Trusting a low oil pressure 302 for a long trip

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Mar 22, 2011
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My '86 f150 with a 191,000 mile 302 has had oil leaks (intake manifold mostly) and low oil pressure due to being worn out since I bought it 30k miles ago. As long as I stay on top of adding oil it runs fine (100 miles a day for weeks at a time with no problems). It's been run low a few times (10k miles ago) and had a bit of a ticking at idle after a long drive to remind me to add oil. Fully oiled it makes no ticking and idles ok even after a long drive (though the gauge will show low pressure in a traffic jamb type idle). I've checked the pressure with a mechanical gauge and have verified that it has around 5psi at startup/idle but has no knocking at any time and the pressure is fine at speed. I'm planning a trip in a week from Washington, DC to california and back, considering I drive like a grandma at 60mph or so in the right lane and will be running 20/50w oil which it likes (sometimes I can't find it so it runs 10/30) is there any reason to think a bearing would suddenly spin or other catastrophic engine implosion awaits me?
 

Nick1994

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There's no way I'd take that thing across the country and back. With the cost of fuel in a V8 truck and the makeup oil it would probably be much cheaper to rent a car.
 

OVERKILL

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With probably all the rod bearings and the mains down the copper I would certainly not take that engine on that kind of trip. It sounds like it has been heavily abused and doesn't owe anybody anything. I 2nd Nick's suggestion about just renting something.
 
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I don't think I'd chance another 7000+ miles on it. Unless you're the adventurous type and have AAA paid up and funds for a new engine or rental car for the rest of the trip.
 
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The savings in gas alone (30mpg rental car vs. your 15mpg truck), would pay for the cost of a rental car for 10 days. 5500 miles at 15mpg (average) x $3.20 a gallon (today's national average) is $1200. 5500 miles at 30mpg (average) x $3.20 a gallon is $600. I'd be spending the $600 that I'd be saving in gas, on a rental car. Even at $60 a day (which is pretty high)... the savings in gas would completely pay for a rental car for 10 days. You'll be driving a nearly new vehicle, and if there's a breakdown, it is someone else's problem.
 
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Forget the long trips..do the rental thing....keep it close to home and full of oil till it finally dies.. it will probably last quite awhile like that....had one just like it just as bad...never quit.
 

dccarpenter

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Regarding not renting a car I have a popup truck camper I'm planning to use, rental car rates are also skyhigh here in the dc area. I'm also going to be gone a month as I plan to stay in California for two weeks. The gas pricing doesn't really phase me either, I've been planning for the trip with the fuel cost in mind for awhile. I would have put a new engine in prior to the trip I just haven't had the time with work being busy, other than having the delay replacing it on the road it wouldn't but be a financial issue as it's being replaced whenever it dies driving locally anyway. Am I mostly looking at a spun bearing as my risk factor here? The water pump, alternator, starter & solenoid, battery ignition coil , belts, timing chain, throttle position sensor, fuel pressure regulator, master cylinder have all been replaced by me in the last few years, in tank fuel pump is new as well. The transmission was rebuilt 1000 miles ago with. Heavy duty cooler and is in great shape. Other than the block the truck is in fantastic shape with essentially every part except the block new since I bought it.
 
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Memories. About 20 years ago we were going to Mexico to hunt. I had an old '79 F150 with a 302- great truck. Got it ready to go, loaded the night before, and set off at 6AM. Made it 4 miles from the house and smelled coolant. One of the coolant passages corroded/blew out on the timing cover, and that was that. I had it apart 6 months before to put in a new timing chain and blew off a new timing cover eventhough it wasn't in great shape. Cheap out, and you still pay.
 
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What about spending a few hours removing the oilpan and maybe a couple off rod end caps. Then you have a good idea of the shape of the bearings. And cyllinderwall wear. If everything looks good another oil pump might be worth a try.
 
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I did it back in 1988. I drove a worn out 1970 Chevy half ton from Indiana to California and back. I met some really nice people in Wyoming when the transmission decided to take a dump. And then I met some really nice folks somewhere in southern Utah on the way back to Indiana when I was stranded on the side of the road in the middle of no where, (I could read the next exit sign which said, "Ranch road"). Aside from the four tires on the truck, I had seven spares in the bed. I went through all seven, (they were tires I had dug out of the trash at a local tire store before I left). I did it because I had no alternatives and no money. It was an adventure and I felt like the "Joad" family in "Grapes of Wrath." That might be a good read if you're considering such a trip. I think it's chapter four that talks about the truck they're driving and the anxiety they feel while driving - I know that feeling. If you have no choice and no money and have to drive, (rather than a bus ticket or plane ticket), I would say to pour a couple of bottles of STP in the motor with some 20W50 and take the back roads all the way - no one will stop to help you on the interstate.
 
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Originally Posted By: shDK
What about spending a few hours removing the oilpan and maybe a couple off rod end caps. Then you have a good idea of the shape of the bearings. And cyllinderwall wear. If everything looks good another oil pump might be worth a try.
Unfortunately what you suggest is an ordeal on this engine configuration. It is easier to just pull the engine out of the truck than try to do that kind of repair in vehicle.
 

dccarpenter

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Bdcardinal, Your right on , on pulling the oil pump being an ordeal. I've pulled the pump and replaced an oil pump in an old c10 and it was an easy afternoon. This f150 is not easy an task. I suppose one option I have as well is having the engine replaced during the two weeks I'm in California if it was necessary. 302 engines are a dime a dozen and labor won't be anymore than DC. I have full triple a and I suppose most garages could throw a jasper motor in this thing in a couple days if needed. I know they run $2300 for the motor and labor will be what it will be.
 
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Originally Posted By: GreeCguy
If you have no choice and no money and have to drive, (rather than a bus ticket or plane ticket), I would say to pour a couple of bottles of STP in the motor with some 20W50 and take the back roads all the way - no one will stop to help you on the interstate.
Exactly! You are using the most expensive way to cross the continent! But if you want to do it, heavy oil and STP might keep you going. I did such illogical (stupid) things in my youth, and look back on fond memories. But these days, I'm a little more realistic as to what is the sensible thing to do.
 
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How low is that "low oil pressure" at highway speed?, if you have been here at bitog for a while you would have read the low viscosity commandment of reducing oil viscosity until you get 10 PSI/1000 RPM, my father used to have a mopar 318 that had 1 PSI at idle but as soon as you revved it up a bit (1000~1200 RPM) the oil pressure will go up to over 15 PSI, to me it was a sign of impending doom, to my dad who knew a lot more than me was almost normal and the engine lasted more than 100K miles then he sold the car, we/he did countless long trips and he had a very heavy right foot, basically idle or WOT no in between. This long story is to let you know that you might be OK, I'll double check the oil pressure at cruising speed and if over 25 PSI, I'll go for it, heck, try to find out how much pressure and at what RPMs Ford considers normal, Don't we do that here to find the lowest viscosity the engine will take under our personal conditions?
 
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You say that oil pressure at speed is okay. Go for it. You have plenty of time and the funds to replace the engine when and if needed. You also have AAA and I'm sure that you have what would have been considered a magical device thirty years ago with which you can call anyone from almost anywhere. Buy a case of thick stuff for your trip and make sure you keep it topped up. Check around, since almost nobody uses 20W-50 anymore and it can often be found on clearance. Finally, as others have mentioned, it may not be the bears at all. Could be the oil pump or maybe a blocked pickup. 191K is not all that many miles that a Ford 302 should be worn out.
 
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It's not stupid to him and it's things like this that memories are made from. I think the thick oil and slow driving (i.e. low RPM's) may enable the trip to be made and you seem prepared to replace the engine if necessary. Good luck!
 
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you state that the oil pressure at higher RPM's is normal. Please expand on that. Given that you have nursed the engine along for thousands of miles you might get lucky. You also might have an engine failure. I was stranded out of state once when my bearing clearances were excessive. oddly enough, I was caught totally off guard: no oil consumption, no noises, no indication that I had a problem looming. anyway, it sounds like you are fairly determined to make your trip with the truck - so simply plan (as you have) and enjoy your trip!
 
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Old ford 302...I had one beat the snot out of it and never killed it. Used to run waste oil In it. I say go for it.
 
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