Overfilled oil caused starter to fry out Cummins turbodiesel

My husband recently had the oil changed in our 1999 Dodge Ram truck by a popular national lube chain.
The truck started, albeit very sluggishly, and he brought it home. The next day it wouldn’t start at all. Came to find the lube shop had put 88oz too much oil - it registered almost 4 inches beyond the fill line!
We removed the excess oil, took out the starter and found that the starter had burned up. After replacing the starter, the truck runs good as new.
It doesn’t seem logical that the excess oil caused the starter to burn up but we have not had any symptoms or problems with it until the oil change.
Any insight? The truck has a Cummins turbodiesel, 24 valve and has never had any problems.

@JoSierra it seems the lube place theoretically owes you a starter

Proving that will be next to impossible now, as you’ve already corrected the oil level.

Consider this a somewhat expensive life lesson.

To be fair, the only way that the lube chain would have “admitted” their mistake and paid for that repair would have been if you had left the oil level like it was, towed the truck back to that shop and showed them that it wouldn’t start after they worked on it.

And even then, they might have corrected the oil level and concluded that your starter was bound to fail anyways.

That obviously would have been a major hassle, no matter the outcome.

I would record everything you did. Take all the receipts for the new starter along with the affidavit from the mechanic who fixed it an go back and talk to the manager about some help with the new starter. if they want to give you free service in the form of coupons, make sure it’s transferable to some who might be a regular and buy them from you…go elsewhere though.

Diesel motors have very high compression and therefore put a lot more load on the starter. The extra oil added to the normal work load enough to kill the starter. The starter might have been weakened by years of use, but the oil change finished it off completely. I would try for some $$$ from the oil change shop.

I am curious as to how it was determined that the engine was overfilled 88 oz. And a few vehicles have made it to my door that were severely overfilled with oil, to the point that oil was blowing out the dipstick tube and clouds of smoke were billowing out the tailpipe but none ever had a starter failure as a result of the overfill. Did the overfill shorten the starter’s life a year? A month? A day? Or did the starter fail right on schedule regardless of the oil level?

This engine holds 11 quarts of oil, I doubt 88 ounces over filled will have any effect on the starter motor after only one day.

A common problem that occurs when changing the oil filter is the filter wrench coming in contact with the back of the alternator blowing the 120 amp fuse. After an hour of driving the batteries will be too weak to start the engine. Is the charging system working?

Realistically after thinking about it, there is a heck of a lot more drag on the starter when the weather is near zero. If oil drag ruins a starter, they would be dropping by the weighside daily in the winter. So, unless something spooky happened as Nevada indicated, I will amend my suggestion to, sorry, that’s a coincidence.

@Nevada545 that’s close to 3 quarts overfilled.


Has anyone seen a starter drive housing broken when the timing was set too high and the starter was unable to slam the flywheel hard enough to overcome the engine attempting to run backwards? The housing can be replaced and the starter continues to operate. Engines become locked on coolant standing on a piston and after repeated efforts to crank the engine the problem is diagnosed, the head/gasket repaired and the engine is cranked with that ‘abused’ starter with no thought given to the abuse it was given. Sooooooooooooo, what can I assume? Most likely the overfilled crankcase was not the cause of the starter failing. But it cannot be absolutely ruled out.

This engine is 3 feet tall by 3 feet in length, you could put an extra gallon of oil in and not experience any difference.
This engine’s compression ratio is 16.3:1, the starter motor has plenty of torque. The oil isn’t going to slow it down.

88 ounces is about 5 quarts, right? 5 quarts too much oil in the crankcase could indeed increase the drag on the engine enough to burn out an already iffy starter it would seem to me. Plus I’d not be surprised to see other damage, like oil leaks from blown seals etc. If you’re not seeing other symptoms and the engine is running fine now that the starter is replaced, count yourself lucky. I think you have learned that it is wise to check the dipstick first yourself, before driving away from any oil change.

What do I know but there are 32 oz in a quart so 88 is 2.75 quarts is all. I think Nevada might be on to something or maybe they used the wrong weight oil or maybe just a coincidence with a worn starter.

Thanks for the correction @Bing. hmmm … , let’s see, 2 cups in a pint, 2 pints in a quart, … lol

The part of my brain that does unit-conversion seems to be a tad askew. 64 ounces weight would be 4 pounds, but 64 ounces volume is only 2 quarts.

I must learn to rely on Google for all my thinking from now on!

Hear ya. Don’t get me going on the metric system.

NASA scientists did the same thing on a Mars mission, mixing up the unit conversions. And the results were – well, let’s just say NASA wished the only problem had been a fried starter motor. lol

Cause of the problem was the owner’s choice of a quick oil change joint.

Don’t ever take your car to a quick oil change shop, not even for directions.

Don’t ever take your car to a quick oil change place, not even for directions

I think the quick oil change places are ok for the most part. We hear problems here on occassion caused by mistakes made at those places, but those quick changes places do lots and lots of oil changes successfully too. If they made mistake after mistake, nobody would ever use them. But it’s pretty clear they are in demand by their customer, by the number of cars in the parking lot, at least in my area. You’d have to see the stats, the % of problems at the quick change places vs at other places to decide one way or another.

Personally, I don’t find changing the oil much of a bother to do myself in my driveway, takes less than an hour, plus I have a chance to do a visual inspection of the CV boots, lube what needs to be lubed, check the other fluid levels, vacuum out the leaves and debris from the fresh air cooling vents under the windshield, etc. It’s all pretty efficient use of time. But if I didn’t want to change the oil myself, I’d not hesitate to use a quick change oil place. I’d expect the well known name brand versions of the quick change oil places would be the best choice. They have a reputation to protect. A friend of mine has been taking his 15 year old SUV there to a well known quick change lube place for ages and ages, every 6 months, and never once had a problem.

My advice would be that however the oil gets changed, immediately after, and prior to driving the car away from the joint, the driver should visually check the oil level on the dipstick. And look under the car for any signs of oil leaks. Then do that again the next morning.

Yes too much oil can cause the starter to go bad,if it floods the starter-Kevin

88 oz of oil is a lot too much, but I can’t see that it would put a big drag on the starter unless it got into one or more of the cylinders and hydrolocked the engine.