Why is My Car Leaking Oil and What Should I Do?
How would you react if you saw a person lying in a pool of blood? It’s a scenario that you can’t just ignore. You know that you have to act fast to save that person’s life.
Oil is the lifeblood of your vehicle. If you see a puddle of oil forming under your car, it means that your car is facing a life-or-death situation. Well, that’s a bit of an exaggeration, but a car leaking oil is something that requires your immediate attention.
What can oil leaks and a low oil level do to your car? Without proper lubrication, your car can overheat and sustain damage to the engine. Eventually, the engine can get seized or worse, fail completely. Leaking engine oil is also a fire and environmental hazard.
What causes an oil leak and what can you do about it? Read on to find out.
Car Leaking Oil? The Usual Suspects
Oil circulates throughout the engine so there could be a lot of locations where the oil might leak from. But you can start your search by looking at the common culprits.
These are parts that are either old, damaged, or improperly installed. Because oil is a slippery liquid, any looseness or gaps in these engine parts can cause a leak.
1. Oil Filter
This is our number one suspect and the first thing you should check. The oil filter is the component that removes impurities from the engine oil.
One of the most common causes of leaks is a worn-out or old filter. Keep in mind that the filter should be changed every time you get an oil change.
Also, the filter is usually a screw-on type. It can work its way loose or become misaligned. If you have a new filter, you should check if it’s fit, snug, and correctly installed.
2. Valve Cover Gasket
The valve cover gasket is also a frequent source of oil leaks. But first, what are valve covers? As the name implies, they cover the valve assemblies and keep the oil inside so it can circulate.
The seal between the valve covers and the cylinder is the valve cover gasket. While the gasket is protected from the top and bottom, it’s vulnerable to damage from the sides. Road debris can put holes on the gaskets which will cause leaks.
Over time, the gasket can get brittle or corroded and lose its integrity. This happens due to a build-up of oil sludge if you don’t change your oil regularly.
Oil leaks from damaged gaskets may not necessarily fall onto the pavement. The oil can drip on the cylinder head, fuel intake, or sometimes, the exhaust pipes. As the oil comes into contact with these hot engine parts, the oil will start to burn.
When this happens, you may hear hissing or sizzling sounds. Other signs of burning oil are the characteristic burnt-oil smell and blue-gray smoke coming out of the exhaust.
There are also cases where oil leaks from a bad gasket can make its way inside the spark plug tubes. This causes a misfire and you’ll notice that the engine is performing worse.
If you notice these symptoms, it’s time to see a mechanic for gasket replacement.
3. Oil Drain Plug
The drain plug is located at the base of the oil pan. It’s accessible from the underside of the car and is removed during an oil change. It allows the old oil to drain out before putting in new oil.
Oil leaks can be due to misaligned or worn-out threads. If it’s too loose or too tight, gaps may form where the oil can seep out of.
It’s easy to investigate if the leak is coming from the drain plug. You’ll usually see fresh oil around the plug or oil drips directly below where the plug is located.
4. Oil Pan
Because of the proximity of the oil pan to the surface of the road, it can get damaged by road debris. A puncture to the oil pan can cause the oil to bleed out. Wear and tear on the pan’s gasket can also lead to an engine oil leak.
5. Oil Filler Cap
The filler cap is the round, removable cap with the symbol of an oilcan on it. You can see it at the top of your engine. This is the entry point for new oil during an oil change or if you need to top up.
As with any removable covers, the source of the leak is usually due to misaligned threads or if the cap is loose. In some cases, it may even fall off and go missing due to the pressure created when the engine is running.
You’ll be surprised to find out how common it is for people to forget to put it back on after tinkering with their car. Driving without an oil cap isn’t safe. Always make sure that the cap is in the right place before driving off.
6. Oil Cooler Lines
Some cars have external oil coolers, especially those with turbocharged or larger engines. They allow the hot oil to be cooled down by air before returning to the general circulation. Oil leaks can come from damage or corrosion to the cooler lines.
7. Trauma to the Cylinder Head
An uncommon origin of an oil leak is a damaged cylinder head or a cracked engine block. In this case, the oil can leak out of the engine or go into the cooling system. If you suspect trauma to the cylinder head, check both the filler cap and the coolant cap for muddy brown liquid.
8. Other Factors
Other less frequent sources of oil leaks include a faulty head gasket or main seal. In some cases, you might be dealing with a broken dipstick tube.
It’s also possible that the oil leak has nothing to do with damage or improper installation of components. Check your dipstick reading. If you see that it’s more than full, you have an overfilled engine.
Stop the Bleeding
If you have a car leaking oil, it’s always a good idea to have it checked out by a professional. By using the information in this article, you may be able to pinpoint the source of the leak. You’re also more than capable to fix minor issues like a loose cap or plug.
But for problems that are too hard to handle, consult the experts! Our service center is available from Monday to Friday.