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Questions and Answers

Stripped Oil Plug

Q. Hi, I have a 1993 Toyota Tercel, 4-speed manual transmission, 136K miles, carb., no ABS brakes, rack and pinion steering.

I took my car into the Toyota dealer on Friday for a regular oil change. When I went back to pick up the car, the service associate told me the drain plug had been stripped and they could not replace the drain bolt. Therefore, the car had no oil in it and could not be driven. The only remedy was to replace the oil pan. The part was $90.00, the labor was $225.00 (so they said). The service associate told me they could not determine what caused the drain plug to be stripped? It may have been that the technician who worked on it previously may have jammed the bolt into the drain plug or tightened it too much, which would have caused it to be stripped (the previous oil change was not done at a Toyota dealership).

My questions are:
Is what the Toyota service associate told me true? Is it necessary to replace the entire oil pan in these situations? Is there no other remedy? Should the Toyota dealership assume some of the blame since I never had a problem with the oil pan prior to them working on it?

Is it reasonable to demand that the Toyota dealership grant some kind of relief with the pricing since my car was running fine before I brought it to them?

If the Toyota dealership is not responsible, is there any way to show that the shop who changed the oil previously is liable?

I would appreciate a response as soon as possible. I was in the process of getting rid of the car anyway so it kind of stings that I had to pay over $400 just to keep it running when all I wanted was a $17.00 oil change.

Thanks,
Jean

A. Okay Jean, I will answer your questions in order. I just want to comment here about situations like this. Some mechanics think that you have to put about 6 million foot pounds of torque on a drain plug to keep it from leaking. This is not so. The spec is 10 foot pounds, which is about a ¼ to ½ a turn after hand tight.

It is not strictly necessary to replace the whole oil pan, the threads can, sometimes, be repaired and a new drain plug installed. There is also a rubber plug that you can get at any parts store. It comes with a tool that you can install and remove it with. It does not rely on threads so it can be used no matter how bad it is stripped out. Oil pan replacement is a last resort.

The Toyota dealership would not be responsible for this. They discovered the problem, they didn't cause it. It is impossible to strip a bolt when you take it out. Although I would think that the technician working on the car would have made an attempt to repair it before suggesting replacing the pan. Maybe he did, I don't know.

The Dealership would be happy to document the problem for you. With that you can go back to the shop that did the oil change and request compensation from them.

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