We had an oil change done at a quick lube type shop. After 36 days and 2500 miles driven, the oil drain plug fell out, resulting in severe engine damage. There was no oil leakage or any sign of trouble up to the point where the plug came out; no oil in the driveway, or parking spot at place of employment.

We have gone through the process of filing a complaint with the oil change shop, and both their owner and insurance company have denied liability, even though they were the last to have touched the oil drain plug.

What could cause the oil plug to just come out, if not for that company's possible negligence or shoddy workmanship? Have we just driven the car too many miles to assign blame to any party?

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    Good question. While they are probably to blame (as being the last to touch), they will never own up to it. The only thing you could do is litigate and that would be more for your pride than anything, because the cost would be more than it would be to repair, by far. There would be no way to prove they are at fault. Just a tough break, IMHO. Commented Dec 30, 2013 at 19:38
  • This is what I'm afraid of Paul. We have already paid for replacing the whole engine (2 diff. shops inspected and said whole engine needs repalced), and I'm just left wondering if it's even worth fighting in small claims court. Probably not, but it's tough to just give up having drained a lot of money from savings. Aside from the legal aspect I'm also just curious if anyone has any other idea why the plug could just fall out. Commented Dec 30, 2013 at 20:18
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    Mine came out 4 days after oil change at dealer. The engine seized, and Toyota took full responsibility, replacing most of engine. They could not have been nicer...
    – user4929
    Commented Apr 24, 2014 at 17:31
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    After 36 days and 2500 miles, it would be nearly impossible to prove it back to the shop. For all you know a neighborhood kid or disgruntled employee got under your at some point when it was outside and loosened the bolt. It would then be free to work its way loose over some time before leaking/falling out. Commented Apr 24, 2014 at 19:56
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    How are the threads looking?
    – tommyo
    Commented Jul 23, 2014 at 22:53

4 Answers 4


The only scenarios that comes to mind is lots of short trips where the oilpan and oil never got really hot. Then 35 days later a long trip gets it really warm and the plug gets loose and falls out. The second is a defective crankcase ventilator along with a damaged plug "O" ring that eventually blows out resulting in a loose drain plug. Both scenarios would be considered longshots at best.

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    Or another long shot: malicious damage?
    – Rory Alsop
    Commented Dec 31, 2013 at 12:21

If you have the receipt showing you paid to have the oil changed as you did, I would take this to small clain court. The oil plug was never tighten to proper torque obviously and came off. You need to prove your case obviously and you may need a witness like the mecanic where your car was towed and he saw the oil plug missing from the oil pan. Also the defendant may want to settle with you after they are notify that they will be sued, since they have insurance for this and want to protect their reputation. They dont want to settle with you now because they are not compell to.


I have to agree with spVivier. The company didn't tighten the plug correctly, or didn't use a proper plug ring / seal (or use one at all). This is, of course, assuming that there isn't a hole in your oil pan!

With a number of short journeys, the oil wouldn't have gotten warm enough to heat the metal plug and make it pop out. Heat expands metal, after all.

Bringing the company to court may not be worth it, but even a letter from your lawyer, stating that you are going to take them to a small claims court, can do wonders for getting their attention and a promptly reply.


Bottom line: 1. The place that did the oil change will never admit they were at fault. 2. You need AAA. Had to have car towed 3 times. 3. You need an attorney 4. You need a real great insurance company

Here is what happened to me: http://lfeisaglitch.blogspot.com/2015/05/oil-change.html

  • This doesn't really add anything else. Answers and comments already agree the most likely cause is that someone removed it, not a garage leaving it loose. But in any case if they did leave it loose it is impossible to prove - your own insurance is only ever going to be the successful route.
    – Rory Alsop
    Commented Jun 6, 2015 at 18:01

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