Auto PartsTech Tips

Diagnosing Car Oil Leaks

One of the unfortunate consequences of owning an older car is oil leaks. Unless you have a cracked engine block, the oil is leaking from a seam or seal. There are a lot of products in a can that claim to be able to solve recurring oil leak problems, but they seldom work in practice. The theory behind them is that these products will soak into old, shriveled, leaky seals, and cause them to swell up, stopping the leak. Unfortunately, you’ll usually find that they make $8.99 disappear before any oil leak. If you want to keep oil spots off your driveway, the only real solution is to find the leak and replace the seal in question.

The first step, of course, is to isolate the leak. Oil leaks, however, have a tendency to spread oil everywhere before you realize you have a problem. In order to find a leak, you may have to give your engine a thorough cleaning and then watch the engine for the oil leak.

If you want to start checking specific items, start at the top and work your way down. Placement of various components will vary by engine. Begin with your oil filler cap. It gets opened and closed regularly, so there’s going to be more wear and tear on it than just the stress of constant heating and cooling with the engine. Thankfully, these are easy to replace.

Your oil pressure sensor can also leak with age. This, too, tends to be easy to replace. Difficult is only governed by where it’s placed on the engine. For the most part, you just unscrew these to remove them and then just thread the new one in and tighten it. Another item that can leak oil are your intake manifold gaskets, which tend to require manifold removal to replace.

Moving on, crankshaft pulley and camshaft pulley seals also tend to leak with age. These will require removal of the pulleys to replace the seals. Another item to check is your oil pump. They also tend to develop leaky seals. If none of these are your culprit, keep moving down. One of the last items you’re going to want to check is your oil pan. Oil pan gaskets are notorious for leaking. But, they tend to be pretty easy to replace so long as you can lift the front of the car and access the pan.

Finally, check in the area where your engine and transmission mate. If you have a leak here, chances are it’s from your

rear main seal. This is probably the most difficult seal to replace, as it requires removing the engine or transmission in order to access it. This is also one you don’t want to ignore, especially if you have a manual transmission. If oil gets on your clutch disc, you can get excessive slipping and then be on the hook for a clutch replacement in addition to the seal itself.

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