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Differential fluid drained by accident

I’ve taken my subaru crosstrek that is one year old to one place for my oil changes. It started making a noise took it to dealer and they say someone had drained the differential oil and put in transmission fluid. Now my transmission is shot and it will cost 10000$ in repairs. Not covered under warranty. Auto shop that is the only place that has done my last 2 oil changes says all they did is change the oil. Dealer also says my oil is 2 quarts over. So they think that the car has been touched since last oil change. It hasn’t. Are they trying to cover auto shops mistake? What recourse do I have? They have a sample of the fluid they got out of the differential. Can I prove the auto shop is the one that made the mistake?

You can by having the sample analyzed.
Your problem is not unusual for quickie lube places… both the draining of the wrong fluid and the cover up. My guess is that someone drained the wrong fluid, realized the mistake, and refilled it with whatever tranny fluid they had… which turned out to be the wrong stuff… hoping nobody would notice.

Have the analysis done. You’ll need it in court.
Sincere best.

Agreed…there are many entities that can do the analysis for you…its not free but by no means is it cost prohibitive…especially in this instance.

What you describe is a HORROR story…and yet just one more story to add to all the other horror stories told about quick lube places. Honestly Im not shocked by ANYTHING I hear about these places anymore. From forgotten refills to missing drain plugs…these places have you covered. Its appalling in the very least. I mean for God Sakes man… Some of the problems these idiots cause are just painful to hear. Cant shake my head vehemently enough sometimes…oh the fun I would have with a place like this…whooo boy.


"Dealer also says my oil is 2 quarts over."
A few car owners have reported to this site that a shop drained the wrong fluid (instead of engine oil), and then wrongly thinking they drained the engine oil, overfill the engine with oil by adding new oil to the old oil. I hope that’s not the case because the wrong lubricant in the engine is not good.

"Can I prove the auto shop is the one that made the mistake? "
I doubt it. If you do succeed in doing so, please detail how it was actually done.


The QUICK LUBE business model is largely based on having a bright and appealing facade on a busy street in a retail/mall area and the lowest paid employee is the one getting greasy working under the cars. And that greasy person likely has a few hours of instruction and works under a great deal of pressure to speed up work while wondering how he can pay his past due rent if he loses the job so it would be very foolish for him to climb out of that pit and say “hold on boss. I made a mistake.”

Quickie Lubes should never have come into existence. They have basically set the bar for cost of an oil change… A service I barely do for people…Why? Because when I tell them the price of a proper oil change…they look at me sort of Dog like… you know…out of the side of their heads? Then I get the usual response of…its only 19.99 at “those places”. My responses back have ranged all over the place. From trying to explain that the cost of the correct oil and filter is almost double that price with ZERO labor added on top…all the way to some of the Horror stories…and back again. Lately I just say I only do proper and correct oil services for vehicles. I recommend that they look into the quick lube customer satisfaction records and or the horror story dedicated websites that exist.

Its a shame that I don’t take on lots of oil changes… the people in the know have me do their oil service exclusively. They also know that I make about 15 dollars in the bargain. The rest of the people can do to their vehicles as they wish. Quik Lubie has basically destroyed this segment for me…no one wants to hear about sub standard work or results.

Aside from my regulars and friends n family most people don’t want to hear about the longevity potential of their engines, sludge, or anything else oil change related for that matter… Half don’t even know why they need to change the oil at all…I hear terrible things like…Isn’t there oil already in there? I added some last year… I was told I do not need an oil change for 15K miles…Why do I need new oil I just filled the car with fuel… It was changed in 2014 was the latest I got… Good Lord, I don’t think people like that should even operate a machine of any type…its criminal.

They only hear 19.99… What a shame.


In reference to the @“Honda Blackbird” post: The oil change specials at my local Advance Auto or O’Reillys run between $20 and $30. So how do the quickie lube places cut corners to offer that service at the prices they do? I know they can get supplies somewhat cheaper than me, but not THAT much cheaper!

“So how do the quickie lube places cut corners to offer that service at the prices they do? I know they can get supplies somewhat cheaper than me, but not THAT much cheaper!”

Jiffy Lube is owned by the same corporation that owns Pennzoil, so they CAN get supplies far cheaper than you are able to do. I think that the same applies to the Valvoline quick lube places.

What he said…


“So how do the quickie lube places cut corners to offer that service at the prices they do? I know they can get supplies somewhat cheaper than me, but not THAT much cheaper!”

I don’t recommend you try it, but savings can be realized if every so many vehicles or oil changes, the oil gets drained out, no oil gets put in, and it gets charged out on the bill. Or, old oil filter remains in place after change, but gets billed on the receipt.

Also, do you buy your oil in 55 gallon drums?
:wink: CSA

It just seems that the prices charged at these quickie lube places wouldn’t even cover the labor and overhead costs of a “normal” (whatever normal is) shop.
If regular customer asks you to do an oil change, how many hours would be charged? I would think about 0.5 hours, but I’m not in the auto repair business.

My guess: They break even on the oil changes, and make their profit on the up-sell. High prices for changing wiper blades, air filters, cabin air filters, etc.

Break Even On The Oil Change And Make A Killing On Air Filters, Wiper Blades, Batteries, Additives, Tires…

In my nearest town the car dealers compete very favorably with quick change artists (no pun intended) in price for oil changes. They also sell the above items and what have you, and upsell to new cars sometimes, too. You have to see the big picture.

I hope @HospiceRN sees the light and finds a qualified and trustworthy independent shop to service her car after getting this settled. But how often do we come back to this same situation with posters dropping in with outrageous dilemmas. I’m amazed at the influence that advertising has to convince people to shoot themselves in the foot.

At any rate, you need written statements and estimates from the dealer and then file a claim with the quick lube place. They’ll have to bounce it up to their insurance company. Then if not, its time to go to court. You just have to prove it to the judge is all which shouldn’t be that hard with the frequency of this type of thing happening.

Of course its the same ole same ole, protect thyself. Always check your own fluid levels after getting an oil change whether its at the dealer or a quick lube.

“Of course its the same ole same ole, protect thyself. Always check your own fluid levels after getting an oil change whether its at the dealer or a quick lube.”

That is the case with checking engine oil or automatic transmission fluid, but…

… Even if HospiceRN could have checked differential fluid, it would have been full (wrong lubricant). Also, the engine oil was full (too fully, actually), and since many cars are difficult to check warm, the higher than normal level could have been dismissed.

Bottom line is to find somebody that can be trusted or DYI as I do. I get too nervous when anybody “works” on my cars.


The concept of the Quick Lube places is actually pretty good…except where they start cutting corners for cheap prices.

I don’t think they need to RUSH every car through…and charge real cheap prices. Before the quick lube places…you could to the oil change yourself…or set an appointment with the dealer or your local mechanic…this usually meant taking time off from work. The quick lube places were staying open late and on weekends to accommodate the busy customer. Don’t have t o drop the car off and take time off from work…It was very convenient.

There’s a quick lube place in Goffstown NH. Independently owned and they have that model. Competent mechanics…They do anything on a vehicle that requires a fluid…oil…tranny…radiator…and even AC. The national chains model is a nightmare…and has generated THOUSANDS of complaints.

For this kind of money and damages, you need to go to a lawyer, immediately if not sooner. Your word, under oath has value. If you only took it to the oil change place and the problem started almost immediately afterwards and only the dealer has touched it since, you will have a very good chance in court. But you need a lawyer to help guide you through the process.

Chances are that one phone call from your lawyer and the oil change place will be very willing to negotiate and this will get solved quickly. They have insurance and their insurance company will not want the extra expense of a court battle that they will likely lose.

When self service gasoline began putting the full service gas stations out of business the quick lubes rushed in to pick up the service bay business often in old full service gas station buildings. And the move toward self service eliminated the familiarity that a great deal of the public often had with the owner and staff of the station they frequented.

I recall that many major intersections in this rural town had a full service station on 3 of the corners. Drivers rarely got out of their cars when they stopped and watched a uniformed attendent pump the gas, check the oil, check the tires and clean the windshield in the time it took to fill the tank. And there was a line up of cars there waiting to be raised on the lift for service and often a wash job also. Of course 2,000 mile oil changes were normal.

Funny how as things evolve and improve to be more efficient and convenient a great deal gets overlooked and lost in the deal that gets missed later on.

@HospiceRn, what you described has been a fairly common mistake with Subarus. As an ex-Subaru dealer tech I can tell you that I’ve seen this more than a few times.
It’s all caused by sheer carelessness and not thinking.

Subaru at one time even issued a service bulletin about this very problem.

They mistakenly drain the differential and add engine oil which leads to an overfull condition.
I also assume this noise you heard was a whine followed by a rumble.
You can and should hold the facility that botched this responsible. Yes they will balk but you have to push the issue.

Also from your ID I might applaud you for a very tough job that you do.