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Legal Question

Discussion in 'Issues Around the World' started by LissaKay, Dec 29, 2002.

  1. LissaKay

    LissaKay Oh ... Really???

    My car is farked. Maybe very badly.

    I had the oil changed and the fuel pump/filter system cleaned yesterday, then took a 200 mile road trip. On the way back, about 300 miles post-servicing, I hear a belt squalling like it is slipping, then my headlights start dimming out. Next thing I know it is red-lined overheated and smoke is billowing from under the hood.

    Long story short, I limped to a store parking lot in a tiny north Georgia town at 3am where we waited until morning to summon help. A couple of fellows took a look and said it looks like oil had been spraying all over the engine compartment, getting all over the alternator belt and water pump. Water and anti-freeze were leaking out and there is also oil mixed in.

    I'd had the servicing done at a well-known chain and when I mentioned this to the tow truck owner and driver, they said that they made a regular living from customers of this shop and most have been reimbursed for the costs of repairs and towing. However, they recommended getting an attorney to do so.

    My questions:

    What kind of attorney would handle this and how would I approach them?

    How much fee up front would one require, or is this the type of claim they would include legal fees on?

    When getting my car looked at and/or repaired, would it be wise to tell the repair shop of my suspicions that the damage was caused by the negligence of the oil change shop? Or let them tell me what they find first, then ask if it could be the result of improper procedures during the servicing?

    Should I have the repairs done at the dealership or take it to our trusted repair shop that my family has been using for years? (Question of bias and impartiality?)

    Is there anything else I should do? I cannot afford to pay for the repairs. The tow bill alone was $250. I've got a sinking feeling this won't be a simple or cheap repair.

    I know the standard disclaimer - what is posted here should not be taken as real legal advice, always consult with a local attorney, blah, blah, blah ... But any help at all? Pweeze???
  2. midranger4

    midranger4 Banned


    You will have to prove that the service performed on the car was the cause of the breakdown and subsequent damages.

    If oil was spraying on the engine it is imperative you find the root cause. An improperly installed oil filter, an improperly installed *cap* (where the oil is put into the car) could cause the kind of problem you describe.

    I would also point out that most quick service outlets like Jiffy Lube do a bit more than change the fluids in your automobile. They are constantly trying to sell other *consumable* parts like wiper blades and serpentine belts.

    Now...the serpentine belt of your automobile drives the alternator, water pump, air conditioner, and crankshaft. In other words if the belt fails a multitude of problems can occur.

    I've used Jiffy Lube many times, and without fail they always tell me I need a new serpentine belt (even though I had it changed by the dealer about a week prior in one case). They offered to *adjust* the belt and I told them to keep their grubby paws of the belt and simply change the oil.

    I would see if your serpentine belt was unusually loose or unusually tight. Too loose and it will slip, to tight and it will blow out bearings in the water pump and/or alternator. Both scenarios can result in the car overheating, which subsequently can cause all kinds of major problems.

    I wish you the very best of luck and hope that the vehicle failed as a result of negligence and you can recover your losses.
  3. LissaKay

    LissaKay Oh ... Really???


    Well, I seem to be screwed. The dealership I took the car to won't definitively state that a botched oil change caused the break-down. They are saying that *all at the same time* the water pump locked up and the valve cover gasket eroded to the point that oil was spraying all over the engine.

    The diagnosis:
    Need a new water pump
    Need the gasket replaced
    Need the engine cleaned out from where the oil leaked/sprayed all over.
    Need a new radiator because the water pump failure caused it to freeze up.
    The (2 year old) alternator may also have problems caused by oil on the belt making it slip and possibly damaging the bearings(?)

    The bill:
    Estimate - $795

    Now keep in mind that this car was given a clean bill of health about 12 hours earlier, with the guy remarking on how clean the engine was for its age and mileage. It had been running fine with no overheating, no oil spill in the driveway, and the radiator was full to the top when it was checked.

    Today I took the car to our trusted mechanic. They will shoot straight with me, the repair bill will be lower and they will let me make payments. But it will be Thursday or Friday before they can get to it.
  4. Coot

    Coot Passed Away January 7, 2010

    The water pump would explain the belt squealing...as to oil being sprayed everywhere, I would have doubts about it being from the valve cover gasket. There is very little pressure at the valve cover. For the oil to have sprayed, a more likely source would be the oil filter (double gasketing can cause this) or a head gasket. When your mechanic removes the oil filter, make sure he checks to see that there was only one gasket installed. Lube shops have in the past had issues with removing the old filter gasket if it doesn't come out with the filter...under these conditions, the seal easily ruptures and makes one hell of a mess out of the both the engine compartment and the engine.
  5. -Ken

    -Ken Guest


    Two or three things come to mind.
    Also, would you please provide the year, make and model?

    First - The original repair.

    All we are talking about is an oil change, (with filter?) fuel pump (cleaned?) and fuel filter? I would be interested in the exact language and breakdown of the bill.

    In all the years I played with cars, I have never cleaned the fuel pump. I doubt that had anything to do with your problem however.

    The one thing to focus on is where the oil sprayed from. The dealership (assuming there was no loss in translation) is full of it. Valve cover gaskets eroding do not spray oil "all over the engine compartment" but rather would all oil to drip/run down the side of the engine wall. It would not end up on the hood or the inside fender walls. I am in complete agreement with Coot, the oil filter is the likely candidate for inspection.

    Next - The dealership.

    You need a "new radiator because the water pump failure caused it to freeze up" is definitely out to lunch. Having had almost every part fail in a car on me at least once, (not all at the same time) I have never seen or heard a water pump take out a radiator. Now, if your radiator "eroded" and finally let go due to rust and age, I can see this possibly happening at the time it overheated. Otherwise, if you wrote it like they told you, I think you were in the middle of foreplay, even though you might not have noticed it. (Isn't that just like a man?)

    Oh Yeah - The dealership's Estimate.

    Since they did not think you need a new engine, I will assume the engine still turns over. The problem with this assumption is that a less than reputable establishment will give you a "preliminary" estimate and after they start the job "discover" you need more (read really expensive) work. Either way, you have to pay them for taking the thing apart and putting it back together. You're screwed once they have you. You did the right thing getting it out if there, from what I can guess already.

    Without knowing what kind of vehicle you have, this is just a guess...

    The diagnosis:
    Need a new water pump - $65.00
    Need the gasket replaced - Don't know which gasket - $12.50-$45.00
    Need the engine cleaned out from where the oil leaked/sprayed all over. - So, do they use some special tool? Industrial strength Windex?
    Need a new radiator because the water pump failure caused it to freeze up. - There are some parts which will fail and be replaced together. The water pump and radiator are not usually one of them.
    The (2 year old) alternator may also have problems caused by oil on the belt making it slip and possibly damaging the bearings(?)
    If oil damaged the bearings, it is difficult for me to understand how it got there from the valve cover gasket.
    The bill:
    Estimate - $795

    My dear, I believe they were setting you up for the royal screwing.

    My guess is you were the perfect patsy, "ya lady, we need to clean your engine, that's four hours labor right there. We couldn't let you drive out of here with a dirty engine. That's against federal clean engine regulations and not our company policy." You didn't know what the exact failure was, you were miles away from home and they "had" you.

    What you can expect. -

    Car mechanics (much like doctors) aren't usually big on going to court and turning in someone else. You may find an exception to this rule but I wouldn't count on it. You would be amazed what a strongly worded letter from an attorney might get you, however. At the very least, a free oil change!

    Based on what you've said and again not knowing the year/make/model (Hint hint) this is what we would expect to pay around here. (Things are pretty cheap around here.)

    $34 - Change the valve cover gaskets
    $65 - Replace water pump with aftermarket part
    $40 - Belts (if they are covered in oil, they need replacing)
    $65 - Radiator (used/junkyard) don't buy new. I doubt you need one.
    Labor should run about 2.5-6 hours (again depending on vehicle) and we pay $32/hour for labor around here.

    If you don't need the radiator or the alternator, you will walk away for the $275-$350 range (buy don't hold me to this, I've made way too many assumptions to actually give you a hard price).

    Let us know when the mechanic gives you an answer.
    Regarding the lawyer, try a consumer advocates group in your area. Another thing to do is to file a complaint with the Attorney General's office. While they probably won't do anything, if more people bring in complaints, they might look into it.

    Don't worry, it will work out.
  6. midranger4

    midranger4 Banned

    Water pumps can be a royal pain in the ass to change depending on make and model and the same holds true for valve cover gaskets.

    I would prioritize the repairs as follows :

    Water pump
    Steam cleaning the engine (which can cause a host of NEW problems on an older vehicle)

    I'm in agreement that a bad valve cover gasket does not cause oil to be sprayed about the engine compartment.

    It sounds to me like the cause for the oil discharge has not been properly diagnosed yet.

    I find the mention of blown bearings interesting. An overtightened belt can cause a quick failure of the bearings in water pumps, alternators, etc.
  7. Violet1966

    Violet1966 Stand and Deliver Staff Member

    Sounds almost like someone might have not tightened up the oil filter properly. I suspect that oil spraying all over the place might cause the oil system to get all messed up and not give oil to the car where needed. This probably can cause problems like gasket issues. If the engine gets hot enough. Then I would also assume that the electrical system can short out some things to the car like that water pump. Water pumps are very sensitive. This would also result in the overheating and the radiator to get so hot that maybe a leak sprung somewhere???

    I don't know...it's not normal to have all that go at once. Something went wrong and the oil is definately a key factor it seems. Oil doesn't just squirt out when a gasket goes. The smoke yeah sure...but squirting oil has to come from someplace significant I would think. Good luck and keep trying to find out what happened.

    All in all...I think that price is pretty cheap to have it repaired. It sounded more expensive to me when you described it all.
  8. Misu

    Misu Hey, I saw that.

    Man Demi, I'm so sorry to hear about this. :( I am afraid to take my car anywhere because regardless of where I take it, they *swear* we need all sorts of work done to it - just recently, Firestone refused to align our car (we bought the lifetime alignment thing for $150 bucks) because they say that something is cracked in the system somewhere, and they cannot align it until that's fixed - they want around 200 bucks for that.

    I'm really pissed about that, because a normal alignment on a Dodge ram costs about 45-55 bucks. We went like idiots and bought the lifetime thing, and now they say they wont align it until we fix something else? Dude, the car is FINE, freaking ALIGN IT. *sigh* I HATE this crap about cars... I wish I knew as much about cars as I do about computers. No one can screw with me when it comes to computers - but they can totally screw me over with cars. I've paid so much in the past, it's not even funny. One place wanted 3k for a new 'computer' for my car - because the airbag lights blink and they won't deply if in an accident. Meanwhile, when I go and call up Nissan myself, the magical computer is only about 300 bucks....
  9. LissaKay

    LissaKay Oh ... Really???

    To answer Ken's question ... it's a 1993 Saturn SL2 1.9L 4Cyl SOHC Fuel Injected with 128K miles.

    The work order from the oil change place:

    • Change Oil
    • Change Oil Filter
    • Check Air Filter
    • Check Wiper Blades
    • Vacuum Floors
    • Wash Exterior Windows
    • Lubricate Chassis - not done-sealed
    • Transmission/Transaxle Fluid Level Checked
    • Power Steering Fluid Level Checked
    • Windshield Washer Fluid - Added
    • Tire Pressure - FR 32, FL 33, RR 32, RL 32
    • PCV Valve - Checked
    • Exterior Lighting - Checked
    • Oil level prior to service - 1QT Low
    • Brake Fluid - OK
    • Coolant Level - OK
    • Antifreeze Quality - OK
    • Fuel Systems Cleaning
    • Belts Checked for Fray/Wear - OK
    • Fuses - Checked
    • Recommend - Air Filter Change - Customer declined
    • Recommend - Oil Change every 3000 miles

    I don't have a written estimate from the dealership yet. My parents went down and paid the diagnosis bill and had it towed to their mechanic yesterday. Mom knows how anal I am about paperwork, so I am sure she got it. But to the best of my recollection, the dealership mechanic said:
    • The primary cause of the breakdown was the water-pump failure.
    • That caused the radiator to crack because the water and anti-freeze were not being circulated properly.
    • The power loss/dead battery I experienced after stopping was caused by the oil on the alternator belt causing it to slip. There could be some damage from the belt slippage.
    • The oil was coming from the valve (cover?) gasket which had eroded very badly.

    He did seem to get pretty flustered when I started asking pointed and intelligent questions, saying this doesn't make sense. There were red-flags everywhere ... just a gut feeling. He kept insisting that I should have seen warning signs of this ... overheating, oil spills. But I haven't. It had a major repair almost three years ago at this same dealership (engine mount broke which caused the alternator belt to be misaligned from the shimmying, which led to its failure. Another joyful adventure that was! At least it happened close to home, but on a rainy/icy night - no headlights or wipers!) Since then, it has run perfectly fine.

    Interesting incident I just remembered: about a year ago, this same dealership opened up in their new location and they were offereing free oil changes to all Saturn owners in Knoxville as part of their grand opening. I took my car in (I'm never one to pass up a freebie) and at the time I was having problems with one of the power windows. They looked at it and said they could fix it for $200. I didn't have the time or alternate transportation to be able to leave it overnight, so I passed on that. A few weeks later, I was picking up my dad at his mechanic's shop and mentioned the window to the owner. He called one of his guys over (I believe it was one of his sons) and he had the door taken apart, the shorted wire identified and repaired in 30 minutes. The charge? $25 ... and only because my father insisted on paying something. They also checked my oil and tire pressure.

    Like Misu, I know computers ... not cars. But I am aware of the bait-and-switch, swindle-the-ignorant tactics the automotive business likes to pull. I'm a bitch of a customer for any business to deal with. Sometimes it pays to be jaded and cynical. My posting tag, "Oh .. really?" is a phrase I utter often.

    Tomorrow or the next day I should know something from the "good ole boy" mechanics that have treated my parents like gold over the years. They may not have the latest computerized diagnostic equipment or a cushy customer lounge in their shop, but they will offer you a cup of really bad coffee and cut you an honest deal.
  10. Coot

    Coot Passed Away January 7, 2010

    All I can again reiterate is that it is highly unlikely that a valve cover gasket will cause oil to spray all over the engine compartment. It will leak, but that should have been noticeable with oil dripping down over the engine block and eventually onto the ground.

    Just be sure to mention to your mechanic, that you suspect the oil problem had something to do with the oil change, and they'll take a look at all the usual suspects.
  11. -Ken

    -Ken Guest


    I look forward to hearing the next estimate.
    My guess is it will be very different.
    We tend to not do business with dealers.

    <small>As said by Demi,</small>
    "Sometimes it pays to be jaded and cynical."</small>

    Only a fool walks through life with both eyes closed.
    You did all the right things. If I/we can be of any help,
    please ask.
  12. Scott

    Scott Some Assembly Required

    two things i can add-----saturns are notorious for head gasket problems, and they are a royal pain in the ass to work on.
  13. mrRT

    mrRT Tech Mod

    I gotta tell ya DG....one of the things in this world that pisses me off to no end is the way that women are taken advantage of in any automotive situation. I mean anything from buying cars to having them repaired. Now I will grant you that it doesn't happen 100% of the time, but damn close to it. And there's no reason it should be that way. I mean don't these dealerships and repair places know that the best form of advertising is from their customer base. Good repairwork/service news travels fast....news about bad work always travels twice as fast.

    Here's another perfect example for ya. My fiancee Sandy is out looking for a new car. Now she is one that always does her homework, too. She shops arounds, checks a couple of different dealers..plays the price game (which is total BS anyway) and gets what she thinks is the best deal. We sit down and talk it through...she shows me all the numbers from the dealers...And it DOES look like a good deal.
    I run down and check out the real price on Kelly Blue Book and find that actual price with her exact options should be about 2,000$ less than what she is going to pay.
    I call the salesman and tell him we need to talk. He is totally evasive and doesn't know when he has time. So I make time and head down there..Go right in and find the Sales Manager..Explain it to him. Comes back 15minutes later and apologises to me for the "Math Error". Boy did I give him an ear full. Math error my ass, that cash was goin in someones pocket. He throws in a couple extras, but I know the whole thing was BS..
    So now Sandy has even a better deal and a new car coming next week...but my point is that it shouldn't have to be that way.

    anyway...bottomline is that finding a good honest dealership/repair shop is about as difficult and rare a find as finding a "real friend".

    Remember...anybody can make a bad cup of coffee...but only good repair shops can make a really really bad 'cup-a-joe' (always look for the powdered creamer..it a good sign) and swear to you its better than gormet.


    hope your back on the road soon.
  14. Violet1966

    Violet1966 Stand and Deliver Staff Member

    Oh yeah they see women coming a mile away. You might as well have sucker written on your head as far as they think.

    I used to love to bring my car in for tires or exhaust repairs when I had my old Mustang. I used to make the guys look like butt heads cause I knew my car and what it needed and what was good for it.

    I'll never forget the time I took the car in for a new muffler. I had my oldest son with me and looked like such a sucker I guess. Being a woman and all. Husband made the appointment for me and I went in and they did the work and I stayed there with the car cause I would never leave that car anywhere without me there too. The guy gave us an estimate and it was just the mufflers that were bad. Well one was but we decided to get them both done. So this guy tries to tell me that the whole exhaust system pipe is shot and it needs to be replaced. Now I just had a new y pipe installed on it not long before that and knew this guy was trying to take advantage of me. He gave me some ridiculous excuse and told me it was old and rotted. I then informed him of the pipe being less then a few months old and told him what the name of the pipe was by saying y pipe and the guy's jaw dropped. I then went on to go under the car and instruct him where to cut the pipe. Well needless to say that the original price of like 112.00 bucks almost turned to 400 dollars for a custom pipe if I had not known my car.

    It's a shame but if you don't know anything about cars, you really should find someone like a friend or someone who is male to go there with you and make sure no one is trying to take you for a ride.
  15. LissaKay

    LissaKay Oh ... Really???

    A much better estimate!

    Once again, the "good ole boys" came through. They took the repair estimate sheet from the dealership and looked at all the items on there. (I still haven't seen it, Dad still has it) They checked everything out and declared only the water pump being in need of replacement/repair, which they have done. The rest of the repairs the dealership wanted to do, they said were "Horseshit."

    They took it for two road tests after replacing the water pump, no sign of any oil or anti-freeze leakage. And the radiator is fine. They say that the water pump being dead was causing the oil and A/F to back up in their respective systems and spill over. They do want it back in the shop after my dad has driven it for a couple of days to make sure everything is still in good working order. They also want to try to track down the reason why the "Service Engine Soon" light is on.

    Oh yeah .. the bill:
    $220 which includes towing it 20 miles from the dealership to their shop. And they said, "Pay whatcha can, when ya can."

    I am already composing a nasty letter to the dealership general manager and service manager.

    Thanks everyone for all the suggestions, ideas and information.

    Life is sucking just a little bit less now.
  16. ShinyTop

    ShinyTop I know what is right or wrong!

    Good to hear, Demi. Don't you wish there was a way to punish vermin like that?
  17. Violet1966

    Violet1966 Stand and Deliver Staff Member

    Great news Demi!!! :happy: :thumbsup:
  18. jamming

    jamming Banned

    Don't forgt to send your letter to whoever they are a dealership for, they get enough of those and I seen them yank their certification, everyone at the dealership maintenence depart has to go back to school. They hate that.
  19. LissaKay

    LissaKay Oh ... Really???

    Oh I very much intend to CC: the Saturn corporate office. I am going to demand the $65+tax diagnostic fee to be refunded, and if they don't pony up with that and a big fat apology for trying to rip me off, the letter will be forwarded to the BBB and the county attorney general with further CC:'s to the local newspaper and a TV news station that has a reporter that covers consumer issues. That service shop screwed up big time trying to gip THIS redheaded bitch from hell!

    On second thought, I'm going ahead and writing to Don Dare - TV 6 - On Your Side Nothing like having the media behind you when you go into battle!
  20. ethics

    ethics Pomp-Dumpster Staff Member

    I would skip that as well, Demi, and go to the news with it. I think you've documented here how well everything was laid out and it's pretty clear who was trying to get over.

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