Double gasketted Honda Civic ('97, manual)



Now it runs like a lawnmower. I had the oil changed just before Christmas last year, and it ran out halfway home for the holidays (a 1000 mile drive). Since then, the car has been running much more roughly. I am deeply concerned about the kinds of lasting damage that may have been done to the car.

It is especially frustrating, because it was the fault of the service station that changed the oil. They covered the tow, hotel and service visit. But I wonder what their liability is, and what might be wrong with my car now, so I know what to have the service folks look for.

Thanks for any help,



I assume you mean the oil filter had a double gasket here, not the drain plug, etc.
Loss of oil will damage an engine to some extent, especially if the oil light was on and depending on the length of time the engine was operated.

Since it’s running rough the codes need to be pulled. AutoZone or someplace like that will do it for you free. Post any results back here.

If this is related to the lack of oil problem then it may be a tough fight since this problem occurred almost a year ago.
Any problems should have been ironed out last January.


Yes, it was the oil filter that was double gasketted.

The engine ran completely out of oil. The oil light came on, and I was a mile or so from the exit, so I tried to make it off the freeway, but pulled over when the clattering started.

The trouble with having ‘it’ taken care of January is that there was apparently no immediate damage. I could tell that it was idling rough, so I took it to a dealership then (right after getting home from the holiday) and the guy said, “I can’t hear anything wrong with it. I won’t be able to tell if there’s damage without taking the engine apart, and that’ll cost you $2000. Put some high-milage oil additive in it.” I suppose I should have gotten a second opinion then, but it’s too late now.

So, if the problem with my engine is in some way a result of being run out of oil, it’s a matter of wear rather than instantaneous damage. I guess my question is, can being run out of oil cause “wear” type damage rather than “instant” type damage, and if so, what specifically?


If you drove the car after you saw the oil light, you caused the damage. It all happened in that “mile or so” that you drove the car with no oil. I don’t know how that will affect your liability.

If you had stopped as soon as that light came on, your car might still run smooth and you could place all of the blame on the mechanic. Now you should share the blame. Good luck.


“The oil light came on, and I was a mile or so from the exit, so I tried to make it off the freeway, but pulled over when the clattering started.”

Well, although the people who changed the oil made a mistake, YOU unfortunately sealed the fate of your engine by continuing to drive it once the oil pressure warning light came on. Truthfully, I am surprised that it is still running one year later.

What’s wrong? Your engine is toast!

What can you prove at this point? Probably nothing, due to the time-frame that you have described.


It’s easy for you to say that I should have stopped; however, it was late at night, on a busy freeway, and I was by myself (a young woman), so please don’t treat me like a fool for trying to make it to the exit. If I had been on a city street during the daytime, I would have stopped immediately and checked the oil. Under the circumstances, however, I feel my personal safety was a legitimate concern, and I don’t really feel that I should share the blame, because stopping on a busy freeway far outside a city after dark (and in the rain, I should add) is not exactly a logical thing to do, either. If I had stopped, and gotten abducted, perhaps you would have read about it in the news and said, “What a stupid girl! What was she thinking, pulling over by herself in the middle of nowhere on a busy freeway?”

At the end of the day, the made a major and consequential mistake.

My question is, what specifically is wrong with my engine. Although I appreciate your contribution, VDC, “toast” is not something I can really take to the mechanic…


Sorry. When I said that the engine is “toast”, I was indicating that the main bearings are definitely shot, and that means a complete tear-down of the engine will be necessary in order to replace them.

There could also be significant damage to the camshaft, the lifters, the piston rings…and who knows what else. Under the circumstances, there is likely to be major internal damage to the engine.


Okay, thanks. Now we’re getting somewhere. So, they’ll have to tear down the engine, which is half the expense, right? Given that it’s a fairly common model, do you think it would be smart to try for a used engine at this point? I think my transmission is pretty good, and my clutch is fine…


VDCdriver is correct on all points.

The only thing I will add is that in the future when a red oil light flashes on, even momentarily, you must stop then there. Not one inch further.


I understand, yes, that one must not drive on no oil. As I said, a rural Illinois freeway by one’s self at night is not an ideal place to stop unless there is absolutely no choice in the matter. With only a mile to go, I tried for it. My own father, as upset as he was about the engine (and the actions of the lube place), was grateful that I tried to get off the road. I suspect you’d feel that way about your daughter, should you have one, being stuck on the side of a sketchy sketchy freeway near Carbondale.

If the lube place has liability, I would be happy, but of course, I’m more interested in keeping my car running.

I want to know, if the engine does have these problems, is it worth considering a rebuilt engine? What criteria should one use to decide whether the car is worth salvaging with a new engine? What would be a good a source for one? Is the engine liable to be the only system affected? How long will I have to decide before the current one leaves me stuck on the side of the road again?

Also, what are the symptoms of the problems you described above? Currently, the engine runs rough, and sounds belabored at the higher RPMs before I switch gears.

If you have any insights to share on this, I would be extremely grateful (and please, please, nobody else bother telling me I should have stopped. Be that as it may, it isn’t helpful now, and I’ve already been told. And I still consider it a highly debatable point, unless any of you are 5’3" women under 30, in which case you may understand my position and we can have that discussion.)


Check your state’s statute of limitations regarding small claims, assuming your repair bill is within the small claims limit. It might not be too late to file a claim. Although I’m not an attorney, I’m sure you can argue that under the circumstances any duty you had to minimize the damage to your engine was far outweighed by your need to get out of harm’s way and attempt to find a safe place to stop. While usually you cannot bring an attorney to represent you in small claims court, you could certainly consult with one to evaluate your case. A one time consult shouldn’t cost that much.

A remanufactured engine is a viable option and as long as the rest of your car is in good condition is probably worth it. Sorry, I’m not able to provide details you requested at this time.


Unfortunately, the oil change place that allegedly erred can invoke the “laches” defense. See below for an explanation of this legal concept that everyone should be aware of:

Laches is an equitable defense, or doctrine, in an action at law. The person invoking laches is asserting that an opposing party has “slept on its rights”, and that, as a result of this delay, that other party is no longer entitled to its original claim. Put another way, failure to assert one?s rights in a timely manner can result in claims being barred by laches. Laches is a form of estoppel for delay.

In Latin,

Vigilantibus non dormientibus ?quitas subvenit.
Equity aids the vigilant, not the negligent (that is, those who sleep on their rights).

And, in case anyone thinks that this is something new, this has been one of the many principles underlying our Civil Law for…a couple of centuries…IIRC.


Good point. The place I dealt with agreed to pay for my hotel, tow and the cost of the initial evaluation that identified the double gasket. I expressed concern at that time about engine damage, and they seemed willing to work with me. However, when I took it to the dealer, they said they didn’t want to tear the engine apart etc. as written above. So the truth is, I don’t really know whether a claim will be necessary, as they may be willing to cover part of the cost. Because the car was older, I wouldn’t ask them to cover the full cost. Or at least, not more than a used engine. I just want to know my rights and options before I make any decisions or ask for anything.


Yes, it’s possible that they could use that defense. But they already admitted culpability by covering the other costs. And it’s only been 10 months. I wonder how that would affect a laches defense.




I don’t think I am treating you like a fool. I thought I was helping you learn for next time. This has to do with the nature of cars. What if the car had died on the highway in the exact spot where the oil light came on? As a responsible car owner, you should be prepared for that circumstance and plan ahead so that you are equipped to deal with that type of situation. Your odds of being abducted were what, one in ten million? The odds of toasting your engine were 100%.

You act as though you only had two choices, drive or die. I am telling you that you had many choices in between.

Your driver’s education class probably included lessons on personal safety and and pre-trip inspections. If it didn’t, perhaps you should seek further training. It may not have been ideal to stop where you were, but toasting your engine is not the answer to a lack of ideal circumstances. Everything you do, including driving a car, comes with a certain amount of risk. If your method of manageing that risk is makeing a conscious decision to toast your engine, you should take responsibility for your decision and live with the consequences.

If you don’t have a cell phone and an emergency kit in your car, I hope that you have learned that for a young woman these are necessary for your safety. You should be prepared for circumstances that are beyond your control so that you can manage risk in the future.

You treat me like I attacked you. I thought I was calling it like it is and that I was being nice. I did wish you “good luck” after all.

You may not agree with my assessment, but if I was on your jury, I would place part of the blame on you, not because I am treating you unfairly, but because, objectively, I think you made a bad decision out of fear that led to further damage.

Again, I wish you luck.


Personally I would feel fine about my mother or my sister waiting for a tow truck on a highway near Carbondale, Illinois. Most of the folks that I know there are good hard-working farmers who would be happy to help a stranger. It isn’t exactly the South Bronx.


Even though I am not very familiar with Carbondale, Illinois, my general perception was that it is not a high-crime, inner-city area. I am glad to hear that my perception was based in reality.

That being said, I firmly believe that the biggest danger involved in stopping on the shoulder of a superhighway is failure to get as far off the road as possible. Those who park just at the edge of the adjoining traffic lane are courting danger from inattentive drivers–such as the ones on cell phones, the ones eating while driving, and, of course, the ones who can’t seem to keep their cars from wandering all over the road.

I can’t tell you how many times I have seen cars parked LITERALLY 1/2 inch from the edge of the traffic lane, despite the fact that there was at least 4 feet of shoulder to the right of the parked vehicle. If I have to put my car on the shoulder of the road (admittedly this has happened only a couple of times in 45+ years of driving), I get as far from the traffic lane as possible. My goal is to get as far onto the grassy area as I can without running into mud. And, if I do get into a muddy area–what the heck–a tow truck is on the way!

So–as long as one is not in the midst of urban gang activity, I would recommend that someone in the OP’s position:

*IMMEDIATELY pull off the road, as far to the right as may be possible
*IMMEDIATELY shut off the engine
*Activate the 4-way flashers
*Use a cell phone to call AAA, the police, and a relative
*Keep the doors locked
*If someone other than police or a tow truck driver arrives to offer help, thank that person though a tiny opening in the window (without opening the door), and inform him/her that the police are on their way and that you would be very glad to have him/her wait behind you IN THEIR CAR until the police arrive.

Doing these things should allow someone to survive with no injury from persons or vehicles and should also keep an engine from becoming toast.


I just want to know my rights and options before I make any decisions or ask for anything.
I strongly recommend consulting an attorney for this information. An attorney can advise whether or not laches applies or if it may be tolled. With all due respect to members of this forum, any legal advice you receive here might be unreliable.


Technically you should be entitled to nothing more than a used engine if they pay up on this, either voluntarily or through court order. However, some pushing may get them to give you a new engine.

The entire engine does not have to be torn down. One could run an oil pressure test and/or simply drop the oil pan, remove a couple of rod caps and main bearing caps, and follow up with a visual examination of the bearings.
This is 30 minutes of time, tops.

The OP simply did what 98% of everyone else does; motor on with oil light on, temperature gauge pegged on full HOT, etc.
It’s those extra few minutes of thrashing that may make the difference between an engine that survives and one that does not.
The ones that motor on should be prepared to bite the financial bullet later though.

I even posed this question to my wife a number of times over the years…
You’re driving along a deserted highway at night and the oil light comes on.
Do you:
A. Drive another mile to some farmhouse lights off in the distance.
B. Stop then and there and call for help.

In spite of decades of preaching like a fire and brimstone Southern Baptist minister her answer is always (A).