Red-i-Lube is ‘The Smoking Engine’

Melissa writes in a a comedy of car errors, a spiral of compounding auto troubles and escalating costs. A simple oil change ends up as an engine getting replaced and several hundred dollars. Now she wants to know if she should take Red-i-Lube to small claims court. You be the judge, after the jump.

Let me first say I am a fan of your site – I find the postings both informative and interesting.

Your call for anecdotes inspired me to write about a bad experience I had with Redi-Lube – an oil change company based out of Worcester, MA.

In August 2005 I brought my car to them for an oil change. Several weeks later, I broke down on the side of the highway. When inspected by my mechanic I was informed the engine was dry – completely void of oil. I confronted Redi-Lube and they conceded it had been an employee error in replacing the oil filter. They offered to replace my engine with a used engine, however they would not allow me to use my own mechanic. I was fairly happy with the results… Redi-Lube even fixed an exhuast problem I was having with the vehicle free of charge as a “show of good faith.” The owner also gave me a 6 month/6000 mile warranty on the work. I was told that I would receive the warranty in the mail. I never did.

Then a few weeks later the check engine light came on in my vehicle. I brought the vehicle back to Redi-Lube. No one contacted me for a week. I finally called and was told that my catalytic converter was the cause of the check engine light, but that was not covered under warranty. When I talked to my mechanic, he told me that the specific part of the catalytic converter malfunctioning was attached to the replacement engine Redi-Lube had put in, but this would be difficult to prove. At this point I wrote a letter to the owner of Redi-Lube and explained the situation.


The owner insisted that he had taken off the catalytic converter from my old engine and put it on the replacement engine, although he failed to mention it to me at the time. He was nasty on the phone, saying he was hurt by my letter because he had tried to be fair throughout this process. In the end he offered to pay for the parts necessary to fix the problem, but I would have to pay for labor. Considering this was an $800 job and I would only have to pay for $200 I agreed. Now, 7 months later and well beyond the mileage covered by warranty, I find out that the wiring done when they replaced the engine is wrong causing two fans to come on when the engine starts, which drains power from the engine. My mechanic said it could cost up to $400 to find the wiring problem and fix it. Now I wonder if I should take Redi-Lube to small claims court for reimbursement.

Any thoughts? Thanks for the time to rant.


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  1. Paul D says:

    A similar quick-oil-change place (Valvoline?) screw up one of my battery connectors in the process of changing my filter. The problem eventually caused a short which fried the car’s computer and a few other electrical components. Cost me hundreds of dollars. But I couldn’t “prove” that they were the ones who knocked the terminal loose, even though I KNEW they were the last ones under the hood of the car.

    Also had a new clutch quickly lead to a whole transmission replacement ($1500) because the doofuses didn’t tighten the transmission housing to the engine block, and all the lubricant leaked out a couple days later. The whole tranny burned up. My gears were worn down to nubs.

    Again, according to them, I couldn’t PROVE that they were the culprits even though they were the last ones anywhere near that part of the car.

  2. mrscolex says:

    I think you’re going to have a hard time in court on this one, atleast not without a lawyer present and helping you out. I think you did everything right and from what it sounds, Red-i-lube has done everything more or less appropriately as well. (For instance, I understand their decision not to let them have your mechanic install the engine as it could be a liability to them in case your mechanic screwed up).

    Situations with cars like this usually get pretty messy, but I think what triggered me to respond was your final statement about the two fans that come on when they’re not supposed to:

    “I find out that the wiring done when they replaced the engine is wrong causing two fans to come on when the engine starts, which drains power from the engine. My mechanic said it could cost up to $400 to find the wiring problem and fix it.”

    What prompted your final visit to the mechanic?

    I’m not a genius regarding car parts, and perhaps another user here who knows more about what they’re talking about can pipe in– but here are my 2 cents worth. There aren’t that many fans that are installed in a car– ie: Theres a cooling fan and a heating fan, so I assume those are the fans that you’re talking about.

    The cooling fan in particular is controlled by a thermostatic switch or by the engine computer. Lets assume for the sake of argument that the problem with your fan is related to the engine computer (since your mechanic believes this may be related to the installation of the engine and the wires from the engine go into the engine computer.)

    Now in terms of power, the fans don’t run from power from the engine– in a sense they actually run from power from the battery or the alternator. You can confirm this by turning your car in “Accessory” (the same mode where your radio and all of your accessories come on but not the engine). This is typically by design and so when I turn my car on, the fans will typically turn on with the car– but it doesn’t draw power from the engine (i mean, in a zen sort of sense if its running from the alternator, then yes it is, but then its not an accurate statement because all of your car electronics draw power from the alternator that is tied to the engine).

    I guess what I’m trying to say is that what your mechanic is saying doesn’t make a lot of sense to me given my limited understanding of how a car works. The cooling fans are controlled by a series of sensors and if the sensors don’t work then you would find out pretty soon– the temperature guage would go off! Since I assume this hasn’t happened, I think you’re going to have a hard time pinning this on the people who replaced your engine.

    What kind of car do you have?