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Automania/Repair & Maintenance


by Bob Hagin

Q. I own a 1997 Dodge Caravan and when I take it back to the dealer for an oil change, the shop puts in five quarts of oil. The service manager claims he has put five quarts in thousands of these cars with all engine models although they all call for 4.5 quarts when the filter is changed too. He claims that his pump won't measure out just half a quart. After the last change, I brought it home, let it set overnight and when I measured the oil level, it registered way above the filled mark on the dip stick. I tried it several times just to be sure. My van has the 3.0 liter engine and it seems to run under a strain until it loses between a half and a whole quart. I have been trying to contact the factory representative but the phone line is busy every time I call. I gave up after 20 attempts over several days. I'd like to know what, if any, damage this will cause.
F.F. Portsmouth, VA

A. Several time in my career as a mechanic I've come across oil level dip sticks that were mis-marked for the engine it was installed in. Stick length can vary depending on what type of vehicle that particular engine is configured for. The owner's manual is the last word in fluid capacities and there is only one way I know of to be sure the stick is right. Drain the crankcase, change the filter, refill the system with 4.5 quarts of oil, start the engine to fill the filter, shut it off, let it set a few minutes to let the valve covers drain, and check the level indicated on the stick. If your servicing dealer doesn't have the equipment to measure half a quart of oil, maybe you should find one that has. An overfilled crankcase can cause engine oil seals to become overtaxed and leak.

Q. We purchased a 1997 Honda CR-V in January and we want to replace the radio that came with the vehicle with a radio, cassette and compact disk combination. Our one concern is where to place the CD changer without affecting the interior features of the vehicle.
M.L. Cool, CA

A. This is one of those questions that should be asked of the selling dealer as the deal is being made. One of my sons is a Honda parts counterman and he tell me that all the factory sound system components on new Hondas are stand-alone units. A CR-V buyer can have a radio alone, a radio and a dash-mounted cassette player, or a radio and a dash-mounted single-disk CD player. In order to get all three, Honda offers a six-disk CD player that mounts under the driver's seat, is factory-wired into the radio amplifier and controlled by a switch that's already installed in all applicable Honda radios. The six-pack is mounted in a drawer that the driver slides out for reloading. There may be aftermarket systems available but you'll have to check with an auto stereo specialty shop for that information since it's a very specialized field. But be careful of aftermarket installations. They may not be totally compatible and I've seen jerry-rigged jobs that caused electrical problems for the vehicles they were put into.

Q. I have a '93 GMC-powered RV and coming home from a recent trip, the "Service Engine Soon" light came on. It was running great, the oil pressure was fine and the engine temperature was at normal. The oil level was on the mark and still clean. I hate to have anyone work on it when it's running so good. What should I look for or have a mechanic do?
B.N. Springfield, OR

A. That dash light is traditionally triggered by mileage and reminds the driver that it's time for a periodic checkup. Your owner's manual will tell you what's scheduled to be checked, changed or rotated and you shouldn't ignore periodic maintenance. A dealer's diagnostic tool could be hooked to your RV to show code numbers for any problems but I'm a great believer in the old axiom, "If it ain't broke, don't fix it."

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