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Does that dent in Amit

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Dear Tom and Ray:



I have a 2004 Honda Accord, which I recently took to the dealer for the 30,000-mile service. The dealer tells me that my oil-pan underneath the car has a large dent, though there is no oil leaking. He says that I should spend $400 on getting this replaced ASAP, since otherwise my oil pressure could drop to zero. I am not sure how big this problem is, since there is no leak. How urgent is it? Why would a dent affect oil pressure if the pan is intact? Thanks. -- Amit

RAY: Well, there are two ways in which a dented oil pan can affect your oil pressure. The first is if it actually breaks. Then all of your oil will leak out and you'll have no oil to pressurize!

TOM: But you're fortunate to have a steel oil pan on this car. Steel often can survive a dent. As long as there's no actual "crease" in the metal, you're probably OK. In our experience, the oil-pan dents that look like somebody punched them or you ran over a basketball rarely turn into leakers later on.

RAY: But the other potential problem is that the dent itself may be pushing up against, and blocking, the oil pickup tube. The tube that sucks the oil out of the pan and delivers it to the pump sits very close to the bottom of the pan. If the dent were in just the wrong place, it could create a phenomenon called "oil starvation" -- especially at high engine speeds or on hills.

TOM: That might be why the dealer is urging you to replace it. But if you have some reason not to trust this dealership's opinion, you can always have the engine tested. Another mechanic can perform a complete oil-pressure test for you. He can even jack up each end of the car to simulate going up and down hills. He'll hook up a gauge to your car, then run it at various RPMs, and see if the pressure meets specifications for all the engine speeds. If it does, you have nothing to worry about.

RAY: Of course, if the test determines that the oil pressure IS low, you'll be out the cost of the oil-pressure test AND a new oil pan. So speak to your dealer again and ask him, specifically, why he's urging you to replace the pan. What, exactly, is he concerned might happen? That'll give you some more information to go on, Amit.

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