Oil Leak Issues: Significant Reasons Why Your Vehicle Might Be Leaking Oil

If you’re planning to go on a drive and spot a pool of oil collected under your car, don’t take it lightly. While oil leaks might look minor on the surface, ignoring them and driving can negatively impact your vehicle.

Driving a vehicle with leaking oil can lead to a gradual or total breakdown of its engine. 

An engine breakdown while the car is in motion might see you lose control and crash into another vehicle, tree, rock, or electric pole. 

The effects of these circumstances are often death or bodily injuries that require medical attention.

Call Nationwide Report’s Car Genius™ from RepairPal at 1-877-671-3040 from 9am-6pm ET, Monday through Friday. 

Negative Impacts of Oil Leak

An oil leak isn’t a minor vehicle fault, regardless of how basic it might seem. Oil leaks don’t bode well for you, the vehicle, and the environment. If you keep driving a car in that state, you expose its engine to a decline and worse, negative impacts on you and other passengers’ lives. 

Here’s how oil leak issues affect life, vehicles, and the environment: 

#1 Car Damage

Oil leak problems harm your vehicle in different ways. Driving with it can prompt a speedy decline of the car’s engine or a total breakdown. However, the engine isn’t the only part affected. 

Oil leaks can also damage the vehicle’s radiator and HVAC system. These vehicle components field rubber tubes and seals vital for proper functioning. Oil buildup breaks down and erodes these tubes and seals.

If the automobile’s engine, radiator, or HVAC system get damaged by oil leaks, you may have to spend high amounts for repairs.

#2 Exposure to Fire and Safety Hazards

Spilled oil can become flammable in specific instances, destroying the car’s engine and anything nearby. 

Drivers and passengers trapped in the car during the ignition may also lose their life or sustain severe burns if the fire isn’t quenched on time.

Also, oil leak issues can cause your vehicle engine to seize and fail while driving. If your engine seizes while you’re driving, you might sustain serious bodily harm or die depending on whether an auto crash occurs or not. 

A car seizure happening means you’d most likely have to replace the engine entirely for regular usage. 

#3 Environmental Effects

Oil leaks aren’t a good sight. Additionally, its presence is harmful to the environment. 

The primary components of leaked oil are toxic. You’ll find flakes of arsenic, zinc, and lead from the metallic engine parts in most. 

When it rains (or if you irrigate the oil leak area), these toxic substances can enter water or waste systems.

Their introduction to these structures can get into major water networks as runoff. Plants and animals exposed to these toxins will be negatively impacted health-wise. Humans using contaminated water aren’t spared from harm either.  

Reasons Your Car Might Leak Oil

Due to different faults at strategic positions in the car, oil leaks may occur. Sometimes, leaks are the result of a miscalculation in filling the engine with oil.

Here are some major reasons your car might leak oil:

1. Old or Weak Filter

Weak or old filters rank high among the leading causes of oil leak issues. The filter removes contaminants from the oil to prevent them from getting into the engine and causing severe damage. 

Most filters function optimally. However, after repeated use, their parts may start to wear off, leading to a filter malfunction. When this occurs, an oil leak follows. 

Also, a pressure buildup might occur within the engine, loosening the filter or dislodging it from its position.

If your engine’s filter is old, worn-out, or gets dislodged, you’d need to repair or outrightly replace it. While these actions can be facilitated at home, it’s best to engage the services of an expert for a proper job.   

2. Damaged or Loose Filler Cap

Similar to a malfunctioning engine filter, a damaged or loose filler cap is another common cause of oil leaks. 

When a vehicle’s oil tank filler cap breaks or becomes loose, you can quickly tell from the oil pool that gathers under your vehicle. 

Additionally, oil may pool around the engine itself.

Fixing a filler cap problem usually doesn’t take up time. The first repair step involves readjusting the filler cap to a tightly fitted position. 

However, if it runs freely and won’t close properly, you’ll need to buy a new filler cap and attach accordingly.

3. Excessive Engine Oil

Finding an oil pool underneath your car or around the engine may not be a cause for alarm, especially if the dashboard’s “engine oil” light isn’t blinking. Sometimes while in haste or due to a miscalculation, you might fill your engine’s with excessive oil, causing an overflow.

Another scenario that could prompt oil leaks is spilling oil on the engine while filling the tank. 

If this occurs, clean excess oil with an absorbent fabric. Additionally, you could reduce the oil level in the tank using a dipstick tube to suck out any excesses, solving the problem.

4. Improperly Fitted Oil Filter and Drain Plug

Sometimes, oil leaks might stem from an improperly fitted oil filter and drain plug. To change oil, you’ll have to remove these components, putting them in place afterwards.

Tampering with these components regularly can affect their positions and make them prone to oil leaks.

Therefore, it’s essential to carefully replace the oil drain plug and filter after changing your engine’s oil. 

5. Faulty Gasket or Seal

Gaskets occupy a vital position in your vehicle’s engine system. They coordinate the movement of oil, gas, and coolant throughout the car. 

Nevertheless, gaskets malfunction. 

This scenario usually occurs after a long driving period, usually after exceeding 100,000 miles.

If the cause of your vehicle’s oil leak is a faulty gasket. take the vehicle to an oil leak issues car repair service expert. These professionals will evaluate the issue and proffer solutions.

However, the engine has multiple gaskets and seals. A  malfunction can occur in any of these major areas:

  • Camshaft Seal

If your vehicle utilizes a timing belt to keep its camshaft and crankshaft operational, it will be prone to leaks via the camshaft seal. 

An overhead camshaft engine features two camshafts sticking out a bit to provide a position for mounting the timing gears. On each camshaft, you’ll find a camshaft seal preventing oil from seeping out of the engine.

If oil leaks come from the camshaft seal, you might see these signs:

  • Oil at the end of the engine beneath the valve cover
  • Smoke coming out of the engine bay
  • Smell of smoke without seeing the smoke

When you spot any of the listed signs, contact an auto mechanic to assess the car and decipher if a defective camshaft seal is responsible for the leak.

  • Head Gasket

Broken head gaskets are common in vehicles with flat engines. 

The result?

Internal leaks that prompt oil mixing with the coolant. 

However, external leaks of both coolant and engine oil are possible. 

  • Oil Filler Adapter Housing Seal

In your vehicle’s engine, featured oil filters are attached to an adapter housing alongside a gasket or seal. This gasket can malfunction, leading to oil leaks.

If your vehicle’s engine integrates a cartridge-type filter, leaks may originate from its housing cap.

  • Timing Cover Seal

Most modern cars have a lubricated timing chain with a protective timing cover in place of a timing belt. 

The timing cover seal ensures oil is stored in the timing cover. However, the seal can break down as time goes on, leading to an oil leak through the timing cover. 

Sometimes, the problem stems from the timing cover’s deterioration.

Oil leakage from the engine’s center close to the front often shows defects in the timing cover or timing cover. However, you’ll need an experienced auto mechanic to evaluate the issue and replace either or both of these components to resolve oil leaks.

  • Crankshaft Seals

The crankshaft lies within the engine, extending out at both ends. Both crankshaft ends have seals to prevent oil leaks from the engine. 

These seals are tagged the rear and front seals.

These seals might become faulty, resulting in oil leaks. The engine area where the oil leak appears hints at the magnitude of the problem. Finding oil on the flip side of the engine signifies a minor leak. In contrast, oil in front of the engine implies a significant oil leak.

  • Valve Cover Seal

Oil leaks from the engine top usually denote faults with the valve cover seal. The seal holds content inside the cylinder head, and the valve cover gasket seals both two points.

It’s not uncommon for the valve cover seal to get worn out with time, thus losing its effectiveness at preventing oil leak issues. Spotting oil around the valve cover seal means it’s time to replace it.

  • Oil Pan Gasket

The oil pan gasket between the oil pan and the engine block is another common site for oil leak issues. When this gasket leaks oil, a replacement is required.

Checking for Oil Leaks

As a driver, it’s best to regularly inspect your vehicle for signs of oil leak issues. Cultivating this habit saves you from vehicle problems and spending huge amounts on avoidable repairs.

You can check your vehicle for oil leaks by monitoring the oil level with a dipstick. The route is straightforward and time-saving. 

To get started, insert the dipstick into the car’s engine,  pull it out, and check if the oil falls below the minimum level. 

If the oil level is low, it’s most likely an oil leak sign.

Other oil leak indicators include:

  • Blue smoke originating from the car’s hood
  • Intense burning as the engine runs 

Driving With an Oil Leak

Due to some unfavorable outcomes, driving with an oil leak issue is an ill-advised move. 

Here are reasons not to drive with an oil leak:

  • Ignition of the oil leading to a destructive fire outbreak
  • Premature wearing-off of rubber hoses and seals
  • Rapid oil loss that can damage the engine

For these reasons, it’s best to contact an experienced auto mechanic to assess and fix the problem whenever you notice an oil leak issue.

Cost of Fixing an Oil Leak

The amount you spend to fix an oil leak issue depends on the problem’s root cause. 

For context, replacing your oil pan gasket may set you back some hundreds of dollars. Conversely, repairing a timing belt oil leak can cost way more.

Whatever the case, always ask for a total cost estimate upfront.

Fluid Leaks You Can Mistake for an Oil Leak

At first sight of a fluid pool under your vehicle, don’t be quick to assume it’s an oil leak, even if it looks like oil. Cars have distinctive fluids prone to leaking, and their colors differ. 

So, when you notice a leak, look out for the color of the liquid.

Vehicle fluids you can mistake for an oil leak include:

  • Pink, blue, orange, or bright green colored coolants
  • Clear water from the air conditioning unit
  • Yellow or brown brake fluid
  • Brown transmission fluid with a red tint
  • Red power steering fluid

Although the colors differ, it might be difficult to identify the fluid accurately. Thus, hire a professional who can nail down the source.

Final Words

Oil leaks arise due to diverse reasons and shouldn’t be ignored. This problem has strong ties to faults in the oil filter, filler cap, gasket, or an excessive engine oil input. If left unchecked, oil leak issues could affect lives, your vehicle’s engine, and the environment in general.

Therefore, it’s vital to fix the leak as soon as possible.

Specific oil leak problems can be resolved at home. On the flip side, you’ll need an experienced professional to determine the cause and proffer solutions.

Therefore, it’s essential to contact proven professionals in the auto mechanic business. 

To avoid the expensive quotes crop up when oil leaks prove severe, inspect your car regularly to expunge oil leaks as soon as they appear.

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