Is It Safe to Drive With an Oil Leak? - Enji


Is It Safe to Drive With an Oil Leak?

August 4, 2022

An oil leak is more common than you might think. In short, it's definitely possible to drive with an oil leak but driving on low oil can have serious repercussions for you and your vehicle if left unchecked for too long.

A car's engine oil lubricates the moving parts of an engine. If there is a leak this means that your vehicle's engine and moving components within are unable to glide past each other, causing friction in the engine, and in some cases, serious damage to your car.

What will happen if I ignore an oil leak?

Wishful thinking won't help you here. If you ignore an oil leak and the little flashing light on your car's dashboard it is very likely that your engine will seize up and could seriously damage your car.

If you're in a sticky situation and you need to drive with an oil leak, you can purchase sealant additives from local auto repair stores. Just note that these solutions are only temporary and for a complete fix you will need to see a local mechanic.

Always remember to check your oil levels using your dipstick to determine how much oil you are losing and how much you have left. The sweet spot of oil is between your minimum and maximum markers. If your oil level is below the minimum marker it's not a good idea to use your car as driving on low oil can result in engine damage and even engine failure.

What Will Happen If I Drive With An Engine Oil Leak?

While a relatively common symptom of an older vehicle, an engine oil leak should be taken care of with caution as oil dripping from components of your car could result in serious consequences.

There are a variety of situations you could find yourself in if you dont get your oil leak fixed.

Oil Stains

Have you ever had a wine stain that you can't get out of your carpet? Try an oil stain on your driveway or garage floor that is 10 times as hard to clean up! Leaving your leaks unchecked can be a serious bother if cleanliness is one of your non negotiables.

Fire And Safety Hazards

An oil leak that might appear small at first can turn into a safety hazard quickly. Engine oil is a flammable substance meaning that it is prone to catching fire in the right situations. If an oil leak catches fire or your engine seizes while driving, passengers in your car or you could be seriously injured.

Engine Damage

Oil leaks that are left unchecked can cause major damage to your vehicle's engine and components. Specifically, leaks that begin to seep or make their way into the radiator and HVAC system can be destructive when oil accumulates and degrades the rubber hoses and seals within. This causes them to deteriorate and wear our prematurely and can result in severe engine damage.

Serious Environmental Implications

Motor oil contains a plethora of toxic substances and sometimes even pieces of zinc, arsenic, lead and metal particles from the inside of your engine. If this engine oil is washed away by the rain or flows into storm water drains, the substances can seep into waterways, sewage and run off into ecosystems that can have implications for animal and plant life.

Why Is My Car Leaking Oil?

Your car could leak oil from a multitude of places and due to a myriad of factors so it can be hard to know where the leak starts. If you're unable to locate or diagnose the source yourself it is best to ask your local mechanic for assistance or contact a mobile mechanic to come to you.

The most common causes of an oil leak include:

  • Degraded engine gaskets
  • Damaged oil pan
  • Loose oil pan seals
  • Worn oil drain plug
  • Missing, loose or broken oil filler cap
  • Incorrectly fitted oil filter
  • Seized oil rings

What Are Common Signs Of An Oil Leak?

An oil leak may start with just a few drops but it can turn bad pretty quickly! Noticing the signs and symptoms of an oil leak early can save you money and keep you and your passengers safe. Ensuring you're aware of what these signs are will help you be more prepared to deal with oil leaks in the future!

Smoke Coming From Your Engine

If there is smoke coming from your engine you most likely have an oil leak! These types of leaks are usually the result of oil dropping onto a hot part of the engine and burning off like on your exhaust manifold. In some cases, there will be blue smoke coming from your engine or exhaust.

Blinking Engine Oil Light

If your dashboard starts flashing at you with an oil warning light it usually means your leaking oil or you need a top up. The engine oil light comes on when the engine oil pressure has dropped to a low level which can be dangerous.

Engine Oil Puddles

One of the most obvious signs of an oil leak is when there happens to be a big puddle of the substance under your car when it has been parked or stopped.

Your Engine Is Overheating

If your engine tends to overheat a lot without solution it could be a sign that your oil levels in your car are dropping too low for the lubrication to spread evenly around the engine.

Burning Smell

Another common cause is a burning smell that combines oil and the heat of your engine. That sizzling smell can be nauseatingly bad so ensuring you get your leak fixed quickly is very important! However, be careful with symptoms like this as a burning smell could pertain to a variety of issues like a burnt out clutch or problems with a flywheel.

How Soon Should I Repair Engine Oil Leaks?

In the short term, having an adequate amount of engine oil in your car with a small oil leak isn't a major problem. You car will continue to operate on low levels of oil with just a small leak, but there are major benefits in mitigating future risks by repairing a leak quickly.

Repairing a leak depends on your vehicle, how often you use it and if you are willing to risk the safety of those around you. A small leak can quickly become a large one if you are driving in rough conditions or for long periods of time. Of course, if the leak continues to have minimum effects on your vehicle you can top off your engine oil but this has a cost especially with oils for modern cars. The only problem is that it's a hassle and can prove to be a problem later on.

How Much Does It Cost To Fix An Oil Leak?

Depending on where the oil leak has appeared (whether it be transmission oil, differential oil, brake fluid or power steering fluid) the cost can vary greatly. Diagnosing and repairing a leak can cost anywhere from $88 to $111 without the added cost of components or an essential part that may have been damaged.

There are a variety of budget friendly remedies that can be purchased from auto repair shops but you should consider the longevity of these solutions in comparison to getting your vehicle looked at by a certified mechanic. If you are having issues with an oil leak and can't seem to figure out where it's coming from with your untrained eye, at the first sign of trouble, take you car to one of Enji's local mechanics to ensure your car is roadworthy at all times.