Did some fool leave my oil plug unscrewed?

Dear Car Talk

Dear Car Talk | Apr 01, 1990

Dear Tom and Ray:

Last Wednesday I had the oil changed on my 1988 Hyundai Excel at one of those "ten minute oil change" places. By Saturday, I had driven less than a hundred miles when the oil light came on and stayed on. I pulled into the next gas station and proceeded to add a quart of oil. As fast as I put the oil into the top of the engine, it came out the bottom of the engine. The gas station attendant looked underneath and told me that my oil plug had done a disappearing act. I went back and asked Mr. Ten Minute Oil Changer if it was possible that the oil plug was left loose and the bumps and vibrations shook it looser until it finally fell out. His answer was "impossible, someone must be playing games with you and your car." My response to him was "two things are impossible. One, it's impossible for someone to tamper with the car since it is always garaged and safe from anyone who would be dumb enough to play that type of cruel prank. Two, it's impossible for me to trust you with my car again. Nice doing business with you. Bye." Well, is my theory possible? What's your guess?

RAY: Hey Carl, was Mr. Ten Minute Oil Changer wearing a top hat and spats when you talked to him? Because he was giving you a song and dance.

TOM: The probability that your explanation is correct is about 99.9 %. We've seen it happen before, and we can't imagine why someone would play games with your oil plug. What does he think, that the neighborhood kids ran out of marbles, and borrowed your oil plug for the for the final shot?

RAY: So we have good news and bad news for you, Carl. The bad news is that you've probably fried your engine by driving it after the oil had drained out. Even driving for just a few minutes (to the next gas station, for instance) without any oil can ruin an engine. Even if your's still runs, significant damage has probably been done.

TOM: The good news is it was only a Hyundai Excel, and now you have an unexpected opportunity to trade up.

RAY: We also think you let Mr. Ten Minute Oil Changer off too easily. First of all, he's probably insured for mistakes like this. If he refuses to settle with you, take him to court. Your receipt proves that he had his hands on the oil plug just miles before it disappeared. If you can get the gas station attendant to testify that it was, in fact, missing when you drove in, you should have an open and shut case. Consumers win cases like this all the time.

TOM: This is also an example of another one of the famous Click and Clack Great Unyielding Truths (GUTS): "It's the impatient person who works the longest." It takes time to do things properly. It's more important that a job be done right than done in ten minutes or less. Next time, I'd go to Mr. Half Hour Oil Changer. Not only will you have time to finish the sports pages while you wait, but HE'LL have time to make sure the drain plug is tight before he gives you back your car.

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