Need help within the next hour! Engine Leaking oil?

Hi, I’m looking at buying a 1988 mitsubishi montero as a project for this summer. the body work is all manageable, but when i popped the hood, i noticed that there seemed to be a lot of oil leaking from the engine. The engine ran fine though (actually extremely well). I drove it around the parking lot for about 10 minutes and the engine didnt make any weird noises and didnt smoke or smell weird, but the oil leaking all over the engine concerns me. Does this seem like a head gasket seal, or something more serious like a cracked head? thanks so much

I’m no professional and I’m not real familiar with the Montero, but I too have a late 80’s Japanese car and it oozes oil. It runs great though, except for some pinging valves which is perfectly normal for a Jap V6 with this many miles on it. So it might be nothing more than the fact that this is an old car and things ooze. I have to add a quart every few fill ups; I just know to keep an eye on it. That being said, I would definitely take it for a better test drive than just around the parking lot. You really need to get it up to highway speed to experience how the car actually runs and operates. In a car that old many things could be wrong with it that you won’t notice at low speeds. Perhaps there’s a shimmy in the suspension, or trouble in the transmission. An oozing head gasket could be the least of your problems.

The true test is to get it on the highway, where problems really become evident. You can tell very little by circling the parking lot.

Since you apparently cannot do that, let me suggest some things you can do, assuming the current owner agrees.

You can check the compression. That’ll tell you if the engine is worn out.
Do a leakdown test while you’re at it.
“Read” the plugs when you remove them to do the compression check.
You can check the coolant for the presence of hydrocarbons.
You can get the vehicle up on a rack and thoroughly check the chassis, exhaust, and brakes. And check for underbody rot.

Oil all over the engine typically comes from elevated crankcase pressure forcing oil past worn out seals and gaskets. Elevated crankcase pressures may simply be a sign of a plugged PCV valve and/or orafice, but on a 22 year old engine I’d bet my morning muffins that the cylinders and rings are just worn out and tired. I call rings “tired” when they’ve lost their spring tension. That happens from having been pounded by the combustion processes millions of times over the years.

If by “project” you plan to do major rebuilding, and the Mitsu is dirt cheap, it might be worth it of it isn’t rotted. But if you plan to drive it, you should never buy anything without a good highway test drive as an absolute minimum.

This Is Exactly Why Folks On This Site Recommend Having A Used Car Checked Out By A Competent Mechanic Prior To Purchase.

Chances are good that if you can’t discern where the engine oil is coming from and you’re standing two feet from it then we’ll have even more difficulty. Sometimes it’s difficult even in a shop, using a hoist.

It could be oil spilled while adding oil, valve cover gaskets, head gaskets, PCV system cam and crank shaft seals, cracks, etcetera.

Can you tell if the oil leak begins near the top, middle, bottom, or whatever ? Gravity usually takes leaking oil down. Any dry areas above the leak are probably not suspects.

Without an inspection, Clint Eastwood said it best, " . . . you’ve gotta ask yourself a question: “Do I feel lucky?” Well, do ya, punk?"


Unfortunately, the car is located over an hour and a half away from me, and the tires on it are so bad, I wouldn’t drive it on the highway for fear of my life! I checked under the car and theres minimal surface rust here and there, but nothing abnormal or serious. I worked it through the gears in the parking lot, maybe getting it up to 40, and it seemed fine. I’m just concerned about the oil and whether or not its worth making the trip back through denver (worst drive i’ve ever experienced) to go get it as i would need to bring a trailer up to get the car home…and I cant imagine negotiating a trailer through downtown denver! Maybe I should look for something different? feel free to make a request! ha thanks though

This sounds like more than a project to me. As to the oil leak that could be something minor or it could be an indication of a worn out engine. (which can run fine anyway)

Engine leaking oil like the Exxon Valdez, needs body work, and bad tires on a 22 year old vehicle means this is a 50 dollar car in my opinion.

At a bare minimum, if you want this vehicle you really need to perform a compression test on it. Odds are you’re going to find a problem with that, meaning an expensive engine fix.
Just being curious, how much do they want for this thing?

“The BP oil spill” is the new standard. They’ve surpassed the Valdez in the amount leaked. The Exxon Valdez was just a practice run by comparison.

I agree with your post.

you don’t “buy” '88 Mitsubishi’s…People give them to you or pay you to haul them away…It’s not a “project”…It’s a money-pit…

Yup, you should look for something different.

well, its at one of those ghetto dealerships on the side of the road in town where people get shot and find prostitutes, but i just figure thats where you can find the deals! hahaha. the sticker price was 1000, but there was no way in hell i would pay that for it. I got him down to 500$, but even that was pushing it. unfortunately, here in colorado, finding a 4x4 or suv for under 1000 is nearly impossible (if you want to drive it). Ive been looking for months and everything under 1000 is rusted out beyond repair. I guess I’ll just have to keep saving…

I’d recommend something other than an old Montero. We recently had a post here from someone with a Raider (same thing) that was unable to find parts for it. Old Jeep, no problem.

Run away! Quickly! And wipe off all your fingerprints!

I liked your description of the dealership. You’re wise to keep looking.

Oddly, one can never tell. There was a classic car dealership in Merrimack NH that sold only very classic and restored automobiles. One day they all disappeared. And the owner disappeared to his home country. Turns out, most of the restored classics he was selling were stolen.

Best of luch in your quest.