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Oil filter leak after 4000 miles

Hi. I have a 2010 Jeep Grand Cherokee with 187,000 miles on it. I bought it for my granddaughter to use to get back and forth to work about a year ago. She takes it in for regular oil changes every 3,000 to 4,000 miles. She had about 4,000 miles on it since her last oil change and her oil light came on briefly and went off. Neither of us know much of anything about cars, but I told her she should get it in to get the oil changed as soon as she could. She called me later and said her car was making an awful noise. She was not far from her moms house, so I told her to drive it there and check the oil. When she did, it was empty. I had her add oil, but it was still making the awful noise. I had it towed to the mechanic. When they checked it, they said it had been leaking oil. They stated that they were 90 percent sure that the leak was from the oil filter and asked who did her last oil change. They said it was due to the oil filter not being tightened properly after her last oil change.

Ended up putting a junk yard engine in for $4,000. I talked to the owner of the oil change place and he said there is no way the leak was from the oil filter not being tightened because that would have happened far sooner than 4,000 miles. So my question is, how likely is it that the leak was due to the oil filter not being tightened properly?

It’s entirely possible the filter came loose, but that’s not necessarily the fault of the last place that did an oil change. Sometimes it just happens due to engine vibration. When you install an oil filter, most people just tighten it as tight as they can get it by hand. The only place I’ve seen a torque specification that is higher than I can get by hand is on a motorcycle, and I once had an oil filter start to come loose after I had tightened it to spec with a wrench on my motorcycle. Fortunately, I noticed a puddle of oil under the motorcycle and tightened the filter when I got home.

This is just one reason it is so important to check the oil between oil changes. That’s where the fault really lies here. The vehicle went 4,000 miles, not just between oil changes (which should be fine), but between oil checks.

Long before the engine was empty of oil, someone should have noticed it was low. Between the bottom of the dip stick and empty, there should be a capacity of 1-2 quarts, and if some oil had been added to the engine during that span, you or your granddaughter could probably have saved the engine.

Somewhere along the line, someone should have taught your granddaughter how to check her oil, and made sure she knew to check it at least once a month, if not more often, especially on a 9-year-old high-mileage vehicle.

Rather than look for a way to blame the shop that changed the oil, I recommend you dedicate your time and energy to showing your granddaughter how to check all of the fluids, and recommend she get in the habit of checking them, and the tire pressure, weekly.


Couldn’t have said it any better than @Whitey

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That bears repeating.


I’ll also confirm that Whitey is completely correct.

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Update. I did not agree with your advice. Neither did the place that replaced the engine for us. I took it to small claims court and I won the judgement against the oil change place. $4,024 for the junk yard engine and install. I had photos of the oil leak and a mechanic that stated the engine blew because the oil filter was not tightened properly. Just to let you know.


But the real question is are you going to set a schedule to check the oil level so you catch a problem before it becomes serious ?

Congratulations on the victory. Now that you’ve been remunerated for the error, was it all worth it, or would you prevent it from happening again if you could go back in time and keep closer track of your car’s oil consumption?

Considering that you were downgraded from an OEM engine with 187,000 miles to a “junk yard engine,” I wouldn’t say this judgment put you at an advantage.

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You got very lucky that you got a judge that knew as little about vehicle maintenance as you and your granddaughter. @Whitey was dead accurate with his advice and if you continue to ignore it, you better hope you keep getting the same judge.


If an oil filter came loose on one of our customer’s vehicles my manager would blame the technician, not the filter or the customer. The service department would pay for the repair.


Yeah, but after 4,000 miles? That’s the crux of the issue…it’s not like this happened driving home from the oil change place.

I highly doubt the OP will ever be back to this thread…

frankly, if the place that did the oil change entered a copy of the owners manual into evidence, specifically the part where it mentions to check the oil after refueling or something along those lines, you would’ve been screwed @Vivian_DeMartino. Please take @Whitey’s advice to heart…he’s 100% correct. And enjoy your luck in getting the judge you did

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This being small claims court, I’m betting the OP achieved this outcome because the defendant either didn’t show for court or presented a weak case, not because the judge was biased or uninformed.


Definitely a possibility, I think I’ll lean more towards a no-show of those two options

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The defendant did come to court. The judge actually looked up the manual online while we were in court. I had a written statement from a licensed mechanic stating that the oil leak was caused by a loose oil filter. I also had photos that visibility showed oil leaking From the filter. The judge sided with my evidence over the defendants lack thereof. The same defendant also had another claimant just ahead of me in court. The judge sided with him on that one. I had more evidence and better evidence than the defendant brought to court.


I’ve had oil filters I installed that weren’t on as tightly as I would have liked at the time I replaced them. Probably from being vibrated loose over time. But I’ve never had one actually spring a leak b/c of that. I think I’ll be keeping a closer watch on my oil filters from now on. My method for installing them is to get them on just barely hand tight, so they are just making firm contact, then turn them another 3/4 turn. I don’t have the hand-arm strength to achieve a full 3/4 turn just using my hands, so use a filter wrench that last 1/4 turn.

Car repair/maintenance instructions that say “hand tight” aren’t very meaningful imo. Everybody has different hand strengths. And they can vary widely. Sometimes I notice a certain weight machine for the lower arm at my gym is set to 80-100 pounds, when the most I could possibly lift comfortably is 35 pounds. But there’s obviously somebody there who has no trouble with 80-100 pounds.

I wonder what the judge would consider as “evidence” that the shop had tightened the filter correctly? Maybe that they had no other cases like this? Or proof (via certificates) that their techs are trained & certified? Seems like a tough row to hoe to prove you installed an oil filter with the correct amount of tightening.

Just my 2 cents for what it’s worth, but after 4k miles there is no way to blame the shop for this. The engine blew because the car owner is not checking the oil level regularly and not only continuing to drive the car after the no oil pressure light came on but YOU also advised her to keep driving it even though it was making an awful noise as you describe it.

That engine did not die a natural death. It was Murder One.


I am glad the OP won his case, there is no way an oil filter should come loose if properly installed. I have only had one filter come loose in almost 70 years of driving. I had stopped at a Walmart 3000 miles into an 8600 mile trip to get an oil change and 50 miles later we stopped at a picnic area. Lying on a blanket I noticed a drop of oil fall from the filter. I grabbed it with a paper napkin and gave it a quick twist. Even though I am in my 80s, I still install my filters by hand.

I have no trouble lifting 100 lb even with one hand. In my younger days I had not trouble cleaning and jerking 300 even though I never regularly lifted weights. In those days, our football coach told us to stay out of the weight room, it would make us musclebound! Instead we spent 3 a days in the summer pushing the blocking sled up and down the field with no water breaks If anyone passed out we got a small paper cup of water and a salt tablet. We were not as heavy, strong or fast as today’s players but we were tough. I played many games with a broken nose, we did not have face masks until my senior year.

And yes, everyone who drives a car should either check their oil or have someone check it once a month.

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If only she had immediately pulled over and checked the oil, a lot of time and money would have been saved.

It’s sounding like the lesson hasn’t been learned.


The owner may be guilty of contributory negligence, but the cause of the oil leak was an incorrectly installed oil filter. It helps to remember that consumers are almost never considered experts, and experts, like the offending shop in this case, are always considered experts. Thinking of the issue this way also explains the big awards in hot coffee in the lap suits or ladder on soft ground suits.