By on August 11, 2017

06-08_acura_tsx

William writes:

Sajeev,

It is good to have another reason to contact the great and gracious Sajeev with a question that is more vexing than choosing the wrong flavor of Crest toothpaste at Walmart. (Not. Worthy. – SM) 

I recently had my 2008 Acura TSX in for a filter and oil change at my local Oregon Honda dealer. 

I requested that the oil being put into the car not exceed the maximum mark on the dipstick after the car had sat long enough to get an accurate reading. This occurred during the previous oil and filter change, leading to a most amazing conversation with the Honda Service Deptartment supervisor types. 

I was told the oil would get thinner when warmed up, so it was not a problem that the oil level when cold was about 1/2 inch higher than the maximum mark on the dipstick.  This would equate to around 1/2 quart of oil, maybe more. I could see the service dept. was up to its tush in cars, so I chose to leave the scene.  Several days later I bribed a Jiffy Lube with Hostess cupcakes to drain off the excess oil.

This time around I took the car back to the dealer and discussed the excess oil with no intention of bribing anyone with Hostess cupcakes. The same service supervisor, who explained the thinning oil theory previously, determined that all of the oil would be drained and then refilled, but at a lower volume.

Honda’s service spec calls for 4.4 quarts of oil with a filter change for this 2.4 liter four-cylinder engine. It turns out that putting in 3.9 quarts without a filter change puts the oil level at just below the maximum mark on the dipstick.  This led the Service person to conclude that a new filter would not hold 1/2 quart of oil. This leads me to believe Honda is choosing to overfill the engines with oil when doing an oil and filter change.

Please offer your humble opinion about this possibility  and allow the best and brightest to bloviate at will concerning this issue.

Sajeev answers:

I consider myself lucky I’ve worked on only one vehicle that eschewed whole numbers when adding engine oil. Plus, it used a full half of a bottle (so to speak), at that.

Regarding the K24’s half-inch too high dipstick reading, I reckon you were charged for a full five quarts and someone ensured you got every penny of it. Who knows why, but it should have been fixed (i.e. drained) upon your initial discussion. I spoke to TTAC commenter psychoboy, a genuine Honda guru, and he agreed. He went further, suggesting it’d take an extra quart (5.4 quarts total) to foam things up via crankshaft aeration to seriously damage your engine. He is not alone in this assumption of you being in the clear.

But he also noted, “might not hurt anything, but still not good.”

I doubt Honda Corporate approves of your experience, and I’m glad the thinning oil malarkey wasn’t thrown at you a second time. So, trust but verify…if you own a vehicle that still has a dipstick.

Send your queries to sajeev@thetruthaboutcars.com. Spare no details and ask for a speedy resolution if you’re in a hurry…but be realistic, and use your make/model specific forums instead of TTAC for more timely advice.

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62 Comments on “Piston Slap: Tribulations of a 4.4-quart Oil Pan?...”


  • avatar
    redapple

    You kidda need to change the filter when you have the oil change.

    • 0 avatar
      TR4

      My daughter’s 2008 Civic says to change the filter every other oil change via the maintenance reminder feature.

      • 0 avatar
        psychoboy

        I’ve seen policies that suggest replacing the filter but not the oil….but I don’t think I’ve ever seen one that suggests oil but not the filter.

        Considering how tiny Honda’s oil filter is, that just seems like a bad idea.

        Personally, I swap Honda filters every 5K, and swap Mobil 1 every 10k. When I change just the filter, I top the oil off with a can of BG MOA. Seems to be working on my 240,000 2006 Accord.

        • 0 avatar
          psychoboy

          huh…learn something new everyday.

          I’m seeing lots of references to Honda recommending an every-other filter swap online, but I have to imagine nearly no dealership follows that.

          • 0 avatar
            sgeffe

            Never could understand why Honda went to every other OCI for filters with the “Maintenance Minder.” That’s up to a quart of dirty oil mixed in with the new, clean stuff!

            However, according to oil analyses I’ve had done by Blackstone Labs on my last two cars, that oil-life indicator is spot-on, insofar as percentage remaining of additives.

            How much do you suppose the intervals between changes will drop, now that Honda has drank the turbo Kool-Aid? Do you foresee any durability concerns?

          • 0 avatar
            psychoboy

            I think the turbo durability is still up for debate. They are way late to the party, so they ought to have it really refined…but they are also putting them in the hands of loyal customers who are new to the eccentricities of turbos. It could easily end up being a fairly good product murdered by a bad customer base…or it could be a terrible product overlooked by a kid-gloved customer base.

            I wouldn’t bet on either side, at this moment.

          • 0 avatar
            Eddy Currents

            The every-other filter replacement is SOP in the Japanese domestic market, and not just for Honda.

        • 0 avatar
          Jacob

          You’re overthinking things. Just change the oil filter only when you change oil. Of course, if you put nice expensive synthetic oil that’s rated for 10,000+ files of service into your engine, it also makes sense to seek out a better oil filter than the proverbial Fram Extra Guard oil filter.

    • 0 avatar
      WheelMcCoy

      I heard Brian Cooley describe it this way: “You can change the oil without changing the filter. You can also take a shower without changing your underwear. I’ll leave it at that.”

      • 0 avatar
        PrincipalDan

        One of my professors (education field but grew up on a farm) did his own maintenance and swore that all you needed to do was replace the filter and add a little oil, he never did a full change.

        But he never kept a vehicle longer than about 50,000 miles anyway.

    • 0 avatar
      Mud

      C’mon, like its going to break the bank to change out that tiny filter at every oil change.

      Somewhat related like a distant third cousin – my Accord would take the same filters as my Cub Cadet garden tractor.

      • 0 avatar
        CobraJet

        Dan, I have run into two other people in my life that had the same opinion about oil. In both cases the guys (fairly old but well educated) said oil does not wear out, just needs to be filtered. I can imagine the amount of sludge that must have been caked up under the valve covers of their engines.

        • 0 avatar
          JimZ

          oil doesn’t wear out (unless you severely overheat it and cause coking) but additives can be depleted. common additives are ZDDP (sacrificial anti-wear additive) and alkaline compounds contributing to the oil’s total base number (TBN) which neutralize the acidic byproducts of combustion.

          no amount of filtering will put those back into used oil.

  • avatar
    87 Morgan

    I will go with the adage, ‘When you want the job done right, do it yourself’.

    • 0 avatar
      tommytipover

      How hard is it to slightly under fill, start and then shut off the engine, and then top off to the “full” line, like we were all taught? I once worked with a guy who never double checked the oil level after he did an oil change, because he “knew” the fill capacity of every car he worked on. I never let him touch my car.

      • 0 avatar
        bryanska

        I like to measure it just right, then make a label and stick it on the engine cover. Then when I follow my process I know it’s perfect every time, while saving a solid 10 minutes per change.

        Related: my Pentastar takes 6 quarts on. the. nose. Convenient!

      • 0 avatar
        Erikstrawn

        It’s pretty hard when you’re only getting paid 15 minutes to do a job that takes 30. When I was a dealer technician we knew exactly how much oil it took to fill then engine to the fill line. We called up the parts department and they dialed it in on the oil dispenser. Grab the oil fill hose hanging from the rafter and pump it until it stops.

        It sounds like the service department William visits isn’t fully on the ball.

  • avatar
    cwallace

    Any engineer who designs a differential, transfer case, or engine that takes point-whatever quantities of fluid should be regarded suspiciously. Either they’ve never changed these fluids themselves before, or they don’t care enough about precision to have ever attempted to meter out 3.87 quarts from a 5-quart bottle.

  • avatar
    DIYer

    An extra half-quart in the oil pan shouldn’t raise the level high enough for the crankshaft to splash the oil and cause it to froth. So your engine was not damaged.

    A buddy’s son took his Honda Civic to the dealership for an oil change, and they didn’t put any new oil in. He drove it about a thousand miles, and it developed rod knock, the bearings were toast. He showed the dealer his oil change receipt, and the dealer wound up putting in a new motor at their cost.

    • 0 avatar
      psychoboy

      A thousand miles? That’s pretty good.

      I’ve seen Odysseys that didn’t make it out of the car wash….

    • 0 avatar
      WheelMcCoy

      I have great respect for forgiving systems. That the K24 can deal with +/- .9 quarts is a good design. But I do get the “still not good” caution. Filled or under-filled to the extreme, the system won’t be able to handle freak incidents.

    • 0 avatar
      onyxtape

      I had a car-illiterate extended family member who drove a new Camry for 80k miles without changing the oil before irreparable damage occurred.

      • 0 avatar
        Lorenzo

        We all have such relatives. I inherited my first car from my sister. When I took it to her mechanic, she hadn’t changed the oil in over 17k miles, on an aluminum block AMC straight six built in 1963, the 17k miles being a trip from Providence to Boston to San Francisco, to San Diego, to Denver, to New Orleans, to Nashville, to Atlanta, and back to Providence. Easy mid-summer driving. A crankshaft bearing blew out on me at 60 mph four months after I got the car. Of course, the time the oil light came on and my dad put 3-1/2 quarts of oil in it, may have had something to do with that.

  • avatar
    Arthur Dailey

    Even the conversion to metric doesn’t make it a ‘full’ number. Really have to question the engineering team that approved this design.

  • avatar
    psychoboy

    The engineers that want 4.4 quarts of oil in the pan are lightweights compared to the ones that want 1.1 quarts of fluid (that only comes in quart bottles) in the rear diff. At least the motor oil comes in bulk, so tenths are easy to dispense.

    • 0 avatar

      I used to work for a Honda marine dealer those little outboards had tiny crankcases.

      For example BF2 8.3 oz oil
      BF5 18.6 oz.

      The dealer I worked for ended up buying calibrated plastic containers with spouts from a scientific supply house. Which did make it a lot easier.

  • avatar
    TR4

    I’m guessing the dealer has oil in 1 quart bottles and/or 5 quart jugs and can’t be bothered to pour out fractional amounts. Not really a problem. IME the oil can be as much as 1 quart high or 2 quarts low without causing issues.

    • 0 avatar
      psychoboy

      The K24 should want 5W20, and I’d think that any decent dealer would have bulk tanks of that weight, especially if the service manager is going to talk about tenths with the customer.

      • 0 avatar
        duffman13

        If it’s a TSX it should be 5W30. The engines with big-cam VTEC (K24A2, K20A2, K20Z1, and K20Z3) take a different weight oil than “economy VTEC” engines. I owned an RSX-S for 7 years, I’m more than familiar with the series.

        I would overfill mine with a full 5qt jug, but then again I tracked and autocross and didn’t want to potentially oil starve in long sweepers.

        • 0 avatar
          psychoboy

          If the dealership is actually putting 5w30 in it, it may well be coming from bottles, which may explain the overfull situation in the original question.

          I know Honda has recently updated the suggestions of what oils to use in older cars, too. The new counter mats are showing 0w20 for cars that I know are marked 5w20. I’m fairly sure I’ve run across owner’s manuals for cars that do not agree with the oil cap they were purchased with.

          The only constant is change.

          • 0 avatar
            Jacob

            The only difference between 5W20 and 0W20 is how fast they get up to the operating viscosity. 0W20 gets faster and can be used in any engine that calls for 5W20. No wonder that 0W20 weight oils sometimes used to be called “winter formula”. At the same time, I wouldn’t mind much using 5W20 oil “by accident” in a hot Arizona or Texas summer weather, where 90-100F daytime temperature is the norm.

    • 0 avatar
      JimZ

      honestly any place that does reasonable oil change volume and is still fiddling with bottles needs to re-evaluate themselves.

  • avatar
    PrincipalDan

    I was getting the oil changed in my 4.6 ltr F150 and consistently for a several month stretch it was being under-filled by the grease monkeys by about a quart.

    The place had a turnover in staff and magically the under-filling stopped.

  • avatar
    Tinn-Can

    Maybe it is like my wife’s fit and has a horrible garbage impossible to read dipstick… Also how long can opened oil last? I just keep combining my last quart of leftover mobil1 and use it every 5th oil change…

    • 0 avatar
      Reuleaux

      A sealed container of oil lasts almost indefinitely. I’d use 10 year old oil without a second thought. 20 year old oil is probably just as good as the day it was bottled but in that much time technology has improved so much that it might be worth getting something new.

      • 0 avatar
        carguy67

        Note to do-it-yourselfers: Shake the bottle good, esp. if it’s been sitting on the shelf for a while. Some of the additives can settle out.

      • 0 avatar
        joeaverage

        I run old oil (old bottles of new oil) in things like $100 lawnmowers.

        Occasionally a friend will clean out their garage and have a bottle (or can!) of oil that they don’t know what to do with.

        The old Briggs and Stratton doesn’t care.

      • 0 avatar
        Jacob

        The problem with the 10 year old bottle is the specs that it must meet. A 10 year old bottle of 5W30 oil will not be the same as a new 5W30 bottle, even from the same brand. The standards are being constantly updated. But then again, a 10 year old bottle of oil probably meets the spec for a 10 year old engine.

  • avatar
    Nick 2012

    My 1.0L 3-banger Insight takes 2.7 Qts. I’ve never taken it in for an oil change for this reason.

  • avatar
    rpn453

    I trust the spec more than the dipstick. But that doesn’t help much if you didn’t fill it yourself.

  • avatar
    krohde

    Why all fluid capacities can’t end with either a .0 or .5 is beyond me. Makes it so much easier on my Coyote Mustang to just do 8 quarts between the oil pan + pre-filling the filter. Versus the Mazdas I’ve had that all have a dumb .4 or something.

    • 0 avatar
      PandaBear

      because they are tested in metric and don’t want to redo a test in English system, or risk a stupid class action lawsuit that said “you told us to put too much or too little, and we either overpay or damaged our engine”.

      Lawsuit is our culture, remember that.

      • 0 avatar
        joeaverage

        All it would take is an oil pan that is big enough to hold some increment larger than the minimum amount of oil the engine needs.

        Engine needs? 4.2L, then make an oil pan that holds 4.5L.

        That’s why I buy certain brands of vehicles. I trust that they won’t cut corners on engineering.

    • 0 avatar
      brn

      My Ford 3.5L takes 6.0 quarts. Nice round number.

  • avatar
    redmondjp

    I drove my 1996 Civic around after replacing the engine myself with the oil level 1/2″ higher on the dipstick than the full mark for over a year (the old engine drank a quart every 300 miles so having the oil slightly overfilled was not a bad thing and would quickly remedy itself). It caused no problems whatsoever.

    These days, I don’t sweat it if the oil is a bit overfilled.

    • 0 avatar
      CobraJet

      My 69 Mustang 428 was designed to hold 5 quarts. Ford was getting a lot of warranty claims because under hard launch, the oil would run to the back of the pan and leave the pickup tube sucking air. Ford sent a letter to all original owners directing them to put in 6 quarts and also issued a new dipstick for that engine.

    • 0 avatar
      Lorenzo

      My mechanic’s grease monkeys twice put 5 quarts in my 1985 Accord, and it blew oil over the engine. I had to clean the engine and replace the valve cover gasket the oil was coming out of. The second time the shop had to pay for professional cleaning and replaced the gasket free. There IS a downside to overfilling the oil.

  • avatar
    klossfam

    Honda/Acura seem to be a little off on these numbers all the time (even if you allow time for a full drain of the oil). Example, the 2017 Ridgeline says 5.4 qts without filter change (who really does this?) and 5.7 qts with a filter change. Honda oil filters are pretty small capacity for all their engines. Sure enough, 5.4 qts WITH a filter change brings it exactly to the full mark.

    The overfill is common at dealers, however. My daughter’s Kia Sportage had a free oil change deal that was part of all sales at this dealer. They ALWAYS overfill by about 1/2 qt. They must waste huge amounts of oil yearly as they are a fairly large chain in Western NY and have thousands of vehicles out on the streets that get overfilled each time they come in…

    • 0 avatar
      Jacob

      The issue is that when the manual says that the maximum capacity is 5.whatever, then that’s the MAXIMUM capacity. If you overfill that, then bad things happen. So what do I do? If I change oil myself, I chop off the decimal part when I feel the oil. E.g. if the capacity is 4.4 quarts, I fill just 4 one-quart bottles. Then I drive the car around, let it rest, and then measure the stick. It’s always in the middle area with this method. Nothing bad will happen to your engine if its under-filled. It won’t explode or overheat. (That’s how engines running on just 2 quarts of oil because their owners have no clue rarely explode). Just check the level and add more if its low.

  • avatar
    IBx1

    I always bought a 5-quart jug and put the whole thing in for 7 years with my Civic Si. The K20A3 it came with and the K24A2 I swapped in after 5 years were both the same in this case. Never had an issue, especially since I drove those engines properly and burned a bit of oil between 3,000 mile changes as a result.

  • avatar
    nlinesk8s

    My 2000 A4 takes like 3.9:quarts. It gets an oversized filter and five.
    My 07 Mini had a dipstick that could only be read in noonday sun. No wonder those engines have problems.

    • 0 avatar
      Prove Your Humanity 2+9=?

      The idea behind a small oil filter is that if it empties when the motor is shut off, then it fills quicker than a large filter would, and the engine gets oil quicker. A larger filter gives you more filtering medium, usually for the same price… that would matter if it might get clogged up before you change it.
      The real issue here is the competence, or lack thereof, of the grease monkeys at the Quicky Lube.
      Not mentioned so far: that shops charge you for a full quart for that extra fraction that they put in.
      Oil changes are so easy and quick, guys should just do their own. At least you know that it’s done the way you want it, and it’s cheaper, too.

    • 0 avatar
      Jacob

      Supposedly, the 1.8L Audi/VW engines of that generation are extremely sensitive to overfilling. Be careful.

  • avatar
    geozinger

    One thing I used to hate on my folks’ 6 cylinder Fords were the 4.5 qt refill capacity (w/filter) on those engines. We always had a half quart can of oil loafing in the garage.

    I’ve never understood the every other oil change filter change on modern cars, either. I think since the widespread adoption of cartridge filters, the minimal cost makes up for the additional protection of the motor. I imagine it’s like using the bathtub after your sibling, but only emptying it most of the way… Ick.

    As much as I didn’t mind doing my own oil changes (with a few exceptions), with environmental laws being what they are, it makes more sense to have it done. I won’t just dump it on my property anywhere. Also, where I live, I have very few places to take waste oil. Or maybe the convenience factor has more to do with it. 20 minutes and I’m done. The local Chevy dealer does it pretty cheap and I’ve never had a problem with over/under fills, either.

  • avatar

    My Acura MDX is 4.5 Quarts. I have always done five, with filter every time….no issues. Disposal is easy by me, all the gas stations will take waste oil, that they get paid for…..


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