How serious is my oil leak? What could be the cause?

Asked by Jan 09, 2015 at 08:48 AM about the 2002 Dodge Dakota 4 Dr Sport Quad Cab SB

Question type: Maintenance & Repair

Just bought a used farm truck out of
desperation. It's in rough shape from
an aesthetic standpoint but
otherwise it's been well maintained.
My friend borrowed my car where it
sat outside for a few hours in 0
degree windy weather. He had
trouble starting the car. I'm guessing
it's an older battery so that plus the
cold and the fact that he had multiple
assessories (heat cranked, radio,
lights ect) turned on is what I'm
guessing the cuprit is. It's hesitated
to start a few times but never not
started but it's only every happened
in below freezing conditions though it
wasn't as cold as the night that I'm
referring to. Will be getting new
battery with high cold cranking
The problem is that when he couldn't
get it to start he tried over and over
repeatedly without pausing or turning
off the acessories...all while
stomping on the gas. A jump ended
up getting it to start. When he finally
brought my truck back he said as
soon as he parked it white smoke
came from under the hood. He said
as he was parking it made a funny
"whirring" noise and he said it
smelled of rubber.
Upon further inspection and
checking all of the fluids this what I
have found:
The engine compartment has engine
oil everywhere, mostly on the drivers
side. It's on the fan, belts, drivers
side of the radiator and all over the
bottom of the truck. But most of all in
the drivers side wheel well. Like all
over the wheel well and axel.
The car is actively leaking engine oil
and only engine oil even when at
rest. Overnight I'd say it left 6" in
diameter puddle on the drivers side. I
don't know much about cars so I
can't identify where it appears to be
coming from.
My oil level is low. I'd say at least a
quart is missing.
My transmission fluid is low though I
haven't checked it before.
No other fluids are leaking or in the
engine compartment and all fluids
are of normal color. Also the oil leak
on the right side is the only spot.
The oil was changed about 6 months
ago & has been maintained regularly
though it does need only.
Nothing else seems out of place.
When I purchased the truck I noticed
a tiny bit of oil stains, not residue and
certainly not the drivers side
wheel well and only there. Don't
know if it had any relevance or is a
reoccurring problem, just figured
someone spilled.
Any advice would be much
appreciated. I need my truck but I
unfortunately don't have money to fix
it right now. So ether it sits until I
have money to get it looked at and
fixed or hopefully I can just keep an
eye on the oil level and drive it short
distances until I have the money to
fix it. I'm just afraid that given how
much oil it lost in a short period of
time that it may happen again only
far worse and I can cause some
serious engine damage.
Thanks for taking the time to read

P.S. It has about 142k miles on it if
that's of any potential relevance. I
don't know much about it's history of

6 Answers


The oil filter is near the front of the engine (assuming 4.7L) on the driver side, so it's hard to say, based on your description, if it's a problem with the seal on the filter. You obviously have an oil leak that went all over, including onto the exhaust header (which caused the plume of white smoke), whether that leak came from a valve cover, head, or timing chain cover you'll have to investigate on your own. It doesn't seem like it would be a rear main seal from your description. With the extreme freezing conditions, any number of gaskets would shrink and/or be too brittle to provide an adequate seal.

Best Answer

It's a 3.9 V6. Think I shouldn't drive till fixed even with oil kept up?


Rule #1: Don't loan your car to ANYBODY- (no, don't drive it until you have a mechanic check it out- you risk blowin' the engine)


If it's a leaky valve cover you can drive it so long as you keep the oil level up, but it sounds as though you had a major leak, so until you know what that leak is from, I wouldn't drive it. Brutal cold takes its toll on motors that aren't winterized, and oil viscosity especially is affected.

So against my better judgement I added a qt of oil, checked the oil level & drove to go get some groceries. I accelerated up a hill and breaked at a red light. White smoke came billowing out. I took an immediate right and when to park it and the car seized up. Smoke/steam was coming from the radiator. It was radiator fluided & it wasn't making a loud bubbling sound as it dripped everywhere. The second location of the smoke was further back by the engine block & smelled like oil & rubber. Inside the car the gauge barely went past 1/2. When the truck seized I struggled to get it into park. After about 15 mins it stopped smoking and it started up just fine and I was able to park it 10ft away. Thankfully there was a cop there who drove us home. Also it's parked at an autoparts parking lot and literally across the street from the mechanic shop. Any more idea as to what this can be? I have to wait a couple days till I have money to fix it and if I know a little of what may be wrong with it I can call around and get an estimate. The mechanic shop across the street is a break & exhaust place. They said that they can take a look at it but they might not be able to fix it. Thank you so much!


It might be a head gasket. Exhaust gases escape into the water jacket and overheat the radiator fluid, at the same time oil leaks to the ground, but honestly it requires a thorough inspection to make any determination, it can be any number of issues going on. Let's just hope no damage was done to any of the bearings in the engine. You also have to consider the possibility of cracked heads or block but that is the worst case scenario.

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