The Internet Can Be a Useful Tool for Every Level of Mechanic

Dear Car Talk:

My 2007 Honda Ridgeline has 123,000 miles on it. For over a year, I've been trying to get a small oil leak repaired. My trusted local shop did a dye test and replaced the valve cover gaskets and plenum gasket. Still leaks. Then they replaced the oil pan gasket. Still leaks.

They resealed an "unknown bolt" only accessible by removing the passenger side axle. Still leaks.

They finally suggested I go to the Honda dealership to take advantage of their greater expertise. The dealership resealed the same "mystery bolt" for 2.5 times the cost with the same result. Still leaks.

The dealership now says it may be the oil pump ($1,500), which would include another oil pan gasket. My local shop won't quote a price as they don't believe the pump is the cause. I'm at $1,200 in futile repairs, but if I thought the oil pump replacement would be the cure, I'd go for it.

I'm getting tired of cardboard on the garage floor. What do you think? -- Alvah

I think the dealer is right, Alvah. The leak is probably coming from the oil pump. The pump itself may actually be fine. But it's got a bunch of odd-shaped seals that are built into its machined openings, and those seals are what eventually leak. So the solution is to replace the pump.

If you don't know your way around this engine, it's easy to think that the oil pan is what's leaking. The leaky pump will actually let oil run down to the edge of the pan, so it mimics a bad oil pan gasket.

If your local guys had gone online and done some research, they probably would have figured that out and saved you a bunch of money. So I do fault them for not taking advantage of a resource that every mechanic ought to be using these days: the internet.

There's a lot of terrible information out there, too. No doubt. But when faced with a tricky problem, a savvy mechanic can weed through it and often find great clues in postings and YouTube videos from mechanics and even competent do-it-yourselfers.

So, I'd go back to those guys and say: "Hey, look. The dealership says it's the oil pump. How about you credit me for some of the work you already did and give me a break on the oil pump replacement?"

If they're as trusty as you say, they'll take some responsibility for the goose chase and adjust the price. I think they owe you a shot at fixing this correctly.

And by the way, getting to the oil pump requires removing the oil pan again (that's why you'll need another new gasket when they put it all back together), removing the timing belt, the belt tensioner and the water pump, too. So if you're due -- or anywhere close to due -- to replace those other parts, you might as well do them at the same time, since all you'll be paying for is the parts, and not additional labor.

But I think replacing the oil pump will solve both your current problems, Alvah -- the oil leak and what to do with that $1,400 Joe Biden sent you.

Todays Car-o-Scope

What the stars say about your car for 10/25/2021
You will discover the cause of that nagging feeling that you've forgotten something important, and it will cost you $1200.
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