DIY Oil Leak Repair
Finding an oil leak under your car is definitely cause for concern. Oil leaks are often symptoms of a larger problem, and you can’t afford to ignore them. The good news is that it can also be pretty easy to figure out what is causing the oil leak, giving you options on how to fix it.
The main thing is that you should never ignore an oil leak. Don’t simply top off with new oil and go on your way. Oil leaks require immediate attention. Let’s take a look at what might be causing the leak and how you can fix it.
Signs of an Oil Leak
The dark puddle in your garage or driveway is probably the most obvious sign of an oil leak. But, unless you’re in the habit of checking under your vehicle or checking when you drive away, this puddle is not always the first thing you notice.
If you’re like most careful car owners, you probably check your oil dipstick on a regular basis. If you have a more modern car, you might have a dash light that will alert you to low oil levels. This is more likely to be the first thing you notice.
Another sign of an oil leak is blue smoke coming out of your tailpipe. This means that oil is loose in your engine compartment.
You might also notice a burnt oil smell. If you do find a puddle under your car, it’s important to take a close look at it. If the liquid is red when testing it with your finger, it’s probably transmission fluid. If the liquid looks green or orange, it’s most likely coolant. Brown to black fluid is what indicates an oil leak.
Common Oil Leak Causes
The most common cause of leaking oil is a worn or cracked engine gasket. The engine gasket works as a seal to make sure that oil doesn’t leak out of your engine. Other causes for oil leaks include an oil pan leak, valve cover leak, degraded oil seals, or bad connections.
To find out for sure what’s causing your leak, you’ll need to investigate each of these areas. As with any DIY mechanical work, it’s always a good idea to check the easiest and cheapest fix first. In this case, you’ll want to rule out a loose or missing oil plug, and a loose oil filter.
Check your oil drain plug and tighten it, if necessary, but don’t overtighten it. The next step is to check your filter and make sure that it’s not loose.
Finding The Oil Leak
Once you’ve confirmed that the oil filter or oil drain plug is not to blame for your leak, it’s time to start searching elsewhere. The first step is to open your hood and look for oil stains.
Look at your valve cover first to see if any oil is around that area. Valve cover gaskets and seals are common areas for oil leaks. If there is oil here, you will simply need to reseal the valve cover gasket.
To do this, take the following steps:
- Allow the engine to cool completely if it was previously running.
- Remove the valve cover and tent newspaper over the exposed engine to make sure nothing falls in.
- Remove the old valve cover gasket and replace it with a new one.
- Apply silicone if your service manual or gasket instructions call for it. Make sure to clean off all oil from surfaces before applying the silicone. Allow the silicone to cure according to instructions before starting the engine.
- Re-install the valve cover and tighten bolts to the proper torque specifications for your engine. Replace everything you may have had to remove before taking off the valve cover.
To make sure that this is the leak culprit, it’s a good idea to do a fresh oil change, and then keep an eye on your oil level for a while to see if the leak comes back.
Engine Oil Stop Leak Fluid
Another common way to stop oil leaks fast without spending a lot of time looking for them, beyond the filter and plug combination mentioned above, is to use a stop leak fluid. There are many different ones on the market, but they generally serve the same purpose: to get inside your engine and condition the seals.
Fluids like Bar’s Leaks Oil Seal can stop leaks coming from your main seal, timing cover seal, valve cover seal, and more. These fluids are best used when you first detect an oil leak, but they can also work on leaks that have been there for some time.
If you’ve determined that your leak is coming from the rear main seal, you’ll want to look for a formula that works explicitly in this area, such as Bar’s Leaks Rear Main Seal Repair. Rear main seal leaks can be hard to repair due to how difficult they are to access.
However, it’s a good idea to try finding the actual oil leak before resorting to stop-leak formulas. Remember too that a stop-leak formula can take some miles of driving to work, so you will still need to keep an eye on your oil level.