They didn't put oil in when they did an oil change

'08 Honda Civic 54k
Took to dealership for an oil change. As soon as I started it I noticed it didn’t sound right. Drove it about a mile and it died on me. I realized they didn’t put oil in it; it was bone dry! Dealership gave me a 90 day warranty and 5 free oil changes. I’m afraid they did damage to the engine and took life off of it. Do you think I have to worry about having to put money into it in the next few thousand miles? Should I trade it in? I’m def not happy about their mistake.
Thank you!

I think this dealer owes you a new engine. Alternatively, they could offer to buy the car at top book value. The dealer is trying to get off the hook too easily.

I think this dealer owes you a new engine

I would insist on a new engine. Driving a mile on little or no oil - that engine is on borrowed time. I suggest you get a lawyer.

First, you need to get full documentation (service records and receipts) that clearly show the dealer’s mistake in not refilling the motor with oil. If you had not driven the car when you first noticed the “funny noise” and they had filled it with oil at that point - no damage done. Driving for a mile or whatever until the motor “died” then damage was done.

I feel you will need a new motor at some point, perhaps a year or maybe longer, but this motor will not last. The crankshaft bearings would be damaged, and perhaps piston bearings and much more.

Options are a new motor, a used motor, or having this motor torn down and rebuilt with new parts subject to wear from lack of lubrication.

You might need to contact a lawyer to move this process forward.

They admitted their mistake. They screwed up. The dealership is on the hook to compensate you for your loss for at least 90 days. They may even be on the hook beyond the 90 day warranty they’ve offered in some states or under certain circumstances. They are trying to compensate you with 5 oil changes worth about $200 or so.

Running without oil is bad for internal engine parts. If there are any serious problems they likely will occur in the next 90 days and that could include a blown engine requiring replacement. If that doesn’t happen, some life has been removed from the engine because of this mistake. How much? Impossible to say.

If you want a good answer to the legal questions, talk to a lawyer that specializes in auto warranty and service claims to see where you stand.

Next time you start the engine after an oil change (or anytime, really), if that bright RED light stays on after starting the engine, turn it OFF, QUICKLY. Don’t drive away. That is why that light is there. If it is on bad things are happening.

Did the oil light come on as soon as you started it? That would indicate that there was no oil (or not much) at that point. If you drove a mile that way, the engine was badly damaged.

If the light didn’t come on until after you drove it that mile, then that is the point where the oil drained out, perhaps due to a loose drain plug or oil filter that fell out. If you shut the engine off immediately at that point, there would probably be no damage to the engine.

If the oil light never came on, that would mean yet a different problem…

Whether the light was on or not does not matter. I would insist on a NEW engine. Your engine died due to oil starvation. It’s life was severely shortened.

The engine is damaged to some degree. The first thing to go is rod/main bearings and crankshaft journals.

If the oil pan was dropped and some bearing caps removed for inspection, odds are the bearing shells would be down into the copper and the crankshaft journals would be scored.

A 90 day warranty and free oil changes don’t mean squat. When damage like this occurs it could be a year, 2 years, or even 5 years before any damage becomes noticeable to the driver.
The fact that the engine may sound fine to you means nothing.

The dealer is trying to mollify you to keep themselves off the hook financially while hoping that before an engine problem does rear its ugly head that you will trade the car off or that it will end up in a collision which totals it out so the potential headache will be gone forever.

It’s also quite common for a service manager to draw a few forms of commission on top of a salary. Buying you a new engine will cut into the comeback fund and put a crimp in his wallet.
(Comeback is mechanicspeak for screwup…)

If it were me I’d want a new engine or they can buy the car for full book and do what they want with it; which is probably inflict it upon a buyer while saying nothing about the oil change incident.

if you drove a mile with no oil, AND the oil light was on, you own some of the damage, in my opinion. if the light wasn’t on, but is was working okay previously, different story. IF the light didn’t work previously and you didn’t get it fixed, you own some of the responsability for damage to the engine…

So if the OP drives limited mileage and the engine runs 91 days and then fails the dealership thinks they should be in the clear… Unbelieveable.

I would suggest offering the dealership the opportunity to buy the car for Kelly Blue Book good condition plus $1,000 cash or let a lawyer get involved.

I think driving it a mile won’t hurt the OP’s case at all. Not everyone is as expert as many of you guys are, and the law allows for that. Consumers are assumed to know very little, if anything, about the products they buy. That’s why the ladder cases paid off so well. @EmilyH, make sure you have everything in writing, including that they did not fill the engine with oil. I agree with the others that they should put another engine in. I doubt it will be new, given that your car is about 8 years old. But you should be offered a rebuilt engine with a healthy guarantee. You can get what you deserve if you continue to be rational and resolute in your demands for reasonable compensation.

I recommend you contact a lawyer.
You may need to find an engine rebuilder to give you the analysis you need (see OK4450’s post) to prove damage, and, since the car is seven years old, even then you’ll probably need a lawyer to create a legally viable argument that the dealership’s negligence did the damage. Document and photograph every detail, starting with the original oil change.

With a properly written letter from a lawyer the dealer will probably accept responsibility and install a rebuilt engine. They’re likely insured for this type of event anyway. Without one, trying to do it on your own, you may have an impossible fight on your hands.

NOTE: the average repair & maintenance shop doesn’t do much engine rebuilding and may not have the level of expertise OK4450 does. That’s why I recommended an engine rebuilder.

@EmilyH should make sure she has something on record (written) to prove that the dealership admits to the problem. Later on they could say that they never admitted to anything…they were just being nice to give you the oil changes and a 90 day warranty.

I too would insist on a new or rebuilt engine.


90 days?? No…Make that 2 years free engine replacement if there are any problems…A new factory long-block, period…

Their offer to rectify this situation that they caused – if it happened exactly as you say, no extenuating circumstances – by their own negligence, well, is not a sufficient remedy in my opinion. It’s possible that little to no damage was done, but b/c your engine conked out and completely stopped running b/c of the lack of oil, that indicates there’s a good chance difficult to repair damage has been done. And it might not show up for 2-3 years, possibly more. So while their free oil changes are a good start, I wouldn’t be satisfied until they guaranteed to replace or rebuild this engine entirely at their expense anytime in the next 3 years should signs of major engine damage – like engine knocking, lack of compression, abnormal oil use – is discovered.

I think if you ask them for this stipulation, they’ll put up a fuss, but if you persist they’ll give it to you. Look at their alternative. They’ll have to explain to a judge why a dealership shop staffed with expert mechanics on this car, didn’t remember to fill the crankcase after a simple oil change. That’s going to be a difficult explanation, one they’d just as soon not have to ever deliver.

Another example of why the oil pressure should be hooked up to the alarm ringer/beeper.

Maybe the oil pressure is tied to the ecm or fuel pump. Even my old Buicks had a fuel pump shut off at the oil pressure sending unit. So while I really do think they owe you a new engine, I would want to know for sure why the car stalled. If it seized up due to no oil, the engine is shot but if it stalled because of a safety oil pressure shut off, damage would be less likely.

These guys have made an excellent point. The Buick dealer should be able to tell you if the fuel pump had a shutoff if the oil pressure was lost. GM used this on a lot of their vehicles.

The Buick dealer should be able to tell you if the fuel pump had a shutoff if the oil pressure was lost. GM used this on a lot of their vehicles.

Except the Buick dealer may not know a lot about Honda civics. :blush:

As far as I know GM is the only one that used an oil pressure sensor in the fuel pump circuit.