If It Ain’t Broke, Don’t Break It

Rumor has it that it is good to change the motor oil in your car from time to time. I used to do this myself in a school parking lot. I no longer have an empty school parking lot or a car that I use synthetic oil in. With a coupon we get in the mail, I can actually have a local shop change my oil for less than I could by oil and filter. It makes the choice pretty easy. My car has never had a history of losing oil and I don’t check it at every gas fill. (I don’t even remember a time when people used to do this.) I especially don’t check it right after it has been changed. Around 10 days after the oil change, I started noticing the smell of exhaust and oil coming into the car whenever I was stopped.

At first, I attributed this to an old truck I was driving behind, but on my way home from work there was no old truck and the smell was getting stronger. And stronger. Enough to where I was almost getting a headache every time I stopped at a light.

The last thing we needed right now was a car repair bill, but the car just kept getting worse, so I called the local dealership service center and made an appointment to bring it in last weekend.

One thing I didn’t do – I didn’t immediately open the hood when I first noticed something was wrong. I waited two days. I’d like to say my line of thinking was along, “I don’t have a garage or an area to do any work” so I put it off. Really, by the time I made it home, I was just happy to be breathing fresh air again (and thinking I just had the oil changed, what could be wrong?)

I probably should have done that a little sooner. Friday evening I opened the hood and got oil on my hands. And there was oil everywhere – on the hood, the radiator, the headers, etc. Looking back I was lucky that the car didn’t catch on fire while I drove it. Being the astute mechanic I am, I gave the engine the once over and didn’t really see anything out of place or loose and hanging that the oil could have come from. I knew I was taking the car in the next day, so I didn’t worry about as much as I might have.

On Saturday morning, Rhiannon suggested checking the oil level to see if it was really low. I was hesitant to add any oil as it seemed it would just be redistributed in a fine layer over the engine compartment, but I checked anyway. As expected, a little low. What could it hurt to top it off? The car hadn’t burned yet.

I looked for the oil cap on the head unit to open it and add some oil. And I didn’t see it. This car engine was very similar to the last two cars I’ve had and I did know what I was looking for and it wasn’t there. Literally.

The previous evening when I looked for anything out of the ordinary, I failed to notice the oil cap was completely gone. The oil wasn’t leaking; it was just splashing out the huge opening as the car ran. I canceled the service appointment and took the car back to the shop that changed the oil. I explained what happened and expected to hear a question of am I sure that is what happened.

Instead, they asked me if I drove a Jeep and seemed disappointed when I said no. Apparently this happens a little more often than they would like. They cleaned everything, replaced the cap and topped off the oil and the car seems none the worse for the wear.

Moral of the story: If it ain’t broke, don’t break it. Especially when I’m a little to slow to figure out the problem right away.