The 4 Signs and Costs to Repair an Oil Pan Gasket (& Their Causes)
A leaking oil pan gasket is one of the most common problems. But while they’re relatively common, they’re often misdiagnosed and you end up replacing far more components than you should.
That’s why we took the time to help walk you through the four most common symptoms of a bad oil pan gasket before walking you through everything else you need to know to troubleshoot and diagnose this pesky component. Let’s take a look at the signs:
Low engine oil and visible leaks are two of the main symptoms that indicate a bad oil pan seal. Also, look out for a check engine lamp on your dashboard. Rarely, an overheating or leaking engine.
But while these are the two most common things that you should look out for, it’s not the only symptoms your vehicle might be exhibiting. We’ve dived the four most common symptoms below.
Bad Oil Pan Gasket Warnings
1. Visible Leak
A visible leak is the most obvious sign of an oil pan gasket that's not working properly. While small leaks will leave residue around the oil pan, you’ll notice oil drips as the problem worsens.
You’ll typically first see this underneath where you park your vehicle for the night. If you let this oil residue build-up, it will stain the affected area, and it’s not something you can easily remove after the fact.
Reported: Engine oil leaks: Ten Causes
2. Low Oil Level
The oil pan contains your engine oil and the pan gasket holds the oil inside. So, if your vehicle has a leak, then the oil is escaping when it shouldn’t, and your overall oil level is going to drop.
So, if you pull the dipstick and find that you don’t have enough oil in your engine, you need to find out where it’s going. It’s pretty common to find that it’s escaping from a leaky oil pan gasket.
3. Verify Engine Light
While there’s no sensor to tell you that your oil pan gasket is leaking, there is a sensor to let you know that you don’t have enough oil. If enough of your oil has leaked out and you’re running on dangerously low oil, you might have a check engine light or engine oil level light.
If you have a check engine light for low oil, it’s only a matter of time until your engine overheats, and you cause serious engine damage.
4. Overheating Engine
It is not something that you often see, but it could happen. One of the engine oil functions is to cool your engine, so it’s not surprising that your engine might overheat if the oil is leaking out.
You should immediately address a leaky oil pan leaking from your engine if you notice an excessive heat in the engine. Although many websites will advise you to check for excessive engine smoke, it is not usually a sign of an oil pan leakage.
That’s because, in order to link excess smoke to an oil pan gasket leak, the oil has to leak out of the gasket and find its way to the top of an exhaust line, then it has to burn off there. Even then, the excess smoke won’t be coming out of the exhaust.
It will instead be flowing directly from the place it's burning. If you have blueish smoke, it’s more likely that oil has found its way into the combustion chamber, which is indicative of an internal problem, not a leaking oil pan gasket.
Oil Pan Gasket Locator
Your vehicle’s oil pan gasket is located directly on top of the oil pan. You can find the oil pan on the lowest point of your engine, and it’s usually a metal, rectangular pan attached to the bottom of your engine with some bolts.
The gasket is at the top of the pan, so if you’re replacing the oil pan gasket, you’ll need to remove the oil pan and scrape off the old gasket before adding a new one.
Oil Pan Gasket Function
The oil pan gasket is what keeps all the oil in the pan. You would not have the metal-on-metal connection that connects the top of oil pan to bottom of engine without the gasket. Not only would this lead to a lot of wear and tear, but it also won’t form any sort of seal.
This means that oil will seek out a way to escape any nooks or crevices it finds as it passes through this area. Between these two parts, the oil pan gasket seals the area. This seal prevents oil from escaping.
It might sound like a simple job, and it is, but without you’d continuously be adding new oil to your engine, and you’d be risking engine damage. So, your oil pan gasket is simple, but it’s essential.
Oil Pan Gasket Repair Cost
Depending on the type of vehicle and location, an average cost to replace oil pan gaskets is $100-$350. Oil pan gaskets cost $20-$80, and labor is an additional expense.
The good news is that for most vehicles, the oil pan gasket is fairly easy to reach, and it’s not that difficult to replace. In fact, you can typically find an aftermarket oil pan gasket for your vehicle for between $20 and $80. However, you will want to replace the oil and oil filter as well, so you’ll need to add another $50 to $100 for those parts too.
Remember that aftermarket parts can be more expensive than OEM. But just because they’re less expensive doesn’t mean they’re not as good!
This can still save you as much as $400 over taking your vehicle to the repair shop. Just take a look at your vehicle and determine if you’ll be able to drop your oil pan straight down before ordering any parts. Also, keep in mind that the oil pickup tube is inside the oil pan, so you’ll need plenty of space to drop it down to clear the pickup tube! You may need to raise the engine if the front beam gets in the way.
You may find that some engines use a sealant as an alternative to a gasket. In this instance, it is important to select the correct sealant for your engine.
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