1991 Dodge PickupDear Ole Mechanic;

The other day I was driving my Grandpa’s 1991 Dodge pickup and it quit.  The pickup has a gas engine and an automatic transmission.  It also has about 160,000 miles on it.  As I was driving towards town, it started feeling sluggish and did not want to pull up the hills easily.  At that point, I looked at the gauges and saw that the oil-pressure gauge showed zero.  I pulled over to the side of the road as quick as I could and when I did, the engine quit.  I checked the oil with the dipstick and it showed a level half way between the add and full marks.  The engine seemed to smell funny--like it was hot--but the temperature gauge did not show hot.  When I tried to restart the engine, it would not crank.  There was just a clunk every time that I tried and that was all.  Grandpa had the truck towed to a local mechanic who told him that the engine was seized up and that the truck was shot.

What happened?  What did I do wrong?

A Truck Killing Granddaughter

Dear Truckin' Granddaughter;

Welcome to the real world of Murphy’s Law, which says “If anything can go wrong, it will and at the worst possible time”--like when you have borrowed your Grandpa’s truck.  It doesn’t sound like you did anything wrong.  You just happened to be the one that was driving it when the truck wore out. 

With the mileage that is showing on the truck, any number of things could have gone wrong.  A gauge reading of zero oil-pressure when the dipstick showed that was there is enough oil could be the result of: the oil pump drive or drive gears sheared off, a cracked or broken oil pump pick up tube, a stuck-open oil pressure by-pass, or even an internal oil galley plug popping out and . . . the list of possible causes goes on and on.  What all of these mean is that the moving parts inside the engine were not getting any--or at least not enough--lubricating oil.  Without enough oil circulating, the moving metal parts in the engine started grinding against each other.  The grinding got the pieces so hot that they started welding themselves together and the engine locked up and stopped.  That is why the engine died when you stopped.  Those internal parts can get hot enough to weld themselves together and still not show up as overheating on the temperature gauge.  The clunk sound that you could heard when you tried to restart the engine was the starter engaging the flywheel, but since the engine was seized, it could not crank over.  At that point, it was too late.  An engine that has seized up due to a lack of lubricating oil is basically scrap iron, or as it is sometimes referred to--"a boat anchor.This is because as the parts grind against each other nd then weld together, chunks of metal are torn out of all of the internal components.  They will be so torn up that repairing the damage to them would cost more than buying a brand new engine.  Used engines out of wrecked trucks are available from salvage or recycle yards, but even with a used engine, you would be looking at a $2,000-- to $4,000 repair bill.  That would still leave Grandpa with a fifteen-yea- old truck that has an automatic transmission with 160,000 miles on it.  It doesn’t sound like you did anything wrong, it was just time for the truck to wear out.

Dear Grandpa;  Your Granddaughter does not appear to have done anything wrong. She just happened to be driving it when it finally wore out and died.  My suggestion as to what to do depends upon how you use your truck.  If it is your only transportation, I would recommend that you go shopping for a brand new one or at least a newer one that is only about one to three years old. 

If the truck is a second vehicle and the longest trip it makes is to town for morning coffee, then to the feed store and finally an occasional run to the sale barn, then a used engine and transmission out of a wreck should keep it running for a few more years. 

If you choose the second option, then let the mechanic that does the work get the engine and transmission for you.  That way the mechanic will be responsible for getting the computer hooked up right.  If you choose to do it yourself . . . Well, let’s just say that I have covered the problems of not getting the right year stuff in this column before.

Good luck with whatever you decide to do and don’t worry about your Granddaughter.  She knew enough to check the gauges and she knew where the oil dipstick was and how to use it.  I think she can be trusted.

Herr Professor Nuzanbolts