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Hardened oil on dipstick

I am looking at a 1999 dodge van and when I check the oil it seems clean, not sludgy or grainy or anything but the end of the stick has old hardened oil on about 1/4 inch. Should I run away or could it just be built up from years of use or sitting for a long time (the van sat for 2 years).

Also, when you jiggle the steering wheel back and forth I hear a knocking noise. Doesn’t happen when you are driving and making turns though… just when moving it fast side to side.

Any thoughts would be greatly appreciated.


This is easy. If you are on the web asking if you should buy a vehicle than you shouldn’t . You pasted 2 red flags so keep looking.

It’s cheap and otherwise is what I’ve been looking for for a long time. Looking for advice from others that know more about cars than me. I’m not a mechanic.

Thanks for your advice!

Of course it is . Because it will need a motor overhaul soon most likely . Also it might need a new steering rack . If you really want this old van that is past it’s sell date pay a mechanic to look it over and give you an idea of what is wrong with it.


You are right to be vigilant and have made some intelligent observations. There are plenty of these older Chrysler Corp. minivans out there and this one may be better for a mechanic with time to spare and another vehicle that is trustworthy. Not so good for most folks, though.

I’ve never heard of that dipstick phenomenon, but it is a bad sign. Maybe look into the valve cover area with a flashlight and mirror and look for sludge or hard black deposits up there. Another bad sign.

There’s a u-joint at the firewall. Around it is a big plastic/rubber isolator. I have had to replace that part twice because they crack and no longer seal against outside air.

A major downfall of that era’s minivans is strut tower rust. The top of the front strut/spring assembly lets go when the tower rusts through. That’s usually curtains, if they’ve lasted that long.

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Yeah, if there is hardened oil on the dipstick likely there is hardened oil throughout the engine from lack of oil changes, etc. So if the engine wasn’t well maintained, prolly the rest of it wasn’t either.

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If this is a B series van I believe they all had a black coating on the tip of the dipstick when new, perhaps it is to help guide the dipstick down that long tube.


best advice when looking at any used car.


How cheap?

Do you know a mechanic or know of a trustworthy shop you use for car repairs/maintenance? I’m sure that any old and cheap vehicle is going to need a few things done to it to make it safe and reliable, either now or in the not too distant future.

So, you’d need to keep some money in reserve for that and…

Since you’re, “Looking for advice from others that know more about cars than me. I’m not a mechanic.”… I’d see if you can arrange to have a good professional look it over, give an opinion of the over-all condition, and then possibly a more detailed, prioritized list of items needing attention. It’ll cost you some labor whether you buy it or not.

If you don’t buy it then it could be good money spent to keep you from throwing good money after bad money. If you buy it then you’ll have an idea of where the van stands and a plan to make it better.

There really is no way for anybody to give a thumbs up or thumbs down on this vehicle online.


The trouble is that we don’t know your finances. Are you in the top 10% of income earners, with lots of disposable income that can be directed toward car repair, and have you been looking for this for a long time for hobby/entertainment purposes?

Then get the van.

Are you looking for a 1999 minivan because you can’t afford a brand new one, and you intend to use this as transportation that you require reliability from?

Then let it go. The risks aren’t worth it. You’re likely to have to spend a lot more than book value to repair it, and soon.

The only way I can recommend buying this 20-year-old van is if it passes inspection by an independent mechanic being paid by you (to avoid conflict of interest).

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This generation has also had early transmission failure. When rebuilt the original problem is fixed. If it has never been rebuilt, I would run away. If it hasn’t been rebuilt it’s a miracle that it’s still working.

It would be helpful to know if it is a rear wheel drive or front.

Yes. I assumed minivan but that is not necessarily so.

Presuming what you are seeing on the dipstick actually is an oil deposit, that may or may not be a showstopper. If that engine sports variable valve timing, it probably is a showstopper. If not, needs a little more investigation as part of a pre-purchase shop inspection. Could well be ok. The clicking sound when turning the steering wheel should be investigated as part of the pre-purchase inspection too. I’d be more concerned about that $-wise than the dipstick issue myself, as long as the engine is non-variable-valve timing design and a rocker cover removal inspection didn’t show anything abnormal happening in that area.

She did not say it is a minivan, to me, the appellation, van, always meant the big rear wheel drive