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How bad am I screwed?

Just had the oil changed. Was driving for less than 4-5 minutes and the shop calls. I look down and oil light is on. Pull over. Shut down.

Oil plug was missing. They came and replaced it, re-filled oil. There was still oil in the motor, 1-2 quarts. motor started fine and I went on my way. No unusual noise or smoke at this point.

How screwed am I?

I’m surprised there would be any oil left in a motor with no plug after 4 minutes. At a minimum you need to document this thoroughly with registered letters, that kind of thing. You should also take it to the dealer to see if they can diagnose any sort of problems. Who did the oil change?

If the oil plug was actually missing, all of your motor oil would have been gone before you drove 2 blocks.

Actually, if they refilled the engine with oil and the drain plug was missing, there would have been a HUGE puddle of oil on the floor of the garage and a trail of oil out the driveway. That puddle of oil would have been so huge that it is almost impossible to believe that it was not noticed by anybody.

Are you basing your statement about 1-2 qts of oil being left in the engine on what you were told by the oil change place? This sounds like defensive mode to me. They are assuming that if you believe there was still 1-2 qts of oil in the engine, then they can probably convince you that there is no significant damage.

The real scenario is undoubtedly as follows:

The drain plug was not screwed back into place.
No oil was actually added to the engine.
Your engine is toast because it was started “dry” and then operated for several minutes with no lubrication.

(The fact that your “oil light” [actually it is the Oil PRESSURE warning light] was on tells me that your engine is not destined for a long life.)

Sorry for the bad news. Now, the trick is to get them to buy you a new engine for your mystery-vintage Infiniti.

Incidentally, can you please tell us that nature of the place where this screw-up took place?
Was it a quick lube place, or a real mechanic’s shop, or a dealership?

Why can’t manufacturers hook up the oil pressure switch to the headlight/seatbelt chime? Not gonna argue about the seatbelt, but ring the chime if you leave the headlights on to keep you from ruining a $70 battery, but not a peep when a $6000 engine is in danger? That just doesn’t make since.

Ok my rant is over now. It depends on how long the light was on. If it just barely came on, then no serious damage. Up to 30 seconds would not be much of an issue. Every time you get an oil change, the engine is starved for oil for the first 15-30 seconds after start up. First start every morning has a few seconds of dry running before the oil pressure builds up. Less so for the rest of the day.

The problem is that without an oil plug, you had no oil at all. There was a residual film of oil that would give some protection for a few minutes. But there will be damage, how much probably won’t be determined for years. Make sure you have this fully documented and watch your oil level like a hawk.

Every time you get gas, check you oil. If your engine start consuming oil far more than before this incident, then you will be due some compensation. How much will be determined by the number of miles currently on the engine and its expected life span. If this is an older vehicle with high miles, you cannot expect a new engine free of charge.

My car. 2005 G35 coupe. 63K miles. driven total of 5 minutes quick lube location. 1-2 quarts still in engine, for whatever reason, based on re-fill of oil. Change place employees recognizes culpable, but we haven’t gone to war yet.

Document, document, document. The odds are against yuu.

If they didn’t put the plug back in, the fresh oil ran out as fast as they poured it in…By the time you got in your car, the crankcase was empty…If they forgot both the plug AND the oil, well then your crankcase was bone dry…Either way, that red light was on when you drove out of the place.

The only way to REALLY tell if your engine was damaged is to take it apart and examine the bearings and cylinder-walls…

Time will tell…

Before you can go to war, you must prove your car was damaged…Take it out on the highway and drive it at 75 for an hour…See how the engine sounds after that…

If there was no oil drain plug in your engine you did NOT have ANY QTS of oil in your engine…I imagine that they told you this? They were desperately trying to cover their Arses…

Did you hear any knocking sounds? It is hard to believe you did not suffer severe engine damage…If the shop called you then they knew what they did…They owe you an engine and they damn well know it.

Yes, there may have been a quart or two trapped in the engine oil filter and in the heads. But that will not provide any oil pressure with no drain plug in place…Did you watch them install the replacement oil?

They could also put the oil pressure switch to a LOUD CHIME…THAT then shuts you down if the vehicle is not going above say 25mph? Or if it is at a stop…then immediate shutdown…It is absolutely possible to make this happen in a modern vehicle…no question about it. I’d like to see it done myself…

Was that done at once of those fast oil change places. If so, you now know why we warn as many people as possible about them.


The OP already stated that it was one of those God-awful quick oil change places.
We all know of the hazards of going to those joints, and now–hopefully–the OP sees the folly of taking his/her luxury car to the worst possible type of place for an oil change.

If the oil light was on, it’s pretty unlikely there was much, if any oil in the crankcase. I’d say definitely not “1-2 quarts”

The motor probably has some internal damage that may result in a lowered life expectancy, higher than normal oil consumption, and possibly reduced performance and economy. Time will tell how bad it is.

You may find this strange, but my 87 s-10 blazer had the oil pressure sender in line with the fuel pump to the ECM. The connector broke and the truck would not start, took 1/2 hour to figure it out…

I think I have previously admitted I worked a summer (back in 1995) of quick oil in Kalispel MT. This was a single owner small business with just one location. The boss/owner was an ex-Marine (I at times wondered about the ex). He led a corous of call outs starting with the guy up top saying he had finished putting the oil in, then the man that started the car yelling “pressure is up” then the guy in the pit screaming out the status of the filter and all removable plugs and how many grease fittings you found,and this guy knew how many there was suppose to be found on most every vehicle. We never sent a car out with no oil or a loose plug,well at least that summer.

While you might be screwed. More likely you’ve got the power to screw whoever changed the oil. You can document they did not replace the oil plug. Pretty definite negligence. Get a good lawyer. If your motor so much as burbs you have the shop by the short hairs.

I mean you have got them dead to rights…THEY CALLED YOU…AFTER THEY RAN THE VEHICLE…and gave it to you!! They are completely at fault and are totally screwed…start talking to the mgr of this shop and then ask for his boss…and then call the Central Office and explain… Tell them your vehicle is MESSED UP NOW…they have no recourse here and would be hard for them to defend themselves in any way whatsoever…Take advantage NOW before its too late and people start forgetting…EVERYONE in that shop is a WITNESS…who must swear on the bible in front of a Judge…

If the oil drain plug was actually missing you would not have 1-2 quarts of oil remaining. If this is what you were told by the shop then you were fed a line of BS.
We’re to believe that 1-2 quarts still existed with a missing drain plug and after your sitting on the side of the road having to wait on them to show up?

Maybe the light was on from the get-go, the shop noticed in a moment of horror that the drain plug was still lying there, and frantically called you to stop the presses.
At this point, and fearing they owe you an engine, they chose to tell you that engine had 1-2 quarts when it did not; all in the hopes that you will think that 1-2 quarts saved your engine’s bacon.

Red oil light on means no oil pressure. Just like an automatic transmission that is low on fluid engine damage can also occur in seconds. A damaged engine can also run fine and may run fine for (fill in indeterminate time) until the problem really becomes noticeable.