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Detecting Engine Oil Leaks in a Car: Learn to Fix Them

Karen Menezes Karen Menezes 22 September 2016

Spotted a pool of oil under the engine where the car has stood? Does the engine have to be topped with oil more frequently? Let’s trace the problem quickly.

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At times it’s easy to ignore a mysteriously-formed tiny puddle of oil that forms under your car. Or assume the burnt oil smell is not from your engine.

We all do that. But, the truth is that we shouldn’t. Oil leaks are something you shouldn’t afford to ignore.

You don’t have to be a well-trained and highly-qualified mechanic to figure out the cause of oil leaks. Just a few hacks can help you prevent further damage to the engine.

How on earth? Let’s find out!

The Hazards of an Unchecked Oil Leakage

Leaking oil is a sign that something is seriously wrong with your engine. If you fail to check oil leaks, they could spread on to rubber hoses or seals and cause them to degrade prematurely.

Oil leakage could leave behind ugly stains leading to environmental damage.

Can you imagine the worst disaster that could occur due to an engine oil leak? You guessed it right! A fire risk in the engine compartment causing sudden engine failure jeopardizing lives as well.

How to Check Oil Leaks – Make It Your #1 Priority

These simple hacks don’t require you to be a mechanical genius:

  • Check the oil on the dipstick

    After you have come back from a drive. Turn off the engine of the car and leave the car to cool down for around 20 minutes. You will get accurate readings when the motor is cold with the car on a flat level surface. Once you take out the dipstick, it should usually be red, orange or yellow. Wipe off any oil with a paper towel, so that you can spot the mark that actually indicates proper oil level. Dip it once again in the oil reservoir and take it out again to see if the oil reaches the oil mark level. It is ideal to do this check every once a week. If the level has dropped rapidly over time, it means you are losing oil as there is a hole in the oil pan.

  • Determining the nature of the oil puddle

    If you spot an oil puddle, look closer. If the liquid is orange or green, it could be the coolant. If it’s brown, engine oil is the culprit. You can place a newspaper under the engine of the car where the car has been parked. At times you may just notice few drops of oil.

  • Check the oil pan

    Majority of oil leakages happen due to degraded engine gaskets, old valve covers, oil seals or bad connections. You can crawl under the car to identify the source of the oil leak. If it is leaking from the oil pan or the oil drain plug. You should also take a look at the timing cover seals and crankcase side cover gaskets.

  • Check for unusual noises

    Other engine sounds could also mean bad news. In a petrol car, if there is an oil leakage, you would be able to hear a deep metallic rapping noise. This is caused by the worn out connecting rod bearings. It indicates that your engine is on the verge of breaking down.

In diesel cars, hydraulic valve lifters use engine oil pressure to expand the lifters, providing a zero valve lash clearance. It avoids the valves from tapping. When the engine is shut off, a valve and spring in the lifter keep it expanded, retaining oil within the lifter. If the valve is worn out or degraded, it allows oil to drain from the lifter, thus collapsing. When the engine is started once again, the lifter takes some time to pump up and expand as oil pressure builds in the engine. At this time, the valves may tap since there is clearance between the lifter and rocker arm.

It's Time to Troubleshoot Oil Leakages

Now that you learnt the causes and ways to check the problem, let’s head to the solution:

  • Tighten loose bolts

    With the help of a torque wrench, you can detect loose bolts that start from the oil pan. Bolts can loosen with time. Every car model has a unique and specific pattern of tightening bolts and that too up to a certain tolerance level. You can check your car owner manual for the right instructions.

    Leakages of any kind should be diagnosed and solved, especially when it’s an engine oil leak. Do not ignore such signs or wait with the hope that it would fix by itself.

Such glitches may be minor but can affect your car’s optimum performance in the long run.

It's your car and you need to be responsible enough in maintaining it so that you can have a safe journey on the roads.

NOTE: Generally, if you find gear oil leaking from the engine and still attempt to drive the car, it could result in the failure of your gearbox. Such a consequential damage is not covered in your comprehensive car insurance policy.

Learn why investing in the Engine Protector add-on cover can solve this problem. One of the biggest benefits it offers is that it shields you against consequential damages that occur due to leakage of lubricating oil.

The add-on cover may increase your premium amount slightly, but in the long run, it will help you save up.

To know which insurance companies offer this add-on cover, you can take a look at the best car insurance quotes online and grab a great deal.

Happy Driving! :)

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Karen Menezes
Written by Karen Menezes
An optimist at heart, Karen loves to see the world through a pair of rose-tinted glasses. An award-winning blogger, she loves to dream with her eyes open. Writing is not her passion, it’s an OCD! If at all she isn’t writing, you can find her shopping online or experimenting with DIY recipes. This lass currently works as a Content Writer at Coverfox.