1998 gm 3.8L oil drips

I’ve got a 1998 3.8L Series II with 115,000 miles. It’s been a good engine and it runs fine.

I’ve started to notice some oil drips under the engine. Closer to the driver’s side of the engine.

Is there a usual cause of the drips?

If I keep my eye on the oil level, is there any urgent reason to get it fixed?


It’s often either the oil pan or the oil filter. When the filter is changed oil drips onto the suspension. If it’s not properly wiped, the oil will drip. This is under the engine and next to the front passenger-side wheel. If it is under the center of the engine, it is probably the oil pan gasket. All you have to do is drop the pan and change the gasket - I wish! You actually have to lower the engine to remove the oil pan. This is not an easy repair because of the extra equipment required. Monitor the amount of oil consumed. If it’s a quart every couple thousand miles, just add oil.

There is no need to fix small oil leaks unless they become big leaks. However, you should check the oil level frequently and top off as needed to avoid running out. To avoid a mess on the garage floor, put down cheap cat litter and park over it.

A common source of oil drips on the side of the engine is the valve cover gasket or the valve cover plumbing seals. Look to see if there is oil wetness on the lower edge of the valve cover flange. You may see oil collected on the head or carbonized oil on the exhaust manifold. You might just be able to get by with tightening the cover bolts or you may need to install a new gasket or reseal with RTV.

Hope that helps.

Besides the other suggestions, check the oil pressure sending unit for any leaking.

Ed B.

I second Researcher. Especially if you have noticed a plasticy oil burning smell.