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Oil pan leak

I have a 2003 Ford Explorer SportTrac with an oil pan leak. I CANNOT afford $1,000 to fix it. I leaks less than a quart between oil changes. I have seen in other threads that I should start by trying to tighten the bolts, then more extreme measures. If the fix is costly, I’ll keep adding a little oil and keep a watch on the dipstick. So, the questions:

  1. What torque for tightening the bolts?
  2. is it safe to try cleaning the external surface and use an external sealer like Permatex?
  3. is it safe to add something like Bar’s Leaks to the oil?
  4. how hard would it be to remove the pan and replace the gasket?
  1. Not sure, but I usually only tighten until I see the gasket bulge ever so slightly.
  2. It may not hold for very long.
  4. Sorry never have done one of those.

I’ve only had one leak like this in the past. During that time I kept track of the oil level and used a cookie sheet with kitty litter on my garage floor.

When the leak got severe I had to replace the rear main bearing seal which was the cause. It cost $900 15 years ago and was a permanent fix.

Leaking less than a quart between 5000-8000 mile oil changes is not severe; most cars leak oil from somewhere. Just keep a close eye on the oil level. You will note that every parking space at a supermarket has dark oil stains; that’s because most cars leak some oil

This is not a fix you should attempt yourself. Although theoretically easy, it is a messy and tedious job. Just keep adding oil when necessary until you car afford to fix it properly…


Part of the oil you’re adding is being burned, not leaked, so I’d just keep adding oil when needed, less than a quart is VERY cheap.

Is it making a mess where you park? How’d you find out about the leak?

Whatever you do, don’t do this:

Like the others have said using a quart between oil changes is in itself nothing to worry about. As far as leaking, if it’s not making too much of a mess in your driveway and it’s not causing fumes in the car, I would continue to monitor the oil level and watch for the leak to become worse.


:face_with_raised_eyebrow::face_with_raised_eyebrow::face_with_raised_eyebrow::man_facepalming::man_facepalming::man_facepalming::rofl::rofl::rofl: Well, you see something new everyday!

The torque spec for the oil pan bolts is 80 in/lbs

So unless you have access to an inch pound torque wrench, you go by feel.

You can try an external fix. But I doubt it will last.

There are no additives for gasket leaks. Only for seal leaks.

Actually, it’s not difficult to replace the oil pan gasket.

This is for a 98 Explorer. But the procedure is the same.


I agree, particularly, with @Tester second sentence. If you don’t have a torque wrench just snug them up. Just be careful not to overtighten them or you may bend the pan. You would be surprised at how loose the bolts can feel after time due to gasket hardening and fatigue. Retightening is worth a try before replacing the gasket.

I’m still curious - who told you about the leak? An oil change shop? They’re infamous for selling expensive gasket jobs to fix minor leaks that don’t really need fixing.

Dealers are just as bad. They see one drop hanging off the engine and they tell you you have a “massive” oil leak.

My dealer showed me a little discoloration. Not even a leak. They pulled the pan and fixed it. UNDER WARRANTY!!! They are Sooo, Sooo, bad!

That’s fine IF you’re under warrenty.

My point is the dealership could have not told me and I would have never known as there was zero oil loss. I had my coolant changed at the required 60 months. Per the manual, the next required change was at 24 months. When I requested a change after 24 months I was told my previous change was with the same type of long life coolant it came from the factory with and was not due until 60 months. They are not all “stealerships”. I’m glad I had a warranty for the oil pan repair as I doubt it would have been covered by a warrEnty.

The best solution – if you don’t want to simply ignore it, which is what I’d do – is to replace the oil pan gasket. How difficult the job is depends on 2WD, 4WD, or AWD and the Engine, and with the 4L 6 cylinder there’s an upper/lower issue too, for more info , Suggest to be very careful to usethe correct torque if you try tightening the bolts. Overtightening the oil pan bolts may deform the pan surface, and then it will never be possible to stop it from leaking until you get a new pan. Also be careful not to misread the post above that says the torque is 80 in pounds. That’s INCH pounds. Not the common unit torque wrenches are marked, FOOT pounds. 80 inch pounds = a little over 6 foot pounds, very little wrench force needed.

One sidenote: Are you sure the oil pan gasket is why you are losing one quart per oil change? That’s not much of an oil loss. One quart per oil change could be the normal loss of oil getting passed the pistons rings, or getting burned in the engine via the pcv system. The more common place for an oil leak is the valve cover gasket,and that oil will eventually move to the bottom of the engine and get blown around by the wind and may appear at that point to be an oil pan leak, when it isn’t.

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If there’s nothing in the way, I would replace the gasket, as George says.
I replaced my pan gasket on my '79 Celica last year. It was leaking like a sieve, and I freak out when there’s any leak. This car is maintained by the book, and looks it.
Anyway, I had to raise the engine and disconnect the idler arm bracket so that the pan can get past the steering linkage and a cross-member.
If yours is like the one in the video Tester referred to, yours should be easy.
To verify it’s the pan and not a valve cover, you can go to NAPA or wherever and get fluorescent dye, put it in the oil, and get a UV light and trace the leak.

Wow, thanks! Lots of great help here! I have a click-type inch-pound wrench, but my foot-pound wrench is the older needle offset type, not sure I’d trust it at 6 ft-lbs. So, I guess first is to re-torque the bolts, then either live with the leak or get a gasket and replace.

There is a very clear oil smear anywhere I park regularly and often a drip of oil forms when it sits for a while. There’s the smell of a little oil burning on the outside of the engine and sometimes a whisp of smoke. I’m not being duped by the mechanic- it is leaking and I can see where.

They have pads that absorb oil that you can put under your vehicle. Some are reasonably priced.

My Buick was up to losing a quart a week so I finally just replaced the pan gasket. It cost $20 and only took an hour or so for the whole thing. Yeah mine was accessible. You just have to crawl under there and take a look to see if there are any restrictions to getting at the bolts or getting it off. When most of us didn’t have money to hire someone, we ended up learning how to do stuff ourselves.

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