Can You Drive A Car With An Oil Leak?

Motoring Tips


Driving a car with an oil leak can be dangerous for you and other road users. Oil can become flammable when it reaches a certain temperature and parts of your vehicle’s engine can get very hot, which may result in a fire. However, oil can also cause damage to seals and rubber hoses, which could result in a breakdown.

It’s not worth risking your safety and the safety of others. So, if you suspect an oil leak, you should take your vehicle to your nearest garage for repair.

How do you know if your car is leaking oil?

Checking your vehicle’s oil regularly is important. If you have an oil leak, it’s important to find it as quickly as possible and have the issue fixed to keep you and other drivers safe on Irish roads.

So what are some of the signs you can look out for that suggest you may have an oil leak?

Check the dipstick

You’ll be able to tell if your vehicle has an oil leak by checking the level using a dipstick. You can complete this check on consecutive days to see if the level is dropping or staying the same.

First, you should take the dipstick out of its container and wipe it down with a dry cloth. This will remove any excess oil so you can get a clear reading. Then, reinsert the dipstick into the container, listening out for a click that shows it’s gone all the way in, and take it out again. Check where the oil comes up to on the stick. It can be hard to see sometimes, so ensure you have sufficient lighting.

How much oil should be on the dipstick?

The dipstick should have two levels on it - a maximum and a minimum. The oil level of your vehicle should fall somewhere between the two. If it’s a little on the low side, top up the oil and check again the next day to see if the level has dropped significantly.

Avoid adding oil and ignoring the fact that the level keeps dropping - oil leaks can be potential fire hazards so it’s important to ensure that everything is working as it should.

Unusual smells

A strange burning smell is another sign of an oil leak. This is because, as the oil leaks onto hot engine parts, it begins to burn and will start to smell. It’s worth noting that unusual smells aren’t necessarily guaranteed to be an oil leak, however it is a good idea to get the problem checked if you notice it.

Blue smoke

Blue smoke coming out of your vehicle’s exhaust, whether it’s very minimal or billowing, could be a sign of an oil leak. This kind of smoke is typically produced when oil that’s leaked from its container has reached the exhaust manifold and is being burned.

The ‘Check Engine’ light, or oil level warning, comes on

The dashboard of your car is there to provide you with information, such as speed and engine temperature, but it is also able to warn you when there is an issue. For example, your vehicle may have sensors in its tyres so that you can be alerted when the pressure drops.

If your car has an oil leak, it may alert you by showing an oil can sign. Alternatively, the ‘Check Engine’ light might come on. If either of these things happen, you should take your car to a local garage to be checked and have the engine light turned off.

Stains on your driveway

You should check underneath the vehicle for puddles of oil or stains that have been left from an oil leak. It may be easier to move the car out of its regular parking spot to see more clearly. The stain will likely be black in colour.

If your car isn’t parked in the same place every day, you could place a large piece of cardboard underneath the vehicle to determine whether the stain has indeed come from your vehicle or someone else’s.

How much does fixing an oil leak cost?

The cost to fix the problem may vary depending on what exactly is going on in your vehicle’s engine. If it’s a case of replacing the oil container, this should take a mechanic a couple of hours. At around €15-20 per hour, the total cost could be up to around €60. For more serious issues, the cost could be significantly more than this.

It’s very important that you get an oil leak fixed as quickly as you can, otherwise your car may fail its annual NCT. You may be worried that it will be a costly fix, however, in most cases, it’s relatively straightforward.

What to do next if you’ve found an oil leak

Once you’ve determined that your car has an oil leak, you should avoid driving it for long distances. As your engine heats up, the temperature of the oil could heat up too. If it’s leaking onto the hot exhaust, it could potentially catch fire. Driving the vehicle to your nearest garage should be OK, particularly if it’s less than 10 miles away. This short distance will not be enough to heat the engine to a point where the oil could catch fire.

As previously stated, the oil can also cause damage to seals and rubber hoses. The longer you leave the problem, the more there will be to fix and repair, so don’t delay.

We hope that you have found this article useful. If your car insurance is up for renewal soon, please get a Quick Quote above or call us on 014003400.