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View Full Version : Have you been advised to replace oil pan gasket?


spingears
05-18-2004, 05:55 PM
My grandson took his late model car to a fast lube service, had the oil changed, paid the charges,

Next he went to a well known tire and service operation for "Free" tire rotation since the tires were purchased there. He was advised that the radiator was in need of flushing and antifreeze replaced (about $150 or so) and that the oil pan gasket needed to be replaced (est. $300). His mom told them to do the anti-freeze but not the gasket.

He crawled under the car and could not find any indication of oil leakage. Also no history of unusual oil consumption.

Question: Is this a scam and is it common practice with some service managers?

The Great Sun Jester
05-18-2004, 06:09 PM
If he ain't got no oil spots where he parks his car then he don't need no stinkin' gasket.

And if he does need a gasket he can probably do it himself if he can handle the modern technological marvel know to you and me as...the ratchet.

Mr. Blue Sky
05-18-2004, 06:16 PM
$300 for a gasket? Is he driving a Ferrari?

$150 sound high for a radiator flush, too.

It's not a scam, just a way to drum up as much business as possible. They figure a good bit of people will say, "What the heck, while you're in there, go ahead."

It's automatic. A few oil changes ago, they offered to change my air filter. The one I'd just replaced a week ago.

I declined.

Gary T
05-18-2004, 06:41 PM
Oil pan gasket replacement can run from 100 or so to the neighborhood of 2000, not because of how much the car cost but because of how much work is involved to get the oil pan off. For the majority of cars, it's in the 200-500 range.

If there is a leak, it can run from minor seepage to pretty significant dripping. It's often a judgment call as to whether repair is needed. My experience is that too many repair facilities (especially the chains) train their personnel to sell rather than training them to have good mechanical judgment. Often it's appropriate to consider how much perfection the customer wants versus how much money he can spend.

150 strikes me as dear for a coolant flush, though if it's a late model car that should have a special type of antifreeze it may not be out of line. However, I can't help but wonder if the flush was called for because of vehicle mileage or coolant acidity, or if it was just something they try to sell everybody regardless of need.

Find a competent, honorable shop and you won't have to worry about being sold unneeded services. Their prices may appear higher than the chain stores' (the McDonalds of auto repair), but you'll likely save money and trouble in the long run.

Myglaren
05-18-2004, 06:45 PM
Sounds exhorbitant.

I was just quoted £125 for a 60,000 mile service for my Accord, includes a new camshaft drivebelt + fitting and god knows what else, surely a gasket replacement can't come anywhere near that?

I just did the radiator flush/new fluid and fitted a new radiator for £90! took 40 mins.

YiBaiYuan
05-18-2004, 08:46 PM
Spingears,

Yes, this is a common practice bordering on scamming. The ‘quickie oil change places' and the ‘push-em-thru tire places' bring customers in by offering low prices on the advertised items, but count on talking you into other services which are far from discount. It's these add-ons which generate the most revenue for them since the advertised items have such a low mark-up in order to draw you in. Hence the hard sell to try to convince you to buy other stuff.

(Also, some of the people that work in these places tend to be sexist and ageist; meaning that they will take advantage of women, teens, and seniors, because these groups are perceived as not knowing what's needed and what's not.)

This is not to say you never need the items they recommend. So it isn't always a scam. They just hope to talk you into it getting it long before you really need it. Here is where a little high-school shop class would come in handy for your grandson. (For you too, for that matter.) It's important to know how often you should change your engine oil, transmission oil, radiator fluid, etc., so that you don't have to trust strangers who are pushing products and services.

You mentioned that your grandson's car was fairly new, so I question the need for a radiator flush already; but maybe it's older than I'm inferring or maybe it hadn't been well cared for. As for the oil pan gasket, that is something you don't change until it's leaking, or until you get the transmission fluid changed (when that's done the gasket will be changed automatically). So in my opinion, that is unnecessary (based on the limited info you've given).

You may use the following as general guidelines, although there are sure to be other people with differing opinions. (These are what those places typically try to push.)
Engine oil change : 3,000 to 5,000 miles. ($20) (Oil places say sooner, auto mfgrs say later.)
Air Filter : Every 5-6 oil changes, or when dirty. (Can be done yourself - easily. $5-$15.)
Engine Belt : Every 2 years. ($20-$50.)(This does wear out, and is a problem if it breaks on the highway.)
Transmission fluid change : Every 2 years. (Watch newspapers for coupons and you may find a $20 special instead of the usual $60; but they will push services you may not need, and will have horror stories to help you decide. Sound familiar?)
Fuel Filter : Only every 3-5 years.
Radiator Flush : Only every 5 years.
Brake Fluid Flush : Only if there's contamination (rare); after 8-10 years. (They will often put their finger in the brake fluid reservoir, wipe some sludge off the bottom, then give you a horror story; don't believe it. If you're really concerned, take the car to a mechanic you trust and get his opinion.)

Disclaimer: I'm not a professional mechanic. I'm the shade-tree variety. But the figures I gave come from an auto manufacturer's maintenance handbook. Take it or leave it.

Stan Doubt
05-18-2004, 10:36 PM
I second Gary T.

Unless the oil pan has suffered some severe dent that may cause it to fail in the near future, there is usually no need to replace an oil pan that is not leaking.

However, I recognize a general pattern of misinformation in the other replies. Unless you have actually replaced oil pans on a variety of different cars and trucks, you really have no place making general statements on how much this repair should cost for the OPs car. As stated correctly by Gary T, depending on the type of vehicle and what components interfere with the oil pan, this can be a very simple or a very complicated job.

On some vehicles the oil pan pops right out, you do some scraping and clean up, seat a new gasket, carefully torque the retaining bolts to spec and walk away.

On other vehicles there may be any number of obstructions (i.e., skid plates, suspension components, engine mounts, propeller shafts, transaxles, etc.) that must be detached, completely removed, or carefully avoided through jacking the vehicle up in the right manner if one expects to even remove the oil pan.

There is something fundamentally wrong with the following statements and/or generalizations:

And if he does need a gasket he can probably do it himself if he can handle the modern technological marvel know to you and me as...the ratchet.

As for the oil pan gasket, that is something you don't change until it's leaking, or until you get the transmission fluid changed (when that's done the gasket will be changed automatically). So in my opinion, that is unnecessary (based on the limited info you've given).

Sounds exhorbitant.I was just quoted £125 for a 60,000 mile service for my Accord, includes a new camshaft drivebelt + fitting and god knows what else, surely a gasket replacement can't come anywhere near that?

Rick
05-19-2004, 02:41 AM
I second Gary T.
On some vehicles the oil pan pops right out, you do some scraping and clean up, seat a new gasket, carefully torque the retaining bolts to spec and walk away.

On other vehicles there may be any number of obstructions (i.e., skid plates, suspension components, engine mounts, propeller shafts, transaxles, etc.) that must be detached, completely removed, or carefully avoided through jacking the vehicle up in the right manner if one expects to even remove the oil pan.

I will third what Gary T said. Working in a driveway on jack stands to replace an oil pan can vary from not fun to more miserable that can be imagined. Also what Inigo Montoya doesn't take into account is that to replace a pan gasket it will require, in addition to the rachet, the owner of the car may need a floor jack, jack stands, ramps, a engine cherry picker to lift the engine, a support beam to hold the engine, and impact wrench to remove the harmonic balancer (required on some engines), pry bars, end wrenches, plus a few odd ball tools I have forgotten to list.
The price to buy all of these tools can very easily exceed the $300 quoted.
Not to mention that have dropplets of oil drip on your face while you clean the gasket surface is not high on most peoples list of fun things to do this weekend. :eek:

Gary T
05-19-2004, 09:10 AM
As for the oil pan gasket, that is something you don't change until it's leaking, or until you get the transmission fluid changed (when that's done the gasket will be changed automatically).
The term "oil pan gasket" is understood to mean the engine oil pan gasket. If the tranny pan gasket is being discussed, it's specifically called the "transmission oil pan gasket" unless that's clearly obvious from the context.


You may use the following as general guidelines, although there are sure to be other people with differing opinions. (These are what those places typically try to push.)
Engine oil change : 3,000 to 5,000 miles. ($20) (Oil places say sooner, auto mfgrs say later.)
Air Filter : Every 5-6 oil changes, or when dirty. (Can be done yourself - easily. $5-$15.)
Engine Belt : Every 2 years. ($20-$50.)(This does wear out, and is a problem if it breaks on the highway.)
Transmission fluid change : Every 2 years. (Watch newspapers for coupons and you may find a $20 special instead of the usual $60; but they will push services you may not need, and will have horror stories to help you decide. Sound familiar?)
Fuel Filter : Only every 3-5 years.
Radiator Flush : Only every 5 years.
Brake Fluid Flush : Only if there's contamination (rare); after 8-10 years. (They will often put their finger in the brake fluid reservoir, wipe some sludge off the bottom, then give you a horror story; don't believe it. If you're really concerned, take the car to a mechanic you trust and get his opinion.)

Disclaimer: I'm not a professional mechanic. I'm the shade-tree variety. But the figures I gave come from an auto manufacturer's maintenance handbook. Take it or leave it.
A serpentine drive belt, installed, for 20-50? In your dreams.
Coolant flush only every 5 years? With extended-life antifreeze, probably. With conventional antifreeze, it will have turned so acidic you'd be lucky if corrosion hadn't perforated the radiator.
Brake fluid contamination isn't rare. Brake fluid is hygroscopic, it absorbs moisture from the air. Moisture in the system then fosters corrosion and shortens the life of brake cylinders, calipers, and valves. With ABS systems, some of the components that could be affected are ungodly expensive to replace.

The maintenance schedule for your particular vehicle is a good place to start.

YiBaiYuan
05-19-2004, 03:01 PM
Gary T,

In regards to the ‘oil pan gasket', you are correct; my mistake, sorry. I misread the OP and understood it to refer to the tranny oil pan gasket; yes, the engine oil pan gasket is a different animal.

As for the serpentine belt, that will vary from car to car; and since the OP didn't specify the model involved, I answered with my experience with my car -- a Buick Roadmaster. I CAN buy a belt for $15 and install it myself in 10 mins with a single socket wrench. But granted, other cars can be more involved.

As for the other items, they are what my maintenance handbook and mechanic recommend. I also acknowledged in my first post that others would have differing opinions. What else do you want?

P.S. I like your horror stories.

Gary T
05-19-2004, 03:40 PM
As for the other items, they are what my maintenance handbook and mechanic recommend. I also acknowledged in my first post that others would have differing opinions. What else do you want?
Yes, I understand. I wasn't trying to attack you, only to give more realistic info for others reading the thread.

The Great Sun Jester
05-19-2004, 05:01 PM
Also what Inigo Montoya doesn't take into account is that to replace a pan gasket it will require, in addition to the rachet, the owner of the car may need a floor jack, jack stands, ramps, a engine cherry picker to lift the engine, a support beam to hold the engine, and impact wrench to remove the harmonic balancer (required on some engines), pry bars, end wrenches, plus a few odd ball tools I have forgotten to list...
In my own defense, my experience has been limited to non-late model cars and so my post appears to have contained ignorance :eek:. Any oil pan I've had the pleasure of examining has had a dozen or so easily accessible bolts and no members 'twixt the pan and the ground. On one occasion I had to remove the 4 bolts holding a skid plate which weighed all of maybe 10 pounds.

And tell me about this torque business. Every time, and I mean every time I playfully put a ratchet to the pan bolts I find at least one so loose that it rattles in its hole and a couple others that are less than finger tight. Being me I just crank 'em all back nice & snug (no grunting, just tight). If torquing is so important here how can things be that loose/uneven and still not leak?

Stan Doubt
05-19-2004, 06:02 PM
And tell me about this torque business. Every time, and I mean every time I playfully put a ratchet to the pan bolts I find at least one so loose that it rattles in its hole and a couple others that are less than finger tight. Being me I just crank 'em all back nice & snug (no grunting, just tight). If torquing is so important here how can things be that loose/uneven and still not leak?

With most automotive gaskets, it is a good idea to check the manufacturer's torque spec and use the specified tightening sequence, if any. Doing so allows the gasket to seat properly. Some applications use a sealant in place of the traditional gasket- in these cases the tightening sequence is crucial.

An oil pan is constructed of thick steel, so it is pretty rigid. That is why it can have a loose bolt or two and still not leak- the neighboring bolts provide enough strength to maintain a good seal. The crankcase is also not subject to extreme pressure. Furthermore, the torque specification guards against over tightening. Compared to a stamped metal valve cover, it's true that you have a much smaller chance of deforming the part by overtightening, but it is still a good habit to maintain. Lastly, I'm sure you can see why a oil pan mating surface on the bottom of your engine block is a bad spot to have to extract a sheared off bolt or do a thread repair, should you tweak something while working under there.

Rick
05-19-2004, 08:53 PM
And tell me about this torque business. Every time, and I mean every time I playfully put a ratchet to the pan bolts I find at least one so loose that it rattles in its hole and a couple others that are less than finger tight. Being me I just crank 'em all back nice & snug (no grunting, just tight). If torquing is so important here how can things be that loose/uneven and still not leak?
Ah, torque, one of my favorite subjects.
In very simple terms a bolt holds items together with the major strength parallel to the axis of the bolt. Bolts do a very poor job of holding against shear loads (perpendicular to the axis of the bolt)
If a bolt is not tight enough when installed, it will work loose from vibration. You have already found this out. A bolt that is too tight may strip, break, destroy the gasket under the piece that is being bolted up, or deform the piece that is being bolted up (many oil pans are often stamped steel, and will deform) These are all considered not good things.
So how do we tell how tight is tight enough? We have no good way to measure the clamping force between two pieces as the bolts are being tightened, but we can make a pretty good approximation by measuring the amount of torque (twisting force) it takes to turn the bolt. The more clamping force (tighter the bolt) the more torque it will take to turn the bolt. Seems pretty simple huh? But wait there are a few things that make the problem somewhat harder.

Automotive torque specifications are always given for a clean hole
Usually the specifications are for a new oiled bolt
Torque wrenches are very inaccurate when taking reading that are less than 20% of full scale.
Starting and stopping during the torquing process will result in inaccurate readings
Many times, car makers will not publish torque specs for the bolt you are trying to tighten (I am convinced that specification books are published by Mr. Murphy Press, Inc.)

What can you do to ensure that you get a good job?
First off make sure that you can screw the bolts in by hand, easily if the bolt sticks going in, the hole needs to have a tap run through it to clean it up. Bolts should also be replaced or cleaned with a wire wheel. WEAR EYE PROTECTION WHEN USING A WIRE WHEEL ON A GRINDER
Secondly, have a torque wrench that is the right size. Your reading needs to be above 20% of the full scale to eliminate error. So if for example the torque on your pan bolts is 10 ft/Lbs, the wrench should read no more that 50ft/Lbs full scale.
Thirdly, always try to make sure that you do don?t run out of room to swing your wrench just before the proper torque is reached. Hard to do without practice, but easier over time. Here is the deal, the surfaces of both the bolt and hole have little tiny jagged ?teeth? on the surfaces. When you are turning the bolt, the ?teeth? skip and slide over each other. But if you stop just before the proper torque is reached, the ?teeth? will lock into each other and it will take more torque to get the bolt turning than it takes to keep it turning. I used to demonstrate this to my students by tightening a bolt with a specification of 140 ft/Lbs to about 125-130 ft/Lbs and stop. It would take between 175-200 ft/Lbs to get the bolt turning again! If you do run out of swing slightly loosen the bolt then tighten again.
Lastly, if there is not a published torque specification for the bolts you are tightening, then use a generic specification based on bolt size
here (http://www.brakeproducts.com/ajax-uj/p29.htm) is a list of generic torque spec for both SAE and metric.
In the case of your pan gasket, the torque spec is designed to slightly crush the gasket. The gasket will tend to push back against the bolt and hold the bolt into place. I suspect that you did not get the bolts tight enough to start with and have been battling loose bolts ever since. The only reson you do not have leaks is either A) you used a sealer on the gasket, or B) you are real lucky.