Q: Please help me. I had my oil changed recently and now have been told by my mechanic that the oil-change place stripped the oil plug and I need a new oil pan. I have a Lexus RX 300. The oil-change people think they have adequately fixed it by putting a larger plug in, but the Lexus dealer tells me that is not adequate and I need a new oil pan because it is a vital part of the car and may leak again, especially with subsequent oil changes.
RAY: I'd side with the dealer in this case.
TOM: There are ways to “patch up” a stripped oil pan. There's chewing gum, plaster of Paris or an insert, which is probably what your oil-change guy used.
RAY: There are different kinds of inserts. There are inserts that cut new threads into the pan, there are rubber drain plugs that expand once they're in the hole, and there are self-tapping drain plugs that make their own new, threaded hole in the oil pan.
TOM: Most of those will work. At least for a while.
RAY: But they're all designed to be used on cars like the ones my brother drives – i.e., heaps. They're repairs of last resort, when you own a $300 car and you don't want to invest $600 in an oil pan.
TOM: And unless you've been using your Lexus in a demolition derby on weekends, I'm going to guess it's not in that category yet.
RAY: So, I'd have the Lexus dealer replace the oil pan. You don't want to have to worry about your oil leaking out and your engine seizing.
TOM: And it's going to be very hard for you to demand that the oil-change place pay for it. Oil pans usually get stripped over time, particularly when mechanics over tighten the plug instead of changing the gasket and being judicious in tightening it.
RAY: Everyone's afraid of under tightening the oil plug, with good reason. So they tend to go too far in the other direction. But unless you've had your oil changed exclusively at this place, you can't lay all the blame on them with any certainty.