I smell burning oil in my car. What should I do next?

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Answered by: Jared, An Expert in the Auto Repair - General Category
If you start to smell burning oil coming from your engine you need to figure out where it is coming from before you continue driving. To do this, you can visually check your engine and follow the oil stream to the highest point where it stops. If your car has just had an oil change check to see if the oil filter was put on tightly -- the oil filter is a cylindrical type part and it usually can be found sticking out from the side or bottom of your engine block.

Once you have located your oil filter turn it in a clockwise direction -- it doesn't need a lot to be secure, hand strength will do. Don't worry if your oil filter is difficult to reach! There is a special tool that you can buy to help turn it. The next thing you should do if you notice a leak is to check your oil plug, which can be located on the bottom of your oil pan. This is at the very bottom of your engine, and you are looking for signs that there is oil leaking from it. If you see oil leaking from the plug try to tighten your oil plug or replace it. Another place to look for a leak after an oil change is the oil gasket it may have been damaged in the change.

Another way to check for an oil leak is to buy a florescent dye, which can be purchased in a kit from an auto parts store. The dye is put into your engine, which is then run until the engine hits operating temperature – the dye will not harm anything in the engine. Operating temperature is defined as the point when your coolant range is between hot and cold. After your engine is up to operating temperature you should then turn it off. You will need to use the black light and goggles in the kit to locate where the dye is coming from. The oil leak should be easy enough to spot -- all you need to do is find the highest point and you will know where the fluid is coming from.

If the leak is coming from between your head and your block, it's a head gasket. Check to see if there is coolant in your oil -- if there is, you will need to change it completely. To replace a gasket, reference your specific vehicle repair manual for specs or take it to a mechanic. If the leak is coming from your head, like a crack, the head is no good and needs to be replaced immediately. The same can be said if you find that oil is coming from a crack in the block.

If you put the dye in the correct place and see it coming from one of the radiator hoses or the radiator itself, your car will need to be taken in for repair. Check your dip stick to see if your oil has coolant in it. If your oil has coolant in it you need to take your vehicle to a mechanic for the oil, hoses or the radiator. No two fluids in any vehicle should ever be allowed to mix. If you see two fluids mix you may have an internal crack or a broken gasket which is a serious problem.

If you see no dye or oil around your engine and still smell burning oil, check your oil cap and see if it's securely screwed on. Check your vacuum hoses and make sure they are properly connected. Always remember to check your oil levels to see if there is the correct amount of fluid. And always monitor the color of your oil -- if it is really black do an oil change! With due vigilance, you can almost always prevent an oil leak from causing further complications

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