Do I really need an oil pan gasket replacement to the tun of $200?

Dear Car Talk

Dear Car Talk | Jun 01, 1998

Dear Tom and Ray:

I have a '94 Honda Accord LX that I recently took in for a 30,000-mile
service (it has almost 60,000 miles). The nice mechanics informed me that I
needed an oil pan gasket which is a real bargain at only $30.
Unfortunately, it costs $165 to install. As a single female, I tend to be a
little skeptical of mechanics. So my question is, what is an oil pan
gasket? Do I really need to pay $200 to replace it? I checked some auto
repair books at the bookstore, but couldn't find anything about it. --

RAY: Generally speaking, Jenifer, a "gasket " is a seal; a larger version
of what your plumber would call a "washer." That's why they're cheap to
buy. They're usually made of some sort of rubber or composite material, and
they usually go in between two metal parts of the engine to keep fluid from
leaking out between those parts.

TOM: But because they usually fit in between two hard-to-reach, important
pieces of the engine, they're usually expensive to install.

RAY: And the oil pan gasket, as you might guess, goes between the oil pan
and the bottom of the engine block, so it has a pretty crucial role to play
in keeping oil in the engine. And since the front exhaust pipe has to be
removed on this car to get the pan off, the job does involve a couple of
hours of labor.

TOM: However, we can't tell from your letter whether or not you actually
need a new oil pan gasket. If it's not leaking much -- if you're not having
to add any oil to the engine between changes -- it may just be that the
bolts are loose. And tightening them up may stop whatever small amount of
oil is oozing out.

RAY: So this is definitely a case in which you'd be advised to get a second
opinion, Jenifer. Since you say you don't trust these mechanics, ask
another mechanic to make sure the bolts are tight and see if he thinks the
gasket needs to be replaced now. But if it does, $200 is about the right

* * *

RAY: Hey, did you hear that our pamphlet, "Ten Ways You May Be Ruining Your
Car Without Even Knowing It," is a million seller!

TOM: That's not what I said, you knucklehead. I said I had a million of
them in the cellar!

RAY:Oh. Well, it still has lots of good information on how to make your car
last forever.

TOM: Order your copy of "Ten Ways You May Be Ruining Your Car Without Even
Knowing It" by sending $3 and a stamped (55 cents), self-addressed, No.10
envelope to Ruin No.1, PO Box 6420, Riverton, NJ 08077-6420.

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