Your car’s engine is a finely-tuned piece of engineering, designed to provide you with reliable transportation. However, even the most well-maintained vehicles can face issues, one of the most common being an engine oil leak.

So you recently replaced the oil in your car and now you are noticing a dark-colored fluid leaking from underneath. If it’s amber, brown, or black, it is most likely oil dripping from the drain plug. Engine oil leaks, when left unaddressed, can lead to a host of problems, including reduced engine performance, increased maintenance costs, and potential environmental hazards. Why is oil leaking from the drain plug? You’re going to find out. Also, you’re going to learn how to fix it, so let’s get started right away.

**Note** – A quick hello to anyone reading this, I’m Alastair and this is my site Synthetic oil.me. I started this site to help people with their oil questions, and hopefully what you’re about to read will help answer your questions. This page may include affiliate links to the likes of Amazon, which if you make a purchase I qualify to earn a (typically small) commission. Don’t worry as this won’t cost you anything, the likes of Amazon pay any commissions. Thank you in advance for your support as this helps bring you more (hopefully) helpful content.

Why is Oil Leaking From The Drain Plug?

Get under your vehicle and do a quick look around. If the oil leak is coming from around the engine area, it could mean you have a drain plug leak. Commonly, the oil drain plug is made of aluminum and is threaded like a bolt. Paired with a sealing gasket, the drain plug is removed whenever you want to perform an oil change. Unfortunately, the thread wears down throughout the years. Some mechanics may also use an impact gun to tighten the drain plug which can result in damage to the pan and the plug.

Some reasons why oil is leaking from the drain plug include:

  • Stripped drain plug
  • Broken drain plug
  • Stuck drain plug
  • A broken drain plug gasket

You won’t know what the issue truly is until you remove the drain plug to either repair or replace it.

How to Fix a Leaking Oil Drain Plug

So you have ascertained that a leaky drain plug is causing those gross stains in the driveway. Aside from that, your engine is losing the vital fluid needed to function. That means you are going to have to nip the leak in the bud. First things first. Ensure your engine is cool before replacing the oil or removing your drain plug. From there, follow these steps:

Step 1

If you have a low car, you may have to jack it up a bit to get underneath. Make sure you have a sturdy jack handy and put it in the appropriate areas. The owner’s manual will give you some support area recommendations if you are unsure. Here is a guide to how to safely lift your car.

Step 2

As you usually would when replacing your oil, slide an oil pan underneath the drain plug. This can also help you find the location of the leak if you are uncertain.

Step 3

Grab The right-sized wrench. Start turning the drain plug counterclockwise. In the event the plug turns easily—it shouldn’t—it could be a sign that the plug was simply loose. Tighten it up and see if oil leaks from the plug. Moving the vehicle placing paper or cardboard under the drain plug and leaving for 6-24 hours will show if the leak has stopped. If you notice that unscrewing the drain plug requires some muscle, it could mean that the seal is beginning or has already failed.

Having trouble getting your oil drain plug loose? Check out our guide on how to remove a stuck oil drain plug for more information.

Step 4

Remove the plug from the oil pan. Look at the drain plug, particularly the threads. Take off the old seal and put on a new replacement if the seal has worn down. Should the gasket or drain plug look defunct, it may be in your best interest to replace the entire plug, not just the washer.

Keep in mind that you are going to have no way to prevent the oil in the engine from running out at this time, so you should have the oil pan aligned properly. Why not change your oil while you are at it?

Step 5

To test whether the drain plug needs to be replaced or if the pan is damaged, do the following: screw the drain plug with a new washer back into the pan. Do not over-tighten it. Should the plug not tighten, it could mean the pan itself has been damaged or you’ve cross-threaded the plug.

Step 6

Inspect the threads next. If the threads are missing, smooth, or flat, you are going to need a new drain plug. If the threads are fine, the problem is the pan. In that case, you are going to need to either purchase a replacement pan or try a self-tapping oil drain plug that is slightly larger than the original.

Step 7

Opted for a self-tapping oil drain plug? Try installing it into the pan. You may have to screw it in halfway and then remove it a couple of times. Depending on the pan, you may also need to drill a slightly larger hole to make the self-taping plug fit better.

Step 8

Now that you have replaced the washer, changed the pan, or used a self-tapping drain plug, the problem should be solved.

Final Thoughts on Leaking Oil Drain Plugs

In most cases, oil leaking from the drain plug is a sign that something is wrong with either the plug or the pan. Stripped threads and old washers are just some common causes. In most cases, you can stop the leakage by plugging up the pan with a brand-new washer or drain plug. It’s a relatively easy fix, so you should have no problems!

What happens if you over-tighten the oil drain plug?

1 – Stripped Threads: The oil pan and drain plug are typically made of different materials, with the oil pan often being made of aluminum or steel and the drain plug made of metal. Over-tightening can lead to stripped threads in either the drain plug or the oil pan, making it difficult to remove the drain plug in the future without further damage.
2 – Leaks: Excessive force on the drain plug can deform the washer or gasket creates a seal between the drain plug and the oil pan. This can result in an imperfect seal and lead to oil leaks, which may not be immediately noticeable but can cause significant oil loss over time.
3 – Cracked Oil Pan: If you apply too much force while tightening the drain plug, you can crack the oil pan. This can lead to major oil leaks and necessitate costly repairs to replace the oil pan.
4 – Difficulty Removing the Plug: Over-tightening the drain plug can make it very difficult to remove during your next oil change. It may require significant force and potentially damage the plug or the oil pan during removal.
5 – Damage to the Threads: Repeated over-tightening can cause permanent damage to the threads of the drain plug and the oil pan, making it difficult to achieve a proper seal in the future.

Do you need a gasket for the oil drain plug?

Not always. Some oil drain plugs have an integrated gasket or require a separate washer or sealing ring for sealing. Check your vehicle’s manual for specific instructions on whether a gasket or other sealing component is needed during an oil change.

How hard should you tighten the oil drain plug?

Tighten the oil drain plug to the manufacturer’s specified torque rating, typically around 25-30 foot-pounds (34-41 Nm). Avoid over-tightening, which can damage threads, the oil pan, or the gasket, causing leaks. Under tightening can also lead to leaks. Use a torque wrench for precise tightening during an oil change.


Alastair

Hi, I’m Alastair. Welcome to SyntheticOil.me, a website for the best oil recommendations for your vehicle, whether it is a two-door sports car, SUV, hatchback, or tractor. Having grown up on a family farm and working as an engineer, I became interested in just about anything with an engine. I also found that motor oil, despite being essential for internal combustion engines, is overlooked, underestimated, or just misunderstood. There may come a day when motor oil is obsolete as electric vehicles become more and more popular. But until then, you are going to need to know the best type of motor oil for your vehicle. That is why I was inspired to create this website. SyntheticOil.me aims to be the internet’s destination for everything related to motor oil, including news, comparisons, features, and recommendations for vehicles by make and model. All the information you need to keep your treasured vehicles running clean is right here. In particular, I am also obsessed with the upkeep of vehicles in general. That is why you will also find troubleshooting tips for removing oil filters and drain plugs, for example. Consider it the mission of SyntheticOil.me to provide accurate information, as well as insight for automotive professionals and enthusiasts.

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