Changing the Oil Pump in a Fiat Spider
"Brian Burke" bburke@wowway.com




The oil pan sits rather low in Fiat Spiders, and it is not uncommon for the oil pan to become dented.  The pickup tube for the oil pump is positioned very low in the pan, and if the pan is hit hard enough, it can break the pickup tube.  The result is that the oil light will come on due to lack of oil pickup.  If your oil light keeps coming on (mine was) then take a look at your oil pan.  If it is badly dented (mine was) then most likely your oil pickup is broken (mine was!).


So that I could get a better idea of whatÕs really happening with my oil pressure, I removed the clock from my dash and installed a mechanical oil pressure gauge.  I had heard that the mechanical gauges are more accurate.  Maybe, maybe not - but at least they are cheaper.  I kept the original oil pressure sensor as well, so that I still have the oil light.  I even installed a buzzer so that I get an instant warning of oil pressure loss.  My reasoning:


  1. An oil pressure gauge is really nice to see how your engine is doing.  You can see whether the pressure is running lower than normal, which can give you advanced warning of an upcoming problem.  But if you suddenly lose oil pressure you wonÕt know unless you are looking at the gauge!
  2. Although an oil light gives no information about the normal state of your oil pressure, it at least gives a noticeable indication if the oil pressure is low.  Please note that the light will not come on until pressure drops really low (around 5psi).  But if it is sunny outside then you might not notice the light!
  3. Like the oil pressure light, a buzzer gives instant notification of oil pressure loss.  And you are sure to notice it.  Try Radio Shack part number 273-060, or for extra loudness try 273-057.  Simply connect the negative terminal to ground, and connect the positive terminal to the wire that goes to the oil light.  Rather than try to find that wire, I ran a separate wire from the oil pressure sensor to the buzzer.  Your choice. 


If you look on both sides of the oil filter housing, you will see that there are fittings on both sides.  The radiator side should have a plug that can be removed.  I moved the oil pressure sensor to the radiator side, so that it is easier to plumb the line for the pressure gauge.


The following procedure outlines how I changed the oil pump in my 1978 Spider.  It should be similar to any year Spider.  It would be a good idea to replace the motor mounts while youÕre at it.  Mine were sagging, which made the exhaust downpipe too close to the crossmember.


The night before you are planning to work, squirt some WD-40 on the upper and lower motor mount threads.  My uppers werenÕt bad, but the lowers were rusty. 


Recommended parts to replace:



   1.  Drain the oil.


   2.  Jack up the front of the car and place 4-inch cinder blocks under the front wheels.  That extra 4-inch clearance makes working under the car MUCH easier.


   3.  It will be necessary to jack up the engine to provide clearance for removing the oil pan.  Perform the following in preparation for raising the engine:


           a.    Drain the radiator.

          b.    Disconnect the upper and lower radiator hoses from the radiator.

           c.    Disconnect the heater hoses at the firewall.

          d.    Disconnect the downpipe from the exhaust manifold.

           e.    Put a support under the rear of the transmission (cinder block, wood, etc) and remove the transmission support.  You will need to unbolt the support where it attaches to the transmission. 

           f.    Unbolt the exhaust downpipe from the transmission.


   4.  Remove the inspection plate from the bottom of the transmission bellhousing.


   5.  Remove the nuts from the tops of the motor mounts.  DonÕt worry, the engine wonÕt move!  Also undo the bottom nuts and then snug them back up.  This will make it easier to loosen them later.


   6.  Remove all the bolts on the oil pan.


   7.  OK, you can now jack up the engine.  Put the jack under the transmission bellhousing and jack her up.  Be sure to use a block of wood between the jack and the transmission.  Go slowly, and take a look around several times to make sure things are looking good. 


   8.  How will you know how high to raise the engine?  Watch the oil pan in relation to the crossmember.  When the oil pan no longer rises in relation to the crossmember, STOP.


   9.  OK, you can now remove the oil pan.  If yours is like mine, you will find it to be thoroughly stuck to the bottom of the engine.  Use a large screwdriver and hammer it between the oil pan and the engine block.  To protect from scratching the gasket surface on the engine block, position your screwdriver between the gasket and the oil pan (not between the gasket and the engine block).  You will need to hammer and pry all around the oil pan.  Take your time and work at it, and eventually you will get it off.


A word of caution:  The engine is being supported by the jack, which is dangerous!  While working, keep your hands out of harms way in case the jack decides to suddenly fail.  If the engine drops it will fall back onto the motor mounts, so donÕt worry about being crushed by the engine.  Just try not to put your hands between the engine and the crossmember.


10.  After loosening the oil pan, it should come down and then slide towards the front.  If the oil pickup is broken, this will be easy to do.  If the pickup is not broken, then you may need to angle the pan in different directions to get it past the oil pickup.

The bottom of your engine is now exposed.  Protect it from dirt!  Hopefully you are working in a garage.  Keep all the doors and windows closed so that the wind cannot blow dust around in your garage.


11.  Now clean the gasket surface on the engine block.


12.  The oil pump is attached with 2 bolts.  Unbolt and remove the oil pump.  Here is a picture:




13.  Clean the gasket surface for the oil pump.


14.  Before installing the new oil pump, fill it with oil.  This will help to prime the pump so that it sucks up oil when you crank the engine.  Just pour oil into the outlet hole on the top of the oil pump.  Fill it all the way up.  I recommend using 20W-50 oil, which is thick and will tend not to drain away.  I always use 20W-50 in my Spider.  I do not recommend using grease, etc. to prime the pump.  Just fill it with engine oil. 


15.  Now bolt the oil pump to the engine and torque the bolts to 14 ft-lbs.  Be sure to use a gasket!


16.  You can now install the oil pan.  I do not recommend any gasket sealers.  If you ever need to remove the pan again it will be a bitch to scrape away the gasket sealer.  If you need to hold the gasket in place, just use a light coating of grease on the gasket surface.


17.  With the oil pump in place it will be a little tight to get the oil pan back on.  You will need to angle it around a bit until you get it to slide past the pickup tube.  Just be careful and take your time.  Do not force anything.  I had very little trouble getting my pan to slide back on.


If you cannot get the pan to slide past the pickup tube, try jacking the engine up a little bit more.  You can also check between the engine and the firewall to see whether there is something that is blocking the engine from rising.


18.  Once you get the oil pan into position, install a couple bolts finger-tight to keep it in place.  Then install all the remaining bolts.  Do not tighten any of them yet, just make them




19.  You can now tighten the oil pan bolts.  A couple of hints:


           a.    Do not tighten each bolt all at once, do it in several steps.

          b.    Do not over-tighten the bolts.  ThatÕs worth repeating: DO NOT OVER-TIGHTEN THE BOLTS!  If you do, you are sure to get oil leaks.  If you see the gasket squishing out around a bolt, then it is over-tightened.  You should not see any gasket deformation.  It is way better to under-tighten them.  If you have any oil leaks then simply snug them a bit more.  Just remember to take it easy!


20.  Now that the oil pan is mounted, you can replace the motor mounts.  If you are not planning to replace the motor mounts, then skip to step 23.


21.  Remove the nuts from the bottom of the motor mounts.  


22.  You will need to unbolt the mounting brackets from the engine.  Do one side at a time.  After the bracket is off, you can lift the motor mount and then slide the new one into position.  Re-attach the bracket and then do the other side.


23.  Install the nuts onto the bottom of the motor mounts, but leave them a little loose.  If you were not replacing the motor mounts, then just loosen the bottom nuts on the motor mounts.


24.  You can now finally lower the engine into place.  Most likely you will find that the engine rests on top of the studs.  To get the studs into the mounting holes:


           a.    Jack up the engine and then slowly lower it just until it touches the stud.

          b.    Use a large screwdriver to push the stud.  The motor mount will flex to allow you to push the stud, and since the engine is lightly resting on the stud it will not move back.  It also helps to have the bottom nuts loose so that the motor mount can be angled a bit.  Work at it until you get the stud to slide into the hole of the engine bracket.

           c.    Once you get one side, then do the same to the other side.


25.  Now that you have the studs lined up, lower the engine onto the motor mounts.


26.  Be sure to tighten the upper and lower nuts on the motor mounts.


27.  Now do the following.  Put a check mark next to each one as you do them:


           a.    Re-attach the upper and lower radiator hoses to the radiator.

          b.    Re-attach the heater hoses at the firewall.

           c.    Reconnect the downpipe to the exhaust manifold.

          d.    Re-attach the transmission support. 

           e.    Re-attach the downpipe to the transmission.

           f.    Install the inspection plate to the transmission bellhousing.


28.  Before installing a new oil filter, fill it with oil.  Take your time and try to get it as full as possible, then screw it on.


29.  Fill the engine with oil.  Start with a total of 4.5 quarts and then you can top off later as necessary.


30.  Fill the radiator with coolant.


31.  Disconnect the high tension wire from the ignition coil so that the engine does not start.


32.  You are now going to crank the engine until the oil light goes out.  This will ensure that you have oil pressure prior to starting the engine.  DO NOT crank the engine for more than 10 seconds at a time, otherwise the starter will overheat.  I cranked mine for about 5 seconds, then paused for a few seconds and repeated.  Eventually my oil light went out!


33.  You can now connect the high tension lead to the ignition coil and start the engine.


34.  While the engine is running, check around for oil leaks.  If everything looks OK, then shut it down.


35.  Your last step is to bleed air out of the cooling system.  DonÕt skip this step!  Here is what works for me:



Cooling System Bleeding














  1. Raise front of car and support safely on jack stands. It must be high enough so that the radiator filler neck is the highest point in the cooling system.


  1. Place heater temp lever in the ""heat"" position.


  1. At cylinder head tee (see Fig. 1) detach the hose that runs down to the thermostat.

  1. Loosen the same hose at the thermostat, but do not remove. Rotate the hose on the thermostat 180 degrees, forming a filler spout (see Fig. 2).


  1. Pour coolant into the hose until it begins to run out of the cylinder head tee.


  1. Replace the hose on the tee and tighten the clamps.


  1. Continue slowly filling the cooling system through the radiator until it is full, periodically squeezing the upper hose to force the air out.


  1. Leaving the radiator cap off, start the engine and allow it to run at around 1500 rpm until the lower radiator hose is very warm and the temperature gauge reads near the center of the scale. This indicates that the thermostat has opened.


  1. Bubbles may come out at the radiator neck.  Add coolant as needed.  If the radiator overflows, let it.  This is due to trapped air that is expanding.  The air will work its way through the system until it bubbles out the radiator neck.


  1. If everything is working right, the upper and lower radiator hoses should get hot.  The radiator fan should come on a little above 190¡F and shut off a little below 190¡F.  Let it cycle on and off a few times.


  1. Keep a close eye on the temperature gauge.  If things start getting too hot, shut it down and find and fix the problem. 


  1. While the engine is running, fill the overflow reservoir with coolant.


  1. If everything looks good, then top off the radiator and replace the radiator cap.  Shut off the engine and lower the car.



Congratulations, you are done!