As oil runs through a car’s engine, lubricating it and controlling the temperature, it encounters debris formed during normal engine running. The oil filter collects the impurities picked up by the oil as it circulates the engine. Without the oil filter, we’d have to change the oil more frequently than we do, so what is happening when your oil filter leaks?
Oil leaks from the oil filter because of poor installation, a gasket issue, filter damage, or tightening the filter incorrectly. Signs include a loss of oil pressure, a burning oil smell in the car, oil deposits on the top of the engine, and oil droplets under your parked car.
This article will detail the causes of an oil filter leak and demonstrate how to solve the problem. Let’s get started!
What Causes Oil To Leak From The Oil Filter?
Oil filter leaks often happen due to poor oil filter installation. They may also occur if the oil filter gasket and housing gasket are damaged or worn out. Other causes of oil filter leaks include installing an incompatible filter and external damage to the filter.
Let’s look at these causes in more detail:
Poor Oil Filter Installation
Any good mechanic will advise car owners to replace their oil filters during the vehicle’s regular oil change. This prevents the oil filter from clogging and the oil filter gasket from wearing out.
Most oil filter leaks result from poor oil filter installation and are easily avoidable. If you have your oil filter replaced during a oil change and experience an oil leak soon after, it could be caused by a poorly installed oil filter.
The Double Gasket
The infamous double gasket mistake results from inexperience or carelessness. In some vehicles, including Subarus, the oil filter’s gasket can stick to the oil filter housing. The person installing the oil filter should remove the old gasket before installing the new one with its new gasket.
Unfortunately, some people skip this step and install the new oil filter on the old gasket. Sometimes the filter blows out as soon as you restart the engine. Other times, however, it may blow out after you hit the road. This is a simple mistake that can prove costly.
This error mostly happens when replacing the oil filter in a Subaru as the gasket attaches to the oil filter. In BMWs, the oil filter has no gasket. The oil filter cap in BMWs contains a gasket that needs replacement during oil changes, but there’s little chance that the gasket will remain on the housing after removing the cap.
Incorrect Oil Filter Tightening
Changing the oil filter is relatively easy. In most Subarus, you don’t need any special tools to change the filter. The oil filter in most BMWs is on the top side of the engine and the bottom side in most Subarus.
The oil filter can be screwed on and off by hand. Experts advise against securing the oil filter using a tool due to the high likelihood of overtightening, damaging the gasket or the oil filter, and causing a leak. Conversely, under-tightening leaves a gap from which oil can seep.
Some oil filters and filter cap manufacturers have inscribed torque values on the filters that you shouldn’t exceed. You can use a torque wrench to install a new oil filter. However, without an indicated torque value on the filter, use your hand to secure it.
Worn or Damaged Gaskets
Gaskets are designed to fill the spaces pressurized oil can pass through. As the gaskets become worn out, the likelihood of a leak increases.
By replacing the oil filter every time you change the oil, you reduce the likelihood of wearing out the oil filter gasket. Replacement oil filters usually come with new gaskets.
However, you may receive a damaged gasket, which will leak when you install it. Therefore, inspect the new gasket for any type of damage before installing it.
The oil filter housing gasket doesn’t get replaced as often as the oil filter gasket. It’s durable, but it can start allowing oil through with time. As the indicators are similar, you might confuse a housing gasket leak with an oil filter leak.
If oil leaks from the filter area after replacing the oil filter, you probably have a leaking housing gasket. Replacing the housing gasket can be complicated, so we recommend letting experts handle that repair.
Just because a filter fits on the housing, it doesn’t mean it’s meant to be there. Depending on your Subaru model, replacing the oil filter can be easy, and most people replace the oil filter at home.
Doing so exposes them to the risk of installing an incorrect filter. Given the numerous oil filters available, you can easily buy and install the wrong filter.
An oil filter that doesn’t match the vehicle will leak.
External Oil Filter Damage
The oil filter can get damaged externally, causing a leak. Subarus are more likely to suffer from external oil filter damage as the filters reside on the underside of the engine.
In most BMWs, the oil filter sits on the top side of the engine, away from potential damage-inducing debris.
How Do I Stop My Oil Filter Leak On My Subaru?
You can stop your oil filter from leaking by replacing it. This is usually the only solution. Sometimes, you can solve the problem temporarily by replacing a worn or damaged oil filter gasket.
If the oil filter or housing has external damage, you have no choice but to replace the damaged parts. Similarly, if the oil filter housing gasket gets worn to the point where it starts leaking, the only solution is a replacement.
How Much Does It Cost To Fix an Oil Filter Oil Leak?
It costs between $30 to $200 to fix an oil filter leak. Oil filters for BMWs and Subarus are relatively inexpensive, and since replacing the oil filter isn’t complicated, the labor costs are low. You can replace your oil filter at home.
The cost of fixing a leaking oil filter increases if the cause of the leak is the oil filter housing or its gasket. Replacing the oil filter housing or gasket is complicated and requires expert knowledge, and the experts at SL Autoworks are trained to handle such jobs.
Can You Drive a Car With a Leaking Oil Filter?
You shouldn’t drive a car with a leaking oil filter because you risk damaging the engine. If the leak causes extensive oil loss, the lack of lubrication inside the engine may cause irreparable damage.
Also, the leaking oil may damage other engine parts, interfering with the normal functioning of the motor.
You might get away with ignoring a leaking oil filter. By regularly topping up the lost oil, your engine will continue running. However, oil leak problems don’t resolve themselves – they tend to get worse.
Leaks get worse since the oil runs through the engine at high pressure. Ignoring an oil filter leak is quite risky, and you might brush off a leak, assuming it’s minor, only for it to escalate rapidly and cause extensive damage.
Let’s look at the potential consequences of driving a car with a leaking oil filter:
Irreversible Engine Damage
Oil leaking from the oil filter onto engine parts can cause engine damage. Leaking oil can corrode parts of the cooling system, leading to a coolant leak. Without temperature regulation, the engine may overheat and fail irreversibly.
Subarus, with the oil filter on the top side of the engine, can suffer failures if there’s a leak.
An unattended leak may drain all of the oil from the engine, and an engine without lubrication may seize, forcing you to purchase a replacement motor, which can be very expensive.
Don’t attempt to drive a Subaru with an oil filter leak caused by external oil filter damage because such a leak can drain the oil from your car within minutes, causing engine failure.
People often overlook the temperature-regulating properties of engine oil. The cooling system does most of the work, but the oil does its fair share in cooling the engine.
Therefore, losing engine oil through an oil filter leak can cause overheating, potentially damaging engine parts or causing complete engine failure.
Don’t Wait To Fix An Oil Filter Leak!
Oil filter leaks often happen due to human error during oil filter changes. Therefore, most oil filter leaks are avoidable.
Changing the oil filter in your car is relatively easy, but as seen above, there’s a reasonably high likelihood that you’ll make a mistake that causes an oil filter leak. Let a professional mechanic handle any oil filter issues.
Oil filter leak fixes are cheap, but they can become costly if you let the leak worsen. Have a trusted mechanic check out and fix a suspected oil filter leak as soon as possible to avoid expensive repairs.