Piston Slap: Out of the Frying Pan, Into the Fire?

Sajeev Mehta
by Sajeev Mehta
piston slap out of the frying pan into the fire

Marshall writes:

Hi Sajeev,

Here’s the situation: I own an 08 Dodge Caravan, 117000KM’s (Canada), bought used at 94000KM’s or so. It’s been good to us…but I have this feeling in my stomach that doom is pending on this van. I keep it well maintained, do my own work on it when I can. I am noticing more and more rust spots (underbody) and oil seepages under the hood (oil levels are good). It’s a base SE, no power doors or lift gate. Last time I did some brake work a bolt broke due to corrosion.

We have 2 kids and love the space of the stow and go’s and such. However, I’m no fool, this van is a liability in my mind. Am I overreacting?

Want to sell and buy a similar vintage Honda CR-V.

Sajeev answers:

Of course you are overreacting, this ain’t no Mazda!

There’s a chance that your average 6-year-old CR-V has less rust than your van. Or perhaps what you see is a fact of life in places where there’s more salt on the roads than butter in Paula Deen’s kitchen.

Will a similar vintage Honda have less rust? Maybe. But, more importantly, will that less-rusty body last long enough to justify this effort?

More to the point, the CR-V’s resale is stronger than any base model Mopar Van: you’re gonna get hosed on this deal. Are you gonna find a comparable CR-V for less than $1000 over than your van’s market value? Possibly, but vehicles this age all have problems (leaks you mentioned are commonplace) unless the last owner did a ridiculous amount of preventative maintenance, with reams of paperwork as proof.

That said, bolts on any older vehicle get far nastier with winter salt/rust on them. Now IF you didn’t soak the bolts in penetrating oil and carefully break them free with a TON of patience and a dash of manhandling, well, you are partially to blame. That’s not hate: that’s me remembering the times I snapped bolts, kicking myself for overlooking the obvious.

So anyway…stick with the problems you know and drive the wheels off the Caravan. Literally.

[Image: Shutterstock user Krzysztof Smejlis]

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.

Join the conversation
2 of 59 comments
  • Ponchoman49 Ponchoman49 on Feb 25, 2014

    Newsflash- 6-8 year old CRV's are pretty rusted underneath in the snow belts just like Mopar products or any others probably more so. A neighbor has a 2005 CRV that is so bad underneath that the shop told her to expect either thousands of dollars in repairs or a new vehicle purchase after this Winter. Everything from brake lines to a leaky gas tank to rusty floorboards and suspension components are bad or going bad and it only has 80K on the clock. The trick here is meticulous under carriage cleaning during and after each Winter and a good under coating to drench the floorboards and sub frame and keeping it from hitting the salt. I have seen some 2000-2002 cars so bad that they were literally flexing in two after being hoisted up usually sending the pissed off customer without there ride and having to explain to them that there trusty Honda/Toyota/Subaru etc is ready for the crusher. And some of these vehicles had as little as 60K miles on the clock!

  • 3Deuce27 3Deuce27 on Mar 01, 2014

    I'm sure glad, I live somewhere that salt is not used on the roads. There should be a law against using salt, and not because of its effect on cars. The environment takes a beating from salt run-off. My first question is, why buy a vehicle used in the same environment, having the same age. Wouldn't the Honda suffer from like corrosion? If you did buy a vehicle of a similar vintage, buy it somewhere they don't use salt. If you have a stuck bolt, give it an overnight soaking, like Sajeev suggests, then use an air impact wrench set at a low operating pressure, rather then a manual wrench or breaker bar. Give it a few hits at low pressure, increase the pressure gradually till the bolt frees. Some bolts are not going to release, no matter the regime employed to free them. Just use that impact wrench to bust them off and be done with it. Use a chucked carbide Ball cutter or ball nose, end mill to prep the remaining material for centering a sharp drill bit, drill, and use that Eze-Out or similar tool for removal of remaining material. Chase with a thread tap and clear of chip material with air and bearing grease on a swab or the die. Using heat applied with a gas torch works in some situations. Be sure the bolt and surrounding material is completely cooled before applying torque. Forcefully tapping the head of the bolt can some times assist in removal. Don't strike head of bolt with a hammer, use round stock or round chisel Helps if you use a pointed round center point chisel with a 2-pound machinist hammer or air-hammer. When I build a Flat Head Ford, the dual water pumps have a bolt inside the inlet. Those are always fused to the block, because so-called mechanics, dry fit those bolts when replacing the pumps.

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