VAIL, Colo. — A Vail woman claims a used car dealership failed to tighten the oil drain plug, which caused her vehicle to lock up six months after purchase.
Le Kang and her husband purchased their 2018 BMW X3 from Groove Mazda in January. The vehicle had 43,000 miles on it.
Her husband was driving down Vail Pass on July 4 when the brakes failed. Thankfully, he was able to pull off to safety.
“When the tow truck driver looked at the car, it was just pouring oil out of the car,” said Kang.
The Kangs had the vehicle towed to the BMW of Downtown Denver dealership. Mechanics determined the oil drain plug was missing and there was no oil in the engine, which caused it to lock up. BMW of Downtown Denver suggested the couple replace the engine for just over $20,000.
“They said the biggest possibility should be the technician who did the previous oil change and didn’t torque the oil drain plug back properly,” said Kang. “According to the record on Carfax, the previous oil change was done at Groove Mazda who sold us the car."
According to the Carfax report, Groove Mazda performed an oil and filter change on December 14, 2022 — one month before the Kangs purchased the vehicle. The couple said they had not gotten an oil change since the purchase.
The Kangs reached out Groove Mazda for help, despite being out of warranty, and talked to the service manager.
“She could offer me to replace the engine at employee pricing, which would be $10,000,” said Kang. “It’s still a lot of money, plus it was not my fault. [I] shouldn’t be responsible for this.”
The couple spoke to the general manager and asked for an investigation into the incident. They said the manager declined, so they reached out to Denver7 Investigates for help.
“I just reached out to you, and you reached out to them,” said Kang.
The general manager told Denver7 Investigates the SUV was driven 4,500 since its purchase. According to the general manager, it would not have taken six months for a loose drain plug to fall off. He also said it would be hard to prove his technicians were at fault.
Multiple auto repair shops in the Denver metro area told Denver7 it is possible for a loose drain plug to hold on for six months, depending how tight the plug is. They also said since most vehicles need an oil change every 5,000 miles, the loose plug may not have been noticeable until it was too late.
Groove Mazda's general manager worked out a deal with the Kangs. The dealership appraised the BMW as if it had a functioning engine, and the couple traded it in for a new Mazda CX-5. The couple paid the difference, which was $9,000.
“I was just traumatized by this whole experience, so I wanted to go to a new car directly because it’s safer because I have a family and kids,” said Kang.
The Kangs are still paying more than they wanted to.
“I shouldn’t be responsible for it at all,” said Kang. “But I’m relatively satisfied with what I got right now. I feel like Channel 7 has been super helpful.”
Hotchkiss Auto Repair in Denver said it's best to do your homework before purchasing a used vehicle.
“You have to ask them for maintenance records,” said owner Shiju Thomas. “It would be ideal to get that vehicle to a trusted auto repair shop where you can do a pre-purchase inspection.”
Thomas said you should research the dealership as much as you research the vehicle.
“You have long established car lots that have a lot of credibility, then you have a little bit less concern, especially if it’s a certified pre-owned vehicle. That’s very different from buying from a private seller where you don’t know what their motivation is,” said Thomas.