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They Did Not Tighten the Radiator Cap During an Oil Change

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Sep 26, 2010, 1:42 PM

Post #1 of 13 (2232 views)
They Did Not Tighten the Radiator Cap During an Oil Change Sign In


I found this site while trying to find an answer online. I hope to find it here. I have a small Chevy 89 Blazer 2 door 2wd that was my dad's (100,000 miles) in excellent condition. It does have the larger engine.

Please help me with your opinions on what has happened described as follows:

I had an oil change, and while driving home up the pass the car overheated less than 9 miles from the shop. The car has never overheated before. I opened the hood and antifreeze was sputtering out from under the radiator cap. I called the shop, they would not come get me and told me to tow it in. Since I was closer to another shop, I drove there. It took me four hours to go 5 miles since I could only drive less than a mile before would overheat again and I'd have to let it cool down. They replaced the thermostat, radiator cap, and coolant $130. Then they replaced the radiator hose since they did not move it back to where it was supposed to be and it hit the fan when I drove off.

I drove it home and it overheated after about 30 miles. Called the guys that replaced the thermostat and they said maybe it was a bubble. Drove it and it overheated again. They looked at it over a couple of days and said my engine was ruined because of the over heating and had to be replaced.

I took it elsewhere for a second opinion and they replaced the radiator and now after about 60 to 70 miles it seems fine.

I know the first repair of the thermostat, coolant and radiator cap was directly caused from the radiator cap not being tightened by the guy that changed the oil and checked fluids. They even wrote this in on the ticket and suggested he pay for the repair. But what about the replacing of the radiator? Would that have been caused by the radiator cap not being tightened and the engine overheating? The guy said it may have had loose particulars of junk in there clogging it up.

I really need some help here please. I had dropped $1,400 with the place that changed the oil just the week before on my regular truck and have given them a lot of business for them to have just blown me off when I only drove it less than 9 miles from their shop. I plan to send a letter to the BBB about this but do not know if the radiator replacement should be mentioned because I do not know if this could have caused the radiator to be replace.

Thanks so much! All advice appreciated.

Hammer Time
Ultimate Carjunky / Moderator

Sep 26, 2010, 2:59 PM

Post #2 of 13 (2226 views)
Re: They Did Not Tighten the Radiator Cap During an Oil Change [In reply to] Sign In

I called the shop, they would not come get me and told me to tow it in. Since I was closer to another shop, I drove there.

After that statement you'll be hard pressed to blame anyone but yourself here. You were advised to tow it and then you drove it anyway. Any damage to that engine is on you now.


We offer help in answering questions, clarifying things or giving advice but we are not a substitute for an on-site inspection by a professional.

Tom Greenleaf
Ultimate Carjunky / Moderator

Sep 26, 2010, 3:57 PM

Post #3 of 13 (2220 views)
Re: They Did Not Tighten the Radiator Cap During an Oil Change [In reply to] Sign In

Agreed - you had your offer to tend to a mistake. Going somewhere else just messed that all up.

IMO - that engine and radiator wouldn't overheat with the cap just off completely but make a mess unless heavy load, high altitude or extremely hot weather. The radiator was in trouble alone or in need of flushing no doubt before a mistake.

Second shop messed up a stupid radiator hose. It wasn't meant to be your day. Near all are aftermarket and many need be cut for the application and checked for fit if you've ever worked on them at all.

Stinks but rad cap one one top end tank as this has would have allowed spillage and boiling point reduction due to not allowing pressure to build up. In 9 miles it shouldn't have overheated if all was well otherwise.

If this is the 4.3 engine (was the larger for S-10 if that) it's tough and short of wild overheating probably would NOT be a total loss if tended to.

That was one bad luck day and should have been towed back at the first suggestion you had,


(edit - "would NOT be a total loss - left out word "not" - sorry)
Long retired now

(This post was edited by Tom Greenleaf on Sep 26, 2010, 6:18 PM)

Veteran / Moderator

Sep 26, 2010, 5:36 PM

Post #4 of 13 (2211 views)
Re: They Did Not Tighten the Radiator Cap During an Oil Change [In reply to] Sign In

Wow, that was a bit of bad luck that really sux

As far as the 1st shop, leaving the cap off, they would pretty much be responsible for the repairs. They were minimal repairs with the T stat more than like being installed as a precautionary step.

The radiator getting plugged would not be a direct result of a cap being left off. I do believe that you weren't having any cooling problems to this point but more than likely this was something that had been building up, was close to the point of failure and this episode just sped things up a bit....Basically something that was going to happen anyway.

I'll just offer a couple of bit of advise if you happen to run into this situation again.

1st the original repairs. When a shop has a problem like this you have to give them a honest shot at fixing it themselves before going some place else to get it repaired. Being you were only a few miles away and they told you to tow it them. They were expecting to take care of this problem themselves and it would've been way less expensive for them.
With you going to another shop you will be expecting them to pay the other shops bill in full. This is something they could've of done for a fraction of the cost. It would have been a lot better for you to have talked with the 1st shop and got the ok to do this before making the decision on your own to do this. Now there is provisions depending on what happened where you could go somewhere else without giving them a chance but being mad or not wanting to wait aren't some of them.
Now if you're hundreds of miles away, this would be different, now the ball would be in their court if they wanted to foot the towing cost of find a local shop to take care of their warranty work...

The overheating problem you had and time you spent driving it. You really took a big gamble with your engine. You could of done some serious damage to it. The best thing would of been to have it towed & let the 1st shop foot the bill. There is a mistaken idea that when a shop works on a vehicle and there is a problem you can just drive until it blows up and the shop is on the hook for the complete bill. This is not true. There is a term called mitigating your damages. What that means is you have legal obligation to keep your losses to a minimum.

We had a similar situation at our shop. We installed a t stat, it stuck the car started overheating and the customer continued to drive it 9 more miles and blew the engine. In an effort to avoid court our SM offered a long block at cost with minimal labor. (the stat sticking was not our fault, this was just customer service) The customer declined & sued us for the full bill and lost getting nothing. The judge did ask the customer "Why would you continue to drive your car when it was overheating?" all he could say was "we were in the middle of nowhere and scared for our lives". This was a few miles out of town and in this area there is no "middle of nowhere"

Just be aware, if you are having a problem while I'm sure it's a PITA and big waste of time and frustrating, you can't just keeping going thinking "whatever happens these guys are gonna have to pay for" because it's just not the case.


(This post was edited by Sidom on Sep 26, 2010, 5:39 PM)

Tom Greenleaf
Ultimate Carjunky / Moderator

Sep 26, 2010, 6:24 PM

Post #5 of 13 (2202 views)
Re: They Did Not Tighten the Radiator Cap During an Oil Change [In reply to] Sign In

Right as usual Sidom. I went back and edited ONE word in my post that confused that thought back a couple,

Long retired now


Sep 26, 2010, 7:14 PM

Post #6 of 13 (2195 views)
Re: They Did Not Tighten the Radiator Cap During an Oil Change [In reply to] Sign In

I always state before I reply I am no mechanic so.... As I read your post it seems you started at one shop and got mad because you were overheating and they told you to tow it in?? Then you took it to another shop and they charged you a fee for the work they did and you seemed to get mad about their fee and the fact the hose got hit by the fan?? So you then went to a 3rd shop and let them replace the radiator?? My question to you is why so many different shops you should never get mad at a shop if they ask you to tow it in.. Not many places that run a buisness has time to stop what they are doing and send a road side mechanic out unless they offer a service that you will or have paid for...

As far as driving after it started overheating never do that you really are asking for bigger problems which means more dough to kick out of your pocket.. You can write the BBB but it will be a waste of time I am sure the first shop would of stood by their mistake and made you happy even if they did see cause to replace the radiator.. In this economy not many buisnesses want to lose customers or a returning customer... As stated above bad luck on your end and I know the feeling it has happened to me for the last year.. Be glad you found this site these guys know their stuff and will answer any question you post....

Next time do as the shop ask even if you are crunched for time because as you see now you have spent way to much time driving around to different shops and driving to see if it will run hot or not.. Which equals more money being spent on gas...

If you cant fix it then dont mess with it...

New User

Sep 26, 2010, 9:40 PM

Post #7 of 13 (2182 views)
Re: They Did Not Tighten the Radiator Cap During an Oil Change [In reply to] Sign In

Thanks Sidom, you explained that very well, you know your stuff. The second shop had told me to get the place that did the oil change to pay for the repairs since they quote "caused this to happen" and then when it kept overheating, they told me I needed a new engine because they did this. They even wrote all this on the tickets saying this was all caused by overheating. That's when I cried and drove it to my regular mechanic's place the next week and he replaced the radiator. He was in the middle of something when I picked it up so did not get to ask him about all this. I've driven it about 70 miles now and seems to be fine, hope it is. Do want to clarify a few things in regards to replies here. I was at high altitude, it was hot, and I was driving a mountain pass when it overheated. I called and they told me to drive it back down and I did not want to drive it down the pass with not running right (i.e. overheating). They then said get it towed in and they will look at it; they basically had the attitude of tough luck and this could be nothing they did. I was wondering about the trash they had left in the engine I had seen when I opened it up to let the steam out, combine that with their attitude and I was wondering if they were capable people. Sure I was upset, towing, a cab ride home, then cab ride back down into town, etc. gets expensive for just an oil change and they never said they'd foot the bill. I had just gone in for an oil change (my regular mechanic does not like to do oil changes so I get them done elsewhere). Since it was Saturday and I needed the car, I drove it to the nearest place. I do not know a thing about towing cars but expect it is not good for them to be towed and once you say 'up the pass' everyone's price for anything doubles. I understand mistakes but these people were basically of the attitude tough luck which was a main reason I went elsewhere. Since one of them even said he lived where I was broken down, he could have stopped and just looked at it or at least told me to put water in it. Someone finally stopped and did that and I at least got it to the closest place. Took forever for it to cool down though. Thanks again. I have decided I have to get a book from the library that explains some basics about cars. I am not going to get caught like this again. Not done by everyone but I hate to say it but people do skimp on car repairs for woman very often and take advantage. Trust me, have been there done that a lot and could tell you stories. I needed some advice and I thank you all. Charis.

Veteran / Moderator

Sep 26, 2010, 11:29 PM

Post #8 of 13 (2171 views)
Re: They Did Not Tighten the Radiator Cap During an Oil Change [In reply to] Sign In

Man this day sounds like a bad dream.

The attitude does sound surprising....There are a few ways to gauge a shop and one way is by how they handle their problems.... I don't care what shop it is, everyone has problems or misdiagnose's (is that word?). How they handle them really tells a lot about them. I'm really surprised they would tell you to drive an overheating vehicle, that would actually put them back on the hook for any damages that would result from that.

While they didn't mention taking care of the bill, if this was a problem they caused they need to take care of it, no question. A cap being left off it pretty clear cut. If it wasn't related to anything they did they obviously they shouldn't have to pay a tow bill. I understand that sometimes you can be in a spot where the tow sounds expensive, even across town sounds expensive to me but if you compare it to the cost of an engine or tranny and being with out a vehicle for a week or 2 or even longer then it might not sound so bad.

Just from what you've posted you should probably cross the 1st shop off the list. It sounds like you got a good tech for all the major stuff. You just need to kick him in the backside and have him start doing maintenance items as well, then your problem will be solved. You can explain to him the customers that take care of regular maintenance items, on time, are some of the best customers to have. While it can be a PITA to do, there is ok money in it and these are people who FIX THEIR CARS when there is a problem, not the ones who drive it into the ground & only fix the bare minimum to get it on the road again doing zero maintenance in the process...........Sly

I'd be lying if I said there aren't bad techs and shops out there, it's just an unfortunate fact of life, just like the rest of the world but there is way more good ones than bad ones as whole.
As far as being a woman, some women customers I know are better informed and understand what you are explaining better than some male customers.
I don't even look at names when I'm working on a car, there is no need to know a name, now engine size, vin #, emission label, etc... that I need to know

But by all means it would be a great idea to take some basic automotive classes, if nothing else just to get a better understanding of what's going on and in the process, there might some things you can do for yourself.
Also with the internet, there are some very good resources out there...... Just like anything, there are good and bad sites. You just have to check around, see if what they say makes sense and stick with the ones that you feel comfortable with.... This site in particular has some real good techs & shop owners and even some regular posters with some good knowledge, they may be as old as the hills & ugly as mud fence but at the end of the day they do know their stuff and give out pretty good advise...


(This post was edited by Sidom on Sep 26, 2010, 11:33 PM)

New User

Sep 27, 2010, 8:50 PM

Post #9 of 13 (2131 views)
Re: They Did Not Tighten the Radiator Cap During an Oil Change [In reply to] Sign In


Thanks again. Bad dream? Yes, and I've had a few of them you would not believe, sometimes I really wonder about people (or how naive I can be). There are reasons people question those doing repairs, forgive them, and know it's because of past experiences they are cautious. But that's not what this forum is about and you have helped someone in need, thanks! It did help a lot that you explained the radiator repair was not related and now that I've driven it some and it's not overheating, I don't believe I need a new engine as the one place stated. Do not believe I'll go back there either.

I have put my mind to it, I am going to learn more about cars, at least the basics so that something so simple does not total my beloved Blazer! It has great sentimental value to me! I do maintain it, at least everything I know to do. Oil changes every 3.000 miles regardless, hand wax it once a year, and don't care what my mechanic charges because I know he does things well. He is not cheap. I wish he'd teach me some basics though.


Veteran / Moderator

Sep 27, 2010, 11:20 PM

Post #10 of 13 (2121 views)
Re: They Did Not Tighten the Radiator Cap During an Oil Change [In reply to] Sign In

Yea it sounds like your engine is ok. It was probably just an air pocket that hadn't work itself out yet. If there was an engine problem you would've had a overheating, drivability or coolant loss problem by now....

Check out any classes you can. Asking questions is good thing, you want to understand what's being done.

That's probably the leading cause of customers thinking shops are doing something shady. There was a miscommunication about what was being done and the customer didn't fully understand what they were approving and was left to "figure it out for themselves". This usually never goes to well for the shop, especially if a "self-anointed expert" who doesn't really understand the system either is brought into the mix....(man don't even get me started on tow truck drivers.............lmao)

Hopefully you'll have some better luck here on out....


New User

Sep 28, 2010, 10:02 PM

Post #11 of 13 (2084 views)
Re: They Did Not Tighten the Radiator Cap During an Oil Change [In reply to] Sign In

For me, the leading cause for thinking someone is doing something shady is from past experience. That's why I pay my mechanic pretty much whatever he says. He's always been right on the nose with diagnostics and what's really unusual, is every repair for the past 15 years has never failed. I mean that's unreal, most people make mistakes sometimes or a part is bad, etc. I tip him banana bread now.

The things I've seen in the past make me pretty untrusting of mechanics. Example: once I brought a car in for a new alternator. They started taking the battery out and I asked them why, they said their procedure is to just check that first. Humm OK... Well, they said yes, you need a new alternator. So they put one in, and I was in the garage and the guy pointed it out to me under the hood (you see, I am interested!). I looked at it and humm, I asked is it supposed to have that hole in the side with all the wires showing? He said he had put in a rebuild and he had not seen that. So OK, they get a another one and put that in. I was waking back to the garage to see if it was ready and they said yes. A kid that was a helper was putting the battery back in at that point too. Would have thought they'd have done that sooner. They started the car and the battery was hooked up wrong and smoke was everywhere. So they gave me a ride home and told me to call after noon the next day. I called and asked if my car was ready, new guy said yes, but you know you have an electrical problem? I mentioned the battery issue and the guy did not believe me. Finally he called the guy that had been there when it happened.
Or maybe the tire guy, tires are a big issue. I have learned things the hard way. I was driving to Texas and needed new tires; I knew nothing about tires. Went in and pretty much told the guy just wanted nothing real expensive. He put some on, I drove to Texas and back. Winter was upon us so real quick I had my studded tires put on. Next spring, I went to have my new tires put back on (less than 3,000 miles on them). I happened to go back to where I bought them. They would not put them on. Why? Because it was unsafe, they were too small for the car. Refund? Nope. I learned what a tire size was.

I could go on, but you get the drift. My dad was an aircraft mechanic and kept our cars up. Great guy, just wish he had taught me some things about engines. He did not do that, not even how to change a tire. I have no idea why, but once he gave me his old battery charger. Probably one of the best used gifts I ever got! Oh, the Blazer was his!

I think car manuals list what needs to be done at say 30,000 miles, 50,000 miles, etc. That gets a little overwhelming when someone doesn't know as much about maintenance. If someone made a list like oil changes every 3,000; air filter every year; rotate and balance every 3,000; plug wires etc. It would make it so much easier to understand and track! If a shop drew up a tracking sheet to give to customers to track their mileage or dates on they'd love you for that and would not neglect maintenance as much. I have designed forms for a living, I am going to design one of these for me! It would help me learn too.

Take care and thanks again!

Hammer Time
Ultimate Carjunky / Moderator

Sep 29, 2010, 6:04 AM

Post #12 of 13 (2070 views)
Re: They Did Not Tighten the Radiator Cap During an Oil Change [In reply to] Sign In

Every owners manual has a maintenance schedule inside of it. There's one available for every car.
There are thieves and deceptive people in every line of business out there. I get 2 or 3 calls a day from people trying to scam me into buying something so don't lump auto repair shops together as bad. They are individuals like every other trade and no different from the dentist that tells you that you need $10K in work or the electrician that tells you all the wiring in your house needs to be replaced. Look at the individual, not the trade.


We offer help in answering questions, clarifying things or giving advice but we are not a substitute for an on-site inspection by a professional.


Sep 29, 2010, 9:55 AM

Post #13 of 13 (2061 views)
Re: They Did Not Tighten the Radiator Cap During an Oil Change [In reply to] Sign In

I agree Hammer.. Me being a buisness owner first thing I always do with a potential customer is give a list of references to them.. That way they can see what kind of person and quality of work I do... Plus I always stand behind my work for 1 year.. Best advice I could give you is next time stick with the one you tip bananna bread to thats who you seem to trust.....

If you cant fix it then dont mess with it...

They Did Not Tighten the Radiator Cap During an Oil Change

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