2 Possible Reasons Why You Might Smell Oil While Driving Your Car

While driving down the road, you may have noticed that the cabin of your car has started to smell like oil. If the odor is persistent and continues getting stronger, you may have stopped to check the level on the dipstick to find that it is low—even if you have recently topped it off or had the oil changed.

If the level is decreasing and you smell oil inside your car, you may be wondering why. Below are a couple of reasons why you may be detecting the strong smell, and each necessitates immediate action to keep your engine from freezing up.

1. Oil Pan Plug Is Allowing Oil to Leak Out

One possible reason why your oil level is low and you can smell it while driving is that the oil pan's plug is leaking. As the oil leaks out around the plug, it will often splash back up into the engine compartment and land on the hot metal to produce the smell.

Locate the oil pan's plug and try moving it to see if it is loose. If it is loose, tighten it with your hand to see if doing so stops the leak. If not, or if the plug appears damaged, take your car to a shop to have them replace it before it allows all the oil to leak out, which would irreparably damage the engine.

2. Gasket in Your Car's Engine Has Deteriorated

Another possible cause of the oil smell is that there is a gasket within the car's engine that is deteriorating. These gaskets prevent the oil from spilling out and/or mixing with the coolant. 

As they age, gaskets can become brittle and start to break apart. If the head or valve cover gaskets are damaged, the oil will not only leak but also seize up the engine by mixing with the coolant and greatly decreasing the oil's lubrication qualities. If you suspect this is the case or have noticed that the oil has become frothy, take your car to a mechanic immediately to have them check it out.

Whether oil is leaking out of the oil pan because of a loose or bad plug or because one of the gaskets in the engine is deteriorating, the leakage will lead to low levels in your car's motor. Because oil is essential for keeping the inner parts running smoothly without causing friction that could grind and melt the metal pieces, do not ignore any possible oil leaks. Take your car as soon as possible to an auto service center to have them pinpoint the exact source of the leakage so that it can be repaired.