Oil change then oil leak

I had the oil changed on a 2001 Honda Civic with 114K. A week later the oil light came on, and it had a huge oil leak. I went back to the place where I had the oil changed and they said neither the plug used to drain the oil nor the oil filter were loose. I then took it to a mechanic who said it had a huge oil leak and needed a new valve cover. Could the oil change have caused the leak?

If the oil change shop was a quickie lube type of place anything is possible. Don’t use quickie lubes.

But, that said, if the problem is at the valve cover then it is unlikely to have anything to do with an oil change. The drain & filter are at the bottom - the valve cover on top. The engine oil is filled through the valve cover & that is about it.

However, there is more going on there. How many miles did you drive during that week? If your oil system was properly filled it is hard to imagine how you could have lost enough oil to trigger the light if it was just a leaking valve cover. Your whole engine should also be a huge mess if that is so. (Figure you’d need to lose at least 2 quarts out the top of the engine and imagine how it would look if you dumped that much oil over the engine). Really hard without being able to look. What did the mechanic say about it all?

Yes, the oil change could have caused a leak, but probably not the one at the valve cover. My theory is that the place that changed the oil either didn’t check the oil filter seal or messed up the drain plug. Then when you took it back to get them the check their work, they fixed their error and didn’t telly you about it.

If you indeed need a new valve cover, that was probably not caused by the oil change. It was probably already leaking, and I am willing to bet you don’t need a new valve cover. You probably just need a new valve cover gasket, and a leaking valve cover gasket would probably not leak much oil. A small amount of oil seepage is more likely.

Did you check the oil after your oil change? Is it possible they never put in enough oil?

As you can see, there are many possibilities, few of which you will be able to prove at this point.

Thanks for the response. There was oil all over the place. The mechanic wasn’t sure where the leak was coming from, so he said he would start by replacing the valve cover. He may have done more to stop the leak, but I’m not sure. Unfortunately, a few days after he repaired the leak, the car gave out completely because my girlfriend had driven it without oil before we got it to the mechanic. Now it needs a new engine. It’s a 2001 Honda Civic with 114K, and putting in a new engine could cost up to $2,500. Is it even worth it, or should she get a new car?

Well, this is all just confusing. You need a different place to have your oil changed and a different mechanic. And you need to instruct anyone who drives a car to shut it off immediately if the oil light comes on.

My assumption at this point is somewhat along the lines of Whitey’s (below) - more than likely you used a quickie lube place, and they likely made a huge mess out of things - possibly leaving you low on oil. (Maybe of the 4-5 qts that were supposed to end up in the crankcase, 2 of them ended up being poured on top of the engine instead?) Your problem at this point would lay in being able to prove anything as the whole story is all muddied up with passed time, and a mechanic who blindly replaces a gasket based on a guess. Has this person ever heard of cleaning up an engine with a serious oil leak in order to find out where the leak is? I’m now skeptical as to whether you ever had a leak or not (except maybe one left from filter or plug as Whitey suggested).

It sounds like there was a worse leak than the valve cover gasket, especially since it was replaced and it still lost so much oil in a few days. The mechanic obviously missed something big. Sounds coincidental enough to be related to the oil change. I would have your mechanic check the oil filter to see if an extra gasket is there, the one from the filter that was removed at the lube place. 2 gaskets do not do a very good job of making a seal and if that was the cause of the leak you may have a case.