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Walking towards your car and you notice a small puddle of oil patch underneath! No, your car was not marking its territory while you were asleep. It could be a small oil pan gasket leak.
Now oil pan is a very simple component of the engine, it basically holds the oil for the engine and acts as a reservoir. But it needs a tight seal around the edges to stop the oil from flowing outward. The reasons could be numerous, it could be due to car scraping some surface or aged oil pan gasket to just simply loose nuts. Fixing the oil leak is very simple and requires low effort.
What Causes An Oil Pan Gasket Leak?
An oil pan gasket is generally a wear and tear item and generally, it causes the oil to leak out from the oil pan while the engine is working. From stained oil pans to smeared driveways, it can cause a real mess. Many causes lead to the oil pan leak. They are as follows-
1. Worn Out Gasket
As we have discussed earlier, the oil pan gasket is a wear and tear item and can become hard and brittle with age. These days, with the advent of silicon paste, the life of oil pan gasket has increased dramatically but still, they have life written to it. The engine environment is very harsh and with repeated heat cycles, the gasket starts to lose its characteristics.
2. Oil Pan Impacts
A second major reason for the oil pan gasket to leak out is the underbelly impact to the oil pan while driving. Many German brands of cars provide very strong underbelly protection, which prevents such anomalies. But the same cannot be said about the common commuter cars. Manufacturers are even moving towards plastic oil pans which have made the situation worst. To keep the weight down, durability is being sacrificed. If the driver is not careful then he can easily hit his oil pan while driving, and this causes leaks.
3. Worn Out Oil Pan Nut
The oil pan nut, which is used to drain the oil from the oil pan, has to be tightened at a specific torque level, which is generally very very low. But these days, the mechanics in shops use pneumatic power tools which make their job easy. But these power tools can cause oil pan bolt to strip out, which leads to a leaky oil pan. The oil pan nut is very sensitive to torque settings of the wrench and it must be taken care of.
4 Improper Oil Grade
These days, a lot of options are available in engine oil options, but the main problem with that is the user or the owner does not properly understand which oil grade or type to go with. In older cars, the gap between seals is not that precise and the use of modern synthetic oil can cause leaks.
What Are The Symptoms Of Oil Pan Leak?
The oil pan gasket leaks are usually easy to detect and identify. Generally, they cause an oil leak so spilled oil beneath the car is an easy giveaway of the fact that the oil pan is leaking. But sometimes it happens that the oil leak is very minor and it is not easy to detect. A minor leak will only make the oil pan sweaty and dirty, which needs to be inspected beneath the car. There is nothing major that can be easily detected during an annual inspection of the car.
What Are The Effects Of leaks On The Car?
The major effect that an oil pan gasket can have on the car’s performance is that it can lead to a starved engine which could practically destroy it. An oil pan maintains a slow leak, which if not attended to in a tie, can lead to major oil depletion from the oil pan over time and it can seize the engine.
How To Fix The Oil Pan Leak?
Fixing an oil pan gasket leak can be a fun DIY activity as it is very simple. Basically, the whole oil pan has to be removed and resealed for whatever reason the leak started. In the following ways, and oil pan leakage can be stopped.
1. Renew Gasket
Oil pan gasket leaks can be cured by refreshing the oil pan gasket itself. The gasket is a wear and tear item and they can get tired after years of running. Newer silicone gaskets have improved the lifespan but they do fail. To renew the gasket, the whole oil pan has to be emptied and removed. Make sure the oil gasket material is scraped off before applying the new gasket. The oil pan bolts must be tightened to specs.
2. Impact Damage
The pan itself can leak if it keeps impact damage from accidents or road debris. This is more likely to happen if the oil pan is fitted with aluminum rather than if the oil pan is stamped steel. In such a case, the damage often results in an opening or a crack in the oil pan or simply the gasket coil break. The common solution is to replace the oil pan since it is a very cheap item instead of repairing it. Newer plastic oil pans make it impossible to repair the pan.
3. Loose Bolts
Every time your car receives an oil change, the oil plug is removed and replaced. Because the plug is often removed and replaced, the fibers may stretch and the gasket may wear out to become a source of leaks. It is advisable that in case a leak is found, the bolts should be replaced along with a fresh gasket.
How Much Does It Cost To Replace A Gasket?
Changing the oil pan gasket or the oil pan itself comes under scheduled maintenance, so it’s not a big-ticket item. It generally costs in the range of 200-400$. But high-end cars such as Mercedes, Audi have complicated two-portion oil pan, and fixing those can cost upwards of 1000$ as sometimes it entails subframe removal.
So in conclusion, whenever you see a puddle of oil beneath your car then do not get alarmed by that. Oil pan leak is a very simple to mend job and can be easily done at home if you are mechanically inclined. However, you must address this issue as soon as possible because the oil might deplete and your engine might get starved.
the article was written to make you understand the basic concept of oil pan leak, if you still have any doubts then comment down below.