How liable is my mechanic?

Long story short: My car died on the way home tonight. I suspect the engine is seized. (car just died while driving, starter is strong but sounds like its grinding against the flywheel). This happened a week after I had the oil changed at one of the local shops. I left it on the side of the road until tomorrow when I can have it towed.

ASSUMING the engine is in fact seized and it is either due to oil drain plug/oil filter leakage/they didn’t put enough oil in, how liable is the shop for the damage to my vehicle?

I’ve had this car 6 months now and while I’ve checked the oil every couple of months, it has never needed any oil top ups.

You’ve had the car 6 months, was it new when you bought it? If not, how many miles are on it. If you can get at it before it gets towed, check the oil. If there’s still oil then most likely your assumption is wrong (about the oil change people being at fault). If there’s no oil it’s a different case all together. It still might not have anything to do with them. You could have blown a gasket, cracked the head, craked the oil pan etc etc etc etc. But I’d check the oil if possible. You didn’t happen to notice the temp guage when it died did you?

Well, assuming that, I’d expect them to be liable for repairs to restore the car to its prior state (most likely replacement with a used engine).

Now that I’ve answered your question, I’ll tell you that I think you asked the wrong question, and that your assumption illustrates the old saying that when you ASSUME, you make an ASS out of U and ME. What you describe does not indicate a seized engine.

It’s virtually unheard of for an engine to seize without making some significant noise first. You mention no noise.

A starter trying to crank a seized engine makes a single resounding thunk, because the engine cannot rotate at all. It would not sound like anything grinding, or anything moving in any way at all for more than the initial split-second thunk.

There are dozens of possible causes for an engine to die while driving. Are you only thinking of a seized engine because you feel you can blame it on the last people who worked on the car? I find it strange that you talk a lot about oil/lack of oil/oil leakage/etc., but do not state that the oil level in the engine was actually low. Did you even check it? If not, I respectfully suggest that you’ve met the ASS qualification in the saying I mentioned. If you did check it, I’m wondering why you didn’t say so, seeing as it would be a MAJOR piece of information leading to question you posed.

That depends on several factors.
First off is how the consumer protection / auto repair laws are written in your area. Next you are assuming that the engine is seized due to something the shop did wrong. This is not yet a proven. does the engine have oil in it? Does the oil pressure warning light work? As in is it on when you turn the key on, then it goes out when the engine starts? If so did the warning light come on before the engine died?
How about giving us the whole story here.

Really? I had an engine die without warning in an almost new car. The manufacturer’s representative inspected it and said that a defective piston had disintegrated, causing major damage to the engine. It didn’t immediately seize, but it made some really horrible noises so I pulled off the road and stopped.

I’m a little confused - the “Really?” suggests you question my assertion that seizing is preceded by noise, and then you relate that in your case the seizing was indeed preceded by noise. Am I missing something?

Yeah, I would like to buy a vowel here also.

You mention noise.

What are you doubting?

On preview: Rick and GaryT first on a response to a car thread.

Mine was funnier, so I’m posting it anyway. :stuck_out_tongue:

The noise came after the engine self-destructed. I was thinking that it was just luck that it didn’t immediately seize up.

but the point is that the noise came before the engine seized, which is just what I maintained.

Seized means the internal parts are welded or jammed together in some way such that the crankshaft cannot rotate. Once the engine has seized, it can’t make noise, or do anything for that matter. I did not claim that an engine can’t suffer damage without first making noise, nor that one can always count on noise as a warning - sometimes the process happens very quickly. What I was saying is that if you get to the point where the engine has actually seized, there must have been some noise first. The relevance to the OP is that since he didn’t mention noise - which almost anyone would have mentioned had it occurred - serious doubt is cast on his suspicion that the engine seized.

I once destroyed a customer’s car.

The car was an Alfa Romeo 75. I did an oil and filter change. Customer goes away and out of the blue the engine stalls after about 3km of travel. The customer tries to re-start the engine but it cranks with difficulty and doesn’t start.

Turns out the culprit was the oil filter. It was for an Alfa Romeo 75, but with a slightly different engine. Externally both filters were the same, only the original one didn’t have a valve.

As I found out later, some Alfa Romeo models were equipped with a very weak oil pump, so the slightest obstruction in the circulation would lead to oil starvation.

  1. I tried to check the oil, but the car stalled on a hill in the dark during a storm. I couldn’t see anything.

  2. I KNOW it’s possible its something else. I wanted opinions assuming worst case scenario. We’re blizzarded out today, so hopefully tomorrow they can tow it to the shop.

Having killed a number of engines during my time as a race car driver, I learned to diagose what caused most of the failures by the sound the engine made just before it broke.

A tic tic tic TIC TIC TIC Thump clatter clatter thunk. A broken valve.

A thunka thunka thunka WHAM. Broken piston.

A squeee squeee squee SQUEE SQUEE SQUEEEEEE followed by the engine slowly coming to a stop. A spun main bearing.

If there seems to be a sudden increase in power for about 15 seconds then WHAM. Blown head gasket. The wham is generally one cylinder hydrolocking causing the failure of a connecting rod or crankshaft. Did this half a dozen times when I drove a Vega race car.

And my favorite, the sudden WHAM tinkle tinkle tinkle. This is the sudden breakage of a crankshaft or connecting rod and bits and parts of the engine are blown threw the oil pan and bounce off the race track and the bottom of the car.

Well, good news. (maybe). It turns out the timing belt snapped. The shop is phoning Toyota to find out if its an interference engine or not.

Also, apologies to any mechanics I may have offended with my question. I was freaking out and envisioning worst case scenarios. I’m feeling better now.

In my experience, this means I’ve just hit something, and the impact scared me so bad that I’ve wet myself.