Oil Change Nightmare

I dropped my car off for an oil change and received a call about 30 minutes latter. The owner said the last mechanic to change the oil used the wrong filter and over tightened it. He said they had to use excessive force to break it free and as a result the oil cooler fitting on the head was damaged and is now leaking anti freeze. He said it was due to give out any day because it was so deteriorated and needed to be replaced anyhow.He said he is not liable because the filter was not installed properly which lead to the broken fitting. The cost for him to fix it will be $250.00? This story does not make sinse to me. Can someone with more experience please tell me if what he is telling me is correct or maybe an excuse to cover his mistake? Thanks.

$250 is a cheap way to learn not to use the iffy lube type places. When you get it back, take it to a good local mechanic to see if they fixed it correctly and didn’t screw anything else up.
The story does not ring true at all. If it was on that tight, they would have left it and called you to see if you wanted to proceed, knowing that damage may be done. Instead, they screwed up and are just trying to deflect blame. (But, good luck proving that…)

As soon as the technician realized that normal force wasn’t moving the old filter they should have called you.
Unfortunately at most places the least experienced tech does the oil changes.

Get yourself there and have them show you exactly what they are talking about. If it were me and they showed me the broken fitting and it was indeed on the verge of failure I’d be tempted to see it as a happy coincidence. But - it is quite likely that it was the result of carelessness. Also have them keep the old oil in the event that you want to verify and pay the last place a visit.

Very little of this guy’s story makes sense. Over-tightened or not, there’s no reason to break something else when removing it. And ‘it was due to give out any day’ is pure BS. Finally, damaged oil cooler fittings shouldn’t leak antifreeze. Do you know anybody that knows cars and would go with you to look at this? You need some on-location help.

I don’t know about the OP’s Dodge, but my Lincolns have oil-to-water oil coolers just behind the oil filters. I assumed that this Dodge was similar. If so, it would explain the coolant leak.

Practice saying this: [i]“You broke it. You fix it for free. If not, expect meet me again in small claims court.”[/i]

Your story is as bad as a painting contractor who removed the storm window from a big picture window on the house. He broke the window and claimed it was “bad glass”. I told him that either he replaced the glass or he wouldn’t see a penny for his work. He replaced the glass at his expense.

Take a knowledgeable friend with you to “inspect” the damage. From where i sit,how does the oil place monkey know it was “over-tightened”.

This doesn’t pass the smell test.

I just got back from the shop and have more information. When I picked up the car I asked to see the part and as I suspected the fitting looked fine but the shop owner insisted it was leaking. The part is about 6? x 6? X 3? and anti freeze coolant is circulated via of (approx.) ?? in and ?? out hoses to cool the oil. My own pressure check of approx 17 lbs revealed the fittings were fine but a possible internal leak. The check was done with 17 lbs of air and holding the part under water. If there is an internal leak it is slight and may have been trapped air. I need to perform the check again under a more controlled setting. If it did leak inside the cooler wouldn?t the engine oil be milky? Maybe the mechanic pulled the filter and spotted coolant dripping from inside the filter head/oil cooler assembly dripoing and mistook the origin for the fitting and although he did not have the exact spot the cooler is indeed bad.

I’m going to veer off a bit. The hazy area is the definition of “excessive force”. At what point is X amount of force too much? If a mechanic has to avoid the repair of any car (especially aged and high mileage) due to wrestling a part loose then few cars would ever be worked on.

Maybe the use of the term “excessive force” simply means somewhat more than normal? Maybe a bit more than normal was just enough to create this problem; and even more so depending on the age and mileage of this Caravan.

My Lincoln Mark also uses a filter stand through which coolant circulates. The gasket is a 1/8" thick fiber block with rubber inserts and these gaskets have been know to drip oil, coolant, both, or even mix the two after time and miles.
It’s quite plausible that if the Caravan uses a similar gasket that it was borderline anyway and a filter wrestling match simply tipped it over the edge.
A number of vehicles use a design like this and any of them are prone to failure at any time.

The same argument could be applied to a water pump replacement. Is it the mechanic’s fault if a water pump bolt snaps off during removal because it’s frozen in the hole?
Spark plugs are another example. What if a tight plug brings some or all of the threads out during removal? How does one determine how much force is too much and at which point a time out should be called?

We had a Honda Accord into the shop once that only had 5k miles on it and it took 3 of us almost 45 minutes to get the filter off of that car and when finally done the filter was not even recognizeable due to the number of pieces; and the factory installed that one.

Question for the OP; after the fact. If the shop had called and told you the filter was not coming off without a fight and asked for your approval to proceed would you have given the okay?
I mention this because in the overwhelming majority of cases I’ve seen like this the okay as given; and on a few occasions when a problem did develop the car owner then developed amnesia about the prior approval.

Thanks for your comments. You make some great points.

This story makes little sense to me either. I think the shop broke your vehicle and is trying to blame it on others. It’s hard to prove but that’s their story and they are sticking to it.

My opinion (and I’m not giving this shop a free pass) is that the defective part should be examined very closely to determine how this failure occurred.
A borderline gasket could leak but I’m having a hard time seeing how enough flex movement could have happened to cause this.

If there are marks on the part that show that someone was prying where they shouldn’t have been or where something slipped and caused the damage I think the shop should eat this in the name of PR. If the leak is due to a gasket seepage at a joint, etc. then I would consider it just age and bad luck.

After a bit more thought on this problem, here’s what I would do. Your car at this point is essentially a hostage and from the sound of things the ransom is going to have to be paid to get it back.

Ask for the damaged part back and if possible try to get some opinions on the damage. Even posting a few good pics here could help to formulate an opinion on what may have happened.

If it’s determined that this was due to sheer ham-fistedness carelessness and not simply “one of those things” that happens in the mechanical world then you should consider asking the shop for a full refund.
If they refuse you could file a small claim against them. A shop generally does not want to go into court, especially on a small amount like this, and may choose to pony up rather than go before a judge. Hope some of that helps.

OK4450. Thanks for the tips. Sorry it took so long to get the pictures posted but I also wanted to perform a good pressure check before adding any more posts. As you can see from the pictures I slipped a garden hose over one of the cooler fittings and blocked off the other one. My house water pressure is 30 psi and I thought because it is about twice the normal engine cooling pressure that it would be a good indication if there was a leak. The cooler was placed on a dry piece of cardboard and left there all day with pressure on it and the cardboard never had any signs of water. Do you feel this is an accurate test despite the water used was cold and the normal operating temp is 180 degrees? If the cooler was leaking like the shop claimed, wouldn?t there be signs of anti-freeze and oil swapping between systems. The claims the auto repair shop made just don?t make sense to me and I would feel much better about paying $290.00 for an oil change if it did.
This is besides the point but at the same time the shop also recommended to change the water pump due to leakage and the serpentine belt because it might fail. Since April the antifreeze level never went down and there were no signs of leakage under the car. I just have to wonder about the credibility of the shop.

"I just have to wonder about the credibility of the shop. "
I don’t, it isn’t [credible].

Based on what I see I believe your hose test to be valid despite the cold water being used instead of hot coolant. The difference in pressure should compensate sufficiently to detect a leak. Said differently, a leak that would open under hot coolant at 15 psi would IMHO likely be detectable under 30 psi with cool water.

I’ve read this thread pretty carefully, and IMHO something about the shop’s actions and their statements just does not add up. I think you walked into a crooked shop.

The only think I can suggest is to file a formal complaint with the Consumer Protection Division of the Attorney General’s Office, complete with a description of your test and photos.

It seems to me your water hose test should be more than sufficient and I agree with the statements by tardis and mountainbike.

The shop must have liability insurance, I don’t know if there’s a deductible or if a $250 claim would qualify. If they don’t pay for the repair, pursue their insurer or small claims court.