How to Quickly and Accurately Find the Source of an Oil Leak

Engine oil leaks are the most common of all automotive fluid leaks. With the number of seals and gaskets located around the engine bay, oil can leak from almost anywhere.

If the leak occurred some time before you notice it, the oil may have spread far from the real source. Air moving through the engine by driving or being pushed through the cooling fan can cause the leaking oil to cover areas far and wide. Also, if it isn’t a large and/or obvious leak, it will take some investigating to locate the source as it may also be caked with dirt and debris.

Part 1 of 2: Use a degreaser

It’s best not to start replacing seals, gaskets, or other components until you locate the exact source of the leak. If the leak is not obvious, the easiest way to start looking for the source is with a cool engine.

Materials Needed

Step 1: Use the degreaser. Spray a little all-purpose degreaser on the area you see oil. Allow it to penetrate for a few minutes and then wipe it off.

Step 2: Check for a leak. Start the engine and let it run for a few minutes. Check to see if you can spot a leak below the car.

If there is no evident leak, then it may be small enough that it may take days of driving to become evident.

Part 2 of 2: Use a U/V leak detector kit

The fastest way to spot a leak is to use a leak detector kit. These kits come with fluorescent dyes that are formulated for specific engine fluids and a UV light. When the oil starts coming out of the source of the leak, the fluorescent dye will leak out with it. Shining the UV light around the engine bay will make the dye glow, usually a fluorescent green that is easy to spot.

Materials Needed

Step 1: Put the dye into the engine. Pour the leak detector dye into the engine.

  • Tip: If your engine is low on oil, add a bottle of the correct dye for engine leaks to the oil you’re adding to the engine, then pour the oil / leak detector mixture into the engine. If the engine oil level is ok, simply pour the dye into the engine.

Step 2: Turn on the engine. Run the engine for 5-10 minutes or even take it for a short ride.

Step 3: Check for oil leaks. Let the engine cool down before you start shining the uv light into tight spaces. If your kit supplies yellow goggles, put them on and start checking around the engine compartment with the uv light. Once you spot the glowing green dye, you’ve found the source of your leak.

Once you identify the source of the oil leak in your car, have it inspected by a certified service professional, such as one from YourMechanic.


Next Step

Schedule Oil/Fluid Leak Inspection

The most popular service booked by readers of this article is Oil/Fluid Leak Inspection. Once the problem has been diagnosed, you will be provided with an upfront quote for the recommended fix and receive $20.00 off as a credit towards the repair. 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 2,000 cities and have 100k+ 5-star reviews... LEARN MORE

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Recent Oil/Fluid Leak Inspection reviews

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Carlos

28 years of experience
501 reviews
Carlos
28 years of experience
Kia Soul L4-1.6L - Oil/Fluid Leak - Anaheim, California
Carlos was so much more then I expected! Extremely personable, professional, knowledgeable, punctual and excellent in every regard! I would recommend Carlos to EVERYONE! He is the BEST mechanic I have ever met! He treats you like family and explains every issue with you in a way that you can understand. Thank you Carlos! You are awesome!
Hyundai Sonata - Oil/Fluid Leak - Chino, California
Carlos is amazing! He’s very knowledgeable, professional, and personable. He provided me with lots of insight about my car that I appreciated. He was able to find the source of the leak that others couldn’t and quickly provided me with an estimate. His level of expertise was of great value and I will definitely be requesting him for any future repairs. I absolutely recommend him!

Matthew

33 years of experience
1210 reviews
Matthew
33 years of experience
Ford Ranger L4-2.3L - Oil/Fluid Leak - Norfolk, Virginia
Very positive--for those interested Matt will provide a wealth of information about your vehicle and what could be in its future in terms of repairs
Lexus GX470 - Oil/Fluid Leak - Norfolk, Virginia
Always a pleasure to have Matthew service my car. He is very knowledgeable and explains everything that is going on with my car.

Raymond

27 years of experience
223 reviews
Raymond
27 years of experience
Dodge Durango V8-5.9L - Oil/Fluid Leak - Victorville, California
He is very knowledgeable, prompt, professional and helpful. He gave me straight forward answers to the questions I asked and he worked quickly to get me up and running! I highly recommend going with Raymond if you're in the HD and need service! Thank you for your help.
Toyota RAV4 - Oil/Fluid Leak - Adelanto, California
Raymond has been my go-to for about 4 months now. He is always friendly and very knowledgeable. I never have any issues with his work and I know the status of both of my vehicles better than when I was taking them to the dealership.

Robert

22 years of experience
279 reviews
Robert
22 years of experience
Pontiac Firebird V6-3.8L - Oil/Fluid Leak - Flower Mound, Texas
Robert is my go to mechanic. He does an excellent, thorough job. I told him he’s my mechanic for life. Most importantly, I trust him!!!!
Ford F-150 - Oil/Fluid Leak - Fort Worth, Texas
Excellent service professional care taken to diagnose and fix the issue. Inspected the vehicle for other problems that will cause issue later.

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