engine oil leak

Engine Oil Leak Causes, Solutions & Function

In Engine Oil by Magnus Sellén8 Comments

oil filter

To ensure that the engine of your car runs smoothly and efficiently, all fluids should be kept at their optimum level. 

People often complain that when they drive the car out of the garage, they find a puddle of oil underneath and are confused as to whether or not to continue driving the car.

To be clear: An oil leak can severely affect the performance of the engine and the car, but more importantly, it’s quite dangerous because the leak can cause a fire that could endanger your life. If you notice a fluid leak in your car, it is strongly recommended that you do not drive your car and investigate the source of the leak. In this article we will discuss the possible reasons for the engine oil leak and how to fix the problem.

Identify the Type of Leak

Most motorists who see a liquid leaking from their car conclude that it is engine oil. However, your engine relies on many different types of fluids, and here are some tips to help determine what type of fluid is actually leaking.

Dark brown or yellow color: If the fluid is dark brown or yellow and has a slippery texture, it is most likely engine oil.

Pink or red: If the liquid is pink or red in colour and has a slippery texture, it is most likely transmission oil. Some antifreeze fluids are also red or pink.

Green or orange: A sweet-smelling green or orange coloured liquid is most likely an antifreeze. It could also be power steering fluid if it feels more like oil than water.

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Clear or translucent: A liquid that has no specific color and is clear is most likely power steering fluid.

Engine Oil Leak Causes

engine oil leak

There could be many different causes and locations for your oil leak. Here are some of the most common possible reasons for an oil leak in your engine compartment.

1. Damaged Oil Filter

A faulty or damaged oil filter is sometimes the culprit that causes the leak. Check the oil filter to see if it is correctly aligned and mounted or if there is a risk of leakage. Please note that the oil filter should be changed every time the oil is changed.

2. Faulty Oil Drain Plug:

The oil drain plug is located at the bottom of the oil sump and is accessible from the underside of the vehicle. A worn or damaged drain plug can cause the oil to leak. To check this, check the drain plug to see if fresh oil has settled on the plug.

3. Bad Valve Cover Gasket:

Valve covers are located on the top of the engine cylinder head and serve as a seal to prevent oil leakage. The valve cover gaskets tend to wear out after some time, so oil may drip from them.

4. Damaged Oil Pan:

The oil pan is located at the bottom of the engine. It will be damaged over time as debris hits the bottom of the pan and leaves dents. When the seal loosens, the oil starts to leak from the oil pan.

5. Poor Oil Quality:

Poor or cheap quality oil does not contain the right additives and conditioners to keep the engine components in good condition. Make sure you choose the right type of oil for your car to extend the life of the engine. The wrong type of engine oil can create a faulty oil pressure on your engine and lead to an oil leak.

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6. Cracked Cylinder Head:

This is not common, but can be a major cause of oil leakage in old cars. If the engine cylinder head is cracked, oil can leak from the engine and even enter the cooling system. In such a situation, check your oil cap or coolant cap to make sure the cylinder head is not damaged.

7. Damaged Head Gasket:

A damaged head gasket with holes can cause oil to leak into the transmission system. If this is the case, check your gasket and have it replaced to correct the problem.

8. Main Seal

The main seal is responsible for ensuring that the oil does not leak out at the front of the crankshaft while driving. It is located behind the main disc and should be removed to diagnose the problem. The nut or bolt holding the main disc is usually very tight, so removing it may require a little bit of effort.

How to Prevent Oil Leakages?

Regular maintenance and routine oil service are sufficient to keep your car’s engine in good condition and prevent any oil leakage. If you have problems with any of the above mentioned parts, it is recommended to change only this particular part to avoid high costs. You can also use special additives which are effective and help to prevent oil leaks. If you want to look at one of these additives, you can find it here at Amazon: ATP AT-205 Re-Seal Stops Leaks, 8 Ounce Bottleir?t=askamastermec 20&l=am2&o=1&a=B000NVW1LM

If you notice other symptoms and the problem does not occur in the above-mentioned areas, we advise you to take the car to an authorized dealer for inspection.

Engine Oil Leak Symptoms

Now that you know what engine oil feels like and looks like, it is advisable to know how your car reacts when it loses engine oil. Here are the 5 most important symptoms that can help you determine if your car is losing engine fluid and needs serious treatment.

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Oil deposits under the car

When you take your car out of the parking lot or garage, check if there is a dark brown or yellow liquid under the car. If you see such a liquid, the car has definitely leaked engine oil.

Smoke from the engine compartment

If you notice smoke from the engine compartment while driving, this means that there is an oil leak. This happens when the oil enters the exhaust manifold, which leads to smoke. If you leave this problem unattended for a long time, the seal may fail.

Blue smoke from the exhaust

Look for blue smoke from the exhaust pipe, which indicates an oil leak into the engine itself.

The smell of burnt oil

If the engine oil leaks onto other hot engine components, you will notice a bad smell of burning oil and also hear a noise indicating that there is a problem.

Engine Overheat

The engine oil ensures that the engine temperature remains optimal. If there is a leak, the pistons are not lubricated properly, which leads to the engine heating up. If this remains neglected for a longer period of time, the engine can become stuck and stall.

Hello I'm Magnus, the owner and the writer of this website. I have been working with cars since I was 16 and I'm specialized with in-depth Automotive diagnostics. Also been driving drifting for the last 6 years. I'm here to give you answers to all your automotive questions and I hope that you enjoy our content.

8 thoughts on “ Engine Oil Leak Causes, Solutions & Function ”

  1. Hola .
    Mi problema es =presión de aceite muy baja no en ralante . Le hace en marcha …..
    Así que cambie .el sensor de presión de aceite cambie aceite y filtro y cambie la bomba de aceite
    Pero todavía tengo el mismo problema ( presión de aceite insuficiente para el motor ) y no hay fugas de aceite . Es un ( Audi A4 B8 2011 ) . 2.L. Gracias

    Hi .
    My problem is the = very low oil pressure with the car running and not stopped. …..
    So change the oil pressure sensor change oil and filter and change the oil pump
    But I still have the same problem (insufficient oil pressure for the engine) and there are no oil leaks. It’s a (Audi A4 B8 2011). 2.L. Thank you

    1. Hello Sami.

      Just as a first check… Is there enough oil in the system? Have you checked your oil dipstick/gauge to make sure that there is enough oil?
      If you need more information feel free to contact me

  2. I bought a pre-owned car two weeks back from dealership and yesterday I noticed high leakage of oil underneath a car, few days back after the car was received I would noticed drops which I thought is water from air-conditioner but yesterday when I moved the car lots of oil was dripping to the floor and I noticed it came between the engine and gear-box. what can I do?

    1. Hello.

      If it appears to be coming from in between the gearbox and the engine, I’d guess it is the rear main seal that has gone, you will need to get this replaced if this is so.

  3. We have just bought a 2005 audi a4 1.8t with 95,000 klms on the clock, drove it home and we noticed an oil smell from the engine, parked car and there was black oil drips on the ground, really concerned as only just changed our Toyota in part exchange for it

    1. Hello.

      Where about’s is the oil leaking from?

      It could be a few things, however, the fact that you can smell an oil smell may indicate that the oil is coming from a faulty valve gasket that is leaking and pouring onto the engine. They are pretty cheap to replace if this is the problem…

  4. Hi,

    I over filled my ML 2014 with engine oil and l have noticed that each time l park my car it leaves black oil residue. On inspection l have noticed that there is oil on everywhere underneath my car. I took my car for servicing at Kwik fit with the hope that they will diagnose the source of the leak. Unfortunately they didn’t bother even tracing the source of the leak they just serviced the car and told me that there was oil
    everywhere in my. Your advise will be greatly appreciated.

  5. i have a 03′ Hyundai Elantra 155k+ miles on it
    just recently my oil light came on and when i got home it began to leak excessivly on the passenger side ; it looked like it was leaking from the side of the oilpan where the bolts are housed ? leaking only when the car is started . i had a oil change done at the beginning of the month and had only driven two weeks after the change with the car driving and functioning smoothly.
    i had them come out check it out they replaced the filter and said it wasn’t from them.

    i read it could be the oil pan , screws/thread, or the gasket ?

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