Jim Grant's Tech Tips
'98 Ford Escort, Oil In the Spark Plugs?
Q: I recently took my 98 Ford Escort ZX2 in for an oil change and tune up. They told my I need to replace my serpentine belt and a gasket was leaking oil into my spark plugs. I understand about the serpentine belt and replacement requirements, but am I being taken with regards to the gasket and what it is doing to my car? I just don't want to feel bullied into making repairs on the car that I can't afford. Unfortunately, most women are taken advantage of in this area and we are left with fear if we don't fix it, or empty pocket books even if it is not completely necessary. Also, what would be a reasonable amount to pay for these repairs?
- Samantha M.
A: The engine in your vehicle is a Dual Over Head Cam (DOHC) and this engine happens to have the spark plugs located between the two camshafts. Engine oil is pumped up to the camshafts to lubricate the assemblies. To prevent oil from going everywhere there is a cover that goes over the camshaft area called a valve cover. The valve cover has a gasket to seal the area that it bolts to. With age the valve cover bolts can loosen or the gasket can shrink and become brittle. When this happens engine oil can leak by the gasket. Due to the location the spark plugs have valve cover gaskets on both sides of them. So, if the gasket starts leaking oil in the right area, oil ends up getting on the spark plug wires and spark plugs. Spark plug wires will not tolerate exposure to engine oil for too long of a time before they will begin to fail. More importantly an oil leak can be a fire hazard on a hot engine. The replacement gasket should take about 1 hour labor to install and to clean up the oil that has leaked. The gasket should be in the area of $15 to $20. Compared to the other costs if ignored, its not too bad of a repair. If you doubt that the repair is needed, just ask to see the leak.