An oil change seems like a pretty simple procedure, at least as far as automotive maintenance is concerned. And yet, one Consumerist reader now faces nearly $3,000 in repairs to her SUV because someone at Walmart mucked up the all-important “refilling” part of the oil change.
On July 27, Liz picked up her car from the Walmart service bay where she’d dropped it off 90 minutes earlier to have the oil changed.
“Immediately upon turning on my car and putting it in gear, I noticed a faint thumping noise,” she tells Consumerist. “I drove 50 yards on my way to exit the store before I turned the vehicle around because the thumping noise was getting louder and at that point the oil indicator light had come on.”
She never left the Walmart lot and figures she only had the engine on for around 30 seconds by the time she got back to the service center.
Liz told a Walmart auto tech what was going on and he checked the dipstick — twice.
“There is no oil,” he told Liz and then began pouring oil in where it should have gone.
Meanwhile, a second employee got under the SUV to check for a leak.
When it was confirmed that there was no leak, Liz asked the first tech if he was the person who had done the oil change. He admitted he was and then gave her the explanation for why her engine had no oil in it — “I put the oil into the transmission.”
Liz told the tech to immediately stop putting oil in her car. Judged by his behavior thus far, he could have been filling up her wiper fluids with Pennzoil.
She went inside and demanded to speak to a manager, who then offered to tow her Ford to his repair shop to have the transmission flushed.
“I refused, and demanded that it be towed to the nearest Ford dealership,” says Liz. “I asked him for a rental, and he said that I would have to rent a car on my own and that ‘maybe’ his claims administrator would decide to reimburse me.”
The manager also promised her that Walmart’s claims management folks would call her later that day, or the next morning at the latest.
Liz and her husband got the SUV towed to the Ford dealership, where they were finally able to rent a car — and where the service manager had some bad news for them.
“He called me and told me that my engine was ‘worst case scenario,’ as it had been run without any oil in it and that there were metal flakes in the engine,” writes Liz. “He does not know what damage is done to the transmission and will not know until there is a working engine in the vehicle.”
But the dealership did provide an estimate for repairs, totaling $2,935.02.
The Walmart claims people did not call until three days after the incident.
“At that time, the claims examiner told me that ‘he would do nothing for me until someone from the Walmart store verified my story,’” she writes.
Of course, he promised he’d call the next day. But that call didn’t come for four days — and even then, the claims rep refused to discuss getting Liz a rental car.
That was last Friday. Since then, the claims rep has not responded to Liz’s phone calls or e-mails.
“I do not have transportation and my son starts kindergarten in two days,” she tells Consumerist. “My vehicle sits in the shop at the Ford dealership, with Walmart yet to acknowledge their responsibility for this situation.”
We wrote to two Walmart reps trying to get someone to listen to Liz’s issue and haven’t even received an “our claims company is handling this case” e-mail in reply. We’re still hoping someone will respond, as we’ve seen the documentation where the Walmart service center admits in writing that, at the very least, it put 5.5 quarts of oil in her transmission (and not her engine, where it belongs).
If anyone out there has any advice gleaned from either a similar experience — or even from having worked at Walmart, please share in the comments.