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Jim Grant Tech Tips Jim Grant Tech Tips
A collection of helpful articles based on reader submissions
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  Jim Grant's Tech TipsJim Grant's Tech Tips
Below is a collection of Jim Grant's Tech Tips sorted by Vehicle Make. These Tech Tips were answers to questions submitted to Jim by users over the course of many years.
If you have any questions, please feel free to email us.



Lincoln - Mercury
  Jim Grant's Tech Tips

98 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

A: Engine 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").

Your vehicle’s 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 critical.

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