Dealer not to blame for driveway oil spot

Dear Car Talk:

I purchased a brand-new 2019 RAM 1500 “Classic” with the 5.7 Hemi last year. I recently took it to the dealer for its first oil change. The next morning, I noticed a very fresh oil spot on my driveway. I’d estimate a little over 2 inches in diameter. It was fresh and wet.

I immediately panicked and called the dealer. They wanted me to make an appointment, and I told them, “No, I’m bringing it in right now,” and I did. After keeping it in the shop for about a half-hour, they brought it back and said that there wasn’t any leak and that it was residue from oil that spilled when they removed the old oil filter.

They apologized, but told me that it’s almost impossible to clean all the old oil off in this truck. I have since browsed the internet and it seems that this is a common problem with this model.

However, I think that leaving enough oil behind to result in a spill on my driveway – I live 5 miles away – is unacceptable, and I should tell them next I time I see oil in my driveway after I get it home, they won't be changing my oil again. Am I being unreasonable? – Randy

RAY: Well, let me put it this way, Randy. If you tell them you're never coming back again, I think they might high-five each other.

They are correct. On lots of vehicles, the oil filter is installed at an angle. So when you remove it, some or most of the oil inside that filter inevitably spills out. On lots of vehicles, it’s just impossible to prevent.

And on your truck, a bit of that oil collected in the frame rail right below the filter. The mechanic probably wiped up what he could. But you never get every drop.

If you found a 2-inch-wide spot on your driveway, that probably represents a few drops of oil. It takes very little oil to create a spot that size, especially when the oil is warm and runs easily.

So you can take it somewhere else to the get your oil changed, Randy. But don’t be surprised if you see the same result. Removing an oil filter is a lot like feeding a baby. No matter how careful you are, food ends up everywhere.

My advice would be to accept their explanation and apology. And when you get home after your next oil change, park the truck in the street overnight.

Repair or replace? Persistent leak looks pricey to fix

Dear Car Talk:

I have a 2006 Honda Accord EX-L with a 3.0 L V-6 engine. I bought it used 10 years ago as a Honda Certified Used Car with 46,000 miles on it. For the first seven years, I only drove it once or twice a week, mostly in town, with occasional 120-mile highway trips to the big city. I keep the vehicle very well maintained, and it was a great, problem-free car.

About three years ago, my driving habits changed, and I started driving the car four to five days a week on a 120-mile highway commute to work. At 80,000 miles, a local quick oil change shop told me I had a very bad oil leak coming from the transmission. They showed me the leak, and it was pretty bad. They weren’t exaggerating just to sell me some repair work. They put a tracer dye in the transmission oil to help locate the leak and told me the leak is likely coming from the oil cooler lines.

I took it to the Honda dealer where I bought it, and they said the same thing, so I had them fix it. Three months later, at the same quick-lube shop, they told me my transmission had a bad oil leak. I didn’t believe them, and told them I had that fixed by the Honda dealer.

Sure enough, it was still leaking! They checked for the leak again and now said the gasket between the two halves of the transmission case was leaking, and the transmission would have to come out to change the gasket.

I took it back to the Honda dealer and showed them the receipt for fixing the leaky oil cooler lines and that the leak was still there. They agreed the transmission case gasket was now leaking, and recommended replacing it with a rebuilt transmission at a cost of $5,700.

After giving the service manager a harsh talking to, I took it to a reputable repair shop in my area and they found the same leak and quoted about $2,000 to fix.

I don't want to spend that much money to repair the leak, so I have been driving it for the past two years adding transmission fluid every time I fill it with gas. But this is really getting old. Is there an additive I can put in the oil to stop or slow the leak? Or should I just trade it in? – Mike

RAY: There's no additive that will stop the gasket from leaking, except gasoline, Mike. And you'd need to pour that all over the car and light a match.

So if you want to keep the car, you have two choices. You can either keep adding transmission fluid at every fill-up, or you can fix it.

And if you decide to keep driving it with the leak, consider relocating to an area with lots of dirt roads, where the residents will appreciate your personal “dust reduction” program.

I know you don’t want to spend $2,000, but you should compare that with what another car will cost you.

Ask a mechanic you trust to check out the whole car for you, as if you were considering buying it now. Have him tell you what else is worn out and looks likely to fail soon. If the car is in pretty good shape, other than the transmission gasket, then consider fixing it.

Let’s say you get another two or three years out of the car for $2,000. That’s less than $100 a month, which is almost certainly less than even a used car payment.

Or, if you’re lucky, your mechanic will give you a long list of stuff that’s broken, and make your decision easy. Either way, get the facts first, Mike.

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