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Two months ago I had the oil of my 2003 Renault Clio changed at the local Renault dealership. I noticed oil leaking from the pan plug, so went back. The mechanic insisted on wrapping the oil pan plug many, many rounds with white teflon tape. I tried to explain to him that white teflon tape does not fill voids, but rather lubricates the threads, so one wrap is all that should be used. But he insisted, he says that he is a plumber on the side, and this is how to do it.

Now, two months later, I noticed that the motor is very loud. My daughter even asked why is it so loud. I check the dipstick: no oil! I immediately filled the motor with the proper quantity of the proper oil, but I suspect engine damage as there is a large hill that with two 200-meter elevation changes, and the vehicle now has very much difficulty getting up that hill.

Is the dealer responsible for engine damage due to an incorrectly installed oil pan plug? Was the oil plug in fact incorrectly installed if it was so wrapped with teflon?

Vehicle info: The vehicle had about 98,000 KM at the time of the oil change, now 100,700 KM. Until ~85,000 the vehicle had only ever been driven by the woman who bought it new, she was past retirement age at purchase and I doubt that the motor had ever seen 2500 RPM during the 13 years that she owned it, mostly city driving. She wouldn't even put it in gear until the engine was at operating temp! I acquired the vehicle at ~85,000 KM and I'm a bit rougher with it, using it mostly on the highway. 1300 cc motor, automatic transmission.

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    So, did you check the oil level during those 2 months? Weekly? Was it loosing oil constantly during that time or are there signs of any other leaks? – Solar Mike Aug 22 '18 at 18:35
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    I have to agree with Mike here ... you are responsible for checking the oil. The best you might be able to hope for (if there actually is damage) is to talk to the shop manager and tell them what went down, but really, from my vantage point you are fighting an uphill battle. – Pᴀᴜʟsᴛᴇʀ2 Aug 22 '18 at 20:33
  • while ideally one would monitor (and change) one's own oil, there's certainly a case that many people just aren't capable of that, and it's why oil-change places exist in the first place. I would certainly pursue a claim with the mechanic if they, unknowingly to you, added a non-standard "feature" that caused the oil to leak out, particularly if they are working at a dealership. In short, this guy made some moronic assumptions that caused damage to your car, and it should be pretty easy to prove if there's nothing in your factory service manual about adding the teflon tape. – Christopher Hunter Aug 22 '18 at 22:29
  • The mechanic is not at fault, Teflon tapedid not ruin your engine, poor knowledge and the inability to check your oil monthly ruined the engine. It was most likely a seal that lead to your oil pan plug – user38183 Aug 23 '18 at 8:24
  • @ChristopherHunter I agree one should expect owners to check all the fluids levels or have them checked, they are not all capable or expected to change the oil... – Solar Mike Aug 23 '18 at 10:40
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As previously advised here.. you may have a chance of some repair cost assistance, but it will be a struggle I expect.

I certainly would approach the delearship though and explain the situation, and any intentions you have. As you already needed to return the vehicle once after service due to this issue.

This job, assuming it was carried out by a trained technician was not completed to good standard really. A dealership technician should NOT be wrapping something as important as a sump plug in layers of teflon tape, especially if this was due to poor threads on the sump or plug.

You should have been advised of a possible issue here, and at least advised to keep a good check on the oil level. If it were me, you would have been left a note on the service sheet that informing you that excessive thread wear on the sump/plug threads was noticed whilst carrying out the procedure, with a suitable 'permenant' repair recommended.

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You can always take the dealership to small claims court and let the judge decide.

  • And as soon as the Judge asks "How often did you check the oil" and "What does it say in the owner's manual" then poof - no case... – Solar Mike Aug 23 '18 at 10:38
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    Show the judge that teflon wrapped drain plug and I think he's got a good case. If I were the judge, I'd split the repair cost 50-50 between the owner and the mechanic. – Carguy Aug 23 '18 at 16:11
  • Not when the owner knew about the repair and effectively accepted it by driving away and also given the amount of time. If it had happened the next day then I would agree with you, but not after that amount of time. – Solar Mike Aug 23 '18 at 16:14
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    I just can't get past the fact that the mechanic made a bad mistake. There is just no way he should have wrapped the plug in teflon -- the threads should have been tapped. Why should the owner have to "effectively" accept a mistake. That's not justice. The mechanic owes him money. – Carguy Aug 23 '18 at 17:00
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    The fact that this was done by a dealership means the repair has to be held to a higher standard. If this was a shadetree mechanic's move, the dealership is ultimately responsible as the mechanic is an agent by direct authority. However, are we certain the teflon didn't work? I also am a "plumber" of sorts and have solved purified water leaks on expensive instruments with many wraps of teflon tape. I suppose I would have been checking quite often if the repair was successful, however. It may be moot, as this is clearly not a US vehicle and "small claims" may not be an option for the OP – SteveRacer Aug 24 '18 at 23:00
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The mechanic did something with your full knowledge. Not only were you aware of this but you'd actually disputed the method of repair used. Two months later after over 2,500km you find that your oil has disappeared.

Irrespective of whether the oil leaked out past the teflon tape or not, I think you'd struggle to prove to a court that the fault lay solely with the mechanic and that you did not have any responsibility to regularly check that the oil was not escaping from a 15 year old vehicle which by your own admission above likely has washed bores and blocked breather filters (85,000km not exceeding 2500rpm and allowing an engine to come up to operating temperature at idle could equally be your cause for the loss of oil and without an engineers report you'll struggle under cross examination).

One final point on detail, you declare that the car is a 1300cc Clio. In 2003 there was only a 1.2 and a 1.4 petrol model plus a 1.5 diesel Clio. This is the kind of detail that, if you include it in court papers, may get your case thrown out on a technicality.

With regards to the repair costs, I'd anticipate sourcing a second hand engine or even buying another complete 2003 Clio would cost less than the price of a meal for two in a reasonable restaurant and that would be, assuming you feel affectionately towards the car, the route I'd go down to repair it.

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    Ok, the mechanic is not solely responsible for the oil level, but he sure is responsible for that teflon tape. Teflon tape is an irresponsible repair and the mechanic should be made to pay for it! The amount should be half the cost of a new engine, in my opinion. – Carguy Aug 23 '18 at 17:04
  • Half the cost of a new engine for a 2003 Clio auto will easily write the car off. – Steve Matthews Aug 23 '18 at 17:17
  • Thanks. Sometimes one needs to hear the hard truth. By the way, the previous onwn only ever drove it at operating temp. She would sit in the car until the motor warmed up. – dotancohen Aug 26 '18 at 6:39
  • There is no doubt some debate about this but the latest advice I’ve heard is that the car ought to be driven off as soon as it’s started. When the oil is cold it’s not protecting the engine and the driving the car warms (gently) warms the oil far quicker than having the engine stood at idle. Sorry my response wasn’t more rosy but I’d hate for you to end up in court and find out that your case wasn’t as watertight as you may be lead to believe. – Steve Matthews Aug 26 '18 at 7:45

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