Young Lady with an oil leak (I hope)



So I just went out to my car (it has been siting for about 24 hours) and I have a big spot about 24 by 30 inch coming from under my car. I dipped my finger in it and it looks like oil to me. I got my oil changed at one of those drive up places a couple of weeks ago and I was way over the 3000 miles thing and they said the oil level was fine. (I was concerned because my mom gave it to me stating that it had a small leak.) Should I just check that my oil level is ok to drive and take it across town back to that place. Or should I take it to a mechanic someplace close. If it just the case that the didn’t get the filter on right I would think they would fix that for free at the drive up place. Are there any other dark brown semi clear fluids I should worry more about and not drive my car across town. My car is 1998 with 75,000 miles.


Your guesses are mostly correct. You should check the level of all relevant fluids, which includes the oil, transmission fluid, and power steering fluid. Top up the oil if necessary and drive over to the shop that did the last oil change.

If the problem is as simple is indeed as simple as a loose drain plug or oil filter, they can correct it in a minute and should not charge you for their earlier incompetence. But if the leak is due to some other problem they are off the hook.

Let us know their diagnosis and we can advise further.


To add to Steve’s comments, I will suggest that any quick oil change outfit is not a good place to go for oil changes, or even for directions. By the nature of their business they tend to have poorly trained staff and don’t allow their staff enough time to do the job correctly. Mistakes happen, and that could be the case this time.

Before driving make sure you check the oil level now as well as the transmission fluid level.

Few modern cars require oil changes at 3,000 miles.  Chances are your car calls for something between 5,000 and 10,000 miles.  Assuming you are not extreme service and you use oil that meets the car manufactur's recommendations, there is no reason to change the oil sooner.   The specifications for your car should be in the car's owner's manual. 

Good Luck


Is the lower part of the engine (oil pan, transmission pan, etc…) wet all over also? It so, then you probably need a new gasket.


If it’s an automatic tranny, check the tranny fluid (the Owner’s manual will tell you how) before driving it again. If that’s low, bring it up and then take it to a shop and give them the whole story including that you had to put tranny fluid in.

If it’s a manual, take it directly to the shop and have them check it out.

A leak that big needs to be checked out.


Take those suggestions to heart, but do yourself a favor.

Ask friends, neighbors and co-workers for info on a GOOD reliable independent shop for all your future mechanical needs.

Try to find one that is clean but organized and busy.

Don’t be afraid to ask their customers for feedback either. (Don’t take the word (bad or good) from just one though)

If at all possible, find one where the owner is the head tech and owns the property the shop sits on. This gives the tech more incentive to do good, honest work and repeat business.

Having a reliable tech working on your vehicle allows him/her to get familiar with it and he/she can save you money along the way.

I have used the same shop for the past 16 years and am obviously satisfied with their work.


If I had seen this sooner, I would have advised you against driving this car anywhere. If you had gone for a week without an oil puddle every morning, then I’d be worried that something is about to go. A loose drain plug would not leak that much until it was about to fall out, same with a double gasketed filter, once they start leaking, it gets bad real fast.

If possible, you should have someone look at the car in place. If you drive it, go to the nearest place to get it checked and watch the dash closely. If the oil light comes on, STOP immediately and get it towed.


This is a learning experience, and you will find with vehicles, it never ends. First, it is a good idea to get in the habit of checking your oil even when you do not notice leaks. Sometimes cars burn oil, or leak in ways that are not so obvious. Oil and air are the life of the car (so I have been told). When going to the oil change places, check your oil after they finish. I know two ladies that did not do that, and they both lost their engines. If you need to find a trustworthy mechanic, Car Talk has a nice tool called the Mechanics Files. They have a data base with mechanics in your area with reviews/ratings. I found a shop that is family owned with excellent reviews. I passed it for years and would never have know it was that good.;jsessionid=T3LKJOFLXKH2DLAYIEUU2VA?aff=national


Thanks everyone. I’ll be honest I haven’t gotten to it yet. I have been working long hours and taking the bus. First I’ll go check the fluids. I’ll let you all know what happens after that. Thanks for all the responses I really appreciate the advice.



Okay so i checked the oil and it is full. I checked the transmission fluid and it seemed over full. But i didn’t run the engine like the book said, so maybe i was just getting fluid off the side of the tube. I got under the car as far as I could to see where the leak was coming from. Sure enough here over a week later there is still a drip. The large spot has dried up and there are dark rings in the pavement. A smaller wet area is still there. So i put my hand in the leak and to my suprise it was clear. I thought to myself no way it can’t be water. So i don’t know what it was. last week I only checked the spot on the ground and it was definaltely a dark fluid. And it stained the pavement so it must be dark right. But today it was clear. But it did feel a little greasy. Not exactly like water. And I haven’t driven my car in over a week so it can’t just be condensation right?

So I could see the oil filter and I could see the oil plug and neither of the two were leaking. the leak was coming from higher up (where I couldn’t see) but just to the back of the oil plug. (by back i mean toward the back of the car.) However the oil pan (i think that is what you call the thing with the little bolt type oil plug in it) was wet on one side of the bottom.

Any new ideas. could it be my breaks. Am I going to have to E-brake it to the shop?


Here is a link to identifying fluids:

I would check everything from oil, transmission, antifreeze, power steering, and brake fluid. Your owners manual should show you how to do that for most things. If all the fluids are at the appropriate levels, and you have no Check Engine Lights, then I would drive the car to a trustworthy mechanic to further investigate the leak. I have not had problems driving cars that leaked oil or transmission fluid, as long as the fluid levels were kept topped off until a repair could be done.


If you have a digital camera try taken a pic of where the leak is coming from and post it. In the reply to. just click on bottom left attach file


I don’t think it was ever mentioned what kind of car this is, and if it’s a FWD transaxle this may not apply, but…

…if it’s coming from behind the oil pan, further up than you can see, I have two suggestions:

1: Bad valve cover gasket. Very common problem on inline engines such as Jeeps (plenty of experience with this one…). Cheap and easy to fix.

2: Blown out rear main seal. This is the worse of the two evils. The “rear main” is the seal between the oil pan and the transmission, to make a long story short. It can lead to a big leak, quite quickly - at least in my Jeep =) It’s a more involved, more expensive fix if you take it to a shop, depending on what kind of seal it is - one or two piece.

If you can get a picture of the underside of the engine where the leak seems to be coming from and give more details on the car itself (engine, etc.) you might get more specific answers.



Sounds most like coolant since it was drying up and clear. The glycol should leave some residue. It could be brake fluid, I suppose.


One more warning: Watch your gauges and warning lights like a hawk until the outness is spotted and corrected. Also listen, and try not to get caught in stopped traffic.