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Oil Leak or Scam

I took my 2007 Saturn Aura to Merlin’s for a scheduled oil change. They did the change and than called me into the shop to show me an oil leak. I was told that the oil pan gasket is leaking oil onto the exhaust and I could have a fire if I didn’t get it replaced at a cost of $600. The thing is that my car has been parked in the same place on my driveway every day for 5 years and has never dripped a drop of oil on the concrete. The car has only 30,000 miles and has been well maintained. How likely is it that there is a real problem with the oil pan gasket?

They’re wrong. Do you ever smell fumes from your engine? I’ve had oil drip on my exhaust pipe after every oil change, bugs me, but no fire issue. Is ‘Merlin’ some kind of chain? This smells more like an unneeded service.

Hmmm…It sounds to me like Merlin is a magician who is skilled at converting scare tactics into easy money.

I would suggest taking the car to another mechanic (NOT a chain operation like Pep Boys, Sears, Meineke, Midas, Monro, AAMCO, etc), and asking them to tighten (retorque) the bolts holding the oil pan onto the engine block. More than likely, simply tightening these bolts will eliminate or reduce the slight oil seepage that the OP observed.

I’ve never looked under the hood of an Aura. But I’m trying to come up with any kind of possible configuration where an oil pan leak could possibly end up putting oil on the exhaust. It would have to leak a lot and then get blown backwards, I think. Though I do stand to be corrected by someone who knows how things are laid out on this car.

The lack of oil dripping, by the way, doesn’t mean you don’t have a leak. I have about 4 different oil seeps on my car. None of them seep enough that the oil makes it to the ground when its parked.

What you need is just a good local mechanic to look things over for you. Ask around among people you know. Find the kind of place where the guy in charge is the guy whose name is on the sign out front. I suppose its possible that’s the case with “Merlin’s” - but I doubt it. Like texases I’ve never heard of such a place either.

I’m glad you used your common sense. It’s a scam in my opinion. Always avoid chain stores.

And if you’re not having to add significant oil (more than one quart per 1000 miles), and if you’re not noticing any odor, I wouldn’t bother taking it to another mechanic just for this. I’d find a good independent mechanic to do your oil changes, and ask them about it the next time it’s due.

I like VDC’s Merlin theory.

Even if the oil pan gasket were seeping, it isn’t a fire hazard. If it were, old cars everywhere would be ablaze. This guy s trying to scam you.

I’ve never heard of an oil leak causing a fire before; I think they’re trying to scare you into doing something that’s not needed.

Do marketing degrees now offer SCAMMING 101? All the chains seem to have a similar scare tactic.

When the economy goes south and revenues drop, certain scams spread like wildfire.

Do NOT tighten any bolts on this thing yet. If and when you start seeing oil on the ground or a significant oil loss/usage, then have it inspected by a competent mechanic. randomly tightening bolts can cause the gaskets to split, then you have a leak where you did not have one before.

I’m not going to call this a scam without seeing the car and/or having a blank filled in. The car is 6 years old and the words well maintained does not guarantee a leak free car.

You stated they called you into the shop to show you this leak.
You then stated this leak was onto the exhaust, could be a fire hazard, etc.
What you did NOT state was whether you saw signs of this leak when you went into the shop.
Did you or did not see signs of a leak onto the exhaust when this was pointed out to you?

Some cars such as my Escorts will drip oil onto the exhaust during an oil change when the filter is removed, this may be the case with your car and would explain the oil on the exhaust. I always wipe the oil off the exhaust pipe after a change, but I’m never able to get it all off. The exhaust gets hot enough to burn the rest of it off, but I’ve never been threatened with a fire just the smell of the oil burning off the pipes for the first few minutes after start up. I’d continue to drive the car as is checking the oil more frequently and watching for signs of leaks on the ground underneath the car.

I had a shop tell me one time I needed new tie rod ends while they were doing a free tire rotation. They didn’t know I had just checked the front end for wear a few days prior and everything was good. I ended up driving the car about another 100K miles before selling it and never did replace the tie rod ends.

At a cost of $600 to repair it I would overlook a minor oil leak, i.e. less than a quart every 1,000 miles, if the smoke didn’t cause a problem. Chevrolet 4, 6 and 8 cylinder engines have for years leaked onto the exhaust manifold with no problem other than an occasional puff of smoke and the odor. Some leak enough to puddle around the spark plugs and drip to the ground and never cause a fire. But if a rag were dipped into the oil and then placed near the catalytic converter it would most certainly flame up. Most under hood oil fires are the result of oil being soaked into the insulation on the firewall or under the hood.

Thanks to everyone for your responses, which pretty much agree with my thoughts. ok4450 asked if I saw signs of the leak. What I saw was the whole bottom of the motor wet with oil. And there was one spot where it had obviously dripped on the exhaust pipe. But there really seemed to be a lot of oil on everything. I would be very surprised that if it were leaking that badly I wouldn’t have noticed a spot or two on the driveway - Or smelled something when the car was running. I’m ashamed to say that I don’t regularly check my oil level, but I’ve learned my lesson and will do it religiously from now on just so I can tell if there really is a leak.

I would find a car wash that does the underbody wash or go to a do it yourself car wash and wash just that area. Then check it for leaks after you drive it for a few days. Anyone care to bet there wont be a leak? I will bet if you do have a leak it will be the valve cover not the oil pan.