What Does Leaking Oil Mean?  | Scott's Fort Collins Auto

What Does Leaking Oil Mean? 

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It’s never a good sign if you notice your car leaking oil. If you notice an oil leak coming from your vehicle, you will need to get to the bottom of it before you drive any longer distances again. Keeping reading to learn what you need to know about leaking oil and when you need to seek professional help. 

The Common Causes of Leaking Oil 

One of the most common reasons for leaking oil is due to degraded engine gaskets or oil seals. Sometimes it’s due to these parts wearing down overtime, however, it’s more often due to old, dirty oil because you haven’t changed your oil recently. Other reasons you could find leaking oil could be due to:

  • Incorrect installations: this occurs when one of the gaskets that keep oil inside hasn’t been properly installed. To be more specific, this happens when the oil pan gasket or valve cover gasket are over-tightened. Further, it can also happen when tightness is not evenly distributed. Leaking oil can also happen when the oil filter isn’t properly attached. Since oil is meant to flow continuously through it, when it’s loose, you can experience leaks. 
  • Bad rings or valve seals. Leaking rings or valve seals can also contribute to leaking oil. However, if there are no holes in the gaskets, the oil will not make it inside the engine so you won’t notice it because it will burn in the combustion process. 

Signs of Leaking Oil 

The most obvious sign of leaking oil is noticing a stain on your driveway, however, there are other things that could be happening which signal you have an oil leak. Common signs of an oil leak are:

  • Dark stains under your car. When you leave a parking spot and see a dark brown or yellow stain or puddle, you’re more than likely leaking oil. This typically means your oil pan has a leak, causing oil to spill directly to the surface beneath your car. This can affect oil levels and pressure. 
  • Engine smoke. If oil drips onto the exhaust manifold, you will see smoke coming from the engine. If you don’t address this issue quickly, the leaking oil could damage the oxygen sensors or cause gaskets to wear down. 
  • Oil warning light. You shouldn’t ignore warning lights when they pop up on your dash. If you see the oil light on your dash, it signals that your oil levels and pressure are lower than normal. Even if you don’t notice a leak, you should get your car checked out. 
  • Engine overheating. Your engine’s oil plays an essential role in regulating the engine’s temperature. It lubricates the pistons and ensures that they move smoothly like they’re supposed to. Without proper lubrication, the pistons will grind against other parts of the engine, produce high heat, and could cause your engine to seize up and stall. If an oil leak causes oil levels to drop low enough, you could experience your car overheating. 
  • Burning oil smell. If oil leaks onto hot engine parts, you will smell burning oil and will probably hear a sizzling sound when the oil comes into contact with the hot engine.

Is Leaking Oil Serious? 

Oil leaks can cause significant damage to your engine if you don’t take care of it quickly. Additionally, oil leaks aren’t good for the environment, either. Leaking oil is a serious issue that could cost you long and costly repairs in the future. When you know what experiencing an oil leak looks, smells, and sounds like, you could save yourself time and money in the future. 

When to Come to Scott’s Auto

Anytime you notice an oil leak, you should take your car in for an inspection to determine where the exact source of the leak is and what the cause is. If you notice an oil leak, stop by one of our Scott’s Auto locations today to prevent more serious issues from occurring. Make an appointment or just stop on by! 


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