Mystery leaks: Big, big bucks!


My 1997 Infiniti has engine leaks. An independent mechanic said there’s no way to tell for sure where the leak/leaks are originating; suggested having engine steam-cleaned to better identify source. Did it. Diagnosis was valve cover and oil pan. Fixed(?) for $1,100. Still leaking. New diagnosis: Power steering rack seal: $1,250 to repair, plus remove timing cover to inspect $600, +$600 if repair needed. Other potential sources: rear main seal, axle seal, oil sending unit. Total cost could be $5,000!! Is this problem truely so undefineable? Should I search for another mechanic. Very distrustful of dealers.


$1100.00 for a valve cover and oilpan gasket?? Find a new mechanic.

How many miles on this car? How bad is the leak?


I agree it’s time for a new mechanic. Not only is the price you stated high for the work done, but a good mechanic should at least be able to differentiate whether the oil is leaking from the top (valve cover), or bottom (oil pan). I’d take it to a mechanic that would put the “dye” in the oil and use the special light to determine where it’s leaking from. The intake manifold is sometimes a difficult area to pinpoint an oil leak from because it can drip down a few places that oil leaks can also occur.


About 90,000. Leak not bad, but consistent. Causes a mess in washing down the condo garage.


Once you determine where it is coming from you may decide to live with it, cost not worth it, I have had a head gasket leak for the past 2 years, place a platic mat under the car in the garage, Many leaks actually go away some get worse but many are not worth repairing unless they get really bad. Mine is not worth repairing and only leaks a quart every 2000 miles or so. V6 engines can cost a fortune to repair gaskets and seals due to difficulty in getting to the rear bank, all labor cost.


I must agree with your last sentence.

When my Olds Silhouette was up on the hoist during an oil/filter change, I inspected the under carriage and other stuff.

During my search I came across a ‘sweating’ oil pan gasket.
Being one of those vehicle owners who prefers to fix things before I find myself stuck in the middle of nowhere, I asked how much to replace the gasket?

About the same as what you paid to replace the intake manifold gasket. oil and coolant, he says.

Geez! Then I had a closer look and seen why.

On these (and I suspect on others too) there is a tremendous amount of braces, etc, to remove BEFORE you can even get to the pan bolts.

FYI, I paid $660 for the previous work mentioned.
There was 6 hours labor involved there.


I agree that it should be possible to find the source of the oil, but keep in mind that this could have MULTIPLE leaks. The last Honda I dealt with lately had several, oil pan, distributor seals, oil pan, valve cover, maybe more.


Thanks, car buffs, for the good advise. Actually, the Infiniti has leaked for years, and not a lot, in the garage, at least. I’ll live w/the leaks, and collect them in a mat in the garage. I suppose I should monitor oil, fluids, etc. to make sure I don’t get in trouble. What fluids should I monitor? Is there anything else I should watch?


PS and engine oil are easy to monitor. For the oil you may wish to try a high mileage oil like MaxLife, they can reduce seal seepage ( not gaskets but seals) also there are PS stop leaks if you determine that the PS is leaking as well.


Sounds like your mechanic cannot even differentiate between steering fluid, engine oil, and trans fluid.

It’s highly unlikely the oil pan and valve covers are leaking.
If the vehicle is leaving oil spots every day, and if this is engine oil, then I would have the oil pressure sending unit examined.
These are comparatively cheap, easy to replace, and can be prone to leakage around the crimped end after they age a while.

Surely this can be narrowed down to one particular area of the engine compartment. The diagnosis is all over the map.

If by chance you have multiple leaks, then the PCV valve should be examined. A stuck PCV can pressure up the crankcase and cause multiple oil leaks. The PCV is also easy to inspect and cheap to replace.

Hope that helps.


Here is a link to a product you could try out to see if it will help you out. Along with cleaning the engine it helps with the oil seals. It may not solve all the leaks but hopefully it will fix most of them. I think it would be worth the cost to try it at least.