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How to Diagnose Why an Engine is Covered in Oil

by Melissa Morang

Maintaining a car is never easy. Problems will sometimes occur. Learning to fix these yourself is a way of saving money, but can be time-consuming, such as finding the source of an engine's oil leak. What may at first seem easy can turn into a nightmare if you don't find the correct source the first time. However, with the proper knowledge, there is a simple way to figure out the source of the leak so that you don't have to do multiple repairs.

Clean the engine completely. A dirty engine can make it more difficult to track down the source of the engine leak, so always perform this step. Start the engine and allow it to run until the engine compartment is warm. This usually takes about five minutes. Then turn the engine off and spray degreaser over entire engine from top to bottom. Allow the degreaser to soak for 10 minutes.

Start engine and run at idle. Hose down the engine compartment to remove all traces of degreaser and dirt and grime. Keep engine running for an additional 10 minutes after completion.

Add engine oil dye to the engine oil. The dye is ultraviolet and will assist you in tracing the source of the oil leaks. Start the engine once the dye is completely added and run for about five minutes to circulate. Turn the engine off.

Drive the vehicle. You are testing it by seeing if the leak will appear. This can happen in an hour or may take a few days. For instance, a large leak can be detected right away, whereas a smaller leak may take longer to appear.

Inspect the engine with ultraviolet light. After driving the vehicle, open engine compartment and completely inspect all areas of the engine from top to bottom. The ultraviolet light will enable you to see where any leaks originate. A leak that may appear to be coming from the oil pan gasket may have seeped down from a valve cover gasket, accumulating on the lip of the oil pan. Thus, you may think that the oil pan is the problem or source of the leak. But the combination of the ultraviolet light and the newly-cleaned engine will make the process of diagnosing much easier.

Tip

  • Keep the engine running while hosing it down with water. If the engine starts to stumble while spraying an area, move hose to another area until the engine is running normally again. Do not allow the engine to stall out.

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About the Author

Melissa Morang began writing professionally in 2002. She has created sales scripts for telemarketing companies and contributes to online publications. Morang has a Bachelor of Arts in English from the University of Minnesota.

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