Drip, Drip, Drip: Detecting an Oil Leak

One of the most common vehicle problems is an oil leak. In order to properly address the issue, the first step is to determine how the oil is leaving your car.

The first possibility is an oil seep. If you notice smoke or the smell of burning oil but do not seeing a noticeable “spill” on the pavement under your car, then it is possible that you have a seep. A seep – defined as a slow seepage of oil that does not produce a drip – usually does not release enough oil to affect your oil levels and does not necessarily require immediate repair.

If, on the other hand, there is a visual puddle of oil under your car, then you are most likely experiencing an actual leak. As oil is the lifeblood of you engine, an oil leak is a problem that deserves immediate attention.

There are several possible explanations for oil leaks, including:

  • bad or worn gaskets
  • worn pistons and rings
  • improperly secured or worn and damaged oil plugs
  • improperly attached oil filters
  • missing gaskets
  • high oil pressure
  • corroded or leaking oil coolant lines

The most common source of seeps and leaks are the value covers located at the top of the motor. Designed to protect the valves and rocker arms at the top of the engine, the covers are bolted to the engine and sealed with a large gasket. A quick and easy way to check is to degrease the seal with a large rag and then check daily for oil or sludge leaking down the side. If you see it, then the leak is most likely in your valve covers and can be easily repaired by a Utah auto mechanic.

If the leak is not in the valve covers, the next area to check is the oil pan gasket and drain plug. You can check this area by cleaning the seal between your oil pan and engine. Place a piece of cardboard underneath your car overnight and if there is oil on the cardboard in the morning, then the leak is coming from either your oil pan or the plug.

Another area to watch for is a leak in your rear seal. While this area of your car is difficult to see (as it is located at the rear of your engine near the transmission), a leak is more easily identifiable due to blue smoke coming from the underside of the car. This can be a difficult and expensive repair and should only be done by a professional repairman.

A final area to check is for a leak in your engine’s coolant. When oil is leaking into and mixing with coolant, it turns the coolant brown and/or foamy. A Utah auto repair mechanic will be able to help you stop this and any other types of leaks.

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07 Nov, 2012

Automotive Info

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