Oil plug fell out; engine shot; servicer won't accept blame!

2011 Cruze LT Turbo - well maintained - last oil change Dec 2017 at local GM dealers - only place car maintained and all oil changes there. On hwy and large warning sign and audible - stop car and engine. Out of town GM dealer says oil plug fell out - engine finished - need new one - $5-6,000+. Ouch!!

Servicing dealer refuses to accept liability! Am being told by experts over-tightened plug (stripped/cross threaded) or not tightened properly will undoubtedly be the cause - obviously servicing GM dealer issue and they should accept responsibility and do the “right thing” by repairing!

Anyone know of any other reasons why plug might fall out? I am being told to sue but need a car now.

Sorry to hear your problem.

Oil plugs fall out because they are stripped - pan or plug, usually pan. They also fall out because they were not tightened well enough. They can also be knocked out by hitting debris, curbs, ect with the pan.

The dealer has the pan. That is your evidence. Make sure it doesn’t get away from you. Go get it from the dealer. Stripped threads may be evidence of culpability of the dealership. Contact a lawyer that specializes in this type of litigation.

Big scrapes may show it may be your insurance companies problem. If you hit something that damaged your oil pan and destroyed your engine, it should be covered. Call your insurance agent.

Your car is only worth about $5000 before the broken engine. I would not pay $5000 for a replacement engine. Go buy another car and let the insurance or lawyer argue on your behalf for the value of the car before this happened.

Sabotage? Unfortunately, four months have passed by. When did you last check the oil level? How often did you check it? How many miles since the oil change?

Big question here, and a very important one too, did you heed the warning to stop the engine immediately or did you continue driving?

If you did heed the message and shut down immediately, or shortly thereafter, did you hear any unusual noises like knocking or loud clattering before the engine shut down. If you did not, then you may NOT need a new engine. You may only need the oil pan threads repaired and a new drain plug, fresh oil and you could be good to go.

I would wonder if the dealer who has the vehicle now actually tested the engine or just assumed it was bad. It would be a gamble to repair the oil pan and replace the plug, fill with oil just to see if the engine is any good. But if you shut down immediately and didn’t hear any unusual sounds, I would take that gamble because odds are the engine will start right up and run fine.

But if anybody messes around with the oil pan in any way . . . even if for testing . . . the servicing dealer will definitely be off the hook, from a legal standpoint

The servicing dealer either has left the plug loose or has been overtightening it which has damaged the oil pan threads and caused the plug to fall out.

As db4590 mentions, you have another dealer figured into the equation and that makes the matter much more fuzzy as the servicing dealer could say the new guy done it. A lot will depend upon the new guy dealer and what they are prepared to say and do to help you in your case.

Keep in mind these dealers all attend the same dealer meetings and get drunk together…


You also have 4 months between the oil change and the plug falling out. What happened during that time. The offending dealer will argue someone else tampered with it, otherwise it would have failed right away. They will put you in the tough position of proving you did not have some one else over tighten it. You are in a tough spot, good luck.

Hi Keith, thanks for the response.

Our first notice was the warning beeper going off and a very large warning notice on the display - saying to pull over and stop the engine which is exactly what we did before calling the nearest dealer. We were 120 miles from home at that time and the dealer we called has an impeccable reputation so had no problem leaving the car there. What they did is examine the oil - very little - but enough to test and if fresh metal slivers in the oil and pan then they know the engine is gonzo - especially the crankshaft. We have GM directly looking into it all - just that they can be notoriously slow at times. Will keep everyone updated … and if anyone has a real problem with GM, there is a way to get their attention.

Hi Steve - luckily for us, the car has only been serviced by the same GM dealer since new - only one in the area - including oil changes, recalls etc. and we change oil exactly when the car’s computer tells us to do so. What we are hearing from qualified mechanics is that a less-than-tightened or stripped plug could take a while to work it;s way out. We were highway driving at around 60mph at the time possibly the oil pressure gave the plug it’s last push! We do not know - all we know is that we did everything properly in maintaining the car. I hear of the same thing happening of a Toyota and a Mazda - in both those cases, the dealers immediately accepted responsibility and had the cars repaired. GM is different apparently - or at least the dealer we HAD been dealing with. Sad… as we like GM but that has to change now!

Hi - appreciate your comments. We were 120 miles from home when all this happened. New dealer is one of the better ones around and highly considered by GM - impeccable reputation and I trust them. Local GM dealer (where all oil changes since new and on time have been done - nowhere else) is the one causing the problem. As I mentioned in another post, I have heard that some Toyota and Mazda owners have experienced similar plug issues but in both cases, both the dealer and manufacturer have assumed responsibility and together took care of the matter quickly. I have been waiting over 4 weeks and wasted 3 weeks waiting for some action from a GM customer service type (they call them “Ambassadors”) - I was not impressed with that interaction.

Hi again Keith, we are now dealing directly with GM who are working on some form of solution. I will keep everyone posted on developments! I am trying to put “shame” publicity on the shoulders of the offending GM dealer - the one who last touched the vehicle (in fact the only one to ever touch it). Onward…

I have a feeling the “ambassador” is not going to side with you

The fact that it’s been quite awhile already makes me wonder if you’re being given the run around

I assume you have receipts which prove that the “offending” dealer has serviced your car from day one

If/when you are told that you’ll have to pay for the entire repair yourself, I would seriously consider small claims court or an attorney

Another idea . . . the second dealer could take some pictures of the messed up threads, the one where the drain plug was supposed to screw in, before the 1st dealer or somebody else decides to take possession of the car, the engine or oil pan, and conveniently misplaces it

I’m assuming the threads ARE either cross-threaded or stripped out altogether . . . ?

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“Ambassador” = BS artist. PR flack. Professional staller.

Just my opinion, but I believe the problems with drain plugs being left loose, cross-threaded, or overtightened is due to one thing.

Over the past few years dealers have gotten into the “compete with Jiffy Lube” mode. Do it cheap. Better us than them. They’re generally going to hire young guys with little experience and then press them constantly with hurry, hurry, hurry. That leads to mistakes even if one omitted the ham-fisted newby part of it.


If the threads look ok, I’m guessing the same as OK above, probably the tech just forgot to tighten the drain plug. Maybe they got a phone call or a call of nature after they initially threaded it in, then upon their return to the job forgot to fully tighten it. It’s a bit of bad luck, b/c if they had simply forgot to install it, then they’d notice when all the oil they just poured in was puddled on the floor under the car. (Ask me how I know this … lol )

Just a fyi note regarding oil changes. Check the oil level before leaving the shop, then again when you get home. And the next morning, before starting the car. Then once a week or so. It probably wouldn’t have helped in your case, but still a good idea.

It’s not possible to know who’s to blame , that will have to be resolved by mechanics studying the oil pan and threads, maintenance records, etc. Preferably you want to have at least one of the mechanics doing the research and inspections who are working for you. One thing to check is whether the shop installed the proper drain plug washer, and whether it was a new one or not. On most cars a new oem washer should always be installed with every oil change. I expect the result of all this will be some type of compromise, where you’ll get a replacement engine, but not at the full price, at some discount. Maybe you’ll pay for the engine, and they’ll pay for the labor. something like that.

Really anything can happen, and it doesn’t hurt to check the plug and filter in addition to checking the oil when you get. I try to do everything in a particular sequence to make it harder to miss something. Several times the next day I have gotten under the car to check if I tightened the plug or not because I couldn’t specifically remember doing it. Never forgot but I did have to check. Also depending on the type of pan, I always without fail use a new crush washer whenever doing the Acura. I don’t know what they cost, something like 50 cents but I believe it helps to avoid pan damage and leakage.

I agree strongly with that advice.
I change my own oil, and, even though I double check everything as I go, I STILL check it every morning for a few days after changing it. Always have.

Back in '79 I took my brand new pickup to the dealer to get the oil changed, in order to ensure that the warranty remained intact. I parked on an incline in my apartment parking lot, and when I got home and parked the truck I looked and saw a honey-colored fluid running down the incline. The dealer shop had neglected to tighten the drain plug. Fortunately, I only lived a mile from the dealership. No damage was done, but if I hadn’t been alert I’d probably have started the engine dry the next morning.

In addition to the checks George mentioned, I’d look under the vehicle before starting it up after having the oil changed. If there’s a small puddle, don’t start the engine until they double check their work.

GM vehicles typically don’t use the setup you described

The drain plugs don’t have a separate washer

The drain plugs have a rubber seal, which sits in a groove in the drain plug

The seals are usually not replaced, until/unless they’re flat as a board and no longer doing their job

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Yeah you have to buy the whole plug. I think it was $7.

You actually can buy the seal . . . rockauto, for example . . . but I feel it’s not worth it

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Thx for the info - appreciate it!

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