Dealing with car repairs can be exhausting (pardon the pun) and frustrating. Some cars are also more expensive to maintain than others, which is why it is important to do your research on car makes and models before buying. But what happens when your vehicle springs an oil leak? How does it happen? And how much does an oil leak cost to repair? Those questions and more are going to be answered below.
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How Much Does an Oil Leak Repair Cost?
Generally, oil leaks can cost you anywhere between $100 and $2,000—sometimes more. Now, you might be thinking, “Why so much? And why such a range?” Well, that is because there is a lengthy list of reasons why the oil leak began. Once the mechanic figures out the origin of the leak, the amount of time and parts required for the fix becomes more clear. Unfortunately, some factors will cause the price of the repair to skyrocket.
Factors that directly impact how much it costs to repair an engine oil leak are:
- Location of the leak
- Source of the leak (more on that below)
- Car’s engine
- Make and model (some cars are harder to repair)
- Labor and replacement part costs (estimated to cost around $80-$115 for an inspection of the leak alone)
Common Causes of Oil Leaks
If you can find the source of the leak before bringing your car in for repairs at the local auto body shop, you can estimate the overall cost of repairs. Here are some of the reasons why your car may be leaking oil:
1. Broken Filler Cap
Do you see puddles forming under the car wherever it is parked? The leak may be originating from the filler cap, which is attached to the valve cover. The filler cap, like anything else, experiences wear and tear as you drive your vehicle. After you rack up a considerable number of miles on the odometer, the filler cap may break. It can also cause oil to leak when it is not tight enough.
Also, the filler cap may not have been reapplied correctly, causing it to sit loose. If that is the cause, then you are in luck, as this issue is the easiest and cheapest to fix. Can’t readjust the cap? Look for a new one online or at your local auto repair shop. The part costs between $13-416. Fix this at home with a new part as it’s quick and simple to solve and no need for a repair shop.
2. Failing Crankshaft Seals
Running through the engine is a crankshaft that sticks out a little. These are the mounting points, and they also feature seals that stop oil from leaking out. Unfortunately, those seals can become damaged, causing oil to seep out from the cracks.
When the front crankshaft has sprung a leak, you will notice that oil is more towards the front of the engine, near the timing belt. With a rear-facing leak, there will be oil around the engine and the transmission.
For reference, it costs an average of $30-$90 for a single crankshaft seal. If you need to get one replaced, it typically costs between $230-$290 and will take the mechanic about 2-3 hours to complete.
3. Too Much Oil
There is a reason why you need to pay attention to the max line when pouring in new oil. You could cause the reservoir to overflow. That could be the source of the leak. The fix is relatively easy: remove the excess oil.
Use an oil pan to collect any excess drained from the reservoir. Sometimes, it is also recommended that you do a whole new oil change, but use your intuition if that’s required. If you’ve recently done an oil change there is probably no point in draining all the oil. Completing an oil change will increase the price of the overall repair, because you have to factor in how much an oil change costs, too.
4. Worn Out Oil Filter
Three common problems are usually seen with oil filters: leaky gaskets or seals, improper installation, or a loose plug or cap. Aftermarket oil filters may also be inappropriately sized and misaligned, which may be causing a leakage. Make sure that you are using an oil filter that is compatible with your engine and motor oil.
Also, did you know that you have to replace the oil filter every time you get an oil change? Your oil filter is not meant to last forever. It works hard to remove contaminants from the engine oil. Oil filters can also be damaged or degrade from pressure inside the engine. Once the oil filter becomes too clogged up, oil won’t be able to filter like it did when new. If that happens, the oil may leak out.
Additionally, an oil filter that is screwed on too tightly will start causing damage to other parts of the engine, such as the gasket. That too can cause oil to leak from the underside of your car.
5. Broken or Failing Gasket
Gaskets are a crucial part of the engine. They act as dams and keep certain fluids in their place. Furthermore, gaskets regulate the flow of oil throughout the engine.
That said, gaskets are another component with a lifespan. The gaskets can degrade and weaken, creating spaces where oil can leak out. The good news is that most new cars will not have to worry about this problem. Gaskets can last up to 100,000 miles.
On average, a gasket repair will cost around $300 to $500, if you need to replace only the valve cover gasket. Different gasket issues may be pricier.
6. Issues With Bolts and Screws
Too loose, too tight, and nonexistent—each of these could cause oil leakage within your engine. Sometimes bolts and screws may be lost during repairs and maintenance. Fastening a screw or bolt too loosely or tightly may also cause a leak. Older screws that have been stripped or worn out are often seen in vehicles with high mileage.
Keep in mind that most makes and models of vehicles have their own recommended applied pressure for screws and bolts. The good news is that these kinds of repairs are relatively cheap because they are easy to perform—unless, of course, there is damage.
Symptoms of an Engine Oil Leak
It is important to recognize that you have an engine oil leak when you see it, because time is of the essence. Oil leaks may seem insignificant, but they can cause untold levels of damage to your vehicle. Furthermore, oil leaks are hazardous to the environment. For instance, while oil is not exactly flammable, it does have a reputation for combusting under certain conditions. Here are the signs to look for if you suspect you have an oil leak:
Puddling Under The Car
When you leave a parking spot or your driveway, do you notice any dark brown or yellowish patches or puddles left behind? That is usually a sign of an oil leak originating from the oil pan.
If you do not have a dedicated parking spot, it is recommended that you lay a paper or plastic plate under the oil pan. Leave it alone for a while then check to see if there is any oil before driving away.
Dashboard Oil Light
Has the oil light on the dashboard lit up? That is meant to alert you when the oil pressure or level has dropped to lower than average. While the oil indicator does not always mean you have an oil leak, it is something to be concerned about if it happens shortly after maintenance or repairs.
When leaking oil begins to drip on the exhaust manifold, smoke will start to rise. This is one problem that you do not want to ignore for long. The burning oil may damage the sensors and cause issues with the gaskets.
Burning Oil Scent
Oil gets everywhere when it leaks, including on the hot metal pieces of the engine. Should this happen, you are going to hear to smell burning oil. The smell, if you don’t know it, is pungent and bitter.
Oil is designed with a complete set of functions in mind. First, it regulates the temperature of the engine. Second, it lubricates the working parts of the engine, like the pistons. When the pistons can glide smoothly, less friction is produced. You do not want the reverse to happen. Too much heat could cause the engine to stall. An overheated engine may also permanently seize up, which is often impossible to repair.
How to Repair an Oil Leak
You are aware of the symptoms and the causes of oil leaks. Now, it is time to start the repairs. If you feel that you do not have the experience or tools to go about this repair, bring your vehicle to a professional. Yes, it will cost a little more, but you get some piece of mind. Most causes can be fixed rather quickly, but you may still need a lift to get the vehicle off the ground.
With that in mind, here are steps to repairing an oil leak:
The first step is to determine what has caused the oil leak. You can either crawl under the vehicle or place it on a lift. First, look for the oil pan seals. If those are not leaking any oil, proceed to the oil pan plug. Nothing there? Start looking at other places known to cause oil leaks, such as the valve cover gaskets or timing cover seal. Look for missing screws and bolts.
Take into consideration the age and mileage of your vehicle. Older cars, trucks, and SUVs may have worn-down parts that could be causing multiple leaks.
Finding the source of an oil leak can be difficult. Check out this video for some tips:
2. Use an Additive
Depending on what you have found as the source of the oil leak, you may need to use an oil leak additive. This is a fantastic product that was designed to condition rubber seals, making them flexible enough to keep oil from leaking out.
There is a downside to using oil leak additives, though. They take a little while to work. You should not use an additive if the leak is major. Minimal leaks and plenty of preparation time help guarantee success.
Need help finding a decent oil leak additive? This review will help you find one that works exactly as it claims:
3. Read Your Owner’s Manual
Larger oil leaks or those that require a more complex method of repair will need more than an additive. First, consult your owner’s manual. It will tell you whether to attempt the repair at home. Should the repairs be too complicated, or if you do not have the parts and tools at home, consider getting help from a professional instead.
4. Gather Your Tools and Get Started
Easy repairs require a couple of tools, including a torque wrench, jack stands, and a floor jack to lift the car. If you found that screws and bolts were the culprits, make sure you refer to the service manual for the required fixing torque.
Again, more difficult repairs, such as broken seals, damaged plugs and caps, or any damage that you find as a result of the leak should be seen by a professional.
5. Go For a Test Drive
If you believe that your repairs did the trick, then you are going to need to take your car for a test drive. Before doing that, check the oil level. Top it off, if need be. Afterward, start up the vehicle. Let it idle while you check under the hood. You will be able to see if any oil is leaking out.
Once the vehicle has run for a decent duration, begin to move it a short distance. That may mean rolling it down the driveway and back up. Look out for any new oil on the ground or around the engine. If you notice any oil dripping or sizzling, then you still have more repairs to do.
Should there be no sign of leaking oil, then you are free to take your car onto the road. Use your senses here. Make a note of any strange scents, sights, or sounds. Performance should also be satisfactory. Anything odd will need to be addressed.
The Bottom Line on Oil Leaks
How much does an oil leak cost to repair? Oil leaks are common and frustrating and can also be rather pricey to fix. With the average cost to repair an oil leak ranging from $100 to $2,000 or more, you may want to learn how to repair the issue yourself. Keep in mind that some oil leaks are caused by mistakes when maintaining or repairing other areas of the vehicle. However, if you decide to get the oil leak repaired, be sure to have it done as soon as possible, as even a small leak can be dangerous.
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