What does an oil pan do?

oil being drained from car

Is the oil pan part of the engine?

Have you noticed a black, wet spot under your BMW the past few mornings? If you have, then your oil pan isn’t doing what it should be doing. This black, wet spot is more than an unsightly black spot in the garage or your parking space. It is an indicator that you’re oil pan gasket has broken, loose, or missing.  It may be a small leak today, but if you don’t have an authorized BMW shop inspect the issue and fix it, it can escalate into a more expensive problem quickly.

What is the difference between an oil pan vs oil pan gasket? The oil pan’s purpose is to catch oil from where it connects to the engine block. The oil pan gasket seals the oil pan to the engine block and contracts and expands with the engine’s temperature. An oil pan without gasket would let all of the oil from the engine block leak out, and before you know it, your engine will be knocking and blow up.

The oil pan is an external, vital part of the engine’s lubrication system. An engine needs oil to circulates through the parts of the engine, so they stay lubricated. That lubrication reduces friction and keeps all the engine parts working smoothly.

Without oil, there would be friction between the engine parts and, in a short time, destroy the engine, aka, blow it up. The oil pan is essential in keeping the oil from leaking out, keeping it contained within the lubrication system. There is a gasket that fits on the oil pan and against the engine that creates a seal.

Is a oil pan leak bad?

You never want your car to run out of oil. As we covered earlier, the oil is necessary to keep the engine running smooth. If the engine runs out of oil, all those metal parts that depend on the oil can’t get oil to them. A disaster is in the making.

So, yes. An oil pan leak is terrible, but the better news, it is usually not the pan itself leaking, but the oil pan gasket. Remember, the gasket seals the oil pan to the engine to keep the oil in the engine and the oil pan.  Here, we offer a few signs that are telling you that your car has a possible oil leak that needs immediate attention: 

  1. Vehicle is Smoking: If your vehicle has a loose or worn oil pan gasket, you may see the engine smoking as the oil is leaking from the oil pan and landing on the exhaust manifold. The smoke from your vehicle can cause components like the oxygen sensors to malfunction if they become covered in oil, which could make our vehicle run bad or not run at all.
  2. Overheating Engine: The engine oil not only keeps the metal parts lubricated, but it also keeps the engine cool along with the radiator coolant. When there is an oil pan leak, the oil level will drop, and that causes the engine to overheat. An overheated engine that isn’t attended to will cause extensive damage that could result in needing a new engine.
  3. Oil puddles: Oil puddles under a vehicle are not normal and could be that leaking oil pan gasket is because the gasket has reached its life expectancy and is beginning to deteriorate. The oil pan gasket is exposed to heat that your vehicle generates with the engine and the roadways. Because it is a rubber-type material, that heat will dry it out over time, and eventually, it can begin to leak.
  4. Low Oil Levels: Sometimes, oil pan gasket leaks exceedingly small, almost undetectable. There is a warning light on the dashboard of your vehicle is essential to your vehicle maintenance and ownership. When the oil is below the ‘normal’ full level, that light will come on, and that is when you need to take your vehicle to your mechanic and have it checked.      

Can you drive without an oil pan?

Yes, drive your vehicle without an oil pan, but it isn’t recommended.  Not only would you be putting your vehicle’s engine under stress, but you’ll lose the aerodynamics of your vehicle too. There are air inlets in the belly tray where the oil pan is located. It also helps your car remain stable at high speeds. It also keeps the oil inside the pan cool, so the engine doesn’t blow up.

new oil pan

How do you stop an oil pan from leaking oil?

Even the best of the best mechanics or oil change shops make mistakes, and they didn’t replace the oil pan drain plug or cross-thread it, and now it is leaking oil. You can take it back to the mechanic or oil lube shop, which you would be in your rights to do so, or you can fix this yourself:

  1. Place an empty oil drain pan under your vehicle and remove the oil plug. The oil should drain out into the pan.
  2. Place a regular-sized or oversized seal and drain plug in the drain hole and over the rubber O-ring, aka gasket. If the drain plug was cross-threaded, you could use s thread tool to re-shape those threads and install the new drain plug. Don’t overtighten it!
  3. Check the vehicle’s owner’s manual and see how much oil your vehicle should have, then add new oil.
  4. If you see any oil leaking now, you didn’t get the drain plugged in right, or there is another problem. Check everything you just did and re-do anything you see wrong.

Sometimes an oil pan is leaking from the gasket. Again, this is something you can take to your mechanic or an oil lube shop.  Or you can do it yourself, using the following steps:

  1. Make sure your vehicle is on level ground and put an oil drain pan under it.
  2. Unscrew the drain plug and let the oil run out.  
  3. Remove any car accessories that are in the way of accessing the oil pan.
  4. Remove all the bolts from the oil pan. The owner’s manual may tell you how many bolts there are, or you can do an internet search.
  5. Use a solvent to clean the oil pan and check the oil pan for cracks and holes.
  6. Install a new gasket following the package instructions.
  7. Replace the oil pan, making sure you get all the bolts installed without cross-threading them.
  8. Add new oil then start the vehicle. Allow it to run a couple of minutes, then turn it off.
  9. If you see any oil leaks, check the drain plug and oil pan bolts, making sure they are tight without overtightened or cross-threaded.
  10.  If there is still a leak, your vehicle may need a new oil pan, or it could be a more internal problem.

How does an oil pan get damaged?

Your mechanic tells you that your vehicle’s oil pan is cracked or has a hole. How did that happen?! The oil pan is under a lot of stress these days with a person’s driving style, the weather, the roadways, and the condition of the oil inside the engine.

As you drive on the roadways today, you’ll notice more of them need repair – yes, it is all around the country, not just the roads in your city or state. As you drive down them, debris and rocks fly up and hit the underside of your car. It can be just one rock or stick hit the oil pan precisely in the right spot, and you got a leak! Call 469-608-5410 today for your auto service need.