If you notice an oil leak from your car, it might lead you to wonder and ask the question – why is my car leaking oil?
If you are in this situation, you are on the right page.
This article will not only answer your question of why your car is leaking oil, but it will also further bring to light how best you can avoid this problem, the amount you will spend on fixing the problem, and lots more.
Let’s get started!
Why Is My Car Leaking Oil?
If your car is leaking oil, it may be because its engine gasket is degraded or the engine pan leaks. It could also be that the car’s oil seals are worn out or missing or that the oil pan drain plug is loose or missing altogether.
As you pull out of the driveway and park your car for some time, you notice drops of brown greasy liquid. You’ll easily notice that your vehicle leaks oil if you park it, although it is hard to know the exact cause. Not just can oil leaks be irritating, but they can mean that your engine is having a problem.
We will further discuss the most reoccurring reasons why a car leaks oil and how best to subsequently avoid it.
Questions such as how can you tell if there has been an oil leak? and How can you repair the oil leak? Will also be answered as you read on.
Thus, let us start with the most reoccurring things that lead to oil leakage in cars.
Also Read: Oil Leak After Oil Change (Causes & Solutions)
Engine Oil Leak Causes
1. Rusty or Damaged Oil Filter
Rusty, damaged, or faulty oil filters are usually why oil leaks from a vehicle. First, examine your oil filter and determine whether it has rusted or is properly tightened. If there is rust on the oil filter, you should replace the filter and engine oil.
A leak can result from O-ring sealing. Thus, it becomes hard to change separately, or you may even have to change the entire oil filter. Therefore, endeavor to change your oil filter whenever you change the oil.
2. Leaking Oil Drain Plug
An oil drain plug is found at the end of your oil sump, which can be accessed from the car’s underside. A damaged or worn drain plug leads to an oil leak.
The entire oil drain plug, or oil plug sealing, should be changed after any oil change. However, many people fail to do this and carry on with installing that same drain plug. It can make your oil plug O-ring start leaking.
Examine and ensure that your oil plug is properly tightened. If it seems as though the leak is coming from your plug, you will need to change your entire plug or the gasket
3. Bad Valve Cover Gasket
The covers of a valve are found on an engine cylinder’s top, and it serves as a seal to avoid oil leakage. Unfortunately, the valve cover gasket wears out with time because heat makes the rubber harden with time; hence oil drips from them.
The cover of valve gaskets is usually easily seen from the outer part of your engine; it is visible when a leak comes from it. Although it sometimes comes from an engine’s backside, you can make use of your mirror and try locating if there’s an oil leak.
4. Damaged or Rusty Oil Pan
You find the oil pan at the end of an engine. Unfortunately, with time, it spoils because debris hits that end of your pan, and the dent is left.
If you own an aluminum oil pan, it is possible to hit a thing under the vehicle; this causes cracks in your oil pan and oil leaks.
If you own a steel oil pan, it easily starts rusting after long usage, and then a little rust hole will appear, which leads to a leak. Such leaks can emerge from an oil pan sealant or oil pan gasket.
5. Clogged Crankcase Ventilation
Your crankcase ventilation ensures that your vehicle’s compression does not lead to an overpressure in your crankcase.
The crankcase is usually ventilated through the hose, and a valve moving to your intake again.
When your crankcase ventilation becomes clogged, such can lead to engine overpressure, which will further cause numerous oil leaks because oil is looking for a way to come out of your engine.
You can identify it this way: Loosen its oil cap when your engine is idle. If things go well, you will notice a slight under pressure. Although we are dealing with high overpressure, it may be a result of clogged crankcase ventilation.
6. Damaged Head Gasket
When your car’s head gasket spoils, it leads to oil leaks inside your coolant system or combustion chamber.
If the leak is from your oil pressure, close to the edge of your head gasket, such can lead to external oil leaks on the engine.
The above is not common, but it happens.
If it seems like oil is moving from between your cylinder head and engine block, it is time for you to examine your head gasket.
7. Crankshaft or Camshaft Seals
Around the camshaft and crankshaft, the seal keeps your engine oil in the engine. Unfortunately, the camshaft and crankshaft are constantly spinning, making the sealings wear out.
The crankshaft has three sealings: on the gearbox, the front of your engine, and behind its crankshaft pulley. If visible oil leaks from your gearbox housing, it may come from your crankshaft seal.
Usually, the camshaft only has sealings on the engine front.
8. Leaking Oil Cooler
Oil coolers are of two types. The first one is found in front of a vehicle where air cools. The second one is found at your engine block, and that coolant cools.
Most times, an oil leak comes from the coolant-cooled type because it has sealings at your engine block. They are built with plastic which easily cracks and leakage occurs.
In addition, the air-cooled ones found in the front can also leak; thus, when you notice an oil leak in the front engine, there is a high tendency that it is from your engine oil cooler.
9. Leaking Oil Pressure Sensor
The oil pressure sensor is found at your engine block or cylinder head. Unfortunately, the sensor is usually made of plastic, which can lead to cracks and then leak with time.
It can be easily changed once you find it, and it’s budget-friendly.
10. Cracked Cylinder Head or Engine Block
It is not very common, but it happens, so one shouldn’t forget it. For example, if your engine block or your engine cylinder head has cracked, the oil will leak from your engine and go into your cooling system.
This mostly happens if you do not have sufficient coolant in your cooling system, which makes your coolant freeze.
If the cylinder head cracks, then you have to change the entire head. If it is either a rust hole or a crack in the engine block, you can weld it in rare situations, but usually, you have to change the entire engine.
Also Read: Car Leaking Oil When Parked? (Causes and Fixes)
How To Fix an Oil Leak in a car
To repair an oil leak, such a leak must be identified first. Although we have numerous items in the market that help stop oil leaks, the main way to resolve the problem is to take the car to a local service store/center.
Recognizing the main thing causing the leak is necessary for the engine.
Although not every oil leak is visible. Hence, you should examine the engine’s oil levels whenever you carry out oil changes:
- Take note of various levels to decipher the quantity of oil lost by your engine.
- Examine the oil when your engine hasn’t been running in about 30 minutes, making way for the oil to go back into the pan.
- As your engine isn’t on, remove your dipstick, clean it with a neat rag and keep the dipstick back inside.
- Bring out the stick and check its level indicator. It is acceptable if the level is full or a little bit below full. When if it’s less, you have to top it off. Anytime it’s constantly low, it can mean a crucial issue that needs immediate attention from a professional technician.
Not minding the cause, you are to repair any oil leak once it has been identified. When you see a visible leak as you have parked your vehicle, oil on your engine, the smell of smoke or burnt oil, or faulty oil levels, refer your car to a trusted mechanic.
Acting proactively and fixing leaks as soon as possible helps you avoid excessive engine damage/failure.
Check out this video for more tips on how to fix an oil leak in a car
How to Know if You Have an Oil Leak?
Automobile oil leaks have obvious and direct signs. If you look around a little, you will notice the following symptoms:
1. Oil Spills
This is the most visible sign of an oil leak. When your vehicle leaks, you will see a sort of splatter or spill under the vehicle. It depends on the intensity of the leak; it will either be a little puddle or a few drops. Either way, it means your vehicle’s engine oil is leaking.
Therefore, you should get it examined immediately by a trusted technician.
2. Illuminated Check Engine Oil Light
When the light of your check engine is illuminated on the dashboard, it is a symptom of an oil leak. The light is built to illuminate when a car’s oil level is very low; it is perfect because it shows that oil is leaking, hence the low level.
While driving, if such a light comes on, park and examine the car. If it also lights up when one switch on the vehicle, check if there are oil spills.
In any scene where the light comes on, examine your oil level.
3. Smoke from the Engine
Numerous things can make smoke come out of an engine, such as fluid leaks, faulty cooling systems, and wiring faults. For instance, engine oil, transmission fluid, or brake fluid can cause smoke when there is a leak in a heated-up engine component.
When your engine is smoking, park your vehicle in a safe place. Then, turn off the engine and let it cool for some time. You can then pop its hood to find the issue. In addition, unless there are flames, do not use fire extinguishers.
4. Overheating of Engine
Besides working as a filter and lubricant, engine oil is a good coolant. As it flows through numerous components, it cools your engine. Therefore when there is a leak, there is a reduction in the oil level and also a reduction in its cooling effect, which makes an engine overheat.
5. Burning Oil Smell
When there is an oil leak from your valve cover, it can fall on your engine parts. While driving, they are blazing hot, which creates the smell of burning oil. Burning oil underneath the hood produces an acrid smell.
How Can I Spot an Oil Leak from My Car?
There are numerous causes of oil leaks, which are not difficult to identify. Inspecting some areas can help you decipher what caused the leak. Begin by:
1. Examining the Signs
Begin by checking for any sort of sign. Notice where the oil spill is emitting from and the intensity. On the other hand, if it is the burning smell or smoke you notice, they can result in an engine bay oil leak. Remember that overheating an engine can result from little engine oil levels or heavy oil leaks.
2. Check Underneath the Vehicle
If there is an oil spill, check under the car. See if the drain plug or oil pan is leaking. The easy way of confirming is by cleaning the oil and examining it after giving it time. The drain plug or oil pan is possibly the cause if there is more oil.
3. Check Below the Hood
Inspect the engine. First, open its hood to see if there are oil stains. Next, check around the oil filter or valve cover. If you see oil under your filter, know it is the issue.
Can I Drive a Car With an Engine Oil Leak?
Little drops of engine oil leaks can seem like a minor issue, but it may be a symptom of something serious. Having noticed spilled oil, examine the level of your engine oil.
If need be, add more oil before using the vehicle. You can drive to the auto repair store/shop if the oil level is enough. If a lot of oil has spilled, consider towing the vehicle to the mechanic.
What Is the Cost of Repairing Oil Leaks?
The amount spent on changing the oil leak depends on the problem. What is making it leak? For instance, if one needs to change the oil pan gasket, it may cost a couple of hundred dollars. The Timing belt oil leakage will be more expensive.
The price differs; this is why you should inquire to know how much you will spend on repairs.
Frequently Asked Questions – Why Is My Car Leaking Oil?
Can you drive a car that has an oil leak?
You can do so but keep in mind that it is a bad idea because oil is the thing that aids your engine to remain in shape, running, and lubricated. When oil is absent, the vehicle’s engine will leave you stranded, and you will spend a lot to purchase another engine.
How much does it cost to fix an oil leak?
Changing the oil leak will cost between $100 to $2,000, sometimes more. It may cost more because of numerous things that can cause an oil leak or even the place that the leak is coming from. In addition, car type has an impact on the cost.
What should I do if my car is leaking oil?
Using a car where the oil level is low can spoil its engine. Hence, it is best you park the vehicle and reach out to your professional mechanic for immediate assistance and repair so that you can avoid excessive damage or road hazard that might result if you keep driving.
Why is my car leaking oil when parked?
Such can be that your oil filter hasn’t been properly placed back, or it can be damaged. It can also mean a broken or loose oil filter cap. In addition, the gaskets or drain plugs may have been over-tightened or too loose.
Can an oil leak be fixed?
Some oil leaks can only be changed with expensive repairs; others can be done in your driveway or garage and are not expensive. You will only need the car jack, replacement parts, torque wrench, jack stands, and other special additives.
Conclusion – Why Is My Car Leaking Oil?
The seriousness of a car’s oil leak is based on numerous factors, like the size and (location) the place where the leak is coming from. When there is a serious oil leak, your oil level will quickly become low, and other problems will arise.
When it is a small leak, where it is coming from matters a lot because leakage from your timing cover or your front crank seal shortens the lifespan of the engine drive belts or timing belt, whereas the valves cover gasket leak gets oil on your hot exhaust manifold, leading to either fire or smoke.
To prevent damages or accidents caused by oil leaks, it is best to take the vehicle to a trusted mechanic to fix the oil leak immediately.