Oil Leaks

Garwin Beukes - So your car leaks a bit of oil. How big of a deal is this you ask? To answer your own question - drive into the nearest mall’s parking area. Do you see oil spills in every spot? Not really the norm, is it? Now that we have established that you do have a problem, let’s look at a few factors:

  • Leak size and location
  • Time or kilometres driven per day
  • Engine oil capacity

First, it depends on the size and location of the oil leak. Some leaks will drip while the engine is running, while others will leak whether the car is running or parked. It also depends on how much you drive. For some leaks this will mean more oil is lost, but for all leaks, the more you drive, the sooner you will have the oil supply in your engine refilled to the proper level during an oil change. Lastly, it depends on how much oil your car engine holds. If you drive a Land Cruiser with the giant straight 6 motor that holds crazy amounts of oil, a small drip will not affect the oil level much. On the other hand, if you have a sedan with a 4 cylinder motor, a few days of dripping may significantly affect oil level.

Given that the harshness of your oil leak depends on so many factors that cannot be determined by looking at the size of the puddle left, or number of drips you see, it is important to regularly check your engine oil level on your dip stick. This is the best way to make sure your engine is safe to operate.  Also, if you check your engine oil level at a regular interval, it can help you determine the severity of your oil leak and provide more accurate information to your mechanic.

A good interval to start checking your oil at, is once per week. Set a specific time of day or location to help you remember. If you check your oil for four consecutive weeks without seeing a significant change, you can consider checking it every other week, or once per month. At a minimum, check your oil once per month and before any long trips.

Also, you can look at the bottom of the engine to see if there are any oil spots or drips. Trace the oil leak up to the highest point to determine the source. If you notice a significant drop (more than ¼ of the dip stick) in a week’s time, check carefully for new leaks or other problems.

Should you have noticed that your car is definitely having some oil problems, it might be wise to check in with the mechanic at the dealership you bought your vehicle from!