If you think your car is leaking oil when parked, you need to investigate the cause. An oil leak is serious and needs immediate attention.

By the end of this article, you will know:

  1. The steps to take in such a situation
  2. How to ascertain that your car is leaking oil.
  3. Ways to prevent a future oil leak.
  4. The answers to some frequently asked questions about oil leaks


Signs That Your Car May Be Leaking Oil

There are several signs that your car may be leaking oil. If you notice any of the following, either when parked or while driving along, you may want to consider the possibility of an oil leak.


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Blue Smoke Coming from Your Exhaust Pipe

Both an external and internal oil leak will cause blue smoke to come from your exhaust. As the engine gets hot whilst the car is running, an oil drip onto the engine will cause the dark blue smoke which you may see from your exhaust.


The Smell of Burning Oil

You may catch a whiff of the smell of burning oil after parking your car. This may mean that oil has leaked or is leaking onto the hot engine. You should pull over immediately and leave your car if you ever notice a burning smell while driving.


Overheating Engine

The vehicle’s engine can overheat because of an oil leak, especially if the oil is low. Engines need oil for their parts to stay lubricated while running. A lack of oil will cause the engine will start overheating when there is inadequate lubrication.


Car Leaking Oil When Parked after an Oil Change

A problem with a recent oil change can bring about leakage. It could be that the oil filter might not have been properly put back in place, or it may be damaged. Another possibility is a loose or broken oil filler cap. Also, the drain plugs or gaskets might have been left loose or over-tightened or you may have a problem with your rear main seal.

A leak may be a sign that your car needs to undergo an oil change. The vehicle may have shielding underneath that stops the oil from dripping onto the ground by containing it. You won't be able to see the oil dripping, and this can hide a major oil leak. A low oil level indicator may be a warning signal for such vehicles.

An oil-stained engine should be examined for leakages. Your car's fluids should be inspected periodically by a mechanic. Sometimes, there can be more than one source of leaking fluid.

If you think it is time for a mechanic to inspect your vehicle for oil leaks, you can compare prices at your local garages with BookMyGarage.com. Just enter your registration plate and postcode, and we’ll show you the best prices closest to you, so you can start saving money on your oil change today.


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BookMyGarage branded infographic about the warning signs of a car leaking oil and how to spot them

These are signs that your car may be leaking oil.


Is Your Car Leaking Oil or Another Type of Fluid?

If you suspect that your car is leaking oil, you will need to rule out the possibility that the fluid is something else. Since your car uses many different types of fluids and lubrications, confusing one for oil could be an easy mistake.

The simplest method you can use to check whether your car is leaking oil when parked is to inspect the colour of the fluid.

  • Black or Light Brown: This is usually engine oil.
  • Clear: This is most likely water draining from your vehicle’s air conditioner system.
  • Red or Brown with a Reddish Tint: It is typically transmission fluid or power steering fluid.
  • Transparent Yellow or Brown: This is most likely brake fluid.
  • Bright Green, Blue, Pink, or Orange: It is most likely coolant.

Note that coolant has a sweet smell that makes it easier to recognize.


What Happened to My Car to Cause an Oil Leak?

There are several reasons why your car may begin to leak oil. Here are a few common culprits:


Degraded Engine Gaskets

Engine gasket degradation can occur because of the heat generated from driving. The temperatures of the engine block and the head rise when you stop your vehicle. This makes the metal parts stretch, resulting in increased pressure on the gaskets.

A reduction in engine temperature will make metal components contract, creating gaps between them and the seals. The gaskets will suffer wear because of this. This could result in an oil leak. Take the car to an auto repair shop to ensure that it isn't an oil gasket or defective valve seal. 

The head gasket of your car may be blown if it is an old model or the rubber around the engine block may have deteriorated. These two components would have to be replaced for the problem to be fixed.


damaged head gasket oil seal, stylised view of damaged engine part


Damaged Oil Pan

Your car's oil pan, located at the bottom of the engine, can be destroyed by rough roads or debris. The pan's gasket also sustains damage or gets worn out over time. All these can lead to leakages in the oil pan or oil pan gasket.


stylised view of a damaged oil pan causing a leak underneath a car


Bad Oil Seals

Your car could be leaking oil when parked as a result of a faulty valve seal, but you won't see the oil if the gaskets have no holes. The combustion process will burn the oil up.


broken oil seal as a result of leaking oil, circular wheel with several layers with a tear in the outermost layer


Incorrect Installations

A wrong oil gasket installation can cause a leak to occur. The valve cover gasket or oil pan gasket can be over-tightened. Uneven distribution of tightness may also be a factor. Loose or incorrectly attached oil filters can cause the engine oil flowing through them to leak.


stylised view looking into damaged oil pan, causing a leak.


What Will A Mechanic Do About My Oil Leak?

A trained mechanic will know exactly where to start and what to do if you suspect your car is leaking oil. Whether it is a simple oil change that is needed or a larger job such as replacing an oil pump or valve cover gaskets, taking your car to a qualified mechanic is the surest way to ensure your car is getting the care it needs.

With BookMyGarage, you can compare mechanic prices in your local area to work out which deal is the best for you. Just enter your car reg and postcode to see the most relevant options and join five million drivers who have saved money on their vehicles!


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Best Tips to Prevent a Future Oil Leak

Use the tips below to avoid spending your money on avoidable oil leaks.

  1. Don’t ignore any problem your car may be having, even if it has nothing to do with oil. This is because your vehicle’s parts are interconnected. The fault of one part will affect the others, especially the nearest ones. Procrastinating will only put more strain on other parts, so they become defective as well and increase your repair bill.
  2. Get the oil replaced regularly. Periodic oil changes at an auto repair shop will give the mechanic opportunity to examine the engine and any part that utilises oil. The professional will ensure that they are working well.
  3. Schedule regular car services.
  4. Equip the vehicle with a leak-stopping additive in case a small leak starts. You can also buy motor oil that possesses leak-stopping properties.
  5. Repair or replace old parts of your car with new ones once every few years.


How Often Should I Change My Oil?

It can be difficult to know when your oil needs changing, due to its black colour. The best thing to do is consult your vehicle’s owner manual and see what the manufacturer recommends: each model will have its own recommendation and following it will elongate your car’s lifespan. There is no need to have it changed any more times than what your manufacturer recommends.

Some drivers get their oil changed every six months, but for a more accurate number to rely on, turn to your mileage counter. Older models will need an oil change around every 3,500 miles, whereas some newer cars can get up to 10,000 miles out of their oil before it needs a change.

Always follow your manufacturer’s advice when it comes to oil changes.


Final Thoughts

As stated earlier, you should always examine the fluid closely if your car is leaking oil when parked. This is to determine if the situation needs urgent professional attention or not. Get the best deals on your car’s repair by using our online comparison site. We help you compare the quotes of different garages in your area and compare and save on oil and filter change and repair costs.



Are Small Oil Leaks Normal?

Can You Drive a Car with an Oil Leak?

How Much Does it Cost to Fix an Oil Leak in a Car?


You can read more of Tim's articles on his website, OBD Advisor.