Engine oil leaks are a pain to have and, in some cases, could be dangerous. You may realize you have an oil leak when you smell oil burning, see spots of oil under where your car is parked, or notice you need to add oil more often.
Oil leaks are a cause of concern because:
- They are environmentally harmful
- They can cost you money
- They may be a potential fire hazard, especially if near the exhaust system
- If they're large enough, they can put your engine at risk for damage
Why do some cars leak oil?
Though any car can leak older, it is more common in older cars. The types of gaskets that most manufacturers use begin to harden and shrink as they age. Many oil leaks start out small and get worse as they go on if they're not fixed. You should be concerned if you notice any of the following:
- You are adding more than a quart every thousand miles
- Large puddles of oil form under your car
- There is blue smoke coming out of your exhaust (a sign that your engine is burning oil internally)
- There is a consistent burning oil smell or smoke coming from your engine compartment or under the car
If any of those are the case, you should take your car to a mechanic immediately.
How and where are leaks detected?
Oil leaks can happen anywhere there are seals and gaskets separating components of the engine. Some leaks may be difficult to find. Finding a couple of drops of oil on the ground does not mean the leak is directly above it. Some of the ways mechanics check for leaks include:
- Steam cleaning the engine and waiting for the leaks to reappear
- Putting talcum powder over the engine and running the engine to find fresh leaks
- Using a fluorescent dye
The most common areas where engine oil leaks usually include the oil pan and valve cover gaskets, the oil drain plug, or the oil filter. Other common places include the camshaft seal, rear seal, and timing chain.
How is an oil leak fixed?
Fixing an oil leak can be as simple as pulling and replacing the seal or component that is leaking. However, it's not always as easy as that. Many seals that leak are in hard-to-reach places or have other restrictions. In some cases, the engine may need to be partially removed or lifted in order to repair the leak. Though it may sound simple as replacing a worn part, it can be labor intensive.
Will oil additives help?
Oil additives may seem like a good way to fix a small leak, but should be considered carefully, especially in older vehicles. These additives tend to make the seals swell up and can ruin an older seal that is already in the process of breaking up. Talk to your mechanic first before adding anything to your oil.
Though they are a concern and should be taken care of, oil leaks don't mean the end of your car's life. If monitored and repaired as soon as possible, your car will continue on as usual. For more information, contact an auto repair shop in your area.