Blogs Car Info Our Show Deals Mechanics Files Vehicle Donation

Oil leaked and car engine is frozen

We received an oil change about two weeks ago. We recently went on a trip (round trip about 1,000 miles). We checked the oil at the beginning of the trip and it seemed full and clean, didn’t think anything was wrong. We did not check it again. No lights ever came on, no warnings the oil level was low, no warnings at all. We get home and the car stops working. We, along with a mechanically minded neighbor, figured out that there was not any oil left in the car. I looked under the car and noticed the oil filter or plug (I’m sorry I’m not sure what it is called) was very loose. What do you think happened? What should I do? I am assuming the place we got the oil change at did not tighten the plug or filter under the car… but then wouldn’t it have leaked out slowly? Why would it be fine and full of oil at the beginning of our trip and a few days later its all gone? Should we “blame” the oil change place and how do we get them to pay for the repairs (because we’re going to have to replace the engine)? What should we do? It’s a 2007 Chevy Malibu.

Sounds like the typical quick oil change place. They do this all the time. Just in a hurry and forget to put the plug (or occasionally the filter) on tight.

You should have had a oil pressure light come on. Now it is a he said, she said thing. Sorry, but that quick oil change may end up costing you a new engine. You can try to get the oil change place to take responsibility, but I doubt the outcome.

Good Luck

I friend of mine had this happen with a quick oil change at WalMart. After a long protracted fight he finally got them to pay for his motor. But he had to threaten legal action.

The turnover at the big chain quick oil change places is pretty bad. And they are always staffed by entry level people.

I have had good luck at the Jiffy Lube’s of the world. But I always check the oil right after the change. At least twice in the last 10 years I have found the oil to be a quart low after a change. When that happens you go back and confront the manager. And then never go to that store again.

Some of the people that work at these places are incompetent. But most of them have been OK for me.

The oil consumption will speed up on the trip because the oil thins out due to heat and a 1000 miles is a long way.

This kind of problem is not rare and yes, you should approach the oil change facility about this. Be firmly polite and you should expect a little stonewalling.
It might not be a bad idea to take some high resolution pictures of the plug, any oily area, etc.

Every Car Technician Or Oil Change Person Should Know That The Last Step In An Oil Change Procedure Is To Start The Engine And Check For Leaks. It Even Says That On Most Oil Filter Boxes.

Every car owner should always check the oil level after an oil change, but in this case that probably wouldn’t have helped you. You did check before the trip.

I always check for drips immediately after and a while after I change my own oil.

Oil gets thinner and runnier when it’s warm / hot after a car has been driven several miles and can leak easier.

I’d bet there were some tell-tale drips where you parked your car prior to the trip, but maybe not. I don’t understand why you had no warning light(s) on the instrument panel just before the car stopped working. They are there just for situations like this.

You need to find out for sure what was very loose. Next, I’d talk to a lawyer for advice. Some offer free initial visits. I’d accept no less than a new engine from Chevrolet (maybe pro-rated to reflect your use to this point) to replace your engine if this is negligence. Get an estimate from a Chevrolet Dealer.

If nothing else works out be pepared to file in Small Claims court. It will be your word, documentation, and witnesses against their’s. Sometimes, after receiving notice from the court, the other party will offer a settlement rather than going to court.

Good Luck,

“We received an oil change about two weeks ago.” This going to make your case against “The Place” very difficult…But it doesn’t hurt to ask, you have nothing to lose…

Also, your post is a little strange…I have never met anyone who could not tell the difference between a drain plug and an oil filter…Which one is it??

“The car stopped working” Were you driving it? Was it parked in your driveway and would not start, what really happened? How did you figure out there was not any oil left in the car? The dipstick? Or did you refill the crankcase? Please tell us more…

How do you tell that a plug or filter is loose by looking under the car especially when you don’t know one from the other?

Make sure to have as much documentation as you can come up with. Hopefully you still have receipts. Check to see if the place you went to offers a warranty.

The car should have given you a warning light, like a oil pressure light or similar–do you know what this light looks like in the Malibu?

Have a trusted mechanic (if not trusted, one with a lot of plaques on the wall-- Better Business Bureau, etc.) take a look at your car prior to approaching the oil changing place. Get some documentation from them as to what exactly went wrong and an est. cost to fix.

Take it as a learning experience. I try to check the oil in my car every once in a while just to make sure things are filled up-- (perhaps every few gas fills). A 30-second check can save you a lot in the long run. On a side note, always check the lug nuts on tires if you’re having a tire shop change tires out. Another simple check to save money, and perhaps your life in the long run. You just can’t be too trusting of mechanics trying to do a fast job.

Oil filters can be pretty easy to replace (I don’t know the Malibu). I’m definitely no mechanic, but I change the filters in my vehicles. Doing it yourself will give you that extra assurance. Just make sure you read up on how to do it (notably, not stripping threads).

Be polite, but firm. I’d threaten a small claims suit if it comes to that. Good luck.


  1. Pay for the repairs yourself and move on
  2. Confront oil change place about the issue. Expect issues. Make sure to put everything into writing. They carry insurance typically for this. You may find yourself in small claims.

Basically you need to figure out if its worth the emotional and time cost to fight. I think $5k is a likely figure.

good luck.

Most Car Owners Are Negligent. They Ignore Their Owner’s Mannual’s Admonition Pertaining To Engine Oil.

I’m not saying that the oil change place was not negligent, but sometimes owners contribute to these catastrophies. Do you think most owners check their engine oil at every refueling stop or the equivalent number of miles driven ?

Every one of my cars’ Owner’s Manuals recommends checking engine oil level at every fueling stop.

We recently went on a trip (round trip about 1,000 miles). We checked the oil at the beginning of the trip and it seemed full and clean, didn’t think anything was wrong. We did not check it again.

Since most cars don’t have a 1,000 mile fuel range, some tragedies of this nature could be averted by simply following the Owner’s Manual.

Fluid checking is a weekly ritual at my house (and we have multiple cars) and is done more frequently if driving more than usual. It takes very few minutes, does not require even removing the oil dipstick, and one doesn’t even get dirty in the process.

Better safe than sorry.