How to Clean Engine to Find Oil Leak   

Oil drips in your driveway may not look like the most important thing in the world to pay attention to – but if you want to be sure that your vehicle is leaking essential, critical amounts of oil onto your driveway (everywhere else you drive) it’s as big a red flag as there is in vehicle maintenance.

Leaking oil is a surefire sign that something – somewhere – in your engine bay has started to become compromised. If you don’t get out ahead of this problem your vehicle is going to have a much tougher time operating efficiently.

Friction is going to build up. Heat is going to build up. Sediment is going to build up, and before you know it your vehicle is working a whole lot harder than it was designed to just to get you down the road.

It won’t be long until the engine fails completely.

Luckily, diagnosing your engine leak problem (and finding the actual spots the oil is leaking from, too) is a relatively simple and straightforward process.

How to Clean Engine to Find Oil Leak

All you really have to do is clean your engine bay to find the leaks, something that anyone (and we mean anyone) can knock out all on their own – in their driveway.

No, you’re not going to have to scrub every bit of gunk, grime, and debris from your engine. You don’t have to spit polished the engine to get it to showroom caliber, either.

Instead all you have to do is use some cleaning products to better see what you’re dealing with, identifying the leaks, and then taking the necessary steps to patch things up from there.

Identify the Most Likely Spots for a Leak

There are a lot of common “hotspots” on modern engines where leaks tend to be prevalent, and this is where you’re going to want to focus the bulk of your cleaning time.

For starters, you want to visually inspect the entire top half of your engine for any obvious signs of oil leaking.

Fire up your vehicle, let it run (idle) for 15 to 20 minutes to get the oil flowing, and then start your inspection.

Breakout a flashlight and start hunting down any spots that look wet, any spots that look like they have oil oozing out of them, and any spots that are collecting a lot of dust or road debris. Those spots – the dusty or debris covered spots – are a surefire indicator that stuff from the road is kicking up into the engine bay and sticking to your components thanks to the leaked oil.

It’s not a bad idea to pop any plastic covers off of your engine components and look under them, either. Be as thorough as you can be.

After that, though, you’re going to want to start more closely inspecting any gaskets, the seal between your engine block and the cylinder heads, any joints near your oil filter or oil pump, and near your valve covers, too.

Use an Engine Cleaner or Degreaser

When it’s time to clean your engine for a deeper inspection, though, you’ll want to get your hands on a quality degreaser and a halfway decent (pretty stiff) synthetic brush.

There are a lot of degreaser products available on the market today featuring formulas that are far more effective (and not at all harmless to your engine) than ever before. These are the kinds of products you want to get your hands on.

Most degreasers will recommend that you “cut” the product with warm water, but some can be applied directly to the engine bay itself. Usually you’ll have to leave the product on the engine components for a couple of minutes, letting the degreaser lifting the gunk off of the engine so that you can brush and scrub it away.

Target all areas you can reach with a brush (the top and bottom of your engine) and you should have an engine that is relatively spotless in record time – and should be able to see where these leaks are coming from by the fresh oil that’s bubbling out of those spots.

Talcum or Baby Powder Can Work in a Pinch

Let’s say, though, that you degreased your entire engine and are still having a tough time figuring out where the leaks are coming from.

In those situations, you’ll want to add a little bit of talcum powder or baby powder to the engine bay (just a dusting) to see where it sticks, coagulates, and starts to sort of punch up into a sandy kind of consistency.

Those are your leak spots!

Don’t go crazy with the talcum or baby powder, though.

It doesn’t take much for that powder to get sucked up into your air vents, into your air filter, and even into your engine (and can cause a bit of a headache for you later down the line, too).

UV Dye and Flashlights May Be the Way to Go, Too

You have UV dye can be added directly into the oil of your engine (the same way that you add oil normally) and then run through your vehicle for 10 to 20 minutes.

After that, pop open the hood of your car and hit it with a UV flashlight. Any signs that glow are signs of leaks that need to be addressed.

You can do this in a garage (where you can control lighting conditions) or you may have to wait until nighttime – and leave all the lights off – to see where the UV ink is coming through.

Closing Thoughts

At the end of the day, cleaning your engine to find leaks is a pretty simple and straightforward process.

Anyone can knock this maintenance out all on their own with an extra hour or so on a weekend, using nothing but a quality degreaser product (and maybe a couple of extras that we highlighted earlier).

Tackle this project when you start seeing drips of oil in your driveway, though.

This isn’t something you want to put off or overlook!

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