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Replacing a Dodge Ram Diesel Oil Pan
May 25, 2016
In early April, I serviced both our vehicles. Typical fare, oil changes, coolant changes, check the brakes, etc. I was finishing up on my truck and again noticed that I had some rust bubbles on the corner of the oil pan. I had seen them before and being inherently lazy, I had not done anything to take care of them. However, this time I thought should be proactive and clean the rust off and give the pan a coat of paint. I should have done this sooner. I hit the rust on the corner of the pan with a hand held wire brush. On the first pass with the brush, I removed some rust flakes and now had oil coming through the pan.
Bummer. Of course I had just changed the oil and had 12 quarts of new 15w-40 Shell Rotella oil in there and it was now peeing out on to the shop floor. I scrambled to get something to stop the leak. Some putty slowed it down enough that I could clean the oil pan and get it underneath the leak. No, I wasn't going to waste the new oil.

I drained the oil back out and let the pan continue to drip from the oil drain hole and went in for dinner. When I returned, the oil had stopped draining from the oil drain hole, but the corner of the pan was still dripping. After some looking on the internet, I found a picture that showed the inside of the pan. I now realized what was going on. There is a raised area around the oil pan plug hole. The raised area is higher around the drain hole than the bottom of the oil sump. There was no way to get all of the oil out of the bottom of the pan by draining out of the oil plug hole. Note that this is also the case with my new replacement Spectra Premium oil pan. On the Spectra, the welded-in ring for the drain plug threads captures a little more oil than the original equipment manufacturer (OEM) pan does. Not the best design in my view as you're left with about a half quart of old oil that you can't drain out.

With the oil now mostly drained, I decided to use a dental pick and see how much of the rusted area was weakened. I ended up poking the pick through the pan and creating an eighth inch hole before I met with un-rusted steel. I sanded the rusted corner until I had clean steel. I don't know if the black coating is paint or powder coat, but on my pan, there was also a clear coat of some type over the top of the black that was peeling off in sheets. Unfortunately, I really let this situation go on for too long.

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After causing the leak, I sanded the pan. I poked a dental pick through the small hole and made the small hole into a bigger one.
The clear coating is coming off the oil pan in sheets. Apparently moisture has gotten beneath the clear coating and has lifted it off the pan.

Once I had the corner of the pan cleaned up, I jacked the truck up on one side so that the hole I had made was the lowest point on the oil pan and left it to drain over night. The next morning, the drips had slowed down, but not stopped all of the way. Since I would be attempting to epoxy up the hole to buy me some time, I wanted as clean and dry of a surface as possible for the epoxy to bond to. I decided to jack up the other side of the truck so that my hole was now not the lowest point on the oil pan. This stopped the oil flow.

I again sanded the pan with an orbital sander, then cleaned the oil pan with brake cleaner, then lacquer thinner. I mixed up a batch of J-B Weld, the slow setting type, and slathered on a layer. After about a half hour later in 70 temperatures, I added a small square of sheet metal over the hole and some more J-B Weld. This square patch piece didn't work as well as I would have liked. After curing for 24 hours, the square of metal had dropped away from the pan by about a 1/16" or so. It still gave some support, but not as much as I had hoped for. In hind sight, I think a better procedure would be a coat of J-B Weld, then a piece of cotton cloth or some window screen, then another coat of epoxy. My aim was to get a little more thickness and some reinforcement around the area of the hole.

Five weeks later and with the oil pan now replaced, the J-B Weld is still quite solid. How long I could have gone with the epoxy repair is debatable, but I don't think I would trust it as a permanent repair.

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While it's not a permanent fix, The J-B Weld bought me over a month of time.
A coat of J-B Weld, then let it set up, then add a square of sheet metal and another coat of epoxy.

I did some reading about oil pans and their cost. I could have gotten one from the dealer, but the cost was almost twice as much as I ended up spending. You could contact Cummins directly and get an OEM pan for a little less than the dealer. There's also a company that sells stainless steel oil pans. The stainless pans are pretty neat looking, but they're not inexpensive. As cost is always a consideration for me, I thought that as long as I kept up on the maintenance of a painted steel oil pan, I wouldn't have the issue again.

I finally decided on a Spectra Premium CRP45A oil pan and a Fel-Pro gasket from Amazon for about $287 including tax and no charge for shipping. After the parts arrived, I made sure that the new pan looked like the old one. It did. Since the new gasket was folded and wrapped around some tubes so it would fit in a smaller box, I needed to flatten it back out by sandwiching it between a weighted board and my work bench. The gasket is not coated with any sealant, so I decided to use some RTV sealant on both sides of the gasket. When I was about an hour from installing the new pan and gasket, I applied a thin coating of RTV to the pan and added the gasket. Hopefully this would keep it from slipping out of position when I installed the pan.

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The new Spectra pan and the Fel-Pro gasket. I needed to flatten out the gasket before use.
Passenger side lift mount. The chain is passed through the lift eye and secured with a bolt.

My 2006 Dodge Ram workshop manual suggests that removing the transmission is necessary for replacing the oil pan. However, being a former dealership mechanic, I very much doubt that the dealer mechanics follow the book on this. I am pretty sure that to beat the flat rate time for this job, they do it similarly to what I and others have done. From having just done this job, I see no down-side to not removing the transmission.

A vehicle lift would have made this job a whole lot easier, but since I was working on my back on a creeper, here's what I did.
  • Drain the engine oil.
  • Jack the truck up, remove the front wheels and place jack stands to support the frame behind the front suspension mounts. Block the rear tires for safety.
  • Removing the front wheels gives you some extra working room and unloads the front suspension. This gives a little more clearance room between the oil pan and the suspension.
  • Loosen both front motor mounts horizontal "through bolts" and nuts - 18mm head - these bolts need to have some space on either side of the slotted flanges that they attach to to make it easier to get them back into place.
  • Attach one side of a short chain to the passenger side motor lifting eye.
  • Attach the other end of the chain to a 3/8"-16 tpi bolt screwed into the outer unused hole on the front of the intake manifold.
  • Attach the chain to the hook on your engine hoist. I'm using the 1 ton position on my 2 ton Harbor Freight (HF) engine hoist. This position put the hoist forward enough that it wouldn't interfere with my creeper.
  • Lift the engine about 4". You can judge this by watching the clearance on the top of the radiator fan shroud where it meets the radiator or by watching when the back edge of the valve cover just about touches the firewall.
  • Remove the 32 oil pan bolts. These are special 8mm X 1.25 mm pitch (I think that's the pitch) with a 10mm hex on flanged heads.
  • Use a putty knife to separate the pan from the block. I thought it best to try and get the putty knife on the side of the gasket closest to the engine block to lessen scraping off the old gasket material from the engine block.
  • Drop the pan straight down, then slide it toward the rear of the truck to get it out. It's a close fit to get it past the oil pickup tube on the driver's side of the engine block.
  • Clean the old gasket material from the bottom of the block.
  • Replace the old pan with the new one.

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Driver's side mounting point. A 3/8"-16 bolt with a heavy washer attached to the intake manifold.
The chain is attached to the engine hoist and we're ready to lift the engine.

A couple notes:
The horizontal motor mount bolts and nuts have 18mm heads and there wasn't a lot of room to get anything other than wrenches in there. I tried a couple different 18 mm sockets with breaker bars and socket wrenches with no luck. The nuts on my motor mounts were also darned tight. I used cheater pipes on the wrenches to break the nuts free. I could only turn the nuts one flat at a time, so it took a while to back the nuts off.

The mount holders on the frame are slotted on the top side. This makes it a lot easier to lift the engine, but to set it back in place, you need bolt space on either side of the mount holders. I backed each of the two nuts off by 1/2", then used a hammer and brass drift to center the bolt so that I had space on either end. This was the toughest part of the job. My bolts were pretty corroded into the mounts and didn't want to move. I used plenty of penetrating oil and a 5 pound hammer on a brass drift to center the bolts. Eventually I had some space on either side of the mount flanges.

One correction (for my truck) to the accounts I have read online about the radiator fan shroud. I read that you needed to remove the bolts that hold the radiator fan shroud in place. I found that this wasn't necessary. On my truck (2006 2500 CTD), the fan shroud slips past the radiator with the bolts in place.

Here's a tip that I think will help some folks in the snowy regions. About a week before I started the job, I loosened, then re-tightened the 32 - 10 mm head pan bolts to make sure that none of the bolts were frozen in place. A friend who lives in a much snowier climate has also done this job on his 2008 3500 diesel. He broke a half dozen stuck pan bolts trying to get them out. These are special flanged bolts that are not available at the hardware store or other likely sources, so I thought it better to be prepared and test them first. If I would have encountered stuck pan bolts, I would have purchased some from the dealer ($3 each) to have a few extra in case I broke one or more. As a precaution, I also got a couple left hand drill bits in case I had to drill out any broken bolts. The reason for the left hand drill bits is that they sometimes catch while drilling out the broken bolt and spin out the remainder of the bolt. This does away with the need for using an "easy-out" type stud remover. I got 1/8" and a 3/16" left hand drill bits to be on the safe side. I didn't need to use them, but I have them for the next job.


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The two ton HF shop crane set on the one ton position. We're ready to lift the engine.
New pan on left. Old one on right. The Spectra pan was a perfect fit.

As one would expect in doing this job, you will get covered in drips of oil when you remove the oil pan and are laying under the open engine block. I laid down an old plastic shower curtain on the shop floor under the pan before I removed it. It caught the majority of drips and I only had a few spots of oil to clean up off the floor after I did the job. The old shower curtain was covered in oil and was discarded. Unfortunately, I got pretty oily too.

The longest part of the job was scraping off the gasket material from the engine block. As you can see from the picture above right, fortunately most of the gasket came off with the pan. To get the rest of the gasket off the block, I used a freshly sharpened gasket scraper and a few single edge razor blades. You need to pay particular attention to the ends where the cast iron block meets the aluminum castings.

My factory workshop manual cautions against using sealant on the gasket, but I think that the reason for this is that the stock gasket has a sealant included on top the gasket when it's made. The Fel-Pro gasket doesn't have any added sealant and in an somewhat oily application, I'd think that it would benefit from some additional insurance. In any event, I have done many pan gaskets over the years and never had a problem using a thin coating of RTV sealant on both sides of the oil pan gasket.

With the bottom of the block scraped as clean as I could get it, I sprayed the entire mating surface with brake cleaner. Lately, I've been using the Traveler (house brand) brake cleaner from Tractor Supply. It seems to clean better and dry more quickly than the CRC brand Brakleen brake spray I had been using in the recent past. It doesn't work as well as the stuff I was using in the 1980s, but it's probably not as bad for your health either.

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Looking up from underneath. Passenger's side motor mount with the bolt backed off. With the engine lifted, the bolt is out of the slot.
 Driver's side mount. You can also see the extra flat metal in the pan flange under the pan bolts. The pictures were taken after I installed the pan.

I added a thin layer of RTV to the top of the gasket which was now stuck firmly to the oil pan. I let this set up for about a half hour before I attempted to reinstall the pan. It is a bit of a tight fit to install the pan between the cross member and the oil pickup tube. I found that I needed to have the oil pan parallel to the bottom of the block and then slide it past the frame cross-member, which is the closest point to the bottom of the engine block. With the pan now more-or-less in position, I replaced the cleaned pan bolts on all 4 corners of the pan and gently screwed them in until the pan touched the block. I then added the other 28 bolts. I tightened the two center bolts - one on either side of the center of the pan to 10 foot pounds, then tightened the bolts in a circular pattern.  The last bolts to be tightened were at either end of the oil pan. This helps to apply torque to the pan evenly. When all 32 had been tightened to 10 foot pounds, I tightened the two bolts I had started with to 21 foot pounds (Dodge's torque spec.) and repeated the pattern to tighten the rest of the bolts.

The job took pretty much a full day to complete. I took my time but ended up spending more time than I thought I'd have to in order to get the motor mount bolts loosened. However, the job is done and I have no oil leaks. I will recheck the pan bolt torque in a week or so and also recheck it the next time I change the oil on the truck. All in all, it wasn't a bad job. While I don't like working on my back on a creeper, this job was pretty straight forward.

I am pretty pleased with the Spectra oil pan. Unlike the OEM pan, it has extra welded 1/8" thick flat stock on the bottom of the pan flange to help even out the torque of the pan bolts. While the old oil pan didn't leak from the flange, the added metal is a nice feature. The pan was a little twisted when I got it. The pan's flange wasn't quite as flat as it could have been. However, it was only out of flat by an eighth inch or so and it cinched down tight against the block. The one thing that I didn't like was that the oil pan appears to be only painted with no clear coating over the pan. It may be a little more prone to chipping and rusting than the old pan that lasted almost 10 years. However, since I now that I know that oil pan rusting is a problem with this truck, I will check, clean, and repaint any areas that have been hit by stones at each oil change. We are at the end of a gravel road and have a gravel driveway, so I'm sure I will be doing some painting on the pan every oil change. Better to do a little clean up, than go through a rusted out oil pan again.

I spent a couple decades in automotive repair and this is the first time I have seen a rusted out oil pan. If I would have known this to be a problem, I would have been checking, cleaning, and repainting the pan at every oil change. Oh well, you live and learn.


Fager May 25, 2016