Regardless of the method used, early detection and repair of an oil leak is a wise investment in the health of the vehicle, the occupants and the environment.
Although some may regard oil leaks as merely a nuisance that can be ignored, mechanics have seen the consequence of not repairing an oil leak, from trivial to dire:
– oil leak spots on the ground which can bring fines in strata living
– oil leaking on to other components and damaging belts, suspension bushings, wiring and/or sensors
– risk to the engine if too much oil leaks out and the engine runs dry
– Impact to the environment with rain carrying oil into rivers and aquifers
– risk the occupants (fire could result from oil pooled on a hot exhaust manifold)
Oil leak repair begins with diagnosis. Oil leaking from up top on the engine (valve cover for example) can create a mess anywhere below, which could be confused for another oil leak. The difficultly in accurate diagnosis can then be further compounded by the possibility of multiple sources of oil leaking (including oils other than engine oil).
A common method to determine the source is to shampoo the engine of engine leaked oil, then rechecking in the near future so see where new traces might appear. This method can be used in conjunction with a UV sensitive oil dye that will later cause any newly leaked oil to illuminate under a special lamp.
After finding the source of the leak, the mechanic will have to replace the cracked or degraded gasket or seal – a gasket is simply a piece of engineered rubber sandwiched between two parts of your engine or drive train, it keeps the oil in.
The gasket may be easy to access (like a valve cover gasket on top of the engine) or it may be buried deep in the engine bay (like some timing cover gaskets). The mechanic may have to take the whole engine out to repair the oil leak or it may be very trivial to repair the oil leak in an hour. Oil leaks can cost anywhere from $200 to $2000 to fix.