Oil Leaks and Changes

Your vehicle needs several different fluids to run safely and correctly, including fuel, brake fluid, coolant, and engine oil. If you notice fluid collecting under your car, whether you were recently in a collision or not, don’t just assume it’ll go away – take a look!

Is it an Oil Leak?

Engine oil will leak from your engine, but you could notice it in several places. Sometimes, it drips out of your tail pipe, which may release a blue colored smoke, the smell of burning oil, or it can cause the clutch to slip if you’re driving with a manual transmission. Usually, though, you’ll notice drops or a puddle of liquid under the engine when you leave your car parked for a few hours or more.

The fluid under your vehicle could be one of several different kinds of fluid. Look at the color and consistency. Reddish liquid might be transmission fluid. Coolant usually has a sweet smell, and it’s usually orange or green. If you’re looking at oil, the fluid will most likely be probably dark brown or yellow depending on how long it has been since your last oil change.

Why is an Oil Leak Concerning?

Engine oil serves several purposes in your engine. It acts as a lubricant, keeping all the metal surfaces that make up your engine from grinding against each other, creating friction, building heat, and wearing out faster. It helps to keep heat away from the combustion process, and it keeps too much oxygen from getting inside, which is important to long term engine functioning.

In addition to leaving greasy stains behind, oil leaks can be dangerous if your vehicle’s oil levels get low while you’re driving. Low oil levels can damage your engine or lead your engine to fail while you’re on the road, which is a hazard to you and to other cars on the road.

How do I Fix an Oil Leak?

If you notice an oil leak, it will not get better on its own. Over time, a leak will worsen. Most oil leaks happen where two pieces are joined together, due to a bad gasket or a worn out seal. The oil pan drain plug can also wear out and leak. Some of these are not costly or time consuming to replace, but it can be hard to tell where an oil leak is coming from, especially if you were recently in an accident.

If you have questions about an oil leak or are concerned about other fluids, ask your auto repair technician.