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Quite the Quandry

I had Jiffy Lube change the rear differential fluid. I had never experienced any problems with my rear diff before they did the service. I took my truck to my mechanic for new shocks and had them investigate a whining noise coming from the rear of the truck. The mechanic investigated and asked if I had work done on the rear diff recently and I told them I just had the fluid changed. He suggested that Jiffy Lube had not put in the differential additive. I called JL and they checked the invoice and realized they had not put the additive in and drove the additive over to the shop to have it added to the rear diff fluid. This arrangement was documented by my mechanic in their invoice. JL also reimbursed me for the money spent to diagnose the problem. A few weeks later I started noticing subtle noises coming from the rear that have gotten worse. I now have my truck in the shop as the rear diff is chattering pretty bad at times and needs to be replaced. I have initiated conversation with the district manager of Jiffy Lube who has told me to again get a diagnosis on the Differential. I have noticed some finger pointing coming from JL and am fearing they are not going to take responsibility for this.

Question of the day: What steps should I take to keep from getting screwed? How strong of a case do you think I would have in small claims court if need be? What documentation is their out there supporting the lack of rear Diff additive being detrimental to the differential itself? Thanks for your help!

You don’t say what type of vehicle this is, and how many miles and at what speeds it was driven without the additive for the rear diff fluid.

Until that’s known, no opinion can be formed.


I’ll go out on a limb here. Jiffy Lube destroyed your differential. Sue them. They are used to it.

Some vehicles are very fussy about fluids, the Honda CRV is one of them that is very particular about rear differential fluid. Jiffy Lube and similar shops stock “generic” fluids they say work on all cars, but that is BS. Getting a new differential out of Jiffy Lube in this case might be possible since you got them to admit a mistake. You’ll need all you receipts and documentation to support your claim.

My guess is the differential was already damaged when the additive was added. The noise was better for a bit, but then came back and has gotten worse.

Differential gears are “hardened” which means the metal handles wear better. If you wear the teeth past the hardened area the gears start to wear out quicker and get more and more noisy. If you have a “limited slip” type of rear end there are clutches and disks in there that wear out which is why most limited slip rear ends have special fluids in them.

Without knowing your specific vehicle I hope these general comments are helpful.

I have nothing to add beyond the above. Just wondering why the heck someone flagged Tester’s post? That’s pretty silly.

I agree. Tester was right about including vital information. My answer came strictly from personal experience. Iffy Lube bought me a new transmission about 20 years ago because they forgot to refill my transmission fluid.

Since Jiffy Lube (JL) acknowledged their mistake and brought the needed fluid to your mechanic, it sounds to me like you have good documentation to begin with. JL has in effect admitted to an error that may have made them at least partially responsible for the problem you now have. However, you would need to have the ability to show that you maintained your vehicle well and had no prior problems with your differential.

Since this would be a case for small claims court, it would be helpful to get two or more opinions from certified mechanics to support that what JL did could have caused the problem. You would need to convince a judge who may or may not have any mechanical knowledge, so the more evidence you bring to court the better your case.

Of course, before filing for small claims court you may be able to get JL to settle with you if you provide them with the same information that you would bring to court.

Joe guy’s advice is sound. I would add that you should avoid small claims if at all possible. Don’t bring out the big guns until you see what JL is willing to do. I would recommend you take the truck to the dealer and ask for a diagnosis and estimate to repair. Then ask if they have any documentation to show the lack of additive will damage the differential. The dealer’s opinion should carry more weight than an independent mechanic if you do end up in court. Be aware, the condition of the your truck will be important to how much compensation you are entitled to get. If your truck has 30K miles and has been fastidiously maintained you may get full value for the differential. If it has 150K miles and has been used to pull stumps not so much. Jl is only obligated to restore your differential to the condition it was in before they worked on it not give you a new differential. Jl has insurance to cover them for these kinds of mistakes. From a customer relations point of view they may be willing to do more for you than you could get in small claims. If you immediately threaten them with court they my forget customer relations and take their chances. I’ll bet they know more about winning in small claims than you do.