How Much Does It Cost to Fix an Oil Leak? (2023 Update)
Almost all car owners will experience an oil leak with their vehicle at some point in their lives. Many of us are familiar with the following scenario. You walk out to your garage or driveway, back the car out to head to work, and while you’re backing away you notice fresh drops of oil on the pavement.
What causes this? And more importantly, how much does it cost to fix an oil leak? On average, you can expect to pay anywhere from $150 to over $2,000 to fix an oil leak, depending on the cause and extent of the leak. We’ve done a bit of research on the subject to help explain further.
Cost to Repair an Oil Leak
The cost to repair an oil leak will depend on a few things. Factors include the make and model of your car, the year, and its current condition. There are a myriad of issues that may cause your car’s oil to leak, and these factors in addition to the location of the leak will play a big part in determining how much you’ll have to shell out to get it fixed.
The Importance of Fixing an Oil Leak
Oil leaks can ultimately cause the engine to seize up and stall. And who wants to replace their entire car engine? So, be sure to keep an eye out for any oil leaking from the bottom of your vehicle and take it to the repair shop at your earliest opportunity. It may be inconvenient to take your car to get serviced as soon as you find the leak, but it’s better to be on the safe side to prevent further damage.
Problems That May Contribute to An Oil Leak
Sometimes the source of the oil leak may be obvious to you once you lift up the hood. And other times, you may need to take your vehicle to a qualified auto shop to have them perform diagnostics to find the culprit. Here are a few common causes of vehicle oil leaks.
Gaskets Are Failing
Automotive gaskets are used as cushioning and sealing components to keep car fluids in their designated areas within the engine. They also help regulate the locations in the engine where oil is needed. Over time, similar to other parts, gaskets can become worn down and degraded. When this happens, their weakened state will allow engine oil to slowly seep through, causing leaks.
If left unrepaired, the leak will grow bigger as the gasket continues to deteriorate. Gaskets are replaced fairly often and are pretty inexpensive. You can buy a car gasket for anywhere from about $10 to $15 and mechanics typically replace these parts when installing new parts inside the engine.
You won’t usually find a gasket issue on a car that has less than 90,000 miles, but it is possible. Overall, gasket replacement is a pretty inexpensive fix.
The Oil Filter Is Worn Out
The oil filter can also cause leaks within the engine. This is another inexpensive fix, though it’s one of the most common. The housing around the oil filter can become worn out over time, which may lead to an oil leak.
This is due to pressure building up inside the engine which can cause the filter to become loose within its housing. And in some cases, the filter may not be replaced properly (whether it’s too tight or too loose) and this can also cause potential leaks.
Timing Cover Gasket or Seal Problems
Your vehicle may also have an issue with the timing cover. While most common engines have a timing chain, many older vehicles may have a timing belt. The timing chain contains a thin layer of oil to keep it lubricated and moving smoothly. The timing cover seal or gasket helps to keep the oil inside of the timing cover. This cover can become worn out over time and oil may leak out as a result.
A worn-out timing gasket or seal may be a bit difficult for the average car owner to spot, so if you notice oil leaking near the front or center of your engine, it may be best to take it to your local repair shop to have it inspected for this issue. Unfortunately, due to the location of these components, this repair may be on the more expensive end of the spectrum.
The Oil Filler Cap Is Damaged
A damaged oil filler cap can also cause oil leak issues. This cap covers the motor oil fill opening and helps to prevent oil from splashing out once it’s been added to the engine. The cap is attached by way of a small valve, but it can become loose or worn out over time–something more common with older model vehicles.
And in some cases, the mechanic who refilled the oil may forget to place the cap back on the vehicle after servicing it. Luckily, this is a simple and easy fix, and the cap is rather inexpensive to replace–you can even do this yourself.
The Camshaft Seals Are Faulty
Camshaft seals are at both ends of a car’s motor, right on the top. They’re responsible for keeping oil from pouring out of the motor and they can become worn or damaged due to everyday wear and tear. An issue with these components is one of the most common causes of a car leak.
Camshaft seals will often occur at the front end of the car’s motor near the belt. Or if the issue is with the rear crankshaft, you will notice a leak between the transmission and the engine. Due to the location of camshaft seals, the cost to fix the issue canvary, though it will typically be on the more expensive side.
There’s Simply Too Much Oil In The Engine
Another common reason for car engine leaks is the engine simply having too much oil in it. This is typically caused when DIYers or mechanics accidentally fill the engine with too much oil while performing a routine change. When the engine has too much oil, the amount of oil in the oil pan will become too high.
Overtime, the oil will leak into the crankshaft causing a bubbly, oily matter to form on top of it. As a result, oil will leak out of the camshaft and if not repaired, the engine can begin to grind and may eventually seize up.
Can You Drive a Car with an Oil Leak?
Many automotive experts will tell you to refrain from driving your car if it is leaking oil directly from the engine. Why? Because it’s a highly flammable liquid and can ignite under dry conditions. You’ll also want to get the leak fixed before the issue gets worse, which can cause the repair amount to increase.
How Often Should I Get My Oil Changed?
The frequency at which you change your oil will depend on a few things. Important factors to consider include the age of your vehicle, its make and model, and local driving conditions. Decades ago, auto experts recommended getting an oil change every 3,000 miles.
However, most car engines today are made with motors that can go up to 5,000 to 7,500 miles before needing an oil change. And if you have a luxury vehicle, your car will likely need synthetic oil, which can go as far as 15,000 miles before it needs to be changed.
If you’re unsure about your car’s oil change frequency, you can always check your user manual, or get the information from your dealer. It’s best to stick with the recommended change schedule to ensure your vehicle’s engine stays well-lubricated for optimal performance.
What Kind of Oil Does My Car Need?
The type of oil that your vehicle needs depends on the make and model. Most late-model vehicles use fully synthetic, low viscosity, resource-conserving oils which help to maximize fuel economy and minimize engine friction. You can find the type of oil your car needs in the car’s manual.
Wrapping It Up
Though an oil leak can be a huge inconvenience, it’s usually a relatively small repair when compared to other common car issues. If you notice oil leaking from the bottom of your engine, it’s imperative to refrain from driving your vehicle and get it to a reputable auto shop as soon as possible to get the leak fixed.
Featured Image Credit: NONGASIMO, shutterstock