Author Topic: Old oil leaking, yet cost-effective car dilemma  (Read 5124 times)

more4less

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Old oil leaking, yet cost-effective car dilemma
« on: January 10, 2014, 06:21:40 PM »
I have 1998 car, it's commuter which I still enjoy driving. I bought it 5 years ago for $2600 with 85000 miles on it. Currently it has 172000 miles. I drive to work 25 miles each way (no, I can't move to Palo Alto where I work), do weekend grocery trips for/with my grandma, and once or twice a year my girlfriend and I go on road trips.

The main problem with it - oil leaks quite badly from the engine, so have to add a quart of oil every couple weeks. Other than this it's in tip-top mechanical condition. Next maintenance will be due on 200000 miles (timing belt and maybe clutch). I asked mechanic where does it leak from, he grinned and said "everywhere". It's not a big deal for me since I routinely check all fluids every weekend. But here comes social aspect - it leaves oil on my company's parking lot. Which causes minor  discomfort about polluting environment. However, I'm afraid sooner or later they will figure me out, and it will be quite embarrassing moment :)

I can afford any new car, yet realize how stupid it will be financial wise. It costs me 16 cents per mile to run - including fuel, service, insurance and depreciation. From time to time I run numbers on alternatives - nothing can beat it. However, sometimes I feel like I'm crossing a border line between frugal and cheap. Comrades, please advise.

prodarwin

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Re: Old oil leaking, yet cost-effective car dilemma
« Reply #1 on: January 10, 2014, 06:34:28 PM »
Sell it, buy cheap car that doesn't leak.  There are many cars that can match 16 cents/mile in operating costs.

Or have it fixed.

Spork

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Re: Old oil leaking, yet cost-effective car dilemma
« Reply #2 on: January 10, 2014, 06:34:43 PM »
Here's some "good" news:  If you're replacing the clutch, the rear main oil seal is probably $20 or less to replace.  You might just get lucky.

daverobev

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Re: Old oil leaking, yet cost-effective car dilemma
« Reply #3 on: January 10, 2014, 06:45:33 PM »
Not sure on the car, but a timing belt is NOT cheap (or, rather, the *belt* is cheap; changing it might not be).

Greg

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Re: Old oil leaking, yet cost-effective car dilemma
« Reply #4 on: January 10, 2014, 06:53:52 PM »
The most common engine oil leaks are front crankshaft (or "front main") seal, rear crankshaft (or "rear main") seal, and cam or valve cover seal.  The last is cheap and easy to do, the other two can be done in conjunction with a timing belt or clutch respectively.

In the meantime, you can use thicker oil to try and leak less.  For instance, 20w/50 would help where you are using 10w/40, but not if you live in the NE USA, where temps are too cold for such thick oil.  Also, change your PCV valve, a clogged one can cause oil leaks where normally there wouldn't be any.

And ask you mechanic for a more precise location for your leaks, it's not that hard to narrow down, this can be done visually.

If this sounds like more hassle than it's worth, follow prodarwin's advice and trade up.

Thegoblinchief

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Re: Old oil leaking, yet cost-effective car dilemma
« Reply #5 on: January 12, 2014, 08:56:50 AM »
I get the environmental concern, but a quart of oil every two weeks isn't that bad as old cars go. Wife's 97 Subaru leaks like a sieve from camshaft gasket but it runs and it's great in the winter. To feasibly replace it myself I'd have to pull the engine myself (not a task I'm eager to revist, as I've done it once before). To pay for someone myself...nah, I'm going to run it into the ground.

How bad is the clutch?

Consider not repairing anything, putting that money into a savings account for a replacement car. Personally, I would run it into the ground, all the while putting the money I would have spent towards a replacement.

Blindsquirrel

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Re: Old oil leaking, yet cost-effective car dilemma
« Reply #6 on: January 12, 2014, 01:11:19 PM »
drive it til the wheels fall off. It is paid for and 2 qt of oil a month is cheap.

oldladystache

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Re: Old oil leaking, yet cost-effective car dilemma
« Reply #7 on: January 12, 2014, 03:06:20 PM »
Carry a big piece of cardboard in the trunk. When you park at work put the cardboard under it.

LukeS

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Re: Old oil leaking, yet cost-effective car dilemma
« Reply #8 on: January 12, 2014, 06:26:41 PM »
Carry a big piece of cardboard in the trunk. When you park at work put the cardboard under it.

I worked with a guy who did that, he drove an old pickup and had a piece of scrap sheet-metal in the back he would put under the leak.  We were at a commercial construction site with new pretty concrete parking.  What kind of place do you work?  I wouldn't generally care if my vehicle puked oils on someone's average asphalt lot.

Rollin

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Re: Old oil leaking, yet cost-effective car dilemma
« Reply #9 on: January 12, 2014, 07:38:11 PM »
You are assuming that all the oil that is lost is due to leaking, but it could be burning it as well.  One thing that I do to see if the inside of the engine is okay is take a oil sample and send it off for an analysis.  That will tell you if everything inside is operating the way it should be and might help you decide how long you want to keep it.

I use Blackstone labs because they have a down to Earth way of explaining the analysis, send it back via email very fast, and always promptly answer my questions via email.  They send a sample kit and I think it's about $25 for the analysis.  (I mainly use it to see how long I can go between oil changes).

more4less

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Re: Old oil leaking, yet cost-effective car dilemma
« Reply #10 on: January 12, 2014, 11:27:16 PM »
Greg, I changed valve cover gasket and PCV valve already. I'm pretty sure it's crankshaft seal.
Good advice on heavier oil. Once I finish my box of 10W30 I will get 20W50 for topping oil off.

What kind of place do you work?  I wouldn't generally care if my vehicle puked oils on someone's average asphalt lot.
Hehe, well... It's asphalt. But it's brand new lot since we just moved last year into new office.

Rollin

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Re: Old oil leaking, yet cost-effective car dilemma
« Reply #11 on: January 13, 2014, 07:05:56 AM »
I would consider using high mileage oil as well.  It is about the same price as other quality oil and has both more detergent and an agent to swell rubber seals, potentialy reducing oild burning.

Not sure of the quote, but seems to fit your situation.  Many ships sink not with one large hole, but many small ones.  That is so true of many people's finances too isn't it!

Spork

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Re: Old oil leaking, yet cost-effective car dilemma
« Reply #12 on: January 13, 2014, 08:42:47 AM »
I would consider using high mileage oil as well.  It is about the same price as other quality oil and has both more detergent and an agent to swell rubber seals, potentialy reducing oild burning.

Not sure of the quote, but seems to fit your situation.  Many ships sink not with one large hole, but many small ones.  That is so true of many people's finances too isn't it!

Often switching brands (and especially adding more detergents) actually increases the leakage.   Your engine gets used to a particular brand and will build up sludgy deposits of it.  One brand's detergent may clean out another brand's sludge.

My college room mate went from a non-leaking car to a car that leaked 1 qt per 75 miles.  We couldn't drive from college to our home town without pulling over to add more oil.

prodarwin

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Re: Old oil leaking, yet cost-effective car dilemma
« Reply #13 on: January 13, 2014, 09:29:10 AM »
Greg, I changed valve cover gasket and PCV valve already. I'm pretty sure it's crankshaft seal.

On which end?

If its on the clutch end... its a pain to change.  If its the front seal, it shouldn't be too hard for a shop (or you) to take care of.