Curse of the Cracked Oil Pan

Been sitting here at home for a day and a half now waiting for the shop to fix my cracked oil pan. It shouldn’t be that hard, or expensive.

They need to replace the pan, which costs $80, but the total will be close to $400. Boy do I miss the days when you could do this stuff yourself. Not really. Most of the time I’d screw something up and have to take it to the shop anyway and pay twice as much. But there were a few successes.

In the old days I could just pop the plug, drain the oil, throw it in the woods or bury it in a hole, ratchet out the oil pan bolts, replace the seal, stick the bolts back in and refill it with oil. It didn’t matter which grade. I only remember 30 weight. Back on the road in a couple hours.

My Accord pan wanders all over the place and half the bolts are hiding behind something. Figures. You need a special tool just to change the oil filter unless you’re a contortionist. It’s pinned between the back of the engine and the firewall, down low. There’s no way a normal person can bend his arm that many directions and still put some torque on the slippery thing. About all an average guy can do anymore is fill the oil and fluid containers. Maybe change the plugs. Don’t even think about the timing. You need to have a degree in computer science. Maybe that’s why I’m paying $400 for an oil pan replacement.

How did I get that microcrack in the pan? Hmmm? I’m not driving any different. Don’t remember high-centering on anything. So what’s new? Well, there’s that 16-year-old kid who’s been driving my car at nights. He doesn’t want to take his old Ford pickup because of the gas mileage, though he’s never personally put any gas in it. Don’t let him read this. He gets real defensive. Says he takes great care of my car. OK, I guess, but that $400 really hurts. I’m basically working all week for nothing.

So much has changed. For good or bad, I don’t know.

Had an old Subaru station wagon that I could pull the engine out of in about an hour. It’s was smaller than most motorcycle motors. Disconnect a couple plugs, undo a few bolts and lift it out, all by my scrawny self. Got pretty good at it because the head gasket kept blowing, I’m sure because I’m the one who kept replacing it. You were supposed to torque it in a certain order, but I didn’t have a torque wrench. A few months later there was water blowing out the tailpipe again. I was broke and head gaskets were cheap so I’d just keep changing it.

That same time, in the early 1980s, my wife had a yellow Volkswagen fastback. It was a heavy slug, but she loved it because it was her first car. It crapped out so I took the motor apart piece by piece. I cleaned them up beautifully and carried them up the pull-down stairs in the house we rented over the water in Fragaria. It was haunted up there because some guy got blitzed and drowned in his own vomit. At least that’s what the legend was. But I was OK in the daytime.

I followed this “Idiot” manual and got the engine put back together. But it weighed hundreds of pounds and I couldn’t get it down the little stairs. Got a friend to help and let him be at the bottom. The engine put a big divot in his arm. Not much I could do from up above.

Got the engine back in but couldn’t get it running. It had fuel injection, which I didn’t understand. Had to take it to a mechanic for the final work. But I bet I could’ve replaced the oil pan for 50 bucks.