How to Fix an Oil Pan Leak

By: HowStuffWorks.com Contributors  | 

The oil pan of your car might be leaking because the washer wasn't replaced on the drain plug after you had your oil changed. In this case, the drain plug may have been over-tightened, causing damage to the oil pan. Here's how to fix it.

  1. Remove the oil plug and drain out all the oil from the oil pan into a basin.
  2. Place a Sure Seal regular or oversized drain plug in the drain hole, over a rubber O-ring (gasket). You may need to use a thread tool to re-shape your oil pan's damaged threads. Screw in the new plug, being careful not to over-tighten it.
  3. Pour fresh oil into the oil filler tube in your engine compartment. Check your owner's manual to find out how much oil your car needs.
  4. Check to see if any oil is leaking [source: Cortes, Sure Seal].

If the oil pan's gasket is leaking, you may have to replace the gasket. Here's how to do this:

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  1. Park the car on level ground.
  2. Place a basin underneath the oil pan and loosen the drain plug with a wrench. Always wear heavy work gloves while doing this so you don't get burned.
  3. Remove the oil plug and drain out all the oil. You'll know all the oil is out when a full minute passes without a single drop of oil falling.
  4. Remove any car accessories that are in the way of accessing the oil pan.
  5. Find and remove all the oil pan's bolts, using your owner's manual as a guide.
  6. Remove the oil pan.
  7. Clean the oil pan with solvent.
  8. Inspect the pan for cracks.
  9. Install the new gasket according to the package instructions.
  10. Replace the oil pan, all the bolts and all the car accessories that you removed.
  11. Pour in fresh oil.
  12. Start the engine and let your car run for a few minutes.
  13. Turn the car off and check for leaks. If there's a leak, tighten the drain plug and check again. If there's no leak, your oil pan is fixed [Source: Morr].

If you cannot find the source of the leak, you may have to put in a new oil pan. You may want to ask a car service professional to do this.

Originally Published: May 17, 2011

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Oil Pan Leak FAQ

Can you drive a car with an oil leak?
Driving with an oil leak can be dangerous for multiple reasons, so it's best to fix any leaks you catch as soon as possible.
Why does my car leak oil when parked?
Cars often leak oil due to damaged oil gaskets or pans, incorrectly installed gaskets or valves, and bad rings or valve seals, notes Meineke.com.
How serious is an oil pan leak?
Losing too much oil through an oil pan leak can cause your engine to run low on oil. If left unfixed, this alone can cause engine failure.
Are oil leaks worth fixing?
Absolutely. An oil leak is usually not a super expensive fix. However, if left unfixed, a simple leak can wreak havoc on your engine, potentially even causing engine failure, which is a much more costly repair.
How much should it cost to replace an oil pan?
Replacing an oil pan will cost about $700 to $800 on average. This cost covers both parts and labor, according to Repairpal.com.