Why is my Car Leaking Oil?

There are a few fluids that are vital to a vehicle, the most important one being oil. It keeps the moving parts in the engine lubricated, preventing excess friction and wear. Without oil, your engine would not be able to run very long.

Oil is pumped in a loop through the motor to lubricate the motion of internal engine parts such as pistons, valves, crankshafts, and other vital engine components. Engine oil also absorbs heat while preventing friction between metal parts, which keeps the motor from reaching a dangerous temperature. 

It should be no surprise that leaking oil can cause problems down the line. Losing oil from a leak decreases the amount in the oil loop, and that can get to a dangerous level if not fixed or refilled. Running with low oil can cause numerous issues, including accelerated wear on components, increased engine temperatures, and decreased performance/efficiency.

How do I Know if I Have an Oil Leak? 

It’s often easy to see if you have an oil leak, as they’re usually noticeable in puddles of oil under the car or wet components in an engine bay. The trouble comes when trying to find where the leak is and why it’s happening. 

The oiling system directs oil through the engine block and cylinder head. Gaskets and seals throughout the engine keep oil inside. Over time, these seals can wear out and fail. Hundreds of potential failure points can cause an oil leak. 

While most oil leaks are slow and won’t cause immediate issues, letting them linger and allowing oil to leak can cause costly repairs in the future. 

Leaking oil can cause telltale signs such as a burning smell, drips under your car, or sounds of grinding and metal on metal when the oil level gets dangerously low.

Luckily, there are a few common causes that are most often the culprit, and this makes it a bit easier to narrow down. 

Damaged Gaskets

The gaskets in an engine are responsible for sealing the surface between two components. Commonly made of rubber, silicone, or similar material, these seals can degrade over time and eventually fail due to high heat, pressure, contaminated oil, and everyday wear. 

Gaskets/seals are used throughout the engine. If you have an oil leak, check the visible connection points and look for failing gaskets around the valve cover, oil pan, timing cover, and cylinder head. 

When a gasket fails, oil can leak from these connections and make its way out of the motor’s oil loop. 

Proactively changing gaskets at the first sign of a leak is the most effective way to prevent oil loss. Using high-quality synthetic oil can extend the life of the material.

Engine without valve cover

Faulty or Damaged Oil Pan

The oil pan sits at the bottom of the engine and acts as a reservoir for the vehicle’s oil. With their location at the very bottom of the engine, oil pans can take damage from rocks, collisions, and large bumps. This can cause a crack or failure in the pan and allow oil to leak right below it. 

If you notice a leak right below the engine, the oil pan could very well be the cause. Keep an eye out for signs of damage on your oil pan or visible oil dripping down from the pan’s gasket and connection. 

Improper Installation

The oil system is highly pressurized and has a knack for finding any way to allow oil to exit the engine. This makes the improper installation of parts a common cause of oil leaks. 

Whether the oil pan is bolted too tight or the valve cover isn’t tightened equally, these small mistakes can cause oil to make its way through the seals and out of the oil loop. 

Ensuring correct installation and use of gaskets is the obvious way to avoid this. When installing new parts within the oil system, make sure even tightening is being used, proper gaskets are being installed, and the correct torque specifications are being followed. 

Oil Leak Repair at Scott’s U-Save

Suspect an oil leak in your vehicle? Do you notice symptoms of low oil but can’t tell where the oil is going? The experienced technicians at Scott’s U-Save have your back. Come visit us at any of our three locations to get quality service and peace of mind. 

Call us or schedule an appointment online today to meet with our team. We’re excited to take care of you and your vehicle!

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