8 reasons my car and engine are leaking oil

From the moment you get your driver’s license to the moment you stop driving, you’ll see a lot of different issues. They range from everything, including dents, to perhaps finding cockroaches.

However, those are not the subjects we’ll talk about today.


The most common reason a car engine is leaking oil issues with the oil filter. To fix a car engine that’s leaking oil, you will need to either replace the filter or ensure its proper installation.

Here is a list of the topics we’ll be going through:

Reasons your car and engine are leaking oil

oil pan

Acquainting yourself with the common causes of leaks is crucial, especially if your vehicle suffers from this problem. It may occur in various locations, and the associated repair costs differ depending on which part is the source.

Consider issues with these components:

  • Oil pan gasket
  • Valve cover gasket
  • Camshaft seals
  • Crankshaft seals
  • Faulty filter
  • Broken seals

Oil pan gasket

It’s located beneath the car engine. The oil pan gasket forms a seal between the engine and the pan. A faulty gasket provides insufficient isolation between the two and is one of the common causes your car may be dripping.

Valve cover gasket

A valve cover is designed to protect the parts found within the cylinder. The gasket acts as a seal between the two, and you may find it on top of your engine. This is also where the leak is most prevalent, in case this component is damaged.

Timing cover gasket

Most commonly found in vehicles that sport a timing chain rather than a belt, this gasket ensures the oil does not drip out from the timing cover. There, it lubricates the chain so that it moves smoothly. Leaks located anywhere from the center up to the front of the engine indicate that either the gasket or the cover is due for a replacement.

Camshaft seals

Contrary to the timing cover gasket, camshaft seals are widely used in vehicles sporting a timing belt. Camshafts are situated within the engine, and most cars have two or more. The seal covers the end of each camshaft. If damaged, you can expect to find the dripping at the back of the engine just under the valve cover. A burning smell often accompanies this particular leak.

Crankshaft seals

Like camshafts, the crankshaft can be found inside the engine, which sticks out from both ends. Seals also cover these ends to prevent the oil from spilling out. If these seals leak, you will likely see pools beneath the engine. In case of a particularly severe leak, it might drip to the front of the engine.

Dangers and threats of dripping

engine oil

While pools in your garage can at most stain your floor, it hurts the environment when it happens outside. It contains several toxic substances that harm both animal and plant life. In addition, its carbon-rich nature makes it highly flammable. Do not drive your car in this state unless it is an emergency.

It’s happening from the front

If you find pools of black sludge under the front of your car, it likely means that your oil pan or gasket is degraded and in need of replacement. Sometimes, tightening the bolts will suffice. Apart from these two components, we recommend checking the valve cover gaskets and timing cover seals located under the hoods of your car.

Leaking when parked

There are numerous reasons why your car may leak when parked. Most of them have to do with loose or broken gaskets and seals throughout the engine, so it is important to check them all before you can fix them.

Damaged oil pan or pan gasket

The oil pan and gasket sit on the underside of your vehicle. Therefore, they may easily be damaged when you drive on poorly constructed roads or through areas with many potholes.

Faulty filter

Any damage to the filter will naturally result in the dripping out of the car. It is especially common, given that you must remove it every time you change the oil. Improper reinstallation is one of the most prevalent reasons your car might leak oil.

Broken seals

Various seals have been invented to minimize the possibility of oil leaks. However, the constant heating and cooling cycles mean they expand and contract over and over again. Thus, they become loose with time. They can be found at the valve cover, timing cover, crankshaft, and camshafts.

IssueRepair/replacement cost
Oil pan gasket$400-$500
Valve cover gasket$100-$350
Camshaft seals$500-700
Crankshaft seals$300-$400
Faulty filter$20-$85
Broken seals$75-$150

On the right side of the engine

Oil dripping from the right side of your engine is somewhat rare. If it did happen, the issue most likely lies in your head gasket. It can be found on top, between the engine block and the cylinder head. Its purpose is to keep the combustion gases within the cylinders. At the same time, it keeps the coolant and engine oil out.

The engine blew everywhere.

Oil eruption is a messy and unpleasant issue. Various components may be at fault:

A loose or broken valve cover gasket

Like all the gaskets found in engines, a valve cover gasket keeps the oil in the cover. If loose or broken, the oil may get out. And because it is on top of the engine, it will spill over it as it escapes the cover. Replacing this gasket should fix the issue.

A loose or broken cap

In case the cap on the oil filler tube has fallen off, torrents of oil will spill everywhere. The same fate befalls your engine if the cap is cracked, although to a lesser extent. Once again, replacement should do the trick.

Too much in the reservoir

Always refill only up to the marked line. There is only so much your car needs to function properly. If you pour in too much, it might result in an eruption.

What causes the oil pan gasket to leak?

car repair shop

Impact damage

The oil pan and its associated gasket are situated at the very bottom of the engine. Bumpy or uneven roads may scratch either one of these components, leading to a leak.

Natural wear and tear

The second reason is natural wear and tear. Located near the engine, it heats and cools a myriad of times. Metals expand and contract according to the surrounding temperature, causing the gasket to loosen over time.

In short, the more time you spend on the road, the more strain you put on it.

Component Lifespan (Approximate)
Oil pan gasket 5-10 years
Valve cover gasket 5-10 years
Camshaft seals 5-10 years
Crankshaft seals 5-10 years
Faulty filter 1-2 years
Broken seals As needed

Poor installation

The final cause of leaky oil pan gaskets can be improper installation. If even one bolt weren’t fastened properly, the seal wouldn’t hold. It results in a leak.

In addition, it is necessary that you use the proper sealant when replacing an old gasket. Failure to do so will lead to insufficient isolation.

Lastly, always ensure that the engine is perfectly clean when you perform the replacement. Otherwise, the dust and dirt may preclude you from tightening the bolts properly.

At the front of the passenger side

look inside an engine

Damaged valve cover gasket

It is designed to keep the oil inside the engine. The valve cover gasket is one of the most common reasons behind leaks from the front passenger side. It is located on top of the engine, making it easy to spot. If it is covered in oil, it is the culprit behind the issue.

Broken turbocharger

The turbocharger compresses the air, which flows into the engine cylinder. It utilizes oil to reduce the heat and friction that would otherwise damage it. A faulty turbocharger is another cause behind leaks.

Faulty timing cover

The timing cover holds the oil inside the engine, which lubricates the timing chain. If worn out, the seal may be uncovered. The oil may flow out of the cover towards the front passenger side. Since it is localized so deep within the engine, we advise you to let a professional handle this problem rather than attempting to solve it on your own.

Poorly installed filter

Improperly installed oil filter is a very common reason behind leaks. It is because you tamper with it whenever you change the oil. Thus, there is a strong probability you reinstalled it incorrectly.

How to fix it

One means of bringing the dripping to a halt is by applying high-mileage oil or stop leak additive.
High-mileage oils are designed specifically for older vehicles and are much gentler to your engine components. Stop leak additives soften the car’s rubber seals and are most effective when the leak is still small and manageable. Bear in mind that it takes some time for the dripping to cease after you use the additive.

Assuming the additive has failed to work its wonders, or you merely do not wish to use it, there is a more personal way to tackle the issue.

First, make sure you are properly equipped. What you need is:
– a car jack
– four jack stands
– basic hand tools
– And a torque wrench.

Lift your vehicle using a jack.

Then, secure it at all four locations as depicted in your manual. Ensure the car is stable – you will have to crawl under it.

First, take a closer look at the oil pan.

If you notice any loose bolts, tighten them. Remember that how tightly you must secure the bolts and how you do so varies from model to model. Consult your car manual to find these details.

For your next step, move on to the timing belt cover.

Again, tighten the bolts if need be.

Continue on to the valve covers and ensure that no bolts are loose.

It is time to check if you’ve successfully fixed the leak.
Open the hood and inspect the oil level. Replenish it in case it is below the marked line. With your hood still open, turn on the engine. Take a look at the engine. A foul burning smell and potential smoke indicate that the leak is situated either in the oil gasket or the cap. If so, turn the engine off and wait for it to cool down. Then tighten the bolts on these two components as well. Repeat this entire step to double-check.

It is time for the final test if you haven’t detected anything out of the ordinary going on beneath the hood.

Park your car at any new location. After a while, check for any dark pools under it. None to be found? Congratulations, you have successfully fixed the leak! If the issue persists, one of the parts likely must be replaced. In this case, have your car checked by a professional as repairs of this caliber lie outside of your abilities.

Have you made sure there are no issues with the:

  • Camshaft seals
  • Crankshaft seals
  • Valve cover gasket
engine oil

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