Why is My Car Leaking Oil?

Published on

August 31, 2021

It is often said that changing the oil is the single most important thing you can do to take care of your car. Nevertheless, it is something that many automobile owners delay—and the results of procrastination can be dire.

The purpose of oil is to cut friction within your engine. When you have good, clean oil that’s doing its job properly, it means the components of your engine are working well without rubbing together and causing corrosion.

Over time, though, oil becomes contaminated and loses its viscosity. In a word, it gets dirty. And when that happens, it loses its ability to prevent friction—which means the components of your engine will literally be wearing each other down, causing erosion and potentially significant mechanical failings.

One way to know that you’ve gone far too long without an oil change is that oil is leaking from your engine. If you see a puddle of greasy-looking brown liquid under your car, after it has been parked for a while, that means you have an oil leak. (By contrast, if the liquid is pink, it’s transmission fluid; if it’s green or orange, it’s coolant.)

But what causes oil to leak, exactly? Usually, it is due to degraded engine gaskets or oil seals. Sometimes these components will erode over time, but more likely than not, if you have this kind of leak, it’s because you have bad, dirty oil—perhaps because you have not had your oil changed recently enough!

Regardless of the specific cause, it is urgent to take your vehicle to the Quality shop immediately. The next step in your car’s degradation, following the oil leak, is the smell of burnt oil, followed by blue smoke and ultimately some major damage to your engine. Do not delay in addressing this issue!

How Often To Change Oil?

All of this begs the question: How frequently should you change the oil in your car? There is no way to know, through visual inspection, whether your oil needs changing, as pure black oil will take on a brown, “dirty” look almost immediately after it is put into your car.

The simple solution, then, is to change your oil as often as the manufacturer recommends. The manufacturer’s recommendation is made to keep your car running for a long time; you can find out what this recommendation is by looking in your owner’s manual, visiting the manufacturer website, or calling the service desk at your local dealership.

Thankfully, there is no harm in getting your oil changed too frequently—though this can take a toll on your wallet! Certainly, there is no need to have the oil changed more regularly than what the manufacturer recommends.

Another tip: Don’t wait until you see the “low oil” light come on—and if you do see that light come on, make your oil change a top priority. If this light comes on, it almost certainly means that whatever oil is left in your engine has lost its ability to function properly, which means your engine is undergoing a great deal of wear and tear.

How Many Miles Between Oil Changes?

Note that your manufacturer’s recommendation will involve mileage, which is a more reliable gauge than mere time. Some auto owners just take their cars in for oil changes every five to six months, but this does not take into account seasons in which the vehicles are driven more or less than usual.

As for the specific mileage, all cars are different—and getting better all the time, too. The standard for older vehicles was often no more than 3,500 miles, but newer cars can often get 7,000 to 10,000 out of a single oil change. Again, the critical thing is to look at your manufacturer recommendation, and not to delay getting oil changed as needed—hopefully before your light comes on or you see oil leaks staining your driveway.

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