Motor oil is the lifeblood of your vehicle’s engine. This vital fluid prevents damaging friction and wear by lubricating moving parts. It also keeps the engine clean by processing and removing dirt and other contaminants via the oil filter.
If you notice dark puddles where you park your vehicle, there’s a good chance you have an engine oil leak. Your oil level is likely lower than it should be, which can cause significant — and expensive — damage. These leaks require prompt attention to keep your car or truck on the road.
Why Is My Car Leaking Oil? — 5 Possible Causes
Knowing what can cause oil to leak is vital for preventing damage to your vehicle. Common causes include:
1. Faulty Oil Filter
The filter traps contaminants and debris before they reach the oil. A bad or improperly installed filter is one of the most common causes of a truck or car leaking oil. It’s crucial to replace this part at every oil change before it wears out. You should also ensure that it fits securely.
2. Failed Gasket
Gaskets serve as seals between vehicle components like oil pans, valves, cylinder heads and timing covers. When gaskets wear out, leaking oil is often the result. These leaks can be hard to detect and may require a qualified mechanic to pinpoint the issue.
3. Oil Pan Damage
The oil pan attaches to the bottom of the engine and acts as an oil reservoir. Because of its location, this component is susceptible to damage from road debris or speed bumps that can allow the stored oil to escape.
4. Improperly Fitting Drain Plug
Removing your vehicle’s drain plug allows the fluid to exit from the pan during an oil change. If you don’t fasten the plug securely, which sometimes occurs when attaching it by hand, it can cause a car oil leak. Conversely, if you make the plug too tight, it could damage the threads and cause a leak.
5. Seal Damage
Most vehicles have seals at the camshaft, crankshaft and other locations. These seals can crack or dry out, leading to an engine leak. Like a failed gasket, this type of oil leak typically requires a mechanic to find and diagnose.
5 Typical Signs of an Engine Oil Leak
If you notice any of the following signs, you could have an oil leak:
1. Puddle Underneath the Vehicle
Many vehicle owners first become aware of an oil leak when they approach their usual parking space and notice a brown, black or yellowish puddle.
2. Warning Light
If a leak causes your vehicle’s oil level to drop too low, the oil pressure light on the dashboard may illuminate. This light could also indicate that the oil is dirty.
3. Burning Smell
Leaking oil doesn’t always reach the ground. It can also drip onto hot engine parts, creating a distinct odor of burning oil. You might even hear a sizzling sound if the oil is hot enough.
If too much oil has leaked, the pistons and other components will no longer have essential lubrication and grind together. If you continue to drive in this situation, the engine will eventually overheat.
In some cases, engine oil will leak onto the exhaust manifold. If the engine block is overheated, you may notice smoke coming from the engine area.
Fixing an Engine Oil Leak and the Cost
Determining the cause of an oil leak is the first step to correcting the issue. For instance, if you notice a loose drain plug, tightening it will likely resolve the problem. A cracked or punctured oil pan is usually easy to spot by looking underneath a vehicle, and you can fix it with a quick repair or replacement. Changing a dirty oil filter may also deliver the desired result.
If you cannot pinpoint the cause of a car oil leak, a qualified mechanic can perform a comprehensive inspection and use various diagnostic tools to find the problem.
An oil leak repair cost can vary depending on the parts the job requires. An oil drain plug can run from $30 to $50, while the price of an oil filter can reach $75. If you need to repair the oil pan, the cost can range from $100 to $500. Additional labor charges will apply if you take your vehicle to a mechanic.
Engine Oil Leak Frequently Asked Questions
Here are answers to some common questions about oil leaks.
Can you continue to drive with an oil leak?
You should be okay driving with a slow leak if you maintain an adequate oil level. However, fixing the problem as soon as possible before it worsens is vital. Avoid driving with a severe leak, which could cause major engine damage.
How serious is an oil leak?
While a small leak doesn’t present an urgent issue, a larger leak can damage your engine and pose a safety threat. Oil is flammable, so if you see smoke coming from the engine or notice a burning smell, you should stop driving immediately and shut off the motor.
How can you prevent leaks?
Keeping your car in good shape is the best way to avoid oil leaks. Check the oil pan gasket and drain plug to ensure a tight seal and change the oil and filter regularly using products recommended by the manufacturer. You can also prevent leaks by responding to your vehicle’s dashboard warning lights quickly and not overfilling when adding oil.
Choose Hot Shot’s Secret Engine Oils
Using the right engine oil can help your vehicle’s engine perform well and reduce the chance of costly leaks. Hot Shot’s Secret offers a variety of high-quality oils you can trust in your car or truck. They’ll enable you to improve fuel economy, restore power and performance, and significantly reduce engine wear.
At Hot Shot’s Secret, we create engine oils and other products designed to solve and prevent common automotive issues. Our products include an industry-best guarantee for your protection and peace of mind. Free shipping is available on most U.S. orders over $49.
Contact us today to learn more about engine oil leaks and how to prevent them.