Causes of Oil Pan Gasket Leak – 5 Common Reasons

Written by

Charles Bolte


Vernon Hoppe 

causes of oil pan gasket leak

Gaskets effectively connect the oil pan to the engine block to ensure an airtight seal and prevent the lube oil from spilling.

Over time, wear and tear causes oil pan gasket to leak. A bad washer, an improperly tightened plug, debris, and constant heat exposure are all factors that deteriorate the gasket and cause a car oil pan leak.

Read through below to understand the causes of oil pan gasket leak and learn a quick fix or two to such problems.

Causes of Oil Pan Gasket Leak

On occasions when you start seeing some oil stains on your garage floor, chances are high that you have an engine oil pan leak, and it may be due to a gasket issue.

The gasket between your car components is a cushion and sealant sandwiched between two surfaces by a bolt. Oil pan gaskets ensure that the engine oil is confined in areas where it should only be and avoid the oil pan seeping the critical engine fluid.

However, oil pan gaskets are likewise susceptible to wear and tear, along with other factors leading to a leak in the oil pan. Here are the common causes you must look out for.

1. Worn-out gasket


Due to the constant exposure to high engine temperature and pressure, the gasket sealing your engine block and oil pan would normally deteriorate over prolonged service.

Despite these components being built specifically to cushion vibration and handle heat, they can still develop cracks due to constant contraction and expansion.

2. Too tight or too loose plug or bolt


Bolts ensure that the oil pan is securely in place. However, an overly tightened bolt can cause too much pressure on the gasket and cause some cracks or breakage that will lead to an oil leak.

An over-tightened drain plug can also damage the threads, eventually making the plug loosen. The next thing a loose plug and bolt will do is allow the oil to escape through.

3. Debris and surface contamination

Sometimes, when you are repairing oil pan, you could overlook the dirt or grime on the surface before installing the pan back on. While debris and particles could accumulate around the oil pan seam as you drive around.

These surface contaminants will prevent the gasket from securing an airtight seal and may leave some gaps where oil leaking from oil pan can go through.

4. Improper sealer usage and practice


Some malpractice in using alternative gasket makers is common, like using RTV gasket makers as a dressing to coat the pre-cut or conventional gaskets. Gasket makers are not suitable for dressing since they have a composition that’s too thick for such application.

Flange sealants are also not to be used to seal gaps over 0.02 inches. This product should seal assemblies with thinner gaps and not those with wider vents like an oil pan.

When sealing oil pan leak from outside, you should take note of the product’s application instructions. Squeezing too many gasket makers and flange sealants onto the assembly surface can also lead to contamination that can cause oil pan damage.

5. Other potential causes (not an oil pan issue)


Other sources not involving your oil pan in car engine can also result in oil leaks. When you have a new oil pan gasket leaking despite it having newly changed, the following conditions may be the problem:

  • Improperly installed oil filter
  • Problematic oil pump
  • Loose valve cover
  • Overfilled engine oil
  • Sudden temperature change
  • Overheating engine

Signs and Symptoms of an Oil Pan Gasket Leak


Having the ability to properly spot the oil pan gasket leak symptoms will not only avoid serious damages but will also prevent you from a possible hefty replacement cost. Here are the common signs of an oil leak involving a gasket problem.

1. Oil stains or puddles – One of the most common and easiest-to-spot oil gasket leak symptoms is an oil stain or puddle that your car is leaving either on your garage floor or the road.

You’ll normally spot signs of oil leak around oil pan, once your car drips engine oil.

2. Low oil level – Since your oil pan is leaking engine oil, you’ll eventually be driving with an abnormally low oil level. Your dashboard will alert you to this.

3. Higher engine temperature – What comes next to a low engine oil level is a higher-than-usual engine temperature, potentially developing into an overheating engine.

4. Burned oil smell – An oil leak from oil pan decreases your oil level which can result in overheating, and overheating registers a burnt oil smell.

5. Engine noise – Low oil levels may not reach and lubricate all of the engine components. Metal components produce clanking noise if not properly lubricated.

Effects of Oil Pan Gasket Leaks on Engine Performance

How an oil pan gasket leak affects the engine performance rests primarily on the lower oil levels that the leak causes the engine to operate on.

This can range from moderate to severe problems. Oil leaks can eventually cause the engine to overheat. The poor lubrication it causes makes for irreversible motor damage due to friction that could tear the metal components.

Once serious damage is that, the engine may lose its power or stop functioning altogether. The fact that engine oils are also combustible, overheating and unresolved leakage will also pose an engine fire hazard.

Repair Options for Oil Pan Gasket Leaks


The repair options for your leaking oil pan should depend on the nature of the leak and how severe it is.

First, you should diagnose where the leak is coming from, whether it is an oil pan problem, gasket issue, or internal engine problem.

Suppose it is an internal problem outside a more straightforward oil pan gasket leak. In that case, bringing your car in for a professional mechanic to handle it is best.

If you are confident that it’s an oil pan gasket issue, you can fix the oil pan leak yourself with the right tools and by following the simple steps below.

  1. Prepare your vehicle and safely raise it
  2. Drain the engine oil through the plug
  3. Uninstall the necessary parts and remove the bolts securing the oil pan
  4. Detach the oil pan and the worn gasket
  5. Thoroughly clean the surface to ensure the reassembly will be contamination-free
  6. Put the new oil pan gasket and reinstall the old (or new) oil pan
  7. Make sure the bolts and plug are properly tightened, not too tight nor too loose
  8. Refill with a new engine oil
  9. Double-check if the oil gasket leak symptoms are resolved

Temporary solutions to stop oil pan leak include flange sealants or RTV gasket makers, while long-term or permanent resolve will involve changing the gasket or the damaged oil pan with new ones.

DIY Vs. Professional Repair Considerations


If you decide to tend to your oil pan gasket leak problems, a DIY project would be suitable, but you have to dedicate a few hours on your weekend. A simple gasket or oil pan replacement is generally a simple task, regardless of your car type.

Repair in your garage can be straightforward; just make sure you have all the required tools and knowledge.

But suppose you don’t have the luxury of time or confidence in your repair skills. In that case, you can let the professionals handle the repair. This allows for a more reliable replacement and is more suitable if your leak extends beyond simple oil pan damage.

Replacement and Repair Options

When you are experiencing the oil pan leak symptoms mentioned earlier, it is already time that you replace your damaged components or bring your car in for mechanic repair.

On average, oil pan leak repair cost will range between 400 to 500 USD. The required parts will typically amount to 120 USD, while the labor, taxes, and additional fees will vary depending on your location and the type of car you drive.

Preventive Measures to Avoid Oil Pan Gasket Leaks


Being able how to tell if oil pan gasket is leaking should go hand in hand with how you can prevent such leaks from happening. Here’s a checklist of what you should do to avoid oil pan gasket leaks:

  • Routine oil and filter change
  • Regularly inspect your car’s condition
  • Use the right amount of oil and type
  • Employ additives
  • Consult expert mechanic advice

Frequently Asked Questions

Is It Ok To Drive With An Oil Pan Leak?

Driving with a minor oil leak is technically safe, especially if you still have an adequate oil level. However, it is not advisable as the leak will eventually decrease your oil, which can harm your engine performance and condition.

How Often Should I Change Oil?

Conventionally, it is advised that you change your engine oil around every 3,000 miles. Still, the new development for synthetic oil formulations allows for more lasting and efficient oil performance.

With this, a range of 7,500 to 10,000 miles would be an acceptable oil change interval.

Are Oil Pan Gasket Leaks Covered By Warranty?

Oil leaks are generally covered under the Powertrain Warranty. The nature of the oil leak, though, will ultimately dictate whether or not the leak will be covered.


“Why is my oil pan leaking?” Apparently, there are several causes of oil pan gasket leak and the symptoms of it can be easily pointed out.

Whether it’s a minor or a major leakage, an oil pan gasket leak should better be tended to as soon as possible to prevent further damage from happening to your car’s engine.

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