If you own your vehicle for a number of years, at least once you will run into those dreaded oil spots on the ground underneath. A leaking oil pan is usually the culprit. The oil pan is the reservoir for your engine oil located at the bottom of the engine. The gasket/seal between the pan and engine block is subjected not only to the heat cycling of the engine, but weather and road debris under the vehicle. Over time, the oil pan gasket will harden, dry, and crack, causing an oil leak.
Oil is the lifeblood of your engine. It is important to make sure not only that the oil is changed at normal intervals, but the level is properly maintained between oil changes. A leaking oil pan will reduce the oil level and lead to internal damage.
- Note: Some vehicles have easy access to the oil pan. Others are blocked by suspension/engine support members, requiring the engine be removed and/or supported. This requires specialty equipment and usually requires the vehicle be supported on a lift. If this is the case with your vehicle, taking it to a local repair shop for the oil pan gasket replacement is recommended.
Part 1 of 5: Jacking and supporting the vehicle
- Drain pan
- Engine oil and filter - recommended viscosity and quantity for your vehicle
- Floor jack
- Oil filter wrench
- Oil pan gasket
- RTV sealant
- Ratchet/socket set
- Torque wrench
Step 1: Raise the vehicle. Using a floor jack with the correct lifting capacity for your vehicle, raise the vehicle using the appropriate lifting points.
Step 2: Jack stand placement. Place the jack stands at the appropriate points to support the vehicle in the lowest setting possible for safety and stability. Slowly lower the vehicle onto the jack stands. Once lowered, leave the jack in place for safety.
Part 2 of 5: Drain the oil
Step 1: Remove the oil filter. With the drain pan in place to catch the oil, use the oil filter wrench to remove the oil filter.
Step 2: Remove the drain plug. Once the oil filter is removed, move the drain pan underneath the oil pan. Remove the oil drain plug and allow several minutes for the oil to drain into the pan. Dispose of the oil and filter properly.
Part 3 of 5: Oil pan removal
Step 1: Select the appropriate socket and ratchet. Use an extension if needed. remove the oil pan bolts, leaving one at each corner loosely in place. Sometimes the pan will just fall loose. Others, you may need to gently tap or pry the pan away from the engine block. Once the pan is loosened, remove the 4 remaining oil pan bolts. Remove the pan carefully as to not damage the oil pick up located within the oil pan.
Step 2: Clean up. Using a cleaner/degreaser, clean the area on the lower engine block where the oil pan attaches. Also, clean the oil pan inside and out.
Part 4 or 5: Gasket installation
Step 1: Remove the old gasket material. Using the scraper, gently remove any gasket material on the oil pan as well as the engine block mounting surface. Wipe both the pan and engine mounting surfaces clean and let dry.
Step 2: Install the pan gasket. Following the directions on the rtv package, apply a thin film of rtv to the oil pan mounting surface. Allow the rtv to set up for a few minutes. Once the rtv has set, apply the pan gasket to the surface, applying even pressure all around.
- Tip: Sometimes the pan gasket will slide around when placing the oil pan. To minimize movement of the gasket while placing the pan against the engine block, take a 3-4 inch length of wire and peel off the insulation. Take a few individual strands of wire and loop them through 4-6 holes in the oil pan and twist them loosely around the gasket. Once you have loosely installed a few of the pan bolts, untwist the wire strands and remove them.
Step 3: Install the pan. Insert all the oil pan bolts hand tight to start. To avoid distorting the oil pan and future leaks, torque the oil pan bolts to manufacturer's specifications. If you do not have a repair manual for your vehicle, your local auto parts store should be able to provide the specifications for you.
Part 5 of 5: Refill the oil pan
Step 1: Add engine oil. Reinstall the oil pan drain plug and new oil filter. Fill the engine with the recommend oil. Check for any obvious leaks before lowering the vehicle.
Step 2: Check for leaks. Remove the jack stands and lower the vehicle. Start the vehicle and let it run for a minute or so. Turn the engine off. Wait a few minutes and check the oil level. Top off if needed. Once checked, start the vehicle and let it warm up at idle. Check for any leaks after warmed up and again after the vehicle has been driven.
If you see oil on the ground underneath the front of your car and suspect a leaking oil pan gasket, contact YourMechanic today to schedule a visit from one of our mobile technicians today.
This article originally appeared on YourMechanic.com as How to Replace an Oil Pan Gasket and was authored by Ronny Brown.