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Oil and transmission leaks - Longevity and Failure

I have a 1997 Subaru Outback with a manual transmission. 97,000 miles. For the last five years or so, the car has been driven occasionally, but not for many miles , because I have a company car. Despite this, the car still runs very well.

Now the car has oil leaks from the engine block and oil pan, and a transmission leak from the front end. The estimates for repair are a few thousand dollars, which I have trouble justifying on a car this old. I am trying to decide whether or not to keep driving it and feeding it oil until it dies, or replace it.

I have been monitoring the levels of both the engine oil and the transmission gear oil. Both leaks appear to be slow leaks. I have seen very little fluid in the driveway, and no tailpipe smoke. I see some smoke from the engine compartment when I sit at stoplights for long periods, presumably from engine or transmission oil dripping onto the exhaust pipe. There is some odor.

The car runs well, and I don’t mind feeding it oil for a while. However, I do not want to get stuck somewhere. I often carry canoes/kayaks on the roof rack, and having a breakdown with boats on the car could be a bit complicated.

My question is this: Do these kinds of leaks typically lead to a sudden catastrophic failure that would leave me stranded someplace? Or, will the car just gradually burn more and more oil and lose more gear oil?

Also, do the engine oil stop leak products that are widely available on the market actually work, without harming the engine? Is this a viable strategy for engine oil leaks?

As long as you continue to monitor your fluid levels, you should be fine. It is highly unlikely you will have a seal go from a seep to fully blown out with no warning. These kind of leaks normally get worse over time, but it’s typically a slow process. Regarding products used to slow these leaks, they are not likely to hurt your car, and may help it. I am not familiar with any of them, but someone else on here may have a recommendation for you. High mileage oils may also help slow the leaks in the engine.

For the time being, how about trying a really low-cost approach to at least part of the problem?

The oil leaking on the exhaust is likely coming from the valve cover gaskets. Before you invest any money in replacing those gaskets, I would suggest tightening the bolts that attach the valve covers. In many cases, this will reduce or eliminate seepage from that area.

Other parts of the engine may well need to have gaskets/seals replaced, and that will run into considerable money, as you know. But, my suggestion is about as low-cost as it gets and is worth a try, IMHO.

Keep on top of the oil/fluid levels and forget fixing them on a 1997 car.