How fussy should I be? (dent in oil pan)

The 96 Caravan I bought a year ago came equipped with an aftermarket dent in the oil pan. It’s a bent up generally flat, not all at one point, but there’s no leak and no other apparent problem, though of course it does reduce the oil capacity. When I had some overdue warranty work done at a dealer, the service writer told me the dent is exactly where the the oil pickup is, which mostly sounded like the dealer looking for some extra work. I decided I’d replace the pan myself when I had enough miles on the car to see if it was worth the effort.

The pan has a lower sump area that measures roughly 5" x 7" and that entire portion is pushed up somewhat evenly. I’d estimate the deepest part of the deformation is almost an inch, so less than 35 cubic inches lost capacity. 35 cu in = .606 quart.

I can buy a new oil pan w/ gasket at Rock Auto for a shade over fifty bucks to add to an order I otherwise need to place with them. A used pan at the local junkyard would cost ten or twenty bucks plus my labor plus the gasket, which I judge as not enough cheaper to be worth my time and inconvenience (they want me to capture the used oil and take it with me). So it’s either buy the new oil pan, or fix something else. Or pull the pan, bend it back to shape, and replace the gasket? It appears to me that the pan gasket may be seeping, though not enough to drip, so it’s probably due for a gasket anyway.

Should I care about this, or learn to love the dent?

For years I drove a car with a small dent in the oil pan. As long as it does not leak and does not affect the oil pickup for the oil poump, just keep driving.

If the dent were interfering with the oil pickup tube, you’d experience reduced pressure. You can if you like test the pressure. It’s one whole lot easier than removing the pan on most vehicles today.

If you do pull the pan, there’s no sense buying a new one. They’re expensive. A three pound sledge properly aimed will fix the old one.

If the service writer were right about this being an issue worth addressing, I think you would have perceived some kind of low oil pressure issue by now.

@the same mountainbike.
Thanks for the insight. I probably should test the pressure, that’s good advice. I may even have a test gauge around somewhere, not sure. If not, a buddy probably does. This was the base model Caravan, so no gauge on the dash, only a light. My older Caravan is an LE, it has gauges, which I prefer. I’ve actually considered installing an aftermarket gauge in the SE, haven’t looked into how to preserve the warning light when I do that, if that’s possible.

Oil pressure is of course my first concern. Based on what the dealer guy told me, I have to wonder if the oil pickup may be slightly deformed or otherwise compromised, and particularly if it’s damaged in such a way that it might be working now but ready to fail if I hit a bump way too hard. So I have been tempted to pull the pan for a look, just to be sure.

At that point, I’d definitely try bumping out the pan as you suggest, and replace the gasket. If that resulted in a small hole in the pan, I could fix it with JB weld. Otherwise, Rock Auto’s price seemed a bargain, considering it comes with the gasket.

This is the car that I bought for less than scrap value, with a straight body and only little issues that I’ve had to fix, so I have no complaints. I could still make a nice profit on it, even after using it a year. And the bonus is the seller has become a friend!

Thanks Whitey, you’re right. WIth only a warning light, it’s hard to know if I’m having any problem. Engine runs fine, and who knows how many years this car ran with this condition. So I’m 50/50 on dealing with it, or leaving it as it is.

How easily can the pan be removed? If it’s a simple job drop your pan and inspect the pickup tube and consider whether it is worth the cost to replace the pan. Once off, a few good whacks with a dead blow hammer might put it back in shape. If it were mine I would likely just continue on, though. Such dents, like my broken nose and bald head, add character.

Thanks Rod. The pan is entirely in the clear, so not hard to remove with the car on ramps. First though I think I’ll follow TSM’s advice to check the oil pressure.

I understand what you mean about adding character. My old 1969 Chevy van, which I actually sold just last summer, had so much character that I could write a book of short stories about it. For example: a manual switch for the brake lights, steel bar with bolts to hold the back doors closed, setting the timing while driving up hill and reaching down to turn the distributor (engine was between the seats), etc etc. That vehicle was somewhat legendary before I converted it to “yard art”, but it actually would still start with gas poured into the carb. The buyer was going to harvest the engine, and appeared excited to get it.

This is where my “roadtripping” began:


that junkyard you mentioned sounds like the same kind of loser outfit that I prefer to scavenge parts from. I only buy when it’s 1/2 price weekend

When I need an oil pan, I tear out a rear bench seat of a nearby wreck and place it under the oil pan. Then I remove the drain plug and let that oil soak into the upholstery. When it’s done draining, I replace the drain plug and proceed to remove the pan.

This particular junkyard claims to drain all fluids before putting the wrecks in the yard


No, this place is ok. It’s a small operation, but they are at least trying to be helpful, and the owner is a kind person, did me a favor when I was in a bind. I respect him well enough.

It’s their competition in town which is most like the “loser outfit” you referenced, maybe even worse. Higher prices, junkier junk, lousy employees. The owner is somewhat notorious as a sleezeball, yet he has the AAA towing contract. He’s a jerk and a bully, and I’d go there only if I was overwhelming desperate, probably not even then.

@db4690, what you’re doing is shameful, and I’m surprised you’d freely admit to doing something so environmentally harmful.

The EPA requires that all fluids be drained into seperate storage containers and sent for recycling. There should not even be any fluids IN the vehicle.


What I did was necessary. Most guys there don’t even bother to put ANYTHING under the pan when removing the drain plug.

That junkyard claims to drain all the fluids.

They are the ones skirting the rules.

I do not do this kind of thing at home.

I don’t really care if you believe me, by the way.

Just in case you’re wondering, this junkyard is part of a chain. In fact, it’s part of a huge corporation.

The grounds at the pull a part places closest to me are saturated with every kind of fluid you can think of.
The fluids are claimed to be drained but the reality is that they’re not going to get all of the fluids out even if they do attempt to drain them.

An engine gets tipped, out goes the coolant. A transmission gets pulled and out goes the fluid when the converter falls off. Steering rack out, there goes the fluid same as the removal of a brake caliper, etc.

It sounds like db4690 may be referring to the XXQ chain… :slight_smile:

Leave the dent. but inspect the pickup and of course the gasket.
By leaving the dent in place you will now only have to put in 4 qts rather than 4.5 and a 1/2 quart lying around for 3 months.

Originally liked @Mtbk 3# remedy but in doing so you will probably miss and deform the lip of the pan to only to discover the leak when when you slide into the ditch fron your trailing oil slick.

Given my long to-do list, I think I’ll let well enough alone and just change the oil…it’s due. Then I’ll check oil pressure when I can get to my friend’s place with every tool imaginable, and decide then if I need to do anything more. Thanks everyone for the advice.