September 29

2011 Dodge Grand Caravan Engine Oil Cooler

Dodge

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Mark: Hi, it's Mark Bossert. I'm here with Mr. Bernie Pawlik. Pawlik Automotive in Vancouver, BC, Canada. Vancouver's best auto service experience. 25 time winners of best auto repair in Vancouver as voted by their customers and we're talking cars. How are you doing Bernie? 

Bernie: Doing very well. 

Mark: So, today's victim is a 2011 Dodge Grand Caravan that had some sort of oil issue. What was going on with this vehicle? 

Bernie: Actually it was a coolant issue. The engine was overheating, it was brought to our shop. The owner had noticed steam coming out from under his hood, some liquid dripping down underneath and the temperature gauge was reading on the high side. Drove it for a little bit, but wisely stopped it. And brought it into the shop for repairs. 

Mark: What kind of testing and diagnosis did you do? 

Bernie: Well, being a coolant leak and an overheating you know, the first thing of course we do is a visual inspection to look for cause of the leak and a pressure test. So we, of course, with the coolant being low, we filled the radiator up, filled the cooling system up. And before we could even get a pressure tester on there, there was a massive leak of coolant coming out from underneath the intake manifold. So we weren't even able to really get a pressure test on it. The leak was really quite bad. 

So underneath the intake manifold sits the engine oil cooler. And then the engine oil cooler basically cools the engine oil by running engine coolant through there. So it seems kind of odd because you're cooling oil with hot water, but you know, it can take that heat from the oil cooler and then put it in through the radiator. So the temperature is always kept at, you know, not much more than 212, like the boiling point of water, 200 degrees Fahrenheit, somewhere around that range. We did also find that there was a leak from the radiator as well. You can see a small, like, stain of coolant coming from the seams of the radiator, so we'd recommended replacing that part as well.

Mark: Which engine was this? 

Bernie: This is a 3.6 litre. It's the variable valve timing, the Pentastar engine that Chrysler, I don't even know if we can call it Chrysler anymore. Stellantis, Dodge, Jeep, they use this engine in a variety of different vehicles. So it's a very popular engine. And it's all you can get in the Caravan these days. 3.6 variable valve timing. Pretty sophisticated technology in this engine. It comes in a variety of sizes. From 3.2 litres up to four litres. I mean, this is available over the whole complete Fiat Chrysler line of vehicles. And this is a 3.6, which is I think, the most popular configuration that's found in Ram vans and Caravans, Jeeps of all shapes and sizes, Chrysler cars, Dodge cars. 

Mark: What was involved in repairing the leak with it being under the manifold intake? 

Bernie: Yeah, so the intake manifold has to be removed. So it's a fairly involved bit of work. The intake manifold has to be removed to access the oil cooler. 

We've got a couple of pictures here. This is where the intake manifold removed. I didn't actually take any pictures with the manifold on, but that red arrow, that points to the engine oil cooler. So the oil cooler also has the oil filter housing as well, it's all a unit. It's got a couple of electrical switches or sensors attached to it over on this, you can see on this side here. 

2011 Dodge Grand Caravan Engine Oil Cooler

You can see this sort of rusty colour here. The vehicle is probably, I don't know if it ever had a proper coolant flush, this vehicle's used to haul a lot, like most people with caravans, it's used well to haul families, kids around, doing family work. Vehicles where people who do own kids go, I don't ever want to buy a minivan and yet a lot of people do, because they're actually incredibly useful for the work of hauling a family around.

But anyways, so that you can see a sort of the stain here. So this is the view with the old engine oil cooler. That's the unit right there that was leaking and the intake valley sort of sits here. The manifold is a big plastic unit that sits on top. You can see these, we stuffed tissues in here because the engine intake valves are down here and we don't want anything to fall in there and fall in those cylinders. So you have to be very careful making sure everything's clean and clear. But the coolant was basically leaking out, if you'd see my mouse pointer, sort of in this direction and just out the side over the transmission, which sits in this area here. 

We have a view of the new oil cooler assembly installed. The electrical connectors are plugged in, there's the new unit, it comes with a new oil filter housing and new oil filter at the same time. So that's basically the unit plugged in. There's seals underneath as well, that can sometimes leak also. But they're all replaced along with the job. 

2011 Dodge Grand Caravan Engine Oil Cooler

Mark: So, engine oil coolers, that's something that's fairly unique, not necessarily common on engines? 

Bernie: A lot of engines use them nowadays. You know, it used to be something that you would rarely ever find except maybe on a certain turbocharged engine or you know, GM used to use it on certain trucks. You know, when you want to kind of keep the oil cool, but it's actually pretty common on many engines. Again, it just kind of keeps the temperature regulated in the engine. If you can keep the temperature regulated, then you can, of course, adjust the fuel mixture to the proper amounts and keep the emission levels at the lowest, the economy at the best. So I think a lot of engines do that for that exact reason. 

Mark: Yes, thank you so much for pointing out my age. So do they fail fairly often? 

Bernie: Yeah. Oh, mine too. 


Mark: So what about oil coolers? Do they fail fairly often? 

BernieOn these vehicles this is actually a fairly common failure item, either for coolant leakage or there can be oil leakage that occurs from these units. We do re replace 'em a fair amount. You know, I can't remember last time we had one of these for coolant leak, but you know, there's a common item that we do replace fairly frequently. 

Mark: So with the engine probably overheating with this leaks being so bad, was there a chance, a fairly good chance that there was other problems caused by the overheating?

Bernie: Well, I mean, the biggest risk when you overheat an engine is blowing the head gaskets. And it seems like after we repaired it, it was holding coolant pressure just fine. So all seems good. But there's always a risk. And so, you know, the most important thing, of course, if you see steam coming out from under your hood, if your temperature gauge is going up, shut it off immediately. That's the way you're going to save money. You know, the, the gauges or if there's a warning light says engine overheating. You know, heed those warnings because they're there to prevent further costly damage.

If you keep driving, you can, you know, cause some very serious, expensive damage. And sometimes you won't know till later. And it's difficult when you have a coolant leak of this magnitude to actually test the head gasket. And there's sometimes where we have methods of testing for combustion leaks, but it's really almost impossible when you have a leak of this magnitude. You just have to repair it first and, you know, hope and pray for the best afterwards. 

Mark: So after you repaired the engine oil cooler, was there any other service required? 

Bernie: Yeah. So we changed the engine oil because of course the oil filters is replaced. And when you get an engine hot, it's probably not a bad idea to change the oil anyways, unless it was just changed recently. But this came with a new oil filter and it may well have been due for service. I'm not sure. I didn't follow every detail of this job. But, you know, we change the engine oil at the same time and also, of course, a cooling system flush.

Almost any time we do a cooling system repair, like a radiator or, you know, something of this magnitude, we do a cooling system flush because, you know, antifreeze, it's not something that you change very often on a vehicle. There are set timeframes, but a lot of times it'll be 150,000 kilometres and 5 or 10 years of age. Well, those vehicles a little over 10 years old, may never have had the coolant changed, you know, unless the person was on top of it. So it's a good time to change it when something goes wrong. The water pump leaks or something like that happens. 

Mark: Did you repair that radiator as well?

Bernie: We did, we replaced the radiator because there was leakage from the radiator as well. Not nearly of the magnitude of the cooler, but, you know, nonetheless, you do the job, you repair it, and then you fill the cooling system. And then that thing's leaking. Why not just do it all at the same time? It's actually a little less work than having to do the job twice. 

Plus, you know, if you're using your vehicle, you don't really want to have it in for repairs very often. You want to kind of get in for repairs, get it all done and out the door and then use it for a while.

Mark: So as you mentioned, this engine is fairly common across a big range of Dodge, et cetera, products. How are they for reliability? 

Bernie: Well, they got their issues. I mean, some of the things we do, as I mentioned, we've replaced these oil coolers quite often. We've had some timing chain issues with some of them. There's head gasket issues with others. Leakages or cylinder head cracks. This is kind of a defect in some of them. So they're not without their problems. But overall they're a pretty good engine. I mean this one here, I believe, it hasn't had a lot of work done on it and it's a 2011. So that makes it like 12, 13 years old at this point in time. So to me, that's a pretty good run for this vehicle. I don't know. I may have had some other issues repaired in the past.

Mark: And how are 2011 Dodge Caravans for reliability? 

Bernie: Yeah, overall, they're pretty good. I mean, you know, these engines have some issues, but I think Caravans, they've got better and better over the years. I mean, they used to be you know, chronically bad with transmissions. I haven't seen one with a transmission problem in a while. So I'm not sure when that issue sorted itself out, but you know, there's like decades where they made these things, at least a couple of decades with chronically bad transmissions.

So, they've got better and better over the years, just like a lot of cars. I mean, I often compare things to each decade. You look at the cars and you go, wow, that thing was kind of a piece of crap. And then you look at, you look at the other models of cars around it and, you know, yeah, well, they weren't really that fantastic either. So I think one thing we've got good at is building cars that are more reliable, although they're more complicated to repair.

Mark: If you're looking for service for your Dodge Caravan or any Dodge product in Vancouver, the guys to see are Pawlik Automotive. You can book online on their website, pawlikautomotive.com. There's literally hundreds of videos of all makes and models and types of repairs on there. Or you can call to book at (604) 327-7112. You have to book ahead, they're always busy. Pawlik Automotive, Vancouver's best auto service experience. Thanks so much for watching and listening. We appreciate it. Thanks Bernie. 

Bernie: And thank you, Mark. And thanks for watching.

About the author 

Bernie Pawlik

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