Shop responsibility on blown engine?

My daughter’s Suburban was not keeping antifreeze in it so I brought it to the local shop we use, who are generally pretty good mechanics and good people. Radiator was bad so they replaced it. No problem or so I thought. A week later the oil guage does way down, my daughter adds the 1 qt she has in the truck and drives home, unfortunately without checking the oil. I check it and add 4 qts to get it up, meaning she was basically dry.

I told the shop and asked them to take a look, and to let me know if maybe anything happened when they replaced the radiator. They said the o-ring was missing from the oil cooling line, and that could have caused the leaking. They replaced it free, which caused me to wonder just a bit. My daughter had changed her oil about 2 months earlier and checked it about a week previous to the radiator incident.

My question is this: does the oil cooling line get changed or removed or disconnected in the process of replacing the radiator? If so, it’s likely the shop forgot to replace the o-ring, and it seems a little obvious to me that it may be the cause of her losing all her oil, and now the engine seems to be toast, Two days ago we could heard what sounded like a rod banging in the engine, and yesterday it gave out. She said it sounded like the engine was falling apart, and it won’t run.

Like I said they are good people and if it was likely to have gone anyway, I don’t want to accuse them of anything. But if they definitely had to disconnect the oil cooling line and in the process forgot the o-ring, and that potentially caused all our troubles, then I feel like they should be willing to work with me on some sort of repair, if it’s even possible. I would appreciate your thoughts. Do they likely have some responsibility here, and what likely blew on the truck? And can it be fixed (reasonably)? Specs are below. Thank you very much.

1997 1/2 ton Chev Suburban 4WD, V8

In changing out the radiator they had to remove and reinstall things like the AC condensor, the trans cooler, and if the truck has an oil cooler then that too. All these items either hang off the radiator or in close proximity to it.

After doing a job like this the shop should check carefully for leaks. It is likely the O ring was left off the oil cooler when the parts were reassembled. I haven’t had a radiator repaired in many years but I’d be checking the coolant level frequently for awhile afterward in case of leaks. Your story is a good reminder to check the oil and trans fluids as well until you are sure there are no leaks.

I do think the shop bears some responsibility for this and that it was a shop error. Since you seem to have a good relationship with this shop I’d suggest you approach the owner or manager and see if they can offer a motor repair or replacement at a reduced costs to you. Hopefully you can negotiate a fair solution for all parties.

I second all that Turbo stated and I do ask didn’t you see any drops of oil on the ground where the car was parked?

It is odd the shop would come out and say a O’ring was missing if they themselves could be the reason it was missing.

Missing O’rings cause leaks that are noticable right now so how this went on long enough to drain the crankcase is a mystery.Maybe the O’ring was not missing just cut and the flow was not that great.

Price for vechicle running with a 100K engine at a normal level of maintiance could not be over $3000.00. Its going to take 3000.00 to get this going unless some pretty substancial corners are cut and some deals made. If the rest of the vehicle is tip-top some justification for repair could be made.

After the fact I did see oil spots on the ground at home in the grass and at work (she helps us out in the summer) in the gravel. Unfortunately she never noticed until too late. I’ll talk to them and see what they say. They themselves may not be willing to spend the time and expense to do this with what they have access to, but i know a couple other guys who may be willing to scrounge up a motor or whatever and take the job on to cut some costs, and i’ll see if the shop will share the pain, 'cause the rest of the vehicle is in great shape with new tires, etc (and a new radiator :). Thanks for the advice guys.

A salvage yard engine is your best bet, shop around to find the best one you can. If your repair shop opened the fitting in question when replacing the radiator, then they, for sure, are responsible for the cost of this…The fact that they admitted an O-ring was missing is an admission of guilt…They never checked for leaks when they finished the job…

I put a oil filter adapter on a KIA Sportage,it was a tight fit and access was poor. To shorten up the story I cut or shaved some of the O’ring (by accident). I ran the car checked it several times all looked go so I sent the car out. Car came back about a week later and the whole bottom and back of it was covered with oil,no one was happy.

If the shop disconnected it to perform a job then they have an obligation to put it back together correctly; and this doesn’t mean with used O-rings or whatever.
They also have an obligation to check their work and verify that no leaks exist.

The engine is junk at this point though. Four or five quarts down is not surviveable.

Given the age of the vehicle I would say a salvage yard engine or possibly locating one on Craigslist might be in order. Some yards will even install an engine for a nominal fee and guarantee it, which is a better deal than paying a shop to do it.
A shop cannot guarantee a used engine but a yard would have to swap it out again for no extra charge if by some chance the used engine happened to have a problem.

At least that’s the way it works around here.

Yes it sounds like the forgot o-ring but what should have happened was after 1-2day owner, driver should have looked for leak and checked oil every day or 2.
If they did this they would have seen leak, took it back and no damage would have happened.
I see it as owner is responsablity.
Even if it leaked a quart ever day if owner would refill there would not be any damage.

Agreed to a point. There had to have been symptoms associated with the engine when it got even 3 quarts down on oil. Rattling lifters, oil light flashing on during a stop or while cornering, gradual drop in the oil pressure gauge, etc.

Being a bit alert should have headed this off.

And I agree to a point, which is why I’m talking about help, not demanding they do it all on their dime. Remember it’s a young girl driving it, and I wouldn’t have known that the oil would have been affected by replacing the radiator, not being a mechanic, so I wouldn’t have even thought to check it right after since it was good just a week earlier. I guess when you pay $500 for a job you just don’t expect something like this, or think it’s possible even. Not an excuse, just an explanation.

The bottom line is that while your daughter should be more aware of what’s going on with a vehicle it is still the shop’s responsibility to perform the job correctly and to verify the vehicle is not leaking rather than close the hood and send it to the parking lot.

Actually, your daughter did just what the vast majority of people would have done. She paid for a repair, assumed it was done correctly, and motored on.

While I’m not a late model GM expert by any means (more of a “foreign” car guy), I think this vehicle uses an engine oil cooler on one side and a trans cooler on the other. It likely uses quick disconnect fittings which require a special tool for service work.
The seals could actually be hard Teflon type seals much like what you would find in a steering rack, etc.

These seals are somewhat brittle and can easily be cracked during removal and installation. (all the more reason to make sure there are no leaks after the repair)
These seals may be part of the hose assemblies and not available separately, which means that the hose/seals would be reused as is. With care, maybe not a problem. With a bit of carelessness it could be.

Tough call on this issue because it’s possible the simple act of disturbing the cooler hoses could have caused them to leak later. Given the fact it lost so much oil so quickly my opinion would be that it must have been leaking from the get-go and the shop is likely negligent by not making sure it was leak-free after the repair. Just my opinion anyway and good luck on this.

Appreciate all the feedback guys. I know it’s a tough situation, I’ll let you know how it turns out.

Just wanted to let you guys know that the shop agreed they were responsible and are going to take care of it. Any improvements they have to make as a result of replacing the engine I have agreed to pay for, like new cooling lines, etc that weren’t in that great shape to begin with. That’s a good shop in my opinion.

Nice to hear from you on how it worked out. Yes, the shop is a keeper.

What’s your plan on educating drivers about fluid level checks? At least show the drivers how to open hood,where the battery is,oil dip stick,fill port for oil,coolant etc…

These fluid leve checks will be of most importance when you first get the car back. After any shop work (and much more when major work is done)open the hood and check things out. A little bit of preaching to the choir?

I am now the choir, but a reminder never hurts. That’s what p’s me off, she knows how to check all that stuff, changes her own oil and rotates her tires at school, just doesn’t take the time sometimes. She’ll do it now or I’ll be driving her new truck!

This sounds like my kind of shop. I believe they deserve an “attaboy” and a plug for their business location.

Agreed, I was thinking a letter to the editor in the local paper would help them out quite a bit