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I just bought a Craigslist special '95 Caravan 3.0L. Family needed a minivan since we are a bit uncomfortable in the '09 Saturn Aura for long trips.

It had a decent oil leak, the guy had already had the oil pan gasket replaced. I bought it as is for $750 with 148K miles on it, figuring I could afford about a grand of repairs if needed.

Took it to the shop, and they said it looks like it had a leak on the front crankshaft seal and the valve cover gaskets. I told them to go ahead and replace them, not wanting to spend too much downtime getting it operational (We had enough tax return money to pay for it to just be done, rather than a project). Got a call halfway through that after they replaced the valve cover seals, it was still leaking form the top (a steady drip, they said), probably from the timing cover. They stopped and called before going any further since it will probably not stop the leak if they change the crankshaft gasket at this point.

I'm looking at options now. I had budgeted about $1,750 to get a working minivan to take to Michigan on vacation from central PA this summer. But now I'm about $1,150 into it and don't know if replacing the timing seal will fix it or just lead to more problems. I don't want to just sell it and pass along the problem if I can fix it in a weekend plus a day or so.

Does anyone have advice on how difficult these are to do? I've seen that there's some hard work involved, it would probably be my biggest project yet. So far, the most I've done is a water pump replacement on a '02 Sable in a day in a parking lot. I don't want to get too far into it and have a broken minivan siting in my front yard for over a month. But I don't know if I have the cash to buy my way out of it.

What else could it be if it's not the timing cover gasket? Are we talking a head gasket replacement here, or what? I know you can't see it, but advice helps a lot at this point.

Any help is welcome. Thanks

-Ben C.
Professional Network Analyst, Amateur everything else(Shadetree mechanic, emergency repairs plumber, minor home repair contractor, and general DIY attempter)
 

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Welcome to the site.
A timing cover is a common leak area for coolant or oil on a 3.3/3.8L engine but not at all on a 3.0L.
Are you sure it is a 3.0L?
PS: the oil pan gaskets almost never leak on a 3.0L since it is sealed with silicone, no gasket. This leads me to believe you don't have a 3.0L either???
 

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Discussion Starter #4
I'm not looking at it this second, but I'm pretty sure.
Just double-checked with the mechanic, it is a 3.0L.

He said that you can order an after market gasket for the oil pan, but that it was sealed with orange silicone recently, backing up what I was told by the guy I bought it from.

He says that the leak is coming from the timing cover, and running down over the front crank seal, so he can't tell whether that's bad as well or if it's just the one issue.

He's a bit reluctant to go in to the timing case because he said that it could be a number of things once they get that open as well, and he doesn't know if it's going to cost tons more to find and fix the base issue there. I'm just wondering how bad it could be, if it's worth trying to take apart myself (only special tool I've seen that I might need is a 3 arm puller) or if I should just call the time and energy spent on it a loss and try to get my money back by putting it back on Craigslist for the next guy to try to fix.

I'm at a bit of a loss because my wife was so happy to get a good deal on it, just to find out that there's more than meets the eye on what looked at first to be a reasonable repair. I don't have the time or energy for a rebuild, but if it's just a weekend on the lawn I might be able to do that.

So what else could it be besides the timing cover seal? What larger issue(s) could lead to a leak there?

Again, thanks so much for any help and advice.
 

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I think he means the camshaft seals, get em done. Get the water pump replaced, and a new timing belt, its already apart.

Expect a headgasket to blow if its the original.
 

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Discussion Starter #6
I think he means the camshaft seals, get em done. Get the water pump replaced, and a new timing belt, its already apart.

Expect a headgasket to blow if its the original.
I don't know that I can afford that much with the mechanic. I can spare about another $500 total on this. That's about what he would charge just to open and close the timing cover with a new seal, basically. So I'm wondering how involved this would be. If it's a weekend project without too many tools needed, then I may go all out and get it done this weekend or next. Otherwise I might cut my losses and resell it on CL.

Water pump I'm confident I can do. Timing belt I'm not 100% on, but I think I can do it. It's what it takes to get there and what seals might still be blown that I'm worried about.

Does anyone have a teardown link or anything? I can't find anything for this series, only the 1996 and up. I miss the old Chiltons manuals that had everything in them, the new ones only seem to have a few things and general repairs, nothing detailed. On the other hand, Youtube videos of the entire job are awesome.
 

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I build these engines for fun. It should be like $80 for all the parts you need.

Water pump is timing belt driven, and all the seals are behind the timing cogs, so either way the timing belt has to come off.

Teardown procedure is the exact same as the 1996 engines. These engines basically never changed from 87-00, for the exception of higher compression pistons and a smaller intake plenum.
 

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Discussion Starter #8
I build these engines for fun. It should be like $80 for all the parts you need.

Water pump is timing belt driven, and all the seals are behind the timing cogs, so either way the timing belt has to come off.

Teardown procedure is the exact same as the 1996 engines. These engines basically never changed from 87-00, for the exception of higher compression pistons and a smaller intake plenum.
That actually does help. Getting it all done would probably be worth it in the long run. I just watched the vid for a 2000 Chrysler 3.0L including the crack and cam gaskets. Here.

Being a SOHC there's really only the following seals to replace, right?

I) Timing gasket
II) Water Pump gasket
III) Cam Shaft Seal
IV) Crank Shaft Seal

I found the water pump kit here, along with the gaskets.

I think this and this are the crank and cam seals I need. I've seen sleeves around, is it important to look into that and measure with precise calipers, or just check if it's smooth and if so not worry?

Are there any other potential leak sources that I could be missing beside the Cam and Crack seals?

The headgasket part scares me. I've never tried to even get close to one, and have no idea what is involved with that. Is that something that I should think is a real concern as in having to replace now? The only time I've ever had a headgasket replaces was when the shop did it and it turned out to be almost free because they misdiagnosed a problem that led to the engine overheating. Every other time I've heard of head gasket failure, it was effectively a death sentence for the engine.
 

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There is no "timing gasket" on these engines, just a plastic cover to stop debris from interfering with the belt.

As far as the sleeves go, ive never used them, and never had a leak. They made them for excessively worn mating surfaces(where the seal meets the cam/crank) only seen that problem on the early 3.0's and severely unmaintained 3.0's where grooves formed in the metal from the seals.

Another source of oil seepage I've seen is from the oil pump gasket, although I've only seen this once. Other than that and the seals, there is no where for oil to leak from.

The head gasket shouldn't be a concern because it probably been replaced before. They tend to let go at around 105,000 miles, but the one in my Shadow miraculously lasted until 172,000.
 

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Discussion Starter #10
From what the previous owner said (and what he said has checked out so far) he had it for ten or so years and didn't have any issues, so I doubt the head gasket was replaced previously.

So if we were going on an assumption that it was the original head gasket, at 148K, how hard is it to replace as a shadetree? The only reference I have is watching a video on an OHV engine. I don't know if SOHC is easier or harder. If it's likely to blow soon, should I factor that into this job since it requires much of the same removal process rather than waiting for it to blow on a trip?
 

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This timing set:
http://www.ebay.com/itm/Super-Auto-TWPCR01-Engine-Timing-Belt-Kit-With-Water-Pump-And-Seals-Set-/251225411844?pt=Motors_Car_Truck_Parts_Accessories&fits=Engine+-+Liter_Display:3.0L|Make:Dodge&hash=item3a7e339104&vxp=mtr
With this oil pump seal kit:
http://www.ebay.com/itm/Beck-Arnley-039-8019-Oil-Pump-Gasket-And-Seal-Set-/191110747156?pt=Motors_Car_Truck_Parts_Accessories&fits=Engine+-+Liter_Display:3.0L|Make:Dodge&hash=item2c7f169414&vxp=mtr
is all you should need to seal the front end of this engine.
Keep in mind if you have to remove the oil pump, the oil pan has to come off first so you can disconnect the pick up tube.

PS: my brother in-laws 87 3.0L minivan made it 188K before the rear head gasket started to leak coolant but he never maintained anything except oil changes.
 

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I'm just starting to get more and more overwhelmed by what could be going on. I'm thinking about getting a AlldataDIY sub for it to take a look at the manuals and see what's involved for each step. The oil is apparently coming from the top of the timing cover, so at least the seals up there need to be replaced. I'm guessing the oil pump isn't too much harder than the water pump once you take off the oil pan and have it that far along.

Something the mechanic saw that I didn't is that apparently there were rear seal leaks as well at some point. Someone painted the rear seals with RTV silicone.

I'm glad it's at least not aluminum with as much gasket scraping as I see ahead of me if I go ahead with this job.

My big fear this moment is if it's not seals at all, but there's a crack somewhere. I don't really know what to do at this point. I'm on the fence between trying to sell it and fix it. I know it'd be a pity to go to a certain point and not do certain things, but it's looking like it might be a much larger project than I have the time to do.

I just want to feel like I'm not going to be stuck with this project for months and find out later that another major repair is needed in a year or so.

That being said, all the advice is really helpful. Keep it coming!
 

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Heres a picture of the front of the engine. This is when I rebuilt an engine for my Shadow.

Pretty simple little engine


Another shot with no water pump or crank gear(Front cam cog installed)

 

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Heres an oil pump/ seal replacement on another engine.
 

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Discussion Starter #15
When I look that part up, it says it's not for this engine. It doesn't look like the oil pump seals I see when I search for it either, which is here.


Thought process here: Being a V6 engine, there are two head gaskets, each of which has an equal likelihood of failure at some unspecified time in the future. I'm wondering how hard it is to replace those head gaskets on the engine, vs. the difficulty of replacing the engine and putting a used engine with less than 50K on it which I can probably get for about $300-$450 (my info may be outdated slightly, though).

How hard is it to disconnect the engine and swap it out vs. doing this whole replacement process? Do I need anything more than a cherry picker to do it?

Please forgive any noob questions and thanks again for al the help and advice, this is one of the best experiences I've had with trying to determine the extent of a job.
 

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That oil pump gasket set came up when I searched for a 3.0L Dodge. I'm sure you can find the correct 1 just as cheap.
Swapping the motor is easier than doing the head gaskets in my experience. These 3.0L come out the top with a cherry picker very easy. No special tools needed.
 

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Discussion Starter #17
So I guess that's where I sit, a choice between three possibilities.

1) Take apart the front end and replace timing belt, water pump, and oil pump gaskets.

2) Replace the entire engine with a lower mileage engine.

3) Resell the van on Cragislist and try to get enough out of it to buy another van that doesn't have any immediate repairs needed ( or at least ones that may not be so time intensive.

Still looking forward to the advice of all here. Thanks again!
 

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The first time I pulled the side cover off of 3L it took a Saturday to take it apart and have it back together.

Now i can have it torn down, and re-assembled in 2-3 hours maybe.

Its a non interference engine so if you screw up the timing it wont hurt it.
 

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The first time I pulled the side cover off of 3L it took a Saturday to take it apart and have it back together.

Now i can have it torn down, and re-assembled in 2-3 hours maybe.

Its a non interference engine so if you screw up the timing it wont hurt it.

That does help to ease my fears a bit.

Now onto question blast time...

1) What special tools did you need? I'm a little concerned that the harmonic balancer is going to be a PITA, not to mention the other parts that may not want to cooperate. The video I saw had the guy drilling hole in angle iron in order to create a brace to keep wheels from turning when removing center nuts. Are there better tools that are available say as loaners from Autozone to do that or should I expect to have to find a similar solution?

2) If you had, say, $500 to put into a job like this, would you spend $350 of it on a used engine with lower miles, or just fix the seals and move along, saving the rest for emergencies down the road?

3) Since the rear cam seal is covered with a glob of RTV silicone, should I just leave it alone for now and watch for leaks, then replace the seal if it starts leaking? Or should I try to fix it now since it's relatively accessible and likely to start leaking?

Thanks again.
 

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If you have an impact gun, you wont need anything to hold the cogs in place they will come right out. For the crank pulley/ harmonic balancer use an impact gun for the nut, and a jaw puller to pull it off.

I would never put a junkyard engine in my vehicle without freshening up the gaskets and seals first, its a waste of time. I had to replace an engine in an Audi because it dropped a valve. The replacement engine was low mileage, and had no visible leakage. So i went ahead and took off the timing belt and gears and guess what? The cam and crank seals were leaking oil, and it was due for a timing belt service. So I went ahead a replaced every gasket and seal of the engine except the oil pan gasket. Can you guess what gasket started leaking two months later? The oil pan...

Don't replace an engine because of a leaky seal, and if you do replace the engine(I don't see why you would) go big or go home. Do every gasket/ seal on the engine. I'd even go as far as pulling the heads and lapping the valves and installing new valve seals.

If you don't want the commitment, resell.
 
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