On my dad’s 1997 Dodge neon it appears that the oil drain screw/plug has become stripped and he has been told by the local oil joint that if they remove the drain plug they won’t be able to screw it back in and thus he needs to replace the entire drain pan at around $400. However a local Napa store told him that there is a screw you can buy that when used will rethread the oil pan where the screw goes and the entire pan doesn’t need to be replaced. Does this sound right?
Sounds like a great possibility–the most popular name brand for these is Heli-Coil. Hope it works and you can spend $10 instead of $400.
The quick oil change places have these drain plugs. That’s how they fix striped out pan threads. But these only last a short period of time because they don’t restore the threads but instead cut new threads in the aluminum pan. And eventually those threads get striped out.
Instead, to do the repair correctly you need something like this. http://www.timesert.com/html/drainplug.html
In many cases, you can buy an oversized drain plug and retap the drain hole to accept the larger plug. This is done rather frequently. There are some cases where the best thing to do is replace the oil pan, but it is certainly worth a shot to save some money by repairing it.
I have seen some aftermarket drain plugs intended to “repair” this problem that I strongly recommend against. I once saw a car that had this big old thumb screw plug with a massive rubber washer attached to it that installed via a threaded rod and wing nut inserted into the drain hole. That thing was incredibly flimsy and was leaking quite badly. I ended up repairing the pan properly because I didn’t want to risk reusing such a piece of junk to hold the car’s vital fluid in.