20 y.o. car as a daily driver? If so, did you fastidiously work over keeping the engine bay clean enough to eat off of--or did you do a certain level of "triage," determine what warranted immediate attention, what could be deferred to the next scheduled maintenance, and what you could simply live with?

Yes, I currently own and drive two vehicles that meet this description. Well, they are both older than that, but same idea. I prefer older cars to newer cars. “Deferred maintenance” is the only kind I do … lol … And I concur with what you are saying, if those options the OP was presented with at the dealership were presented to me, I wouldn’t have automatically gone ahead with them. At the minimum, I’d have asked here first to see what the resident experts think. And I expect they’d say “hold on, some of this may me unnecessary, ask the shop some questions first”.

But that’s not the way it all happened. I’m not trying to address the question “What should the OP have done?”, but “Given the current situation, what should be done next?”

Just wanted to give everyone a quick update in case you’re interested. I think I’m in a better position now than I was this morning. Long story short, I called the service department and decided to play the “ignorant” card. I asked the service advisor what happened, and followed-up every answer she gave with “what do you mean?” or “how does that happen?” or “what’s a bearing?” and so on. It’s annoying, yes, but it can also be effective, as it doesn’t allow them to just throw out a few “technical terms” and act like everything has been cleared up.

Sure enough, she was running out of answers and decided to pass the phone to their head technician, whom she described as a “Hyundai expert”. I did the same thing with him, but I started from square one (“what happened with the engine?”). He told me the exact opposite of what the service advisor had just told me. When I called him out on it, he started to backpedal. The final story he gave, which is what I got from the service advisor, was that parts just “go bad” and fail after a while, and that it is not uncommon for it to happen out of the blue.

Here’s where it gets better, because I told him I was very skeptical of this, especially since I hadn’t noticed anything wrong with the vehicle and his own mechanics had given it a clean bill of health. Now, he started giving me examples of how this happens all the time – with no warning. Except, in so doing, he inadvertently insulted his own service department and the entire Hyundai brand. I’ll leave out the details for now, but the way he was going on it sounded like simply driving a brand new Hyundai off the lot would be enough to have a major breakdown. I of course wrote down everything he was saying as he was saying it. At this point I figured I had all I needed. I don’t think they’ll pay for damages to my vehicle, but at the very least I think I can get a refund for all the work done.

He transferred me back to the service advisor, who gave me the number to the service manager for the area’s dealerships. Before I hung up she told me that he was in meetings all day and that not even she could get a hold of him, so I should call him tomorrow. I translated that as, he has no idea what’s going on so we need time to call him up and give him a story. So, of course, I called him as soon as I got off the phone with her. I guess his meetings were done early because he answered on the first ring. I told him I was having serious problems with the service department at [local] Hyundai, and that at the very least I expected a refund for recent work done. Based on his reaction this was the first he was hearing of this. He said he would call back (of course he did not), so I’ll be in touch with him again tomorrow morning.

I’m hoping they’ll refund my money and let me go on my way, but if not, I’ll be sure to tell him the various gems that his own head tech told me about his dealership and the Hyundai brand. Hopefully that’ll be motivation enough.

@GeorgeSanJose wrote:

"At the minimum, I'd have asked here first to see what the resident experts think."

I definitely plan on doing this in the future. If I’m being honest, this is the best experience I’ve had with an online community. I’ve received a lot of good advice here, and all of the comments have been extremely positive. Knowing this, I won’t hesitate to return in the future with questions, and to hopefully avoid a similar situation as the one I currently find myself in.


Now that you’ve got the regional service manager’s phone number, do NOT be afraid to keep calling him

Every single day

Keep notes, about what time you called, whether he returned your phone calls, what was said, etc.

Tell him you believe your engine was in in fine shape, and worthy of the work that the dealership sold you. They undoubtedly assure you it was worth it, and you believed them, correct?

Also tell him you believe something went wrong while the car was in their hands

Tell him you’d like a replacement engine installed

He has the power to authorize such things

If this guy will absolutely not play ball, kick it up a notch and get in touch with his superior

And then start playing telephone terror with him, also

At some point, some big shot may tell his underlings “I’m tired of talking to this person every day. I’ve got better things to do. Give them a replacement engine and take the hit. Don’t make me tell you again or you’re fired.”

If this happened to me, I would not take it lying down

I would fight them tooth and nail

They know they . . . . ed up

It’s more and more apparent to me that someone there screwed up and they’re all in the Cover Your Axx mode.

I certainly salute you for the way you’re handling this and posing the questions. Sounds like nothing but BS from everyone in the chain other than the zone rep. Those comments about the service department and the brand should go over well with the zone rep… :smile:

I wonder what kind of mechanic would publicly run his mouth off about his own service department (which essentially trashes his direct boss, the service manager) and the make of the car to a member of the public.
Mechanics often grumble and gripe about all makes of cars due to wrestling with them every day but it’s usually done at lunch or at a bar after work and off the record.

This sounds like you at least have your foot in the door. I’m sure that everyone here hopes it all goes well for you.

You could show your appreciation by inviting us up to your cabin where the fishings good and the skeeters scarce. I’m sure some of us could find a few days of the calendar to put a big ole X through.

Keep us up to date though, it’s nice to hear how someones problem was solved.


Here is (what is hopefully) the conclusion, for anyone interested:

The service manager did not acquiesce to my requests. Long story short, I told him the many flaws in the arguments that had been presented by both him and his department, and that if we could not resolve this between us then I would involve a third party to help settle the matter, to which he replied “Okay, then we’re done here”. When I later called the service department to request that they close my car up so that I could tow it away, they suddenly had an offer.

The end result is a used engine with 114,000 miles on it plus a six-month warranty. Normally I’d be wary of dropping a used engine in, but it comes with a warranty (somewhat short, but a warranty nonetheless), so that assuaged some of my fears. Additionally, all of the services that they performed on my current engine are to be done on this replacement engine at no additional cost.

Essentially, they are restoring the vehicle to the condition it was in prior to this whole ordeal, which I imagine is what a judge/arbiter would rule. As such, I’ve decided to let the matter rest. The engine should be here in three business days, so I’ll likely have my car back by this time next week.

Thanks again to everyone who has provided feedback and advice. You’ve all been great.

Glad that they at least are making an effort to make you whole with this.

If they ask you to sign an agreement, insist that a delivery date be included.
It would not bother me to give them a little extra time…like a few weeks, but I wouldn’t want them dragging their feet.
Or the used engine ends up to be no good and now they need more time to find and install a third engine.

Before signing off on this and accepting delivery, insist on a test drive.

  1. Pay close attention for any odd noises or vibrations.
  2. Check all gauges (oil pressure, temp, charging system) and compare them with what the gauges read with the original engine.
  3. Don’t let them hurry you…take it far enough to bring everything up to operating temp.
  4. You may even want to seek out the opinion of a professional mechanic to give it a thumbs up, he wouldn’t have to do more than listen to it and maybe a test drive. You may want to seek out that mechanic while they are replacing the engine. You may have to ask several before one is willing to buck the dealer.

Also remember that their guarantee is only as good as they intend it to be. You may have to pull teeth to get anything out of the guarantee … like a lawsuit. Remember they didn’t want to treat you fair before you threatened.

If you get the car back I would advise that you keep all records of oil changes and any other maintenance that is done. They could easily claim the guarantee void for lack of oil changes etc…

I would also seek out an independent mechanic in your area.
I advise to ask 50 people (co-workers, family, friends, etc…) who they use. Keep track of the names they give and when you hear a name many time…that’s a good sign.

Sorry, but I just don’t trust this service department.


I might add that there are several things that should be done before the installation of that used engine. If they do not do these things then I would consider it a sign of being careless, non-thinking, negligent, or what have you.

The engine should have a new timing belt kit installed.

The engine rear main seal should be replaced and so should the transmission front pump seal while the engine is out. The current seals are aged and subject to leaking at any time and even more so with some wrestling of the engine in and out of the car.

It’s best to change those seals while the engine it out because Murphy’s Law states that they will start leaking the following week if this is not done. Either one of those seals leaking means the engine or transmission has to come back out.


I’m wondering how you could be sure that any work was done at all on the replacement engine, before installing it . . . ?

They could lie about the work and just install the engine, without doing anything else

Here’s an idea . . .

Ask for invoices and paperwork for all the parts they’re installing on this replacement engine. It shouldn’t be that big of a deal for them to save this stuff

Might even want to ask them to save the old parts and boxes

I know this is going overboard, but I would be hesitant about blindly trusting the dealership, because they most likely are the ones that buggered up the original engine in the first place

What they’re doing now is pretty good for you, and them. You’re getting your car back to its previous condition, and they’re admitting no fault.

Am I correct to assume that the dealership guys at no point admitted any fault?j

Not even now?

Please let us know when you get your car back, and all is well again


The comment about closing the car up and towing it away could very well have led them to think that you have someone lined up to do a teardown and the cause of this problem would then become very clear.
Offhand, I might say they prefer no one else dig into that problem; ergo, their sudden willingness to take care of you.

So far they’ve not asked me to sign anything. I have them on record as stating three days for the delivery, and immediate work once it arrives, so hopefully that means they won’t start stalling. Plus, they’ve given me one of their vehicles off the lot as a loaner, so I think they have an incentive to be done with this so they can get their car back. That’s a good idea on the test drive, though – I’ll be sure to do that. I’ll also see about having an independent mechanic inspect it. I have absolutely no intention on frequenting that service department in the future.

They did say they’ll be replacing the timing belt on the replacement engine. I’m not sure about the other things you mentioned; I’ll have to check. Thanks for the tip.

I definitely intend to have them give me an invoice for the services they said they are going to do. I can’t imagine a reason they’d refuse. I’ve told them numerous times that I keep all of my maintenance records (which I do), so this request should not come as a surprise. I also made sure to have a record of them stating they’d perform these services, which I imagine should be evidence enough if something comes up in the future. They have not admitted fault, and do not intend to do so. They said they are only doing this because I’m a “loyal customer who has proven he takes very good care of his car”.

My suspicion is that, once this is all over, they’d rather I never return. If that’s true, then the best thing they can do is not mess this up. I hope they realize this.