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Jiffy Lube leaves drain plug loose, engine runs dry

Had my oil changed at Jiffy Lube #2580 in Redmond, WA.

About a 1/4 mile away, driving up a hill on the way home I noticed what sounded like noisy lifters, while rolling down the window to check I see the oil light come on. I shut down the engine and pull over. The dipstick was dry, and the drain plug was missing. Apparently they left it loose and it fell out on the way home.

Called store and they sent someone with a drain plug and oil (Mobil 1!) They refilled the engine and started it. Oil light took 5-10 seconds to go out. Lifter noise took about 30 seconds to go away except for what sounded like one lifter that took around 2 minutes to go away. Back at their shop they performed another oil change, don’t know if they changed the filter again. Engine seems to run fine now. They sent me home with the car.

Had them annotate the receipt regarding their mistake.

The question is, what should I do to verify the condition of the engine? Any other hints on how to deal with them?

2000 Nissan XTerra, 3.2L V6, 61K miles.

It’s impossible to verify the condition of the engine…If you shut the engine off within 30 seconds of the oil light coming on, there should be no damage…

If it took two minutes for the noise to stop after refilling, then you have engine damage. The only question is how much. I would demand a warranty that covers the engine for oil related damage for at least the next 200K miles, but then again I would never go to iffy lube.

Keep the Jiffy receipts in case the engine falls apart. It may run forever with no damage that matters. Most of us commentators will not recommend Jiffy Lube, but they are not the only ones who forget the drain plug.

In hindsight, I should have just run it until it seized to eliminate the uncertainty…

The engine is damaged goods now and they owe you a reman or low miles engine since your vehicle only has 61k miles on it.

The first things to be damaged from lack of oil are the crankshaft journals and bearings.
What should be done is to drop the oil pan and remove a few main bearing and rod bearing caps to see if the journals are scored, the bearing overlay is wiped off, etc.

If this is done, the caps located the fartherest away from the oil pump are the ones that should be removed.

IMHO it is very likely that they forgot to put your plug entirely, and you left their facility without any oil at all in the crankcase.
If that plug was even finger-tight, it would have stayed on for much longer that a 1/4 mile.

As OK4450 says, they owe you a new-to-you engine.

It’s a reasonable guess, except that after returning to the shop, there was only a small amount of oil where the car sat where I picked it up, just outside their bay, which I assume is because the plug was loose and only leaking. The real oil slick didn’t start until a couple of blocks away, after a stop light even, and ended where I stopped the car, where there was at least several cups of oil on the ground, presumably draining what was left in the top end. Sorry for the run-on sentences.

Just another quick lube story. Sorry to hear about your Problems. In the future, Don’t ever go to any quick lube place. Not even for directions.

Was the plug not tightened, or did they strip the threads out?

You did the right thing and eliminating the uncertainly could have put the responsibility from you, as driving with the light on you have been warned and now it is your fault. Monitor your oil usage, it will probably be little different than before, so you saved an engine and alot of hassle.

Don’t really know. Casual inspection of the empty hole while leaning on the wet dirty ground didn’t seem to show that it was stripped or damaged. Then they managed to put in a new plug which isn’t leaking at the moment.

The lifter noise is to be expected because they would have been pumped full of air in the last few seconds as the oil ran out. It takes a while for the air to bleed out of hydraulic lifters…But any meaningful damage is uncertain…They are NOT going to give you a new engine no matter what…So whatever they offer is likely to be less than what you have now. In cases like this, serious engine damage will manifest itself within a week or two…

I don’t want this to get into a moral debate, but I disagree, for several reasons. Firstly, I don’t care about engines in general. I just care about the loss of value, and hassle of extra future maintenance.

Secondly, JL were negligent in their actions, most likely damaging my engine, and are liable for not exercising reasonable care. If the engine had seized because I didn’t notice the light, or the light came on too late, their negligence would still have been the cause of my engine damage and that would be easy to convince a judge. Their only argument would be that I should have noticed the light. But I’m not required to make up for their negligence.

The way it is now, even if I could show the engine is damaged, they could argue it was preexisting. There’s no way for me to prove it is due to this event. If I can’t find a receipt for just one oil change, they’ll say I skipped a change and that’s the cause of the damage. They’ve fought this battle before and no doubt have dozens of ways to cast doubt on whether their actions are the true cause of the damage. In the end, they’re not going to bear the burden of their negligence, and I have the hassle of added monitoring and maintenance, and that’s not “right”.

So as far as I’m concerned, I think I have more hassle this way than if I hadn’t noticed the light in time, truthfully or not. Anyway, I appreciate your and everyone else’s points of view.

One thing is clear: There’s no benefit to going to a “convenient” quick lube shop.

I think you will likely be fine.

Always a tough spot. They owe you at most a used motor which you have no idea of what condition it is in.

Hard to say if its worth the fight. Jiffy Lube carries insurance for such matters but your engine is running fine. Even if inspected(expensive) who is to say the wear did not exist before definitely.

This is why when I had my oil changed in ANY shop I ALWAYS check a few things before starting up the car -

  1. The oil cap is back on. A Toyota dealer once didn’t do this, then oil sprayed all over the engine, and when they cleaned the engine later, they bent a motor mount. WAY too much hassle

  2. No oil is visibly dripping from the car

  3. The dipstick reads the proper amount of oil.

Now, I just change it myself, and since I put a Fumoto Valve on both my cars, I don’t even have to worry about the drain plug not being back in place - I just have to make sure the valve is closed, and since they snap closed, that’s easy. It doesn’t save me much money, but at least I know the job is done right, and with that valve, I don’t need to lift the cars up on jacks or even open my toolbox.

I had forgotten about those little things. I tried ordering one for the Chevelle, but the one they said would fit didn’t. Though after 40+ years, I’m sure someone must have retapped it a time or two before i bought it

but I’m not required to make up for their negligence

Nice try, but you couldn’t be more wrong. It’s not a moral argument, it’s a legal one and the judge will explain to you the legal position that you have a duty to mitigate the damage regardless of the other party’s negligence.

I don’t know why my computer doesn’t pick up these post as they are posted,so I’m late to this thread.You have learned your lesson on quick lube joints. I had to go to court for a customer that had his vehicle brought to my shop after the same thing happened. I went to court with him.The judge ruled in the vehicle owners’ favor. The quick lube joint had to pony-up $2500. The driver was a teenager, this could have possibly influenced the judges decision. The lube joint put in a different grade oil{The Thick syrup kind] after the fact to cover up the mistake and hide the damage. I brought evidence to court from an oil analysis firm.

bscar, I have one of those drain plugs on my '80 Vette.Small block 350. I don’t see why it wouldn’t fit on your vehicle. Maybe its time to freshen up your oil pan.