June 21, 2008
You Should Listen to the Dealer on This One
Dear Tom and Ray: Please help me. I had my oil changed recently and now have been told by my mechanic that the oil change place stripped the oil plug and I need a new oil pan. I have a Lexus RX 300. The oil change people think they have adequately fixed it by putting a larger plug in. But the Lexus dealer tells me that isn't adequate, and I need a new oil pan because it is a vital part of the car and may leak again, especially with subsequent oil changes. I don't know what to do. Help! - Candace
Ray: I would side with the dealer in this case, Candace.
Ray: There are different kinds of inserts. There are inserts that cut new threads into the pan, there are rubber drain plugs that expand once they are in the hole, and there are self-tapping drain plugs that make their own new, threaded hole in the oil pan.
Tom: Most of those will work. At least for a while.
Ray: But they are all designed to be used on cars like the ones my brother drives - i.e., heaps. They are repairs of last resort, when you own a $300 car and you don't want to invest $600 in an oil pan.
Tom: And unless you have been using your Lexus in a demolition derby on weekends, I am going to guess it isn't in that category yet.
Ray: So, I would have the Lexus dealer replace the oil pan. You don't want to have to worry about your oil leaking out and your engine seizing.
Tom: And it is going to be difficult for you to demand that the oil change place pay for it. Oil pans usually get stripped over time, particularly when mechanics overtighten the plug instead of changing the gasket and being judicious in tightening it.
Ray: Everyone is afraid of undertightening the oil plug, with good reason. So they tend to go too far in the other direction. But unless you have had your oil changed exclusively at this place, you can't lay all the blame on them with any certainty.
Tom: So, you can show them the receipt for the oil pan, show them a letter from the dealer explaining why the initial repair was inadequate and ask them to contribute to the repair in the interest of keeping you as a customer. But when they tell you to get lost, just chalk it up as an age-related repair. And then enjoy your car and forget about it.
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