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Best way to track down an oil leak?

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Year and Model: 2000 V70XC
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Best way to track down an oil leak?

Post by leapdragon » Mon Jun 19, 2017 12:46 am

Hi all,

Only my second time posting—first time was a few days ago when I was doing a PCV job.

I've recently acquired a 2002 V70XC fairly inexpensively to replace a 2000 V70XC that got front-end damage. The 2002 blew a cam seal within days after I got it (I was already waiting on PCV parts), so I replaced the timing side seals and the timing belt, and did the PCV service—new box, hoses, clear PTC nipple, etc.

Now my problem is that I seem to have developed a new oil leak, but I can't for the life of me find it. At idle, there is no leaking that I can find. 20-30 seconds at 3k RPM and I start to get a drip from the bottom of the oil filter canister and from the corner of the oil pan nearest to it. After a trip down the highway for an hour with the splash guard in place, the entire bottom of the oil pan was coated, as was a decent amount of the subframe on the passenger side.
  • - Timing area is dry as a bone, cam sprockets, crank, timing belt, cover, etc. all dry
    - When I did the timing belt, I checked all the bearings for moving parts and all felt smooth and tight
    - PCV area (also suspect since I just did it) appears dry
    - Block generally appears dry, front and back
    - Back side of engine (opposite of timing side) appears dry, very clean all things considered
    - There is one droplet of oil on the bottom of the turbo, but the area otherwise looks too clean to be contributing to "drip, drip" speed oil loss
    - Oil cooler + hoses are dry
    - Rear main seal area is dry
    - There is some oil under the spark plug cover, but not the kind of mess I'd expect if the oil cap was the source of the leak, and I'd also expect to see oil higher up on other components if it was the source
    - Dipstick o-ring area appears not to be the source either
    - Glove test shows healthy suction all the way to 4k RPM
    - ???
The main accumulations of oil that I can see are on the bottom of the oil pan and around the oil filter itself. But I can't seem to see where it's actually emerging.

I'd appreciate any pointers that anyone has on things to look at for oil leaks on the lower front (passenger side) of the engine at when the above list has been gone over. Or if I am to double, triple, quadruple-check the list above, what are the most likely culprits?

And more generally, what is the best method to track down an oil leak? Right now my only idea is to keep cleaning off the lower engine area and trying to spot the leak repeatedly, but so far that hasn't been working, which is why I'm thinking that I may be looking in the wrong place.


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Re: Best way to track down an oil leak?

Post by 93SCMax » Mon Jun 19, 2017 6:43 am

Sounds like you have done a lot of troubleshooting already.

Did you change the oil or was the last change by the previous owner?
Could it be something as simple as the oil filter canister rubber gasket is missing or pinched or torn? I'd check this 1st to eliminate it as a potential leak path.

Good luck.

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Re: Best way to track down an oil leak?

Post by Botbasher » Mon Jun 19, 2017 6:46 am


I had something very similar happen just a few days ago. Took me forever to figure out and not a drop since!!!

I kept getting puddles, no kidding, puddles, of oil under the car. I saw evidence of it spraying down the length of the car and it coated most of the lower timing side of the motor (my cover is gone, so lots of wind). I'd clean it off and take it for a drive and it'd be everywhere. It would drip down eventually, but no clear indicator of where it came from originally.

I cleaned it all off and power sprayed it clean, jacked up the car and let it idle for 30 minutes. Nothing! Amazingly not a drop. So I lowered the car and took it for a drive. NADA!!! WTF!!!

So I come out the next morning and a 8" puddle of oil is under the car!

2017-06-04 09.21.32.jpg
Puddle of Oil... sounds like a new band!
The good thing was that this happened after I cleaned the car and you can see that it dripped straight down from the oil filter housing area. HA ZAH!!!! Now I have a focal point to start looking at. So I clean it all off again and let it idle..... NADA. Not a drip! OK... Now I am pissed. I let it sit and cool while I do other things and cool and when I come out.... Puddle! YOU HAVE GOT TO BE F"ING KIDDING ME!!!

So, as improbable as it is, it has to be the o-ring. I pull the filter housing and... well, I'll let you fill in the expletives...

2017-06-04 09.49.13.jpg
Flat o-ring!!!
This was a brand new o-ring I got with a Mann Filter. Less than 1500 miles. Flat as a board. It seems that it would seal quite nicely under pressure, but when the pressure leaked down to some lower value, it let loose and bled off all the pressure externally. I swapped in the o-ring from the previous filter housing and took it for a drive. 12 hours later.... not a drop. Only change was the o-ring.

So, the moral of the story.... don't overlook the simplistic solutions... sometimes they truly are the answer!

Good luck finding the leak!

K "rung" S

Never become a pessimist. A pessimist is correct oftener than an optimist, but an optimist has more fun, and neither can stop the march of events.-Heinlein

We have met the enemy and he is us.-Pogo

If speed kills, do brakes give life??

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