How to Find the Source of an Oil Leak | YourMechanic Advice

How to Find the Source of an Oil Leak

Schedule Oil/Fluid Leak Inspection
Service Area

$79.99 - $89.99

Price range for all vehicles
Average rating from 1,357 customers who received a Oil/Fluid Leak Inspection.

Oil leaks are a very common problem that affects many car owners. Virtually all modern engines use some sort of oiling lubrication system, and a compromise in the sealing of this system will result in an oil leak. Whether it be the classic puddle in the driveway or the more dramatic smoke coming from the engine bay, an oil leak can present itself in a number of ways. An oil leak should be acknowledged with proper initiative in order to prevent other potential problems from developing.

Engine oil protects the engine from metal-on-metal contact, which can often result in permanent damage - so major care should be taken with oil leaks, especially if they are substantial in nature. Often, it may not be obvious where an oil leak is coming from, but with a little bit of effort you may be able to find the source of an oil leak and take appropriate action.

There are two common methods for detecting oil leaks. Both focus on utilizing visual aids to make the location and nature of the leak easier to determine and address properly. The first method simply involves using talcum powder as a visual aid to help pinpoint the location of an oil leak. The second, more technical method involves using UV dyes and lights to find the location of the leak. In this article, we will guide you step-by-step through both methods.

Method 1 of 2: Using talcum/baby powder to help locate an oil leak

  • Note: This method works best for oil leaks coming from the upper part of the engine, but can work on any part of the engine where the powder can be applied.

Materials Needed

person inspecting engine with a flashlight

Step 1: Open the hood and visually inspect the top half of the engine for leaks. Conduct a thorough visual inspection of the motor to locate any suspect areas from which the leak may be originating.

Use the flashlight to help illuminate darker or lower parts of the engine. If need be, remove any plastic covers or trim that may be obstructing your view --this may require the use of hand tools.

Conduct as thorough an inspection as possible, looking specifically for any signs of fresh oil leakage, usually indicated by wet or shiny areas.

If the leak does not appear to be coming from the top half of the engine, it may be that the leak is coming from a lower part of the engine.

person conducting inspection of underside of engine

Step 2: Inspect the lower part of the engine for leaks. Raise the vehicle and secure it on jack stands.

Conduct a thorough inspection of the lower half and underside of the engine. Using the flashlight, look closely for any especially wet or shiny spots that could indicate the origin of the oil leak.

Step 3: Apply talcum powder to any areas identified as possible leak origins. Once any areas suspected to be potential origins of the leak have been identified, apply the talcum/baby powder liberally to these areas.

The talcum powder will act as a visual aid to help locate where exactly the leak is coming from.

Be generous in the application of the powder, as you want to be able to see a clear contrast between the powder and the oil from the leak.

person driving vehicle

Step 4: Drive your vehicle to allow the leak to continue. Drive the vehicle on the street for 20 minutes.

This will allow the oil to leak onto the talcum/baby powder that was applied, and hopefully give a visual indication of where the leak may be coming from.

traces of oil on engine

Step 5: Inspect all areas where talcum/baby powder was applied. Perform another thorough visual inspection of all the areas where you applied the talcum/baby powder.

Look for any signs of fresh oil leakage, which will appear as wet stains contrasting against the white powder.

  • Tip: Sometimes with smaller leaks, the vehicle may need to be driven for a longer period of time, or allowed to sit for a few hours before the leaks will present themselves. Consider this if you are unable to find any obvious signs of the leak.

Step 6: Address the leak. Once the source of the leak has been identified, take measures to have the leak addressed.

In some cases, the engine could possibly be at risk for serious damage due to low oil levels resulting from the leak, so it is best to address oil leaks promptly to prevent them from becoming a potentially bigger problem.

Method 2 of 2: Finding the source of an oil leak using a UV dye and UV flashlight

There are some instances when the powder method can be inconclusive, or the leak is coming from a place where powder cannot be properly applied, such as in tight crevices behind the engine. In this case, you may use a UV dye and UV flashlight as visual aids to find the leak. This method does require the use of specialized tools; however, it is a much more conclusive test when trying to locate the source of an oil leak.

Materials Needed

Step 1: Open the hood and visually inspect the top half of the engine for leaks. Conduct a thorough visual inspection of the motor to locate any suspect areas from which the leak may be originating.

Use the flashlight to help illuminate darker or lower parts of the engine. If need be, remove any plastic covers or trim that may be obstructing your view --this may require the use of hand tools.

Conduct as thorough an inspection as possible, looking specifically for any signs of fresh oil leakage, usually indicated by wet or shiny areas.

If the leak does not appear to be coming from the top half of the engine, it may be that the leak is coming from a lower part of the engine.

Step 2: Inspect the lower part of the engine for signs of an oil leak. Raise the vehicle using the jack and secure it on jack stands.

Conduct a thorough inspection of the lower half and underside of the engine. Using the flashlight, look closely for any especially wet or shiny spots, possible sources or clues to the origin of the oil leak.

UV dye

Step 3: Add UV dye to your engine. Once you have located any possible areas that could be the source of the leak, pour your automotive grade UV dye into your engine via the oil filler cap.

Go drive the vehicle for 20 minutes or as per the UV dye instructions. Driving the vehicle for 20 minutes or more will give the UV dye enough time to mix with the engine oil. This will allow any fresh oil that leaks to be tinted with UV dye, making it detectable with the UV light.

person showing UV light

Step 4: Inspect the engine with the UV flashlight. Use the UV flashlight to perform another thorough visual inspection of the areas you identified as possible sources before.

Any fresh oil leakage will show itself in yellowish-green tint, reminiscent of the color of engine coolant, when the UV light is shined on it.

Follow any drips or stains visible under the UV light to the source. Sometimes, if the leak is very small or flowing very slowly, you may need to drive the vehicle again or let the vehicle sit for a period of time so that the leak may show itself.

Step 6: Address the leak. Once the source of the leak has been identified, take measures to have the leak addressed.

In some cases, the engine could possibly be at risk for serious damage due to low oil levels resulting from the leak, so it is best to address oil leaks promptly to prevent them from becoming a potentially bigger problem.

Most oil leaks can be detected using the above methods, with a little bit of effort and detective work. However, some oil leaks can be very elusive, especially in high mileage vehicles where the engine may be very dirty and the oil leaks may not be so obvious. In these cases, it would be best to have a professional technician such as one from YourMechanic search for the source of the leak.


Next Step

Schedule Oil/Fluid Leak Inspection

The most popular service booked by readers of this article is Oil/Fluid Leak Inspection. Yourmechanic’s technicians bring the dealership to you by performing this job at your home or office 7 days a week between 7AM-9PM. We currently cover over 10k cities and have 100k+ 5-star reviews... LEARN MORE

SEE PRICING & SCHEDULING

The statements expressed above are only for informational purposes and should be independently verified. Please see our terms of service for more details

Recent Oil/Fluid Leak Inspection reviews

Excellent Rating


YourMechanic Oil/Fluid Leak Inspection Service

Average Rating

4.8/5

Number of Reviews

1,357

Rating Summary
1,246
48
10
12
41
1,246
48
10
12
41

John

26 years of experience
630 reviews
John
26 years of experience
Jeep Wrangler - Oil/Fluid Leak - La Marque, Texas
This is the 2nd appointment I’ve had with John. He is always professional and explains any/all the work done on the car. I continue to book future appointments with him!
Chevrolet Silverado 1500 - Oil/Fluid Leak - Houston, Texas
John was punctual, very professional and knowledgeable regarding the issues with my truck. Great experience. Thank you very much!

Jason

14 years of experience
228 reviews
Jason
14 years of experience
Toyota Highlander - Oil/Fluid Leak - Jamaica, New York
Jason was very professional and knowledgeable with the repair that I needed done. He diagnosed the problem immediately and gave me price for work to be completed. I found the price fair and reasonable and I have confidence that the repair will be made with no issues. Thanks again Jason i would recommend Jason to anyone that needs an honest and knowledgeable mechanic.
Saab 9-5 - Oil/Fluid Leak - Brooklyn, New York
Jason arrived at our arranged time. Very courteous and professional. Asked the right questions made very insightful suggestions and was very thorough with his inspection. Would highly recommend him to anyone

Joseph

19 years of experience
507 reviews
Joseph
19 years of experience
Porsche Cayenne - Oil/Fluid Leak - West Jordan, Utah
Joseph is an awesome mechanic! He is very friendly and willing to take the time to explain how everything works.
Toyota Sienna - Oil/Fluid Leak - Sandy, Utah
Joseph was a professional and got the job done quickly. He clearly explained the situation with the vehicle and let us know what future work it needs without being pushy.

Nathaniel

9 years of experience
207 reviews
Nathaniel
9 years of experience
Mazda Tribute - Oil/Fluid Leak - Newport News, Virginia
He came to sevice my car earlier then the scheduled appointment, helped me figure out and explained everything wrong overall amazing job and a great mechanic. I highly recommend him!

Need Help With Your Car?

Our certified mobile mechanics make house calls in over 2,000 U.S. cities. Fast, free online quotes for your car repair.

GET A QUOTE