At the risk of sounding like a complete idiot, I have to ask what I imagine might be a pretty obvious question:
Short of bringing the car in for a second opinion, how do I know for sure if I have an oil leak, if I see no obvious signs of one, but was told by a mechanic that I have a major leak requiring the replacement of the oil pan and gasket?
Here are the details of my conundrum:
I have a 2000 civic that I rarely drive which has about 137k miles. About 3 weeks ago, I realized at about 7pm the night before a road trip from Boston to NYC that I was 1000 miles overdue for an oil change. I took it to the only place still open, which was a national tire/repair chain. The mechanic there told me I had almost no oil in the tank, and said I have a major leak. As evidence, he showed me how greasy the parts around the oil tank were. (Which of course looked normal to me…I thought the underneath of my car was always a little dirty or greasy.)
Since I’m relatively inexperienced with car upkeep, I tend to usually trust the opinion of my mechanic and heed their advice/suggestions. However, I am hesitant to go ahead and pay for the replacement of these parts, for the following reasons:
- My car gave no indications of any problems prior to the oil change (when he said there was almost no oil); the engine sounded normal, it drove as smoothly as it normally does, etc.
- In the 3 weeks since the oil change, I’ve checked the oil level several times and found the level to be a little above the 2nd notch in the dipstick every time. I haven’t noticed the level change at all.
- I haven’t found any drips or spots of oil underneath my car.
- I recently saw an expose on a similar national repair shop, which showed them acting in very bad faith.
Are these signs that I don’t have an oil leak? Are there more subtle things to look for that would indicate there is one? And lastly, if there is a leak, and it is the oil pan, would it make sense to just tighten the bolts around the pan first before replacing the entire thing?
Any thoughts or advice on this topic is very much appreciated!