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Oil Pan - Engine

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Oil Pan - Engine

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What is an engine oil pan and where is it located?

The engine oil pan, which is also sometimes referred to as the oil sump, is a metal pan that is fastened underneath the engine crankcase. This is where the oil collects when the vehicle is at rest and it is not flowing through the engine to keep it lubricated, which of course is critical to the engine and the entire vehicle’s operation. The engine oil pan acts as a reservoir of sorts. The oil pump, whose function it is to circulate the oil to the various engine parts, also resides in the oil pan and draws the oil stored in the engine oil pan to do so. The engine oil pan is sealed into place with a gasket and contains a drain plug that can be removed to allow you to drain the old oil in the vehicle when you need to do an oil change. Since the oil pan hangs out underneath the body of the car it is vulnerable to rough road conditions. 

How do I know if my engine oil pan needs to be replaced?

The primary problem that engine oil pans encounter is that they develop leaks. On the exposed underbelly of the car or truck, the oil pan can be struck by rocks or other road debris. That kind of damage creates cracks or punctures in the pan that will leak oil. Road salt may also corrode the engine oil pan, and old age can lead to rust over time. The high heat inside the engine can warp the oil pan, which can also cause leaks. The oil pan may also be damaged by timing chains or belts that come loose after being damaged. Heat, debris, and age can also wear down the engine oil pan gasket, which will also cause leaks. 

It should be fairly obvious by now that oil leaks are the telltale sign of a damaged engine oil pan. If there is oil in your parking space, then you may need a new engine oil pan or oil pan gasket. If you are unsure if it's from your vehicle, you might try putting a piece of cardboard underneath the oil pan, as leaks will be easier to identify against the cardboard. If you look underneath the vehicle, you may find oil on parts below the engine. The forward motion of the car or truck will blow the oil backwards. If you want to find the source of the leak, it will likely be forward of the oil present. 

Your engine should recycle the same volume of oil over and over again. If you find that you need to fill the oil frequently, then you probably have an oil leak. To confirm this, check the oil level with your dipstick, fill the oil as necessary and check it again later, the next day perhaps. If you need to fill the oil again, then there is a leak somewhere in the system, most likely in the engine oil pan. If your oil pressure gauge is showing low oil pressure, this may also show that you’re losing oil. 

Can I replace an oil pan myself?

Yes, replacing the engine oil pan (or its gasket) is very straightforward, although it can be messy. You’ll need to get a catch pan ready and drain the oil before removing the old oil pan. If you are replacing the gasket alone, you’ll want to clean the pan with a solvent. Still, it may be wise to inspect the oil pan itself for cracks or punctures while you have it off. 

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