2013 Prius timing chain oil leak

I went for an oil change on my 2013 Toyota Prius (72k miles; single owner / bought new). The dealer told me about engine oil leak on the timing chain cover. He said it will require removing the engine (lot of labor) and will cost $3400. He shared a few pictures (attached). I haven’t seen oil leak under the car. No check engine or low oil lights ever. Recently, this car was sitting at the same dealership for 250 days (Oct 2022 to Jun 2023) for a new catalytic converter (after the one in my car was stolen). An inspection performed at the same dealership at the end of June did not mention engine oil leak. But just two months later, the same dealership is telling me that this leak is a “failed inspection” and should be fixed. I have added about 2k miles in the past 2 months.
How serious is this and does this need to be fixed soon?
Could the fact that the car was sitting for 250 days have contributed to this oil leak?
Thank you!

This is a very minor leak, and I would not spend $340, let alone $3400 to repair it. We are talking a loss of a few teaspoons of oil each year. Unless the leak becomes a lot worse, I would not worry about it.

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Where do you get it inspected? They’ll be the ones to decide, I wouldn’t think this would result in a fail. But I don’t know the regulations where you live. I wouldn’t fix a small leak like this.

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This was done at Toyota dealership in San Jose California. Thanks!

OK, but you can get it inspected elsewhere, correct?


Dealershop shop says this is a “failed inspection”? Dealership shops (which aren’t also emissions testing facilities) in Calif have no authority to “fail” a car owner for inspecting anything other than perhaps an obvious safety issue, gas tank is leaking at a one gallon per minute rate, etc, maybe they can refuse to allow you to take the car … hmm …But for a minor oil leak? I think they may be referring to Calif’s biannual emissions inspections, the regulations which I believe say that visible liquid leaks can be judged as automatic test failures. But I think the intent of that wording is for significant leaks that might cause damage to the tester facilities, not intended for minor leaks.

If you don’t need to add any extra oil to keep the oil level between the two marks on the dipstick, between oil and filter changes done at Toyota’s recommended intervals, and your photo is the actual area of the leak referred to, I very much doubt that would cause you to fail Calif emissions testing. If you are concerned about it, take your car to your emissions testing facility ask them to take a look. I expect they’d be happy to offer an opinion, no charge.

Maybe your shop also offers emissions testing, in which case they might fail you. If so, I expect you know they have a conflict of interest, so better to not use a shop for emissions testing that would benefit by doing the required repair themselves. I lve in the same area & use an emissions testing shop that only tests, does not do repairs, so such a thing is possible.

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You will want to check your oil periodically, don’t depend on a ‘low oil light’. Start off with once every fillup, then space it out as determined by how quickly the level drops.


Another picture taken by the Toyota dealer of the leak

You could wipe the oil stains off once a year and save your money. Many people choose to have these types of leaks repaired only if they have an extended warranty to pay for the repair. Your engine has no serpentine belt, no need to worry about the belt getting oily.

The multi-point inspection is a courtesy inspection, it is not supported by state law. There are three choices: Pass, Caution or Fail. Should the technician have selected “Pass”, then made a note: “Engine leaks oil”?


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Late June inspection for “Engine Oil Leaks” was “Pass” without any notes. The inspection from today was “fail”. That’s what I was referring to when I said “failed inspection” in the post (nothing to do with emissions…sorry for the confusion).
So as long as the oil loss is minimal, there is no (or at least very low) risk of this damaging the car or other parts like the timing chain? Thanks a lot!


Maybe the engine wasn’t checked for leaks in June. Your next inspection might result in a “Pass” if the technician doesn’t notice the leak or determines the leak is not enough of a concern to cause a panic.

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Timing cover gasket pays 13.8 hours labor, so yes a lot of labor, but IF you decide to do it make sure you go ahead and replace the timing chain while the cover is off…

Timing chain pays 15 hours labor with the oil pump chain and tensioner… I would hope the price the dealer gave you was for the whole job…

But like said, probably more of a seeping then a leaking, clean it before inspection and move on…

No serpentine belt? I see a pulley for a serp belt in the photos.

Or no timing belt? Or both?

Oil on a timing belt can lead to an expensive failure, hard to find and fix. Oil on a serpentine belt is less likely to become a big expensive problem, if you’re aware of it and do some cleanup, or belt change, from time to time.

For this application the crankshaft pulley is necessary as the vibration damper for the crankshaft. Electric water pump, electric power steering and no alternator: no belt.


How much oil did you have to add during that time?
I don’t know how often the gas engine runs during that amount of driving, but if less than a quart, I would not worry about it. But you should check the oil level frequently and add sufficient oil to keep it at the full line.
As to your question about the car not be driven while awaiting the catalytic converter, no that should not have contributed to the leak.

I haven’t had to add oil at all in the past 2 months (never had to add oil in 10 years). I can keep checking oil level every 2 weeks. Any instructions/suggestions for how I can wipe off the oil stains from that area once in a while? Where is this area and how can I access it? (I haven’t done any car repairs besides replacing the filters and wiper blades). Thanks!

Since you’re not very familiar w/diy’er car repairs, suggest you hire the engine cleaning job out to a shop. Otherwise it you could possibly injure yourself, damage the car, or even damage the surrounding environment. The shop will likely use an engine cleaning spray-on product, let it soak awhile, then remove what’s left, all in an environmentally acceptable way. This won’t remove all the oily gunk, but should get quite a bit of it. Be aware that after cleaning the gunk away, the oil leak may get significantly worse. The gunk may be plugging the leak somewhat now.

I’ll add if I had that problem, I’d just live with it. Why risk a bigger oil leak? Bigger fish to fry.

That confirms my belief that “seepage” would be a much more accurate way of describing the problem than “leaking” is.

While it is possible that this seepage will advance to the point of an actual leak, I think that it will take quite a while for that to happen. In the meantime, the OP should just continue to carefully monitor the oil level, and–perhaps–pay a shop to clean the engine.

Here’s a good discussion on Priuschat, apparently a common problem, folks recommend monitoring it rather than fixing it:
Timing Cover Gasket Leak | PriusChat

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What you can do is buy a bag of kitty litter, and a cheap aluminum roasting pan from the grocery store.

Fill the roasting pan with some of the kitty litter.

Place the pan under the engine.

Take can of brake parts cleaner and spray the area to clean the oil off.

The pan with the kitty litter will catch any drippings of oil and brake cleaner.

Once the engine is clean, remove the pan from under the vehicle and let it sit for a while so the brake cleaner can evaporate.

Once that happens, pour the kitty litter back into its container so it can be used over again.


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