Jim Grant's Tech Tips
Ford Contour, Check Engine Light & Engine Oil Flush
Q: I own a ‘98 Ford Contour, automatic,
4 cylinder with a 2.0L engine. I had a diagnostic test done at a Ford
Dealership that cost about $100 and was told I needed an engine oil flush
that would cost about $100 and if the oil flush did not work then I would
need to have a part replaced that would cost about $400- $500. I found
out that only Ford can do the oil flush. Please explain to me, why after
the diagnostic test, they could not tell me exactly what is wrong and
why only Ford can do the oil flush. I need to get an emissions test done
to my car and they will not even do the test if the check engine light
is on........Jo Ann Pope
oil flushes are going to become part of peoples vocabulary with today’s
vehicles. Particularly if the engine oil becomes contaminated due to lack
of service or need the of additional service because of operating conditions.
The engine oil flushing procedure introduces aggressive detergents to
the engine to clean and remove deposits. Now you’re asking why and what
created this need? Engineers are doing some remarkable things with today’s
engines. In your case it’s likely technology is nipping at your backside.
As for flushing the engine, anyone can perform this service if they have
the proper equipment (key word "equipment").
engine is equipped with a Variable Camshaft Timing (VCT) unit. The VCT
unit allows the vehicle’s computer to alter the timing/positioning of
the camshaft while the vehicle is being driven. In the old days camshaft
timing never changed unless the timing belt broke or something like that.
The reason for this techno stuff is to reduce exhaust emissions yet improve
driveability, performance and gas mileage.
The VCT is operated by the computer which uses an electric solenoid to
apply varying amounts of oil pressure to the VCT. The VCT, in response
to the varying oil pressure, alters the camshaft timing. The computer
knows two things: how much it’s telling the solenoid to adjust the VCT
while monitoring the change. If the computer doesn’t see the correct response,
on comes the check engine light. ALLDATA Information Systems shows Ford
TSB 00-3-7 addressing a Malfunction Indicator Lamp (MIL) (AKA Check Engine
Light) on with Diagnostic Trouble Codes (DTCs) P1380, P1381 or P1383 stored
in the computer. Driveability concerns may or may not be present. This
may be caused by engine oil contamination. The TSB goes on to describe
diagnosis and engine oil flushing. If flushing doesn’t correct the problem
then the VCT unit has to be serviced.
From our experience the problem is most often found to be due to engine
oil contamination. Today’s technology works great when new, but the real
test of time proves the importance that proper vehicle maintenance is