Why is My Car Leaking Oil When Parked?

It is likely that your car is leaking oil if it needs topping off in between oil changes. Some cars leak oil only when they are running and the engine is hot. Detecting these types of leaks can be difficult, and the seals and gaskets in your engine will need to be inspected by an auto repair shop.

How to Tell If Your Car Is Leaking Oil

Your car may be leaking oil if you notice any of the following when parked or while driving:

The Smell of Burning Oil

You should pull over immediately and leave your car if you smell burning oil after parking your car. This could be a sign that oil has leaked or is leaking onto the hot engine.

Overheating Engine

Oil leaks can cause a vehicle’s engine to overheat, especially if the oil level is too low. Engines require oil to stay lubricated, so if there is inadequate lubrication, the engine may overheat.

Blue Smoke Emerging from Your Exhaust Pipe

If you see this sign, pull over immediately since oil may be leaking into your vehicle’s exhaust manifold, which collects and directs exhaust gases.

Why is Oil Leaking Right After I Park My Car?

If your car leaks oil when parked, here are some reasons why.

Damaged Oil Filter or Oil Pan

When a bad oil filter is not detected by the manufacturer, puddles of oil can form under the car after it has been driven as the oil passes through the filter and into the engine. Your oil pan may leak if you dent it or hit it with enough force when driving over a low-lying part of the road. When the car is parked, this can result in a fast leak or a slow leak over time.

Oil Filter Adapter Housing Gasket or Seal

Oil filters attach to adapter housings, and that housing usually has a gasket or seal that can develop leaks. If you have a cartridge-style oil filter, leaks may arise from the cap or seal of the housing.

Oil Pan Plug is not in Place

The threads on your oil pan plug may have been stripped, or it may not have been correctly inserted and tightened. While rubber plugs can be used as temporary replacements, we recommend a permanent repair by replacing the oil pan plug with a hardened steel thread insert that matches the size and thread pitch of your car’s oil pan. It is no surprise that these are often the sources of leaks.

Damaged Valve Cover Gasket

A leaky valve cover gasket may cause oil to leak from your engine’s top.

The valve cover protects the components of your cylinder head on the top of your engine. The valve cover is sealed to the cylinder head by a gasket. Inline engines have only one valve cover, unlike V-style engines with two valve covers (and a valve cover gasket). 

When oil accumulates around the valve cover gasket over time, then it’s time to replace it. Valve cover gaskets wear out over time and become less effective at sealing off oil.

Timing Cover Gasket or Seal

Despite some engines using timing belts, most modern applications use timing chains. Timing chains are lubricated with oil and are protected by timing covers. Timing cover gaskets or seals keep the oil where it belongs: inside the cover.

It’s common for timing cover gaskets to wear down over time. As the gasket wears down, the oil may leak out of the timing cover. In some cases, it’s even the timing cover itself that wears out.

The timing cover or timing cover gasket may need to be replaced if oil is leaking from the center of the engine near the front. A mechanic will need to inspect your vehicle to determine whether your timing cover or timing cover gasket needs to be replaced.

Camshaft Seals

Engines that use a timing belt to keep the crankshaft and camshaft in sync are prone to camshaft seal leaks. Like the crankshaft, your car’s camshafts are located inside the engine. Two (or more) camshafts are located on the inside of the engine, which provides a mounting point for the timing gears. As the camshafts extend out of the engine, a camshaft seal prevents oil from leaking out.

Oil should be visible below the valve cover at the rear of the engine if it is a camshaft leak. Smoke can billow out of the engine bay if a large camshaft leak occurs. Your vehicle may even smell smoke without seeing it. A mechanic can inspect your car to determine if your oil leak is caused by a worn-out or defective camshaft seal.

Cylinder Head Gasket

The most common cause of head gasket leaks is internal leaks, which can result in coolant consumption and coolant-oil contamination. However, head gaskets can leak engine oil as well as coolant externally. Boxer engines, also known as flat engines, are notorious leakers (ahem, Porsche and Subaru).

A Blown Head Gasket or Engine Block Seals

Older cars may have a blown head gasket or rubber materials that seal the engine block may have deteriorated and are leaking oil from the top. If you don’t add enough coolant to your engine, it may overheat, resulting in a warped cylinder head and leaking head gasket. It is possible for an engine block to freeze when there is not enough antifreeze in an engine system to prevent the water from freezing when living in a colder climate. It may be necessary to overhaul or replace your engine if either of these events has occurred.

Front and Rear Crankshaft Seals

Crankshafts are internal engine components that protrude slightly from both ends. It can be used as a mounting point for an external harmonic balancer, flywheel, or flexplate by sticking out a bit. The crankshaft has two main seals, referred to as the front and rear main seals, which prevent oil from leaking from the engine.

Oil may accumulate on the underside of the engine if a crankshaft seal leak is small, but on the front of the engine if the leak is large.

If your car is leaking oil after parking, contact a local auto repair shop. It can be as simple as parking on a hill, or as complex as a crack in the engine seal. The oily smell of leaking engine oil will distinguish it from that of brake fluid or power steering fluid, which has a burnt smell.

How Can You Tell If Your Car Is Leaking Oil or Some Other Fluid?

A glance at the fluid from afar may lead you to believe it is oil, but when you examine it closer, you may discover it isn’t oil. When looking at something from a distance, it can be hard to be sure of what you are seeing. Your car uses a number of different fluids, so examine the liquid closely rather than jumping to conclusions.

When parked, you can check whether your car is leaking oil by inspecting the color of the fluid. Here are the color codes and their fluid types:

Black or Light Brown: Engine oil is usually this color.

Clear: Your vehicle’s air conditioning system is probably dripping water.

Transparent Yellow or Brown: Brake fluid is most likely the cause.

Red or Brown with a Reddish Tint: Typically, power steering fluid or transmission fluid is reddish in color.

Bright Blue, Orange, Green, or Pink: Probably coolant. There is a sweet smell to coolant that makes it easier to detect.

Car Leaking Oil When Parked After an Oil Change

During a recent oil change, there might have been a problem with the oil filter, which could have been damaged or not properly reinstalled. A loose or broken oil filler cap is another possibility. Alternatively, the drain plugs or gaskets may have been overtightened or left loose. We will discuss these in greater detail next.

Your car may need an oil change if it has a leak. You will not be able to see the oil dripping, which can hide a major oil leak. There may be shielding underneath your vehicle that keeps the oil from falling on the ground. A low oil level indicator could be a warning sign for such vehicles.

The fluids in your car should be inspected periodically by a mechanic, especially if the engine is oil stained. Sometimes, leaks can come from multiple sources as we outlined above.

What Should I Do If My Car is Leaking Oil When Parked?

If your car leaks oil while parked, you should follow these steps:

  1. In an oil tank, pour a leak-stopping additive. It is effective against small leaks, but shouldn’t be considered a long-term solution. It won’t work on major leaks. The additive softens seals and proofs minor leaks.
  2. Ensure that the oil pan gasket and valve cover gasket have been properly installed by hiring a mechanic.
  3. Make sure the seals or rings in your valves are replaced.
  4. You should also replace your pan gasket if it is old.

How Much Does It Cost To Fix An Oil Leak?

Depending on the type of car you drive and the location of the oil leak, engine oil leak repair costs may range from $100 to $2,000 or more.

Why Did My Car Leak Oil and Then Stop?

As a rule, this happens when the oil pan gasket or valve cover gasket is over-tightened. The problem can also arise when tightness is uneven. The oil filter may also be improperly attached, as it flows engine oil continuously, and if it’s loose, you may experience a leak.

Can I Fix an Oil Leak Myself?

Using a stop leak additive or a high mileage oil blend can be one of the easiest ways to fix a leak yourself. In order to stop and prevent further automotive leaks, such products can soften and condition your car’s rubber seals. The leak may not be completely sealed until you drive a few hundred miles.

Is it Okay to Have a Small Oil Leak?

If you ignore a few drops of oil on your driveway, it can quickly turn into a much bigger, much more expensive repair. Plus, if the leak worsens while the car is being driven, it can cause it to seize.

Where Do Most Oil Leaks Come From?

Most leaks are caused by degraded engine gaskets, leaky oil pans, oil seals, or bad connections. Make sure the oil pan seals are in good shape by crawling under the car. Also, check the oil pan drain plug. Finally, check the timing cover seal and valve cover gaskets.

How Much Does it Cost to Replace an Oil Gasket?

A new oil pan gasket costs between $431 and $515 on average. Labor costs are estimated between $309 and $390, while parts cost between $122 and $126. This does not include taxes or fees, nor does it take into account your specific vehicle or unique location. Additional repairs may be required.

Tips for Preventing Oil Leaks in the Future

Here are some tips for avoiding oil leaks that you can keep in mind.

  • The fault of one part will affect the others, so don’t ignore any problem your vehicle might be experiencing, even if it has nothing to do with oil. This is because your vehicle’s parts are interconnected. especially the nearest ones. The more you procrastinate, the more likely other parts will fail, causing your repair bill to rise.
  • Regular oil changes at an auto repair shop will allow the mechanic to examine the engine and any parts that use oil, ensuring they are operating properly.
  • Make sure your car is serviced regularly.
  • In case a leak starts, equip the vehicle with a leak-stopping additive. You can also use leak-stopping motor oil.
  • Once every few years, replace old parts of your car with new ones.

Final Thoughts

In order to determine if your car is leaking oil or not, you should always examine the fluid closely when parked. Shop around for the best prices on oil and filter changes from garages in your area.