How to Seal an Oil Pan Leak

by Tim Petruccio

The price of oil has been steadily increasing over the past few years. Oil leaks are not cost-effective, and can do damage to vehicle's engine if they are excessive. Drops or puddles of oil in a garage or driveway can ruin the appearance of a residence. Repairing a leaking oil pan is the best way to rid yourself of excess oil costs and tacky-looking oil spills everywhere you park. The process of repairing an oil leak can be a matter of a simple gasket change, or could require the replacement of the entire oil pan.


Open the hood of the vehicle. Pour engine oil system cleaner into the oil fill hole. If you overfill the engine with oil, this will help you determine where your leak is coming from after the cleaner system job is performed. Do not run the oil system cleaner if oil is not appearing on the dipstick; rather, fill the engine with oil until it is 1/2 to 1 quart low on oil at the most, by adding the oil 1/2 quarts at a time.


Start the vehicle and run the engine for approximately 15 minutes. Allow the engine to cool for 30 minutes before proceeding.


Raise the vehicle on vehicle ramps -- raise the vehicle with a jack, if ramps are not available. Place jack stands beneath the front sub-frames of the vehicle, on either side of the engine. Lower the vehicle onto the jack stands.


Lay beneath the front bumper and slide yourself into position to completely inspect the oil pan and gasket. If the moisture on the oil pan appears to be coming from the gasket or top of the pan, then the gasket needs to be replaced. If the oil pan shows moisture at the bottom, not near the drain plug hole, then the entire pan needs to be replaced. Oil drain plugs should be replaced about once per year, or as needed, depending upon the vehicle.


Slide a sufficient-sized drain pan beneath the oil drain plug of the vehicle. Leave the bulk of the drain pan opening in the direction that the drain plug bolt head is facing. Remove the oil drain plug, using an open-end wrench. Allow the vehicle to drain for no less than 15 minutes.


Place a large piece of cardboard or a long oil drip pan beneath the entire oil pan of the vehicle. Remove all engine or suspension parts necessary for complete access to remove the oil pan. Remove the oil pan-mounting bolts with a 3/8-inch drive ratchet and socket set. Remove the bolts from the back of the car forward, so that you do not spill oil on yourself. Remove the pan from the bottom of the vehicle.


Scrape the oil pan mounting surface on the bottom of the engine, using a razor blade. Scrape away from the inside of the engine, and remove all of the gasket material and residue from the old pan. Remove the residue and gasket material from the oil pan in the same manner as if you were reusing the pan.


Install a new oil pan gasket on the new oil pan or the old pan. Make sure the bolt holes are aligned properly with the gasket over the entire pan lip. Insert the oil pan and gasket straight onto the engine, so as not to skew the new gasket. Insert all of the oil pan bolts by hand, to ensure proper alignment and initial threading.


Tighten the oil pan bolts with a 1/2-inch drive ratchet to the manufacturer's specifications for your oil pan. Most oil pan bolts are tightened to between 25 and 27 foot-pounds. Tighten the bolts in a pattern starting from the middle of the pan to the outer edges, along the long sides of the pan -- tighten the short sides of the pan last. Install a new oil drain plug and gasket into the oil pan. Tighten the drain plug to 25 foot-pounds with the torque wrench and a socket.


Place the oil drain pan beneath the oil filter. Remove the oil filter with a filter wrench. Pull the filter from the engine and place it directly into the drain pan. Visually inspect the oil filter to ensure the old O-ring gasket is still on the filter. If the O-ring gasket is not on the old filter, make sure it is not stuck to the engine oil-filter mount.


Dip your finger into a bottle of new motor oil. Lubricate the new oil filter O-ring gasket with a light coating of new oil. Wipe your hand on a towel when you are finished. Install the new oil filter and tighten the filter as far as you can, by hand. Turn the filter 1/2-turn farther with the filter wrench.


Lower the vehicle to the ground at this time, if you have the vehicle on jack stands. Do not attempt to move the vehicle if you are using engine ramps. Open the oil fill hole on the engine, and add the exact quantity your vehicle's manufacturer specifies for "oil change with filter." Tighten the oil cap when you are done adding.


Start the engine of the vehicle. Kneel next to the driver's side door and inspect for any oil leaks. If you hear a sudden hissing noise, or you see oil leaking, shut the vehicle off immediately. Recheck the torque on the oil pan, oil plug, and filter. Allow the car to run for one minute if you see no leaks, to ensure that the oil pan and gasket are sealed correctly.


Lower the vehicle to the ground at this time, if you are using ramps.


  • check Before jacking up the vehicle, set the emergency brake and block the rear wheels.
  • check The best time for car repair is early in the morning or in the cool of the evening.
  • check Look through the Haynes manual to familiarize yourself with what it will take to do the job...before you begin.


  • close Never raise a vehicle on uneven ground or a slope, as this can cause jacks and jack stands to suddenly collapse.

Items you will need

About the Author

Tim Petruccio is a professional writer and automotive mechanic. His writing combines more than 20 years of mechanical experience in automotive service, service management, automotive education and business ownership. He assisted in the automotive beta, which launched March 2011.

More Articles

Photo Credits

  • photo_camera Jupiterimages/ Images