If you’ve noticed your car leaking oil when parked, here’s everything you need to understand about the problem and how to fix it.
Vehicle maintenance

Is Your Car Leaking Oil When Parked? Causes and Prevention Strategies

You might walk up to your car and notice that oil has dripped underneath it. Other times, it might be someone calling your attention to this issue while driving. Either way, your car leaking oil when parked can be the result of many issues. 

When you notice this, the first point of action should be to figure out the cause and address the issue.

Delaying your response to an oil leak can lead to further complications and cause devastating consequences. In this article, we’ll take you through the causes of oil leaks, how to prevent them, and the cost of a delayed response.

Why Is My Car Leaking Oil When Parked

Many factors can be responsible for your car leaking engine oil. Usually, your car leaks oil when the engine gasket or oil seals are defective. The longer you use your car, the older these components get. And as you can imagine, these components wear out over time. When they become too old to function properly, an oil leak is one of the many issues you’ll have to face.

If your car goes without oil for a long period, one of the signs you’ll note is that the vehicle will leak oil when parked. This is why car experts advise you to take your car for routine check-ups to ensure it’s in good condition.

Common Causes of Oil Leaks

Finding oil under your car will get you thinking about where the oil comes from. It helps when you have an idea of the possible places from which the leak might originate. In this section of the article, we will go over some of the common causes of an oil leak.

Defective Gasket or Oil Seals

A faulty gasket or oil seal is a common reason your car might be leaking oil when your park it. The gasket and the seal are designed specifically to prevent oil leaks. When you park your car, it remains hot for a while before it cools down. This hotness pressurizes the gasket and oil seals, which tends to cause a gap as the car cools down. The gap created might allow for a leak. 

So when you notice an oil leak, you might want to take your car to the next auto shop to check whether the gasket and oil seals are still working perfectly.

Inadequate Positioning of the Oil Pan Plug

Another potential culprit is your car’s oil pan plug or gasket. When the plug becomes loose or its threads get stripped, it can result in oil leaks. If you find issues with your oil pan plug, you can use a rubber plug for a quick fix. 

You’ll still need to get a new proper fitting oil pan plug as a permanent replacement, but sometimes, this is all you need to stop your car from leaking oil when parked.

Your Car’s Oil Filter

The oil filter’s job is to clean out contaminants and cycle the clean oil back through the engine. However, it can be a source for oil leaks if the filter gets damaged. In this case, you’ll likely find a puddle of oil under your car when your park.

Another potential issue closely associated with the oil filter is the oil pan. Often, this component gets damaged when your car goes over large potholes and hits the ground, or from road debris constantly hitting it. Both can cause an oil pan leak. 

Valve Seals or Defective Rings

Your car might also be leaking oil due to bad rings or defective valve seals. This problem can even be more challenging because you won’t notice an oil leak unless your gasket also has a hole. This means the oil leak might go on for a while until it starts to affect the car’s operation. You can save yourself from these larger issues by doing regular maintenance and check-ups.

car leaking oil when parked

How to Prevent Your Car From Leaking Oil When Parked

Unrepaired oil leaks can affect other components of your car. Ultimately, this can lead to substantial repair costs. Therefore, it’s crucial to understand how to prevent your car from leaking oil in the first place.

Change Oil Regularly

You might wonder how regular oil change impacts whether or not your car leaks oil when parked. The simple answer is that oil leaks are a common sign that your car’s oil has not changed for a long time. Therefore, to prevent oil leaks, it makes sense that you check the oil level and have it changed regularly.

Every car comes with manufacturer specifications in terms of oil demands. These recommendations are designed to keep your car in top shape for as long as it’s in use. 

You can learn about these recommendations by reading your owner’s manual or visiting the manufacturer’s website. Alternatively, you can take your car to an auto repair shop.

Car mileage might also be another way to gauge whether your car needs an oil change. However, the standard for each car varies. For instance, older cars tend to have a 3500 mileage standard while newer cars lean towards 8,000. Knowing your manufacturer’s recommendation will help you make informed decisions on when to change your car oil.

Frequently changing your car oil has no adverse effect. But, it would be financially smart to do it at regular intervals. It’s also important to note that you shouldn’t wait until you see the “low oil” light before changing the oil. The light often comes on when the engine oil is almost empty, which is bad for your car.

Use Oil With Leak Stopping Additives

The oil type you use for your car also matters. Some come with leak-stopping additives that help you prevent minor oil leakage issues. While you shouldn’t use these as a long-term solution, they can be a great temporary fix until you can get your car into the shop. 

Get Regular Car Check-ups

We have discussed the various components that can cause an oil leak. You have a few different potential culprits, from your gasket to valve seals. So, what can you do? The best way to prevent any of these from causing oil leaks is to go for check-ups regularly. Lack of maintenance can ultimately cost you huge amounts in repair.

More importantly, it’s crucial to go to your auto shop for regular maintenance because sometimes, it might not be just engine oil leaking. With regular maintenance, you’ll know which car components need repair or replacement and avoid any major problems in the future.

Can I Drive with an Oil Leak?

Often, oil leaks suggest that something somewhere is wrong. However, this doesn’t mean you cannot drive with an oil leak. You must consider certain factors to determine whether it’s safe to drive. Nevertheless, you should only consider driving with an oil leak if absolutely necessary. It’s always better to fix the problem as fast as you can.

The most important factor to consider is the size of the leak and the location. The importance of the leak size is straightforward. When the leak is big, a substantial amount of oil will likely leak while you drive – which can lead to major issues.

The location is equally important because it matters where the leak is coming from. A leak in the gasket is crucial because it can further affect the exhaust manifold and cause smoke while driving.

On the other hand, a rear main seal leak is not as serious. The impact on the engine is significantly lower, and you can drive safely around until you have an expert check the car. So the leak size and location are crucial factors to consider when assessing whether you can drive a car that’s leaking oil.

The second major factor on the list is your driving time and how far you drive. You likely don’t have to worry about the leak if you’re driving a short distance (less than 10 ten miles). 

If you’re driving a long distance, that’s a factor to consider before setting out. Driving for long distances might cause the oil to leak up to a dangerous point. Additionally, the warmer your car gets, the riskier the leak. Oil leaks tend to get worse with a hot engine.

These are the primary factors you need to consider when you come across an oil leak. Then you should decide based on which of the categories you fall in.

Cost of Oil Leak Repair

The cost you incur to fix a leak depends on the intensity of the leak or the damage caused. Generally, you can place the amount to expect between $150 and $1,200. This range can seem huge, especially if you’re on a budget. 

This is why you should choose your mechanic carefully. Some of the factors to consider when making that choice includes the cost. To avoid costly repairs, you should invest in prevention – like regular maintenance and checkups.

If the main causes of the leak are filler caps or filters, you might not spend more than $100. However, a blown gasket can cost you well above $1,000.

Notice Your Car Leaking Oil When Parked? Don’t Ignore It

This article has explained that it’s not uncommon to find your car leaking oil when parked. What matters is what you do after you notice. Decide whether it’s safe to drive the car based on the leak, potential location, and distance. 

Whether an engine oil leak, a water leak, or power steering leak, prioritize taking your car to a repair shop for proper repair. With these tips, you can hopefully avoid any major issues when it comes to oil leaks.