The Jiffy Lube Nightmare: Wrong Engine Installed in SUV

Jennifer DuMont thought she was getting a simple oil change.

ByABC News
February 20, 2016, 9:54 AM

— -- Jennifer DuMont of Maryland thought she was getting a simple oil change. But when the tech forgot to put new oil in her SUV, the resulting mess was anything but simple.

Read Jennifer’s original letter to the ABC News Fixer below, and see how The Fixer helped get this resolved. Also, check out The Fixer’s tips for the next time you need an oil change.

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Dear ABC News Fixer: I went to a local Jiffy Lube for an oil change for my Hyundai Santa Fe SUV. The tech drained the oil but didn’t put any new oil in, which wrecked the engine.

I brought it back to the shop and they towed it to a mechanic. It took more than two weeks to get my vehicle back, and I didn’t receive any paperwork for the replacement engine.

Right away, I noticed my SUV shuddered, didn't shift easily and revved really high. The replacement engine didn’t accelerate the way my original engine did. So I took it to a Hyundai dealership. They discovered that the replacement engine is a Sonata car engine, not a Santa Fe engine, and it has different parts and accessories than the original engine.

Rebuilding it to its original state will cost about $19,000. I did nothing wrong and should not be out any money.

- Jennifer DuMont, Arnold, Md.

Dear Jennifer: Oh, where to begin? You told the ABC News Fixer you just wanted a quick oil change, but instead you got a months-long headache.

When this first happened last August, you said it was quickly apparent that the tech hadn’t put any new oil in your 2007 Santa Fe’s engine. With the engine failing, you managed to get the shuddering, sputtering vehicle back to the local Jiffy Lube, where they acknowledged the mistake and promised to fix it.

You told The ABC News Fixer that even though you wanted the SUV taken to your own mechanic, the shop had it towed somewhere else -- which apparently is where that Sonata engine was installed.

We traveled to Maryland to see the engine for ourselves, and the Hyundai mechanic showed us how the replacement engine had the wrong accessories for your 2007 Santa Fe.

Next we reached out to Jiffy Lube’s corporate operation, part of Shell Oil Co. It took a few months of back-and-forth and several proposed resolutions, but in the end Jiffy Lube, the local franchisee and you finally reached a solution everyone could live with. The franchisee will pay the dealership to rebuild the engine from scratch and you’ll get a rental car for the duration of the repairs. They also promised to fix a broken fuel sensor that was unrelated to the damaged engine. The dealership will warranty its work for 12 months/12,000 miles.

Jiffy Lube’s corporate spokeswoman Jennifer Friedmann declined to comment specifically on your case other than to say the agreement has “amicably resolved all differences.”

Friedmann added, though, that the company’s 20,000 service center employees are trained using classroom, online and hands-on curriculum and are required to follow a quality inspection program that, among other things, requires two employees to make sure each step of the work is done properly.

The local franchisee offered this comment:

“We strive to provide every single customer with quality maintenance services, and we apologize to Ms. DuMont for her experience. Our goal was to return her vehicle to the condition it was in when she brought it to us -- and we believe we’ve exceeded that goal. To help prevent a situation like this one from recurring, our service center employees have undergone additional comprehensive training on procedures and quality inspections.”

You’re not the first person around the country that we’ve seen with this type of issue – nor is this the only quickie oil change shop that we’ve seen wreck an engine.

Across the Internet, horror stories abound of oil techs who forgot to put new oil in, or did put oil in but forgot the oil plug, or stripped the plug of its threads causing the oil to leak out.

So what’s a consumer to do, short of changing their own oil (which actually is a good money-saving idea)?

Here are a few tips to help avoid oil change problems:

- Become knowledgeable about your car’s engine, so you can converse with the tech. There are lots of online videos that can give you a basic understanding of what’s happening under the hood.

- Before you leave the house, mark your old oil filter with an “X” in permanent marker. You can check later to make sure the shop replaced it with a new filter.

- Don’t be shy about watching the oil tech do the work. Ask them, “Did you remember to refill the oil?” Ask to see the oil plug and the dipstick with new, clean oil on it. If you feel like a pest asking all these questions, feel free to say the ABC News Fixer made you do it.

- Always deal with a trusted shop. Check online reviews about how well they run their business and whether they have complaints. And once you find a good mechanic, stick with that shop and build a relationship.

- The ABC News Fixer

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