- Car Care & Maintenance
Engine Oil Stop Leak -- Types of Oil Leaks
Engine Oil Stop Leak
A good automotive tip for older engines is to try some engine oil stop leak. This is especially true in certain states. States like California, where I live, have very strict emissions laws, and oil leaking into the fuel mixture for combustion can definitely cause a car to fail a smog test. Stop leak for engines isn't really similar to stop leak for things like tires and radiators, as you'll see if you keep reading. In all cars, over time, there is natural wear and tear to the seals that keep the liquids and gasses in place. As the components of a car age and break, most of them get replaced. Like when a radiator gets a hole in it, often times its just easier to replace the radiator than to mess with goopy liquids to seal the leak. With engines, however, changing the components that leak isn't a very simple task. That's where engine oil stop leak is very effective.
How Does Engine Oil Stop Leak Work?
Inside your engine, there are moving metal parts, such as pistons. When these metal parts move against one another, they cause friction, grinding, and heat. That's where motor oil comes in. Motor oil provides lubrication for these metal parts to move against one another without causing excess heat or damage to the interior of the motor. There are seals within the motor and gaskets that keep the oil confined to where it's supposed to be. The problem is, these seals wear out over time, and oil begins to seep into places it's not supposed to be. If you're experiencing this, make sure you read my article on Black Smoke From the Exhaust
When this happens, it usually doesn't cause any major problems, but generally causes a slow oil leak, and very smokey combustion. If you've ever driven behind an old car that has dark smoke coming out of its tail pipe, it most likely has leaky oil seals that are letting oil into the fuel mixture which is then burned and pushed out of the exhaust. Engine oil stop leak works by treating the seals that keep the oil in place. They soften the rubber and cause it to expand, closing up tiny cracks and spaces where the oil can sneak through. My favorite stop leak is Lucas stop leak. It's safe, cheap, and effective. I've left you a link below.
Types of Oil Leaks
There are multiple kinds of oil leaks. Some are simple, and some are complex. Engine oil stop leak will only work for one of them, the last one, #5.
1. Valve Cover Gasket Leaks
- Engine oil stop leak won't fix these. Most every car with higher mileage will have one of these, though it usually only amounts to a slow seep, and never an actual leak that will leave oil puddles behind on the ground. These, you don't especially need to worry about, unless they get worse. If you're noticing a slight burnt oil fume and can't identify where it's coming from, this is most likely your answer. You can sometimes repair these seeps and leaks by carefully tightening your bolts, but you shouldn't do it yourself. Ask your mechanic the next time you have an oil change to take a look.
2. Drain Plug Leak
- Engine oil stop leak won't fix this, but that's okay because it's easy to fix otherwise. In your oil pan, on the underside of the car, is a screw in plug. It exists so that when you need your oil changed, the plug can be unscrewed and all the old oil will flow out. Then the plug can be screwed in again and new oil put in. If this screw is leaky, you can buy a new one and have it replaced the next time you get your oil changed.
3. Oil Sender Leaks
- This type of leak can't be fixed with engine oil stop leak either. You have to replace the sender.
4. Oil Filter Leaks
- If the oil filter isn't tight enough, or the surface wasn't cleaned on both sides before the oil filter was screwed in, it can leak. The oil filter is a round cylinder about 6 inches long and 4 inches in diameter. Look up a picture if you've never seen one before. If you have an oil leak, you can go out to your car and see if the filter is leaking.
5. Seal Leaks
- This kind of leak can definitely be treated with engine oil stop leak, in fact, this is what engine oil stop leak was basically built for. Engine oil stop leak is designed to treat the rubber oil seals by softening them and causing them to expand. It's not a gummy solution that just gets in there and goops everything up. That's why it works well, because it doesn't really have any adverse side effects. If you have a seal leak, you're most likely burning oil in your combustion. Engine oil stop leak should help rectify this problem within 100 miles of use. If this really is the case, and the engine oil stop leak works, you may have to continue to use it every oil change to keep the seals in proper working order.
How to Know if You Need Engine Oil Stop Leak
It's pretty easy to tell if you need engine oil stop leak. If you have a puddle of oil beneath your car but don't have any smoke or odors of burnt oil, then you probably don't need stop leak. What you probably have is either a ding in your oil pan, a loose oil filter, or a bad drain plug. Even so, engine oil stop leak won't hurt your engine at all, and may in fact keep your seals alive longer. So just in case, it's not a bad idea to use. As cars age, mechanics generally recommend a stickier form of motor oil anyway, something more viscous. New cars generally get 5w-30, or 10w-30 oil with their oil changes, either fully synthetic or partially synthetic. In colder climates, sometimes cars operate on 10w-30 oil that still flows well in cold conditions. Once cars start to age, the viscosity of the oil generally goes up. In older cars, the oil viscosity starts to go up. Sometimes single weight oil is used, such as single weight 20, 30, 40, even 50, but these are no longer used in today's engines.
Why is this important? If your car's engine is getting high in miles, you may want to first switch to a higher viscosity oil. If you've been using 5w-30 oil in your oil changes, switch to 10w-30, and so forth. The next time you go for an oil change, tell your mechanic that you're worried about a potential oil leak and were wanting to switch to a slightly heavier oil. Even if you aren't yet experiencing an oil leak, it's good to be proactive. If you have well over 100,000 miles on your car, think about going up to the next higher viscosity of oil.
Dangers of Engine Oil Stop Leak
Are there any dangers associated with engine oil stop leak? Not really. Putting stop leak into your oil won't gum up any other systems or cause your oil to fail or anything like that. However, it really is only a temporary fix. The only real way to repair an oil leak is to replace the seals and gaskets, or whatever component is leaking. Sometimes an oil leak is as simple as a leaky drain plug at the bottom of your oil pan. The mechanic takes it off every time you go in for an oil change. It's not a bad idea to buy a new one online or at your local automotive store and ask the mechanic to use the new one after they're done changing the oil.