How to identify an oil leak in your salvage car

Oil leaks are one of the most common problems a car can suffer from, so it makes sense that they commonly affect salvage cars. Unless the engine has sufficient oil, it won’t be properly lubricated, which means that critical elements start to rub together. This can be problematic enough by itself, but can ultimately lead to the engine shutting down. (It’s not ideal from a fire safety perspective either, as hot and flammable oil can leak onto the exhaust manifold, which can cause smoke and even actual flames.) For this reason alone, it’s important to find the source of the leak, whether it’s from a tiny pinhole or a larger one from a bad seal. Happily, there are several useful ways to detect a leak. We go through some of the major ones below. 

Key ways to detect an oil leak with your salvage car

Oil stains under the car

This is one of the easiest ways to tell, especially if you’re parked in the same place every day. If your car does have an oil leak, you may notice a dark puddle starting to collect under your car. If you’re regularly parking in different spots, however (for example in a company car park), you can leave a bit of cardboard underneath the vehicle to check to see if it’s leaking any fluid. Oil coming from underneath a parked car generally indicates that the leak is coming directly from the oil pan, or oil drain plug. 

‘Low oil level’ dashboard warning light

Of course, sometimes your car will actually tell you there’s a problem. If the dashboard warning light comes on, it’s to tell you that the oil level or oil pressure in your car is lower than normal. This doesn’t necessarily alone mean there’s a leak, though. To double check, you can look at the current oil level with your dipstick and top it up. Then, come back in a few hours (or maybe a day or two), and check it again. If it’s lower again, you can normally count on there being a leak.

Oil level on the dipstick drops over time

It’s always good to be proactive when it comes to spotting issues with your salvage car, so you may well notice the issue yourself. You should be checking it at least once a month anyway, but if you notice it’s dropping faster than you’d normally expect, then it could indicate a leak. If you’re suspicious that this is the case, it’s a good idea to start checking it every week to see if the issue becomes even more apparent, and give it some professional attention anyway if you’re not sure!

Your engine emits blue smoke while driving

Let’s be honest - you don’t need to have a whole tonne of mechanical knowledge to know that blue smoke billowing from your engine is normally a bad sign. What’s probably happening here is that the oil is leaking onto the exhaust manifold, burning up as it does so and therefore leading to blue smoke. As you can imagine, this can pose a serious fire danger, so it’s not something to ignore!

Engine overheating (or a burning smell)

Even if your engine doesn’t emit blue smoke while you’re driving, your salvage car will normally find a way to communicate to you that something’s wrong. Sometimes, the engine may do this by stalling, or seizing up entirely - that tends to be what happens when it runs out of lubricant to work with. What’s more, you may notice a burning smell as you’re driving (or more commonly, at the end of your journey). It’s generally caused by the same thing as the blue smoke above - it’s the oil leaking onto the hot metal parts of the engine, and beginning to burn. And as above, it’s something you’ll want to get checked out as soon as possible! 

Once you’ve noticed an oil leak, you may find that it’s a relatively quick fix to get it repaired. On the other hand, sometimes it can be indicative of a fatal issue with your salvage car. Happily, that doesn’t necessarily mean it becomes useless - just that the parameters for its usage change! You can still get plenty of spare parts out of a salvage car, as regular customers of our online salvage car auctions will know! What’s more, they’re great places to find replacement vehicles if your car has indeed coughed its last - we’ve got a great range of options from leading manufacturers like Peugeot, Renault, and Volkswagen. Why not take a look around our site, and see what you can find?