Finding and Fixing Leaks
Just a quick note here. In my experience, the most common cause of oil leaks is lack of maintenance, in particular, extended time between oil changes. As oil lives in your engine, it becomes acidic. When this happens, it breaks down the materials that gaskets and seals are made of. These gaskets and seals then become hard and brittle. They reach a point where they are no longer pliable, and as a result, they start to leak. The takeaway here is to keep your oil changed at the correct interval. You can extend the interval a great deal by using synthetic oil.
A word of caution: I recommend you start using synthetic oil when your engine is NOT leaking. If your engine has already started to leak, you might not want to use synthetic oil. In some cases, the use of synthetic oil can actually aggravate a leaking engine. The reason for this lies in one of synthetic oil’s strengths: its ability to flow under a variety of conditions. Synthetic oil, even of the same viscosity, flows better than conventional oil. What this means when you have a leaking engine is that you might find that your oil leaks get much worse if you switch to synthetic oil.
Please understand that I’m not saying that synthetic oil causes oil leaks. In fact, just the opposite. Synthetic oil has special conditioners to help extend the life of the seals and gaskets in your engine and help prevent them from leaking in the first place. This doesn’t always work, though. With some leaking engines, installing synthetic oil makes things much worse. So, to prevent leaks, change your oil regularly. If you have a leaking engine, installing synthetic oil MIGHT make things worse. Personally, if I have oil leaks on an engine, I stick with conventional oil and repair what leaks I find.
Here are a couple videos that talk about regular oil versus synthetic oil.
I’ve gone on record as being opposed to the use of these products. In my opinion, there is no such thing as a “mechanic in a can.” It’s not likely that you’ll solve anything with the use of stop leak products. In addition, I have concerns about these products causing issues rather than solving them. Think about it: If you have a leaking engine and you put “goop” into it that’s designed to seal things up, do you think it will discriminate between an external leak and one that’s supposed to happen inside your engine? To put a finer point on it, if stop leak is supposed to seal, it’s likely going to cause a buildup inside the engine as well as “seal your leak.” That internal buildup might cause more problems down the road. This is very difficult to prove, but personally, I wouldn’t take the risk. If you have oil leaks, fix the leaks, don’t try and shortcut it.
It used to be easy to determine whether you had a coolant leak. Those were the days when just about all coolant was fluorescent green. Those days are gone. Now coolant comes in a variety of colors, including green, orange, red, blue, yellow and more. This makes identifying coolant leaks much more difficult. There is hope, however. If you suspect a coolant leak, there is an easy test to help you find it.
One quick note on coolant types. It’s not a good idea to mix coolants. If you’re not sure and you need to top off your system, just add water, preferably distilled, to the system. Water should mix with all coolants. If you try to mix coolants of two different types, there could be a chemical reaction that can cause issues. See your owner’s manual, service manual, or the writing on the cap of the reservoir to determine what type of coolant to use.