February 19

2014 Ram ProMaster Van, Contaminated Engine Oil



Mark: Hi, it's Mark Bossert. I'm here with Bernie Pawlik. Pawlik Automotive in Vancouver, BC, Canada. Vancouver's best auto service experience and 25 times voted best auto repair in Vancouver by their customers. And we're talking vehicles. How you doing Bernie? 

Doing very well. 

So today it's a 2014 Ram ProMaster 1600 van, the names are getting longer and longer. What are you doing about that, Bernie? 

Bernie: What are we doing? Well, the longer names, oh, I'm living with it. It's actually a 1500 van. Maybe I sent a typo or something. It's a 1500. It's a half ton Ram ProMaster van. 

Mark: Just my blurry old eyes. That's all. Yeah. You got to get some glasses. So what was going on with this vehicle?

Bernie: Yeah. So the owner had noticed that his coolant was disappearing, but also he noticed that his oil had actually gone all milky. And I think there was a couple of other concerns. It was actually some cold weather, it may have frozen his crankcase. I'm not sure if that was actually the situation, but nonetheless, he was losing coolant and his engine oil had gone all milky. So obviously the coolant had got into the engine oil and needed to be addressed and fixed.

Mark: So is there any testing or diagnosis that you have to do at that point?

Bernie: Well, we always do testing and diagnosis on everything, and inspecting. So that's just the first thing we do on every vehicle we work on because we don't know what's going on until we actually do testing and inspecting. So of course we verified the client's concern.

We looked at the engine oil, the level was way too high on the dipstick and the oil would look like chocolate milk. We're going to look at some pictures in a few minutes. We verified that. So then the question is, how does the coolant get into the engine oil? We also look at the coolant and noted that there was no oil in the coolant.

So sometimes there's ways where oil and coolant will transfer in an engine. And it's important to know which direction is it going which components could cause that kind of thing. So without getting into a lot of techie things here, we basically determined that the engine oil cooler was the place to start.

So the oil cooler sits in the intake valley. The oil filters housing is part of it. It's a plastic and metal unit, which the original one is the replacement unit we use is all metal. But this is where coolant and oil passageways connect. And it's a very common failure item on this vehicle.

Head gaskets are another area that could be possible, but usually if a head gasket is doing it. You'd probably have steam coming out of the tailpipe. You may or may not. You might have an engine misfire. There might be more coolant in the oil. There'd be other sort of telltale signs. So figured the oil cooler was the place to start. And again, being a common problem, this is a place we start. 

Mark: So were you sure that this was the only thing causing the problem or just this process of elimination? This is the first obvious one. 

Bernie: No, it's a process of elimination. Again, it's a very common problem. So that's a place to start. And you know, you've got to start somewhere. It's either that, or we rip the whole engine apart at enormous expense. Or replace the engine, which would be, you know, like I don't know, throwing your whole body into a, I can't even think of a body analogy, but yeah,, it's overkill. Let's put it that way. 

Mark: So what's involved in this repair?

Bernie: Let's look at a few pictures. So what's involved basically is the engine oil cooler sits in the valley underneath the intake manifold. So it's a pretty labour intensive job to remove a number of components. We'll look at some pictures. So this is what the engine oil look like on our dipstick.

2014 Ram ProMaster Van, Contaminated Engine Oil

Now you know, if you never looked at your dipstick and you should have in some time in your life, engine oil is a clear light brown liquid. This is a very milky looking substance. Definitely not what engine oil should be looking like.

Mark: That's bad. 

Bernie: That is bad. It's very bad. Let's have a look here. This is a view of the engine oil cooler with the intake manifold removed. So the intake manifold sits on top of this. So there's a number of components that need to be removed. This is the original oil cooler sitting down here. You notice these white things, these are paper towels.

2014 Ram ProMaster Van, Contaminated Engine Oil

For some reason, there isn't one here. We put these in because you don't want something to fall into these, this is where the intake valves are. If it gets sucked into the engine, it'll eat the piece. And usually it's a piece of metal and cause some catastrophic engine damage. So that's not a good thing. 

This is just where some of the oil, once the oil and coolant gets mixed up, the level goes up. It starts pumping it through the system. So this is actually an air intake duct where again, you see this chocolate milky stuff.

2014 Ram ProMaster Van, Contaminated Engine Oil

There should be nothing in here other than maybe a light film of oil, if anything, but there's actually like a large amount of liquid that's worked its way into this part of the system as well. And again, this is the manifold kind of removed and tucked out of the way so we can access the oil cooler assembly.

Mark: Is this a V8 or V6? 

Bernie: It's a V6. 3. 6 litre V6. So it's a pretty sophisticated engine. It's got variable valve timing. Very common engine in these ProMasters and Jeeps, a variety of Chrysler vehicles, you'll find this engine. It's not bad. It does have its issues. And then the oil cooler is one of them.

2014 Ram ProMaster Van, Contaminated Engine Oil

So this is the bottom view of the original oil cooler. You can see again this chocolate milky substance and, you know, being plasticated, there's a number of areas where this plastic could crack and cause coolant to flow into the oil. 

Also, of course, this is another view just lying on our messy floor here. This is the actual oil cooler here where I'm moving the mouse pointer, this aluminum piece. So, again, these can you know cause leakage as well between the oil and the coolant. 

2014 Ram ProMaster Van, Contaminated Engine Oil

That is a view of the intake manifold reinstalled. Of course, there's still a second section of the intake called the intake plenum sits on top of this. But there's our new oil cooler assembly sitting underneath. You can see the oil filter housing is part of it. 

2014 Ram ProMaster Van, Contaminated Engine Oil

Mark: How much coolant was in the crank case, I guess, is the next thing. 

Bernie: Well, there was a lot, and this video will illustrate. Let's get the video and I'd say, you know, pull up a bowl of popcorn, because we're going to be watching this for a little bit.

So there's the drain plug removed. 

Mark: This is supposed to be oil coming out. 

Bernie: Supposed to be engine oil. Yeah. Oh, there, now we see, so coolant which is either water or antifreeze will always go to the bottom. Now you can start seeing some milky oil. So there was probably, I would guess that's like three or four litres of antifreeze sitting on the bottom of that. And now we have our milky oil.

Mark: Wouldn't this much antifreeze have caused some pretty catastrophic damage to the crankcase bearings, it's a different engine bearings? 

Bernie: Yeah, because that one thing, antifreeze will actually damage engine bearings. It could. And so we don't know that. I mean, the engine wasn't clacking or clicking surprisingly when it was brought in.

So, you know, the only thing we can do at this point is replace the cooler, do the job. I mean, you could go, okay, forget it. The engine's toast and just replace it. But you're looking at a difference between like, I'll just give some round numbers, $2,500 to do the cooler and whatever else we did, versus, I don't know, 10,000 bucks for an engine or more.

So the question is which way do you want to go? Do you want to gamble on 2,500 bucks and it might just work? Because sometimes it damages the bearing and sometimes it doesn't. So I'll just cut to the chase at the end of the story. It actually ran fine. So we don't know whether a month or two or six months or a couple of years, whether the bearings will go, but you know, it, it might well be okay.

Mark: So how much coolant was in the crankcase? 

Bernie: I'm going to guess it's probably three or four litres plus whatever was mixed in with the oil, you know, because that chocolate milky oil is actual antifreeze mixed with oil. 

Mark: How do you get that all out of the crankcase?

Bernie: Well, first of all, we drained it. Second of all, we add oil and then we do what's called a hot oil flush. So we use BG chemicals. It's basically a chemical cleaner. We add it to the oil, we run it. Ran the vehicle for about an hour. Then we drain the oil again, change the oil and filter.

So we did like a double oil change. And so, most of it will be removed. I mean, there could be an odd little bit of residue, and so you might notice that when you pop the oil cap off, there might be a little bit of milky substance in the top of the oil filler cap, you know, a bit of moisture. But generally changing it twice like that will work it all out. 

Mark: Was there also oil in the cooling system? 

Bernie: No, there wasn't. It's interesting with these kind of leaks because sometimes you'll get transference of oil into the coolant. Sometimes it'll be coolant into oil. Sometimes it'll go both ways. In this case, the coolant was fine. It basically only transferred in one direction. Why that is? I don't have an answer. 

You think like oil can be under 60 PSI pressure, and that's higher pressure than the cooling system. So you think it would squeeze the oil through into the coolant, but it might just be the way whatever component was worn. It only allowed the coolant to travel into the oil. 

We don't take everything apart. I don't know if it would be possible to even do a forensic dissection of everything, whether you'd ever even find it. So, you know... 

Mark: And everything ran properly after the double oil change?

Bernie: Yeah. Yeah. After everything was changed. So we still don't know whether there's further damage and there might be something. But you know, the telltale sign for the owner's obviously checking your coolant level to make sure it's not dropping. Checking your oil. You know, as my tech noted, he said, obviously the owner had been adding coolant because the coolant level wasn't low.

So this is another thing, you know, a little lesson out of this podcast is if you started losing engine coolant, get your vehicle inspected and checked over right away. Because there's something wrong. You know, and especially if you're not seeing it. If you're kind of handy, if you look on the ground and go, I don't see it dripping.

And yet I've had to add two litres of coolant, you know, and I've added it twice. You go ok, something's wrong here. It's going somewhere. I better have this looked at. And if you check your oil and you see it milky it all, fix right away.

Mark: So how are these ProMaster vans for reliability?

Bernie: Not too bad, but as I was alluding to earlier, I mean, these 3. 6 litre engines do have some issues. Some camshaft rocker arm problems, the oil coolers are problematic. So there are a few known common faults. I'm just kind of rattling a couple off the top of my head. So you know, they're good and you will spend some money on fixing certain things on them. It's sort of a guarantee. Like a Subaru head gasket, timing belted 2.5.

Mark: If you're looking for service for your Chrysler product in Vancouver, the guys to see your Pawlik Automotive. You can reach them on their website, pawlikautomotive.com, and you can book right there. Or you can call them at (604) 327-7112 to book your appointment. You have to book ahead. They're always busy. Pawlik Automotive in Vancouver, BC, Canada. Thanks for watching and listening. Thank you, Bernie. 

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

About the author 

Bernie Pawlik

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