You might wonder whether your tailpipe is the one emitting the blue smoke, you may want to ignore the burnt oil smell coming from your car’s engine, or you might want to turn a blind eye to the pool of oil that forms under your vehicle because it is a small one.
Detecting an oil leak requires just a little examination. You don’t need the services of a mechanic to always check for a leak. However, never ignore any sign of an oil leak, as this can lead to serious damage to your car.
Even if the oil leaking from your car is just a few drops, never ignore it. If your engine lacks enough oil, it can make it wear out quickly. Thankfully, getting your car’s oil leak fixed isn’t so difficult. This article is going to talk about what causes an oil leak, Getting it fixed, if you can drive with an oil leak and the cost of fixing it.
Why Is My Car Leaking Oil?
It is important to know why your car is leaking oil, as this will help you in making repairs or replacements. Your engine can leak oil as a result of many reasons.
Sometimes it could be a result of simple wear and tear, like when the gaskets lose their seals. But, it could also be a result of major problems that would be difficult to solve. Below are some of the major causes of your car leaking engine oil.
1. Loose Oil Filler Cap
When you have a loose oil filler cap, this is a simple fault that causes your engine to leak oil. While using your engine, the oil will leak from the top of the reservoir if you have a loose oil filler cap.
Examine the reservoir of your engine oil and tighten the cap if it is loose. A loose cap could be that the oil filler has broken or is getting old and can no longer manage a good seal that will need to be replaced.
2. Poorly Oil Filter
When your oil filter is rusty or damaged, it can cause an oil leak. The work of the filter is to filter anything that can contaminate the oil. Anytime you want to change your engine oil, the oil filter is also replaced.
As a result of it being used, it can get knocked off by vibrations from your car engine, get rusty, or it can wear down over time. As a result, the oil filter won’t be able to filter contaminants, and they will easily enter the oil.
The oil link can also be a result Of the wearing out of the O-rings around the filter. Because it is very difficult to replace the O-rings, most times, you will need to have the entire oil filter replaced.
In addition, the seals and gaskets around your engine can get degraded prematurely if debris or dirt contaminates the engine oil. When the oil is contaminated, the seals of the reservoir will wear down eventually and then cause the oil to leak.
3. Worn Out Gaskets Or Seals
The seals or gaskets can wear down naturally on their own besides having a filter that is faulty. Rubber is usually used in making seals and gaskets. However, as a result of the high amount of heat it is exposed to from the engine, over time, the rubber can become hard and begin to decompose.
The seals include the crankshaft, or camshaft, among others. The gasket around the cover of the valve at the engine’s top or the head gasket is an important gasket around the engine.
Oil is bound to flow and leak eventually when the gasket or seal becomes worn out. Not only do vibrations or heat cause the wearing down of the gasket or seal. The oil itself can also cause this to happen. Sludge and contaminated oils can also cause this. When viscous sludge builds up, it will increase pressure around the seal and gaskets and cause them to be worn out faster or even fail.
When you do not change your old oil, it will break down into a gooey fluid, leading to contamination that can cause the seal and gasket to fail.
4. Worn Out Drain Plug Or Damaged Oil Pan
The oil pan is a part of the engine oil reservoir of your car, and it sits at the bottom of the reservoir. Your drain pan, as you drive, is opened for damages like it coming in contact with dirt or debris.
This can lead to a crack in the pan or make a hole in the pan. Due to weathering, the oil pan could corrode over time and leave a small hole in itself. There is bound to be an oil leak in the reservoir, whichever way the hole happens.
Sometimes the drain plug itself might be what has worn out. At the bottom of your oil pan, you will find the drain plug of your car. Engine oil is flushed out of the system during the engine oil change by the drain plug.
After your regular oil change, the oil plug seal is usually changed. This is because, after some time, the seal around your drain plug can become worn out or get damaged. This will cause a leak, or if the drain plug is left loose, it can also cause leakage.
5. Cracked Cylinder Head Or Engine Block
A cylinder head that is cracked or a blocked engine, though not common, can also happen in some circumstances, and it is the most problematic cause of an oil leak.
What can cause cracked cylinder heads or engine blocks is your engine running under a lot of strain or poor engine maintenance. As a result, your cylinder head, or the engine block itself, can crack.
For instance, when you let your engine run on low coolants constantly, you drive your car when the engine oil is not sufficient enough, or let it run hot.
When all this happens, the engine oil can even enter into parts it should not, such as leaking into the combustion chambers or cooling system.
The engine oil bay can even have engine oil over them which can cause serious problems that are very expensive to solve and waste a lot of time to fix. This problem can even lead to you replacing your entire engine.
Also Read: Can You Add Oil To A Hot Engine? (Expert Answer)
What are the Symptoms of Oil Leaks?
Once you notice your car is leaking engine oil, the next thing to know is why there is an oil leak. Some signs of oil leaks are difficult to notice and can be more serious than others. Knowing there are more obvious signs of an oil leak than seeing oil on the ground is important.
1. Oil Puddles Underneath Your Car
When you notice a puddle or pool of oil under your car, it means you have an oil leak. Check the color of the leak because there are other types of liquid that can leak from your car.
The different fluids in your car all have their important function to ensure that the mechanical parts of your car are working well with less friction. Like in the transfer of hydraulic pressure, some of the liquids are needed in the main functioning of these particular parts.
The color of the oil for your engine is brown; when it is new, it is more Amber or gold and becomes darker as it gets old. The color of the power steering liquid and the transmission fluid is reddish or reddish-brown.
The brake liquid has a pale brownish color. The coolants of your car can come in various hues like green, blue, orange, pinkish purple, or yellow. Knowing the color of the fluid that is leaking is very important for you to know what the problem is and how to fix it.
2. Low Oil Levels Or Oil Pressure Warning Light
You can also check if your car is leaking oil by using a dipstick to check the amount of oil in your car. If the amount of oil is very low, this is an indication that your car is leaking engine oil. You can even use that opportunity to check the state of your oil if it requires that you change it.
When there is an oil pressure warning light appearing on your instrument cluster, it could also be an indication that your car is leaking oil. Some cars even have a separate oil pressure gauge.
It is important to know that the ‘service engine soon or ‘check engine light is separate from the ‘oil pressure warning indicator. If the oil pressure warning light is on, it means that somewhere, your car may likely be leaking engine oil.
3. Smoke Coming From The Engine Bay Or A Burnt Smell
Sometimes you won’t see a puddle of oil under your car to alert you that oil is leaking from your car. For example, there might be an oil leak in the compartment of your engine.
This will cause the hot oil to get into components that are hot, like the exhaust manifold. This will cause your hood to emit dark smoke because of the heat burning up the oil. It poses a lot of danger as this can be ignited or damage parts like your car’s gaskets or oxygen sensor.
Another indication that there is an oil leak in your car’s hot components is when you start hearing any boiling or sizzling noise. Also, when you perceive a heaty or burning smell, it indicates an engine oil or another fluid leak onto your car’s hot components and is getting burned up. This is also an indicator that your car is overheating.
4. Engine Overheating
Your car’s engine doesn’t only work to lubricate your car in order to reduce the level of friction; it also helps to reduce heat in your car. The moving parts in your car are many, and the friction in those moving parts will cause it to produce a great amount of heat.
If your car lacks sufficient oil, the amount of heat it will emit will be even more as a result of more friction. Therefore, a car that is overheating is also an indication that your car is leaking oil somewhere.
5. Blue Smoke Coming From The Exhaust
When you start seeing thick blue smoke coming out from the exhaust pipe of your car, this is an indication that there is a serious oil leak in your car. You see the blue smoke because the engine oil is now going directly into your car’s engine.
The oil will get burned when it drips into your car’s combustion chambers. It can also leave residue behind in your car, not just the emission of blue smoke. It can lead to even bigger issues when the metal components start degrading.
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How to Repair Oil Leaks
It is important to note that some of the causes of oil leaks are not serious. This means that not all oil leak problems will cost you a fortune as some aren’t that expensive, and you can get them fixed conveniently, even from your house.
For you to replace your oil filler cap, expect to spend around $5 to about $10 to buy the part. It is important to ensure that whatever parts you buy are the best fit for your particular car. It is also not very expensive to replace your oil filter.
To buy a new one in the market, you will spend below $10. Finally, replacing an oil pan gasket and seals is not cheap. Expect to pay around $20-$ or even $50 for some.
It isn’t expensive to replace your drain plug; you will spend below $5 to get a new one. You can use a sealant to fill your oil pan if it has just a puncture on it. Any small cracks or tiny holes can be sealed by using a gasket sealant. You can get the common gasket sealant below $10, but the more extensive one will cost about $15-$20.
Overall, you should spend $100 or less to fix most oil leak issues.
Cost of Repairing Oil Leak
The cost of fixing an engine oil leak depends on how simple or serious the problem is and the type of car you drive. The serious problems are expensive to fix, while the simple ones are not expensive. For example, severe damage to the oil pan will have to be fully replaced, and it will cost you. To fully replace it, you will spend anything from $500 to about $1000.
Fixing a blown head gasket will cost you more to repair. To replace it, you will spend around $1,000 to around $2,000. This price also depends on the kind of car you drive. For example, SUVs and heavy-duty trucks will cost you around $3,000 to replace.
Under pressure, your car’s engine block can crack, requiring that you fully replace it, not repairs it. Fixing your engine block is even more expensive.
Depending on the type of car you drive, the cost of replacing the engine block and the labor varies. Simple car models will cost around $2,500 to about $5,000.
Expect to spend around $5,000 to about $10 000 on luxurious, high-performance cars.
What are the Dangers of Engine Oil Leaks?
You should change that mentality that a small oil leak from the internal combustion engine of your caris not dangerous.
If your car engine is leaking oil, it is enough to shorten the lifespan of your engine as well as cause many environmental and safety problems.
Below are the effects an engine oil leak can cause.
1. Posing A Safety Hazard
As a result of the high flammability of the oil, it can easily be ignited and cause a fire that can destroy your car and put the lives and safety of innocent road users in danger.
2. Causing Damage To The Engine
Not only will your engine be damaged by Leaking oil, but your car’s heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) system and radiator can also be damaged. Even your rubber hoses and seals can be degraded prematurely because of it.
3. Polluting The Environment
The oil leaking from your car can also cause environmental pollution. This is because the oil leaking from your car will be washed away from the driveways and roads into the drains, and in turn, the drains will be emptied into the streams, rivers, lakes, and other water bodies.
The engine oil can’t get dissolved in water, which is hazardous as it can cause human poisoning by plants and wildlife.
Can You Drive A Car With An Oil Leak?
When the oil leak in your engine is not that serious, you might be tempted to turn a blind eye to it and keep driving your car. However, you might also decide to fix it sometime later or when it is more serious since it leaks one or two drops per minute.
Although you can still drive your car with a minor leak, it is much better to get it examined immediately because that minor leak can turn into a major one and even cause more problems if not immediately attended to.
If that hot oil gets into other parts of your car, it can cause serious damage. The hot oil can also cause a fire outbreak if it leaks into components of your car. In addition, the slippery oil, as slick as they are, can cause the vehicles behind you to get the oil in their tires, making them spin out of control and cause a road accident.
It is better to drive your leaking car only if it is an emergency and the oil leak isn’t a major one. If the leak is minor, it is a little safe to drive your car through short distances moderately and carefully. You can even use that opportunity to drive your car to the mechanic to have it examined because what was once a small leak can sooner or later turn into a major repair.
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Frequently Asked Questions
Are oil leaks easy to fix?
You can fix your car’s oil leak in your driveway or garage. However, there are some repairs that will require a professional and will cost you. To fix it, you need to have a jack stand, a car jack, replacement parts like a new oil pan, special additives, and a torque wrench.
Can an oil leak damage your engine?
Your car engine can become damaged if it has an oil leak. They can make your engine deteriorate rapidly and cost you a lot of money to fix. When your car engine has an oil leak, it can affect your driving safety and make you lose control of your car as you drive.
What does it mean when your car is leaking oil when parked?
Your vehicle’s oil pan is attached to the bottom of the engine. There are different ways an oil leak can come. For example, if the oil is leaking when you park your car, it is likely that the oil pan is leaking, the engine gasket is degraded, or the oil seal and the connections are bad.
What is considered a major oil leak?
Any leak that starves your car engine of oil is a major oil leak. Never try to start your engine if you notice that there is a big puddle on the ground. This is because the oil left might not be enough to get your engine lubricated, and this can permanently damage your engine. That one replacement or rebuild can solve this problem.
How do I find out where my oil leak is from?
Use a torch to see if there is any shiny or wet spot indicating an oil leak. After locating where the oil leak is from using an oil filler cap, add automotive-grade UV dye to your engine.
Do most older cars leak oil?
Older cars are prone to oil leaks because the level of technology then wasn’t that advanced. However, this shouldn’t be of great concern to drivers because just like a seal and gasket of a car you do not drive regularly will dry up, and minor oil leaks your car will face aren’t affect your car’s health greatly.
How long can a car go with an oil leak?
As long as you maintain the presence of oil in your engine, a car with an oil leak will be able to carry you through 100 miles.
Never ignore any leaks your car is experiencing. On the contrary, they should be given attention immediately. If left unattended, it can lead to more damage which will be more expensive to fix.
It is better if you sell the vehicle if you can’t fix the problem because it is very costly to repair the rear main seal and cylinder head gasket.