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5 Symptoms Of A Leaky Oil Pan Gasket
The oil pan gasket seals the oil pan to the bottom of your engine. It prevents an oil leak as the oil circulates from the oil pan to the engine and back, and is subject to enormous pressure, heat, and vibrations.
An oil pan gasket leak could result in insufficient oil levels in the pan, causing your engine to overheat.
Since the oil pan gasket is located at the bottom of the engine, it’s advisable to have it checked during every oil change.
Having said that, here are five signs of a faulty oil pan gasket:
1. Oil Stains Under Your Vehicle
Oil stains beneath your car are clear indicators of an oil leak. You can assess the severity of the leak based on the size of the stains. The larger the stain, the more serious the leak.
These stains can indicate many things, including a leaking oil pan gasket or another engine gasket leak. If left undiagnosed, you could suffer severe engine damage and huge repair costs.
2. Smell Of Burning Oil
The smell of burning oil is another possible sign of a leaking oil pan gasket.
This happens when motor oil leaks through the oil pan gasket onto the hot exhaust pipe, releasing an unpleasant burning oil smell.
In some cases, oil leaks on the exhaust pipe might produce blueish smoke.
So, if you notice either of these signs while driving, have your engine checked at a repair shop. While the oil leak could be due to a faulty oil pan gasket, a burning smell could signify other vehicle issues.
3. Oil Coating On Vehicle’s Undercarriage
A severe leak in your oil pan gasket can cause engine oil to smear onto your vehicle’s undercarriage.
As your vehicle moves and the oil circulates, an oil leak from a faulty oil pan gasket may travel rearwards due to blowback, creating the smear.
So, if a quick check of your vehicle’s underside reveals such stains, you could have a faulty oil pan gasket.
4. Overheated Engine
The engine oil acts as a coolant, keeping the metal part of engine components well lubricated.
However, a faulty oil pan gasket could reduce oil flow, causing friction between the engine’s parts and increasing the engine temperature.
Your vehicle’s temperature gauge will indicate engine overheating in a situation like this. If you see this, you should stop your car, let it cool down, and get your mechanic to take a look.
5. Rapid Oil Loss
A severely compromised oil pan gasket can result in insufficient oil. This can critically damage your engine as the oil pump doesn’t have enough oil to pump to the rest of your vehicle (a leaking motor mount or other serious problems could also cause this).
Fortunately, most modern vehicles have an oil level sensor installed to detect low motor oil levels. So, if your car has a severe oil leak, you’ll see the low oil light illuminated.
If the oil level sensor triggers the low oil light on your dashboard, you should get your vehicle checked for an oil leak and perhaps replace the old gasket.
Note: You can use the dipstick to check if you have a low oil level.
How Much Does An Oil Pan Gasket Replacement Cost?
The estimated cost for an oil pan gasket replacement ranges between $11-$440.
This breaks down to:
Oil pan gasket cost: This falls roughly between $10-$40. You may also require new oil, an oil filter, and other essential auto parts.
Labor costs: This ranges between $100-$400 depending on the job’s difficulty, as some oil pans can be pretty difficult to access.
The cost of labor and parts can increase depending on your vehicle model, manufacturer, and location.
How Critical Is A Leaky Oil Pan Gasket?
Driving with a faulty oil pan gasket can quickly escalate from a mildly-serious issue to a complete engine failure if left undetected.
Therefore, if you notice an abnormal change in oil level or any of the other symptoms mentioned earlier, you should get a new gasket and an engine service done at the earliest.
3 Oil Pan Gasket Replacement FAQs
Here are the answers to some oil pan gasket FAQs:
1. What Is An Oil Pan Gasket?
The oil pan gasket is a critical component of the engine’s lubrication system that sits between the oil pan (or sump) and the engine block at the bottom of the crankcase.
The gasket prevents an oil leak as the oil pump pushes oil to the rest of the engine’s parts. So, if you notice oil dripping, you may have a faulty engine oil pan gasket.
Let’s look at some common oil pan gasket types:
Rubber: The rubber sealant is lightweight, widely accepted, and cost-effective.
Steel core: These are molded silicone or rubber with a rigid steel core inside.
Paper and fiber: Paper and fiber are lightweight but only good for shorter-term use.
Cork: Cork handles a range of different temperatures well.
2. What Are The Causes Of A Malfunctioning Oil Pan Gasket?
Let’s look at two common reasons for an oil pan gasket failure:
Wear and tear: The oil pan gasket undergoes an infinite number of heating and cooling cycles, causing it to expand and contract. So, while the oil pan gasket material is exceptionally durable, it will eventually experience wear and tear as you clock the miles.
Impact damage: Since the oil pan gasket is located at the bottom of the engine, it’s prone to accidental damage. If an object hits the oil pan at the wrong angle, it’s likely to disturb it, causing an oil pan gasket leak.
3. How To Execute An Oil Pan Gasket Replacement?
Replacing an oil pan gasket can be a relatively messy affair and often requires an oil change and a new oil filter. So, if you’re uncertain, you should get a professional mechanic to deal with it.
That said, let’s look at the steps involved in replacing an oil pan gasket:
Use a floor jack with the correct lifting capacity and lift the vehicle.
Next, place a drain pan under the vehicle, gently undo the oil filter and oil drain plug, and completely let the old oil drain out. To access the pan, you may have to remove the air conditioning bracketry and the exhaust manifold.
Now carefully identify the oil pan bolt locations and gently remove the oil pan bolt, ensuring you do not damage the oil pick-up located inside the oil pan.
You can remove the engine mount, oil pan,and old gasket.
Wipe clean the lower engine block, the oil pan, and the engine mount and let it dry for a few minutes.
Once completely dry, apply a thin film of RTV (a type of silicone rubber) to the mounting surface.
Now position the replacement oil pan gasket correctly against the mounting surface and apply pressure.
Take a few strands of a 3-4 inch long wire, peel off the insulation and twist them loosely around the new gasket to keep it from moving.
Next, you’ll need to install a pan bolt and then untwist the wires strands.
Refer to the manufacturer’s specifications and torque the oil pan bolt accordingly (someengines require you to torque the oil pan bolt identically, others may need you to torque the rear oil pan bolt differently from the front bolt.)
You can now reinstall the oil filter, oil drain plug (and other parts), and refill the engine with new oil, ensuring no oil leak.
Lower the vehicle, start the engine, and let it run for a few minutes.
Turn the engine off and wait a few minutes before re-checking the oil level.
Once checked, start the vehicle and let it warm up, then take a short spin, ensuring no signs of an oil leak.