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Old 26-03-2005   #1
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oil sensor failure / engine disaster

Hi all,

An appeal for your help here please. I have a Stilo Multi-wagon, TD. It's 18 months old, has full service history etc and has been well maintained.

Yesterday I took it to the dealership for a brakes check, I had heard a funny noise from front left wheel area when I was driving on a high gradient and fog, making full use of brakes. Decided to have it checked out. Dropped car off and was phoned 10 minutes later to be told discs and pads all fine but the brakes needed a clean down, this would cost 45. Fine, i agreed and informed I would return in 2 hours.

I returned as promised and was told my car had seriously broken down. In fact, the engine would need to be replaced entirely. The problem? Apparently the oil tank was twice as full as it should have been, there was oil all over the place, the turbo had broken and the tech driver had been forced to stall in order to stop the engine, which would not turn off with key, all this happened when it was out on a test run.

We have had problems (all reported) with the oil sensor in the car. It regularly reports oil level too high / too low. I have spoken to the dealership about this on several occassions and was told to ignore the oil sensor as it was proving to unreliable in my car model and instead defer to checking the oil via the dipstick only. I have done this for the last 6 months, have topped up oil only twice, tiny amounts each time to ensure the perfect level. I am fairly engine ignorant but I know exactly what I'm doing with regards checking oil - flat surface, engine cooled overnight etc, clean down dipstick - recheck. Add tiny amounts, new diesel cars require very little, if any, top up etc etc.

There is NO way that I have topped up to the extent that the oil level was twice as much as should have been. I am also at a loss as to how they could have ascertained the oil level as being 100% overfull, but I'm not technical... just a user of the vehicle rather than an engine guru.

The car was running beautifully when I dropped it off. No smell, no strange noises, no stalling, no warnings. Other than the oil sensor indicator and noise from front wheel on one occassion, performance has been excellent. The drop off journey was a 20 mile run through dual carriageways, several roundabouts/junctions, a village. If anything was wrong, surely this journey would have indicated that given that it included driving at 65mph, then 30, lots of stopping, lots of gear changing and accelerating.

Sorry about the length of this post, I know it's becoming a volume. Basically, can anyone relate about similar experiences? We are waiting to hear whether the engine replacement will be covered by our 3 yr warranty. I have asked them to do nothing to the car meantime and to retain all fluids and parts that may have been removed from the engine on it's return to the workshop. If they will not cover this under warranty I will have to get an independent in to inspect so we can build a case against the dealership. I sincerely hope it doesn't come to that, I'm at my wits end already....

I was told yesterday that the oil sensor feature is being over-ridden in new sales of the Stilo, as it has proven unreliable and confusing. I have queried that my car should have been recalled when this info came to light, in order that a safety check be done and my oil sensor over-ridden too. Perhaps this would have averted the current crisis?

Advice please....
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Old 26-03-2005   #2
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Re: oil sensor failure / engine disaster

Hi

What a nightmare

Maybe someone at the dealership turned on the engine to move the car, saw the oil sensor showing NO OIL, and decided to top it up themselves?! Obviously they won't admit to this, but could be the reason.

I would without doubt take them all the way to get the engine recovered under 3rd year warranty.

There are a few FIAT tech guys who post on here, so hopefully they will be able to add some comments.

As for the oil-sensor feature being over-ridden, news to me!?
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Old 26-03-2005   #3
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Re: oil sensor failure / engine disaster

Basically, what i'd do! If the car was running fine when you took it in, and it broke while the garage was testing it then its their responsibility to fix it. If they "Claim" the oil was twice as high as it should have been, then ask them to prove this!

Why having too much oil would make the car run on, sounds more like there was an electrical problem that stopped the car shutting off!
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Old 26-03-2005   #4
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Re: oil sensor failure / engine disaster

God I could just cry.....!!!! And am ashamed to admit that I did just that in the dealership yesterday. The feminist movement would no doubt give me a right slapping for that one....!! It has been a heck of a week, no excuses other than that. We don't have tons of spare cash, we paid our car in full when we bought it, and drained our savings totally in doing so. I am having a kind of constant panic attack about this where the nightmare scenario is that it's not going to be covered on warranty and we will be asked to accept the blame for the oil overfill (if indeed it was overfilled). I am also panicking about how this might affect the resale value, we intended to swap in September when the car hits 2 years old. If I trade it in say for a Honda, is this going to look terrible and be an excuse for a salesman to deduct another k off the value?

Is there an icon for panic attacks... !!??
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Old 26-03-2005   #5
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Lightbulb Re: oil sensor failure / engine disaster

To start with...

contact Fiat customer care and explain everything, including the faulty oil sensor and that you were told to check it by the dipstick by a dealer- give names and as many as possible.

Establish the fact that as you have an un-reliable sensor reading you diligently check your oil level as a matter of precaution- as any good and responsible person/driver would.

MAINTAIN THE FACT THAT YOUR CAR IS SERVICED AND MAINTAINED AND THAT THERE WAS ABSOLUTELY NOTHING WRONG WITH THE VEHICLE UPON ARRIVING AT THE DEALERSHIP- APART FROM A BRAKE ISSUE.

Then explain that you took your vehicle to the dealer in question, without any problems whatsoever, to have a brake problem resolved- and in the time it took you to arrive back at the dealer, as you were summoned back they managed to literally damage your car- in their hands, their responsibility.

Independant assessor- if possible use your insurance company and see if they will get an independant assesssor to look at your car- see if what they say happened actually did.

at the end of the day, this is your car that you worked hard for, just for some half wit to go and f*** it up, it must not go unchallenged and you must not let them get away scot free, as a dealer they rely on good feedback as much as any other- and the more people that know they are crap means the more people that wont go there.

I know if my car (stilo Abarth) was trashed by a dealer, i would cry also.

Hope that is some help to you.
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Last edited by Citizen Smith; 26-03-2005 at 22:05.
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Old 26-03-2005   #6
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Re: oil sensor failure / engine disaster

Many thanks to all.

Today I documented all of yesterdays events & the oil sensor history and have emailed and posted them to the dealership & FIAT UK customer care.

More advice would be very welcome if anyone feels they have anything to add or reiterate.
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Old 27-03-2005   #7
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Re: oil sensor failure / engine disaster

Definately stick to the fact it worked when handed over and they have done something whilst in their care to wreck it. You drove it in fine.

Maybe worth emailing Whatcar, sure there site has help addresses. Also has copies of legal letters.

I'd be tempted to find a solicitor and ask advice & how much they charge for sending a strong warning letter of legal action to dealer.
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Old 29-03-2005   #8
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Re: oil sensor failure / engine disaster

I am cetainly sure the dealer has probably F****d it up.

also I would like to comment about the oil sensor, (I assume you are on about the round circles on the dash). I too have an MW JTD 52 plate. I have 2 clear circles, and have checked the dipstick which is 3/4 full. So to me it seems quite accurate and have had no problems with it.
However, I always double chech via dipstick on oil level.
Funny how you talk about oil level and consider Buying a Honda cause the other day I read an article in Whatcar about the accord 2.2 diesel burning a lot of oil. Something like 1liter evry 1000miles.
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Old 29-03-2005   #9
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Re: oil sensor failure / engine disaster

I rang Fiat central just the other day to ask what was covered by the 3rd year warranty and was told that the engine and gearbox are indeed covered, therefore you should be ok!!!!!!

They read out a list of items that were not covered such as tyres, exhaust etc......!!!!
You could always give them a ring they are quite useful (surprisingly), heres the contact:

Fiat Auto (UK) LtdFiat House, 266, Bath Rd, Slough, Berkshire SL1 4HJ Tel: 0800 717000

good luck!!!!
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Old 29-03-2005   #10
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Re: oil sensor failure / engine disaster

Quote Quote:
The problem? Apparently the oil tank was twice as full as it should have been, there was oil all over the place, the turbo had broken and the tech driver had been forced to stall in order to stop the engine, which would not turn off with key, all this happened when it was out on a test run.
Sorry to hear about your misfortune


If water somehow got into your fuel supply, it would explain what happened to the engine. Water totally destroys diesel injectors causing them to inject diesel into the engine at the wrong time, which in turn causes the engine to over-rev and also boost the pressure in the combustion chamber, which could destroy the pistons, valves and the turbo. All of this happens in a mater of seconds.
Switching the ignition off won't help, as a diesel engine does not require a spark to cause combustion, it relies on pressure to ignite the fuel. (sort of)
Without going into too much of a boring lecture on the differences between petrol and diesel engines, or a lecture on how diesel engines function I will rather get to the point...
My point is that it is more likely water that destroyd the engine than oil. Over oiling is damaging, yes, but not to the point that it will cause an engine failure of this magnitude... and also not in such a short period of time.
I am not saying that it is definately water... just giving my opinion...

Let us know how things turn out and what the independant assessors say...
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Old 29-03-2005   #11
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Re: oil sensor failure / engine disaster

very interesting point re the water - my dad said the same thing.

Which gets me thinking - the original thing they did to the car was 'clean down the brakes'. Would this procedure involve water? (I'm imagining it as some kind of pressure cleaning, but perhaps it's more a scraping event?!). Is that a wild shot or is it possible that in doing that, they could somehow have got water into the wrong place...?

I have also had feedback from others with mechanical engineering backgrounds that stalling the car to stop the engine (the car was stationary when stalled, the brakes did not fail) was a really bad, amatear move that would cause damage too. Apparently there are slicker ways of doing it, like cutting off air supply to engine?

Anyway, keep all the advice and feedback coming - I will be using it all in round 2 tomorrow.....
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Old 29-03-2005   #12
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Re: oil sensor failure / engine disaster

PS another suggestion from friend of 'what might have happened' was this...

given my unreliable oil sensor, what if the tech got in the car to test drive after cleaning down the brakes and the oil sensor warning flashed as being too low - STOP ENGINE etc. Perhaps this was taken as gospel, tech jumped out and filled oil without checking dipstick....
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Old 30-03-2005   #13
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Re: oil sensor failure / engine disaster

I don't think cleaning the brakes would have introduced water in the fuel system.
The most common way for water to find it's way into the fuel system is at the local gas station... well, here in South Africa that is the case.
Unfortunately you will have to rely on what the tech says happened, as it seems nobody else was around at the time that the engine failed. An experienced assessor should be able to figure out what happened...
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Old 30-03-2005   #14
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Re: oil sensor failure / engine disaster

Alternatively powerwashing your car badly..... spray high pressure water at an paper air intake and your bound to force water into the inlet.
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Old 30-03-2005   #15
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Re: oil sensor failure / engine disaster

Quote Originally Posted by Heather's Stilo
PS another suggestion from friend of 'what might have happened' was this...

given my unreliable oil sensor, what if the tech got in the car to test drive after cleaning down the brakes and the oil sensor warning flashed as being too low - STOP ENGINE etc. Perhaps this was taken as gospel, tech jumped out and filled oil without checking dipstick....
Oh yes, I never mentioned this earlier
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