Last night I wrecked another vehicle. That’s two in a month.
This probably makes me sound more dangerously irresponsible than I am. I wasn’t driving the first car that I wrecked, and it wasn’t a collision that wrecked it. I had just changed the oil in my car before sending Mate out into the world behind the wheel. 40 minutes later she called to tell me she was stranded on the side of the freeway (in the dark). From her description I gathered that the engine had blown up.
I towed it to a local mechanic and dropped it off around midnight. Walking up the driveway, even in the dark, I noticed a long dark streak running right down the middle. In my haste to rescue Mate I hadn’t seen it on the way out. It looked, smelled, and felt like fresh oil. Somehow the car expelled all five quarts of fresh oil in a streak about 150 feet long down the driveway.
First hypothesis – the plug fell out. Perplexing, because I distinctly remember tightening it into place. Furthermore, the leak didn’t start where I changed the oil, but about 100 feet and two hours away.
That said, I have committed bonehead mistakes changing oil before. Once, after going about a decade without changing my own oil I forgot to pull the drain plug and tried to drain the pan through the filter aperture. A mess was made.
I was feeling pretty bad about myself. I had changed the oil and immediately afterward the engine blew up. It seemed pretty obvious that I had committed some terrible (and likely stupid) error of some sort.
The next morning at the mechanic’s shop I was told that they would not work on my car because it was a hybrid. I tried to get a look and feel under the car to determine what had happened. In the process a mangled piece of metal fell out from under the plastic shroud.
Consultation with a shop guy indicated that this was a chunk of the piston connecting rod. Under normal conditions this component would remain inside the engine.
I could see and feel that the oil filter was still in place.
There wasn’t enough clearance to get a look but the plug felt like it was still in place as well.
The shop wasn’t going to fix my car. But I pleaded with them to help me achieve some peace of mind. When something terrible happens, I want to believe that at the very least there is a lesson to learn. I could just conclude that I am incompetent to perform the most basic mechanical task, but it would be nice to refine that conclusion somewhat.
The shop guy felt around under the car and agreed that the filter and plug were still in place. He scratched his head for a little while and tried to come up with an explanation for what had happened. His only recommendation was to take a look at the old filter I had removed. “See if the gasket is in place. It might have gotten stuck and come off when you removed it. When I was training as a mechanic I was taught to always run a rag up there to make sure that there was nothing that could prevent a proper seal.”
When I got home I immediately looked at the old oil filter. Sure enough, no gasket.
Story will continue tomorrow. Here is the daily stone –