How To Find an Engine Oil Leak In My Car?

oil leak in carMy car has been stuttering a lot when I drive it. It’s a Pontiac Grand Prix Se, and it’s leaking oil, I’ve already gone through a gallon of oil in the past 2 days. When I look under the car, its soaked in oil and I can see it dripping out.

My boyfriend is semi mechanically inclined, he’s done two years of mechanics through his high school and he hasn’t really looked at it yet, but I was wondering if there were common problems with these Pontiac’s that I should look at when we look at my car, or if it was something in general that you knew about.

Please let me know your opinion as soon as possible for I’m afraid my car is going to stop in traffic on my way home from work today. Thank you

Hi Grace,

With this large of an oil leak I would NOT continue to drive this vehicle until you get it looked at. This has to be a very large oil leak and permanent engine damage can occur if the engine runs low on oil…and if the leak is as large as you say it is damage can occur in a day or so.

I don’t know of any common issues with this model, so I would start your oil leak search at the top of the engine then slowly work your way down to the bottom. Since the engine is covered in oil it will be difficult to locate the leak.

So, I would recommend you visit your local auto parts store and buy a FEW cans of CRC BrakeKleen (that’s the brand name).

Brake Cleaner works best because you don’t have to wash it off with water, it is non flammable, and dissolves oil almost instantly. There are cheaper brands, but that particular brand works 100X better than the competition, so it is worth paying a little bit more for it.

Possible areas on the engine that can produce a large leak like you have:

1. Valve cover gaskets
2. Engine oil filter
3. Rear main bearing seal
4. Engine oil pan drain plug
5. Timing cover seals

Also have your PCV system checked out. The PCV system is like a ventilation system for your engine. If the PCV is stopped up with dirt or not working it will cause the engine to build up to much internal pressure which will cause oil seals and gaskets to crack and leak. If you fix the leaking seals/gaskets and not repair the PCV system the problem will re-occur.

Keep me posted as to what you find out.

Please share this with your friends,

Austin C. Davis

BTW….the stuttering could be due to the fact that you have this serious oil leak, which could be getting oil on the spark plugs or spark plug wires causing your stutter problem. I would correct the oil leak first and see if that solves your engine stutter problem.

Hey Austin,

thanks for all the advice, we haven’t tackled the oil leak, and probably wont get to it till Saturday. I guess it’s not as big as I thought, I just put too much oil in. The stuttering actually was coming from the spark plugs, and we’re going to change those and the wires, because it was having trouble starting so we knew that had to be the problem.

I was also having problems with the tensioner pulley and serpentine belt, I guess because there was a knocking sound coming from the front of my car. So Basically my car just needed a tune-up, which I didn’t know I was supposed to do about every 60,000 miles. But yeah, thanks for all the advice it really helped.

Reader Follow up

Since then I have replaced the spark plugs and wires.. And I’ve done the tensioner pulley, and serpentine belt, which eliminated the knocking noise coming from my engine. I’m still having stuttering problems though.

We’re going to change the oil and filter tonight, but I have a feeling the problem is going to persist. Is there anything you can suggest to check? This is becoming a giant nuisance considering I feel my my car is going to die every time I stop.

Thank you


Hey again Grace


The next thing to do is pay a mechanic to read your on board computer codes and get a proper diagnosis. We are just guessing at this point, which almost ALWAYS costs more than getting a proper diagnosis. Changing the oil and filter will not effect your problem.

1. There could be a low fuel pressure problem, due to a weak fuel pump

2. There could be a vacuum leak somewhere under the hood causing the problem.

3. You could have a dirty throttle body……which I think I told you to have cleaned by your local mechanic or fast lube place. You can have them check your throttle body and ask them if it needs cleaning, a dirty throttle body will cause rough idle, dying at idle and slow extended starts. It’s a cheap good guess…..but still a guess.

Please share this with your friends,

Austin Davis

Posted in: Fluid Leaks

15 Comments on "How To Find an Engine Oil Leak In My Car?"

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  1. Dan says:

    Funny as well, I too am hooked on that CRC brake cleaner stuff you talk about. It is awesome stuff but would imagine it is very bad for your skin or lungs.

  2. Darin says:

    Those glow in the dark black light additives are a waste of time.

  3. Anonymous says:

    They make a liquid additive you can put in your oil and then use a black light to help locate the oil leak.

    • By Austin Davis says:

      Yes, and I have used those before as well. They are OK, but rarely do I use it because it takes a while for the leak to show up and sometimes the GLOW from the additive is not really enough to see. Personal preference I guess.

  4. Roxy says:

    Thanks for the tip Austin, my husband wanted to steam clean the engine in the drive way. Not a good idea.

  5. Asia says:

    Do NOT steam clean! Can get water in places you don’t want. Trust me it cost me a lot of money.

  6. Belenda says:

    Are there any sealers that will work to stop an oil leak?

    • By Austin Davis says:

      In my honest opinion, not really. Using thicker weight engine oil like Castrol 20w-50 will help reduce the leakage and also a PCV system that is working properly will also help. Ask your mechanic to check your PCV system.

      There is an additive that you can try, its cheap and wont hurt is ATP AT205, which basically swells your seals slightly to reduce the leak. You can buy it at most auto parts stores.

  7. Mike says:

    Austin, I loved your recommendation for using CRC Brakecleaner to wash off the oil spill area. I love that stuff, it just seems to eat the oil away! Looking for uses around my garage just so I can watch it work.

    • By Austin Davis says:

      Mike, we literally use truck loads of that product. It is non flammable and safe to use on all kinds of fluid leaks. No water needed, no risk of damaging anything else. just great stuff! Do not use it on your car seats to remove stains or oil though, it burns areas on your lower body not meant to be burned when you sit down 🙁

  8. Chelly says:

    I forgot at one point, trying to start it, it was making an very strange screeching sound…like something locking up or not wanting to turn? Never heard that sound , ever in a car? Weird! Thanks again, Chelly

    • Austin says:

      Please get a mechanic to listen to this for you, and don’t continue to drive it like this if possible to avoid more damage. This could be a belt, or a transmission problem or worse. 🙁

  9. Chelly says:

    My car got flooded out in the rain and I let it sit for a week to dry out. To get it started I used starting fluid and a jump but it would die if I let my foot off the gas. The next day I took someone with me, so I could keep it running to get it to the parts store. When I tried it again, just the key, it started AND ran on it’s own. A spark plug socket had gotten stuck, trying to check the plugs. But at the parts store, another customer came up , asked what was wrong and said he could get the socket out. He got the cover off and we found oil in the well where the plug is. I cleaned it out, he got the socket out, pulled the plug, cleaned it and gapped it and after it started, it ran better for awhile* than before the flooding.It had been running great, some slow go’s at the lights but I decided to take it out of town. Dricing along great then all of a sudden I heard what sounded like I blew the front tire out. I stopped, but it was ok, so tho’t maybe the AC belt came loose because I heard something hit the underside of my car.When I raised the hood, it was smoking. There were no indicator lights on but i had no oil, so used trani fluid to get me to the next town, 8 miles away. I knew I would then need an oil change. I drove it but only at 35 mph, because the oil light then came on but it wasn’t showing hot. The next day in the light, I could see oil and antifreeze on the ground. I found it had no oil or water, so got 2 qts. of oil in it but when I out water it, it came out as fast. I finally found the leak on the radiator, a sm. 1/4″ on the bottom but one on the back side of it, shooting out behind the fan. I have yet to find the oil leak? That’s the one I’m interested in finding at this point. Not sure if I threw a rod because it will start and drive. I know some cars will run that way. It dies if I don’t keep my foot on the gas. I didn’t want to drive it til I find th eoil leak. I had to have it towed back to my town and now it’s just sitting? Where do I start TO FIND THAT LEAK? Thanks.. so much for any advice! Chelly

    • Austin says:

      Humm weird is right. Not real sure what to think about this Chelly. I would first start by pulling all the spark plugs out and inspect them for oil or excessive wear and replace them. I would also do a compression check on the engine while I had the spark plugs out just to make sure the internal parts of the engine are ok. Just about any repair shop should be able to do this for you. if compression test is good, then install new spark plugs and run the engine and see what happens. make sure the engine top and bottom are clean and dry of oil….I like to use a can of CRC Brakekleen to spray off any oil (just spray it on, use no water) take the vehicle for a ride if needed then reinspect for oil leak.

      Flooding is NOT good for a vehicle at all, drying it out is not easy either, since water usually enters the transmission and makes the fluid looks like a strawberry milkshake, and enters the engine oil and makes it look like a chocolate milkshake. I would definitely get a real mechanic to check this out for you and not advise driving it until you do.

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