There are some parts that wear down in your automobile and you don’t even think about them until they need replacing. The oil pan gasket is one of those parts.
The cost to replace it isn’t that high but the labor involved with doing the replacement can be extensive.
The overall cost to replace an oil pan gasket can range anywhere between $100-$600, depending on the kind of car you have and whether or not you can do the labor yourself.
Getting to the oil pan gasket can require a lot of labor and those hours will cost you. The actual oil pan gasket part usually runs about $40-$150.
The oil pan gasket holds the oil pan in place at the bottom of the engine. This acts as a holding bay for oil that runs through the engine and then the rest of the vehicle.
When it breaks, oil may leak or burn out faster. There are many ways to see that there’s a problem or that the oil pan gasket needs replacing but it’s more likely to be noticed by your mechanic during a regular oil change.
This is Always a Replacement, Not a Repair
The oil pan gasket deteriorates naturally over time. As it does, it is less effective at keeping the oil pan in place and this leads to oil leakage.
The deterioration cannot be fixed by any patch or repair. When the oil pan gasket has deteriorated, that’s it. Replacement is the only option at this point.
The Symptoms of a Bad Oil Pan Gasket Vary
The most obvious way to tell that the oil pan gasket needs replacing is oil leakage. Every automobile is different, though. Some automobiles have an extra piece below the oil pan that catches leaks.
In the case that your automobile has this part, oil leakage won’t be visible.
When oil is not visibly leaking, you probably won’t know that the oil pan gasket needs replacing. This means that the oil level in your automobile will get lower and lower.
This causes other issues within the engine and more repairs or replacements that are even more costly.
In severe cases, if your oil pan gasket deteriorates completely, it’s possible that this will cause the engine to heat up faster and the oil pan itself may detach and fall out of the bottom of the vehicle.
It may also detach and remain inside the vehicle, in which case you’d hear it banging around or clattering.
What Happens When The Oil Levels Run Low in an Automobile?
The oil in an automobile lubricates moving parts. As they fit together and move, they grind if they’re not lubricated.
When the oil pan gasket deteriorates and needs replacing, oil leaks out and if you don’t see that happening, the moving parts that need lubrication don’t get it.
The moving parts inside the engine are particularly susceptible to breakage if not lubricated.
You can hear grinding and clanging noises under the hood of your automobile if the oil begins to run dangerously low. At this point, you’ll need to have the rest of the engine checked as well as the oil levels.
Replacing the engine is far more costly than replacing an oil pan gasket by hundreds or even thousands of dollars, depending on the type of car you have.
Learn About Your Vehicle’s Oil Pan Gasket
Many newer vehicles have an extra pan under the oil pan to catch any leakage and that’s where you run into the issue of not enough oil in your vehicle if the oil pan gasket needs replacing.
Review your vehicle’s user manual and take a look under the hood to see if this applies to your situation. You can also ask the mechanic the next time your vehicle is serviced.
Checking the oil in your vehicle on your own is not difficult. If you suspect that there’s an issue with oil leakage for any reason, check the oil level to gain a little more insight into what’s going on.
- Make sure your vehicle is in a space with good lighting or set up lighting so that you can see what you’re doing when the hood is up.
- Press the hood release on the interior of your vehicle, it’s usually near the trunk release. It might be a button you push or a lever you pull.
- Most vehicles have an additional latch under the hood that you also have to release before you can open it fully. You can find this latch by running your hand along the open edge of the hood after you engage the release or by kneeling down and looking at the space to find it.
- Check the side of the hood for a “kickstand” or support that keeps the hood up. It will look like a narrow bar with a small bend or stopper at one end. That end connects to the edge of the vehicle. If your vehicle doesn’t have this support, see if a friend will help you with keeping the hood up. It’s a bad idea to put anything else in this space because you can’t be sure that it will securely keep the hood in place while you’re checking the oil.
- Locate the oil tank and unscrew the cap. It will either be marked on the cap or you can check your vehicle’s user manual to find out where it is. Put the cap in a safe place. Some vehicles have an attachment to keep the cap right there.
- Look into the gas tank. There should be a thin rod there with a yellow ring. This is the oil dipstick. Some don’t have the yellow ring but the rod should still be there.
- Pull the oil dipstick out and check the level. There should be an indication on the dipstick that tells you where an optimal level is.
- You can also see if the oil is dark or thick when you check it. That is a sign it’s burning off faster than it should, which is also a problem that can happen when the oil is leaking.
Other Complications of a Deteriorating Oil Pan Gasket
The oil pan gasket holds the oil pan on the vehicle. If it deteriorates and the oil pan detaches, the consequences might be mild like an oil leak or it might be more major like the oil pan completely falling out of the vehicle.
The oil pan acts as a reservoir for oil that needs to move through the moving parts of the engine. If the oil leaks, that might be less that’s available to move through those parts.
But if the pan detached altogether, those parts won’t get any oil at all.
As the oil pan gasket deteriorates, the pieces can fall into the oil pan and become incorporated with the oil that then circulates through your engine.
This is sediment that contaminates the oil and causes grit to stick to the parts that touch it.
DIY Oil Pan Gasket Replacement
While the oil pan gasket is a simple and relatively inexpensive part, replacing it yourself can be complicated. The first step is to look through your vehicle’s manual.
There are several parts that may need to be removed before you can get to the oil pan gasket and each requires tools and access to the underside of the vehicle.
Accessing the underside of the vehicle to get to the oil pan and the gasket can be achieved with a jack and jack stands that securely lift and hold up the front of the vehicle while you work.
It’s important to have a level surface, good lighting, and a partner to help out. Even if the jack stands are secure, accidents happen and it’s good to have someone around that can call for help if needed.
To get to the oil pan gasket, among other parts that may need to be removed to get to the oil pan, you’ll need to remove the housing and oil pan after the oil has drained into it.
Otherwise, the oil will spill out after the pan has been removed and will go everywhere.
The oil pan gasket is attached to the oil pan with bolts. On some vehicles, there is a crank shaft that may also need to be turned before you can remove the bolts.
The oil pan will drop and then you access the gasket. After removing the old gasket, clean the area with a solvent to remove any residue.
Inspect all parts and bolts to be sure they’re installed correctly as you replace them after the new gasket is installed. Start the engine and check for leaks.
If your vehicle has a pan under the oil pan that catches leaking oil, check that after running the car for a bit.
Shop for the Best Price
Different mechanics will require different prices for their labor. What one mechanic costs might be much higher or lower than another spot, especially depending on the type of vehicle that needs repairs.
You can also ask the mechanic if you can purchase the part yourself and pay for them to install it, allowing you to shop for the best price on the oil pan gasket itself.
All in all, this is an important repair that won’t cost you nearly as much as the repairs you’ll need if you wait on it.
Find the best price but it’s important to have a deteriorating oil pan gasket replaced promptly. You may be interested in our guide on oil pump replacement cost.