What Happens If You Spill Oil On Your Engine?

Whether you are a certified mechanic, a DIYer, or a novice motorist, we have all spilled motor oil on our engine at one point or another when changing engine oil.

It could be you are refilling the oil, and something happens; you take off your eye from the oil filler cap, or someone mistakenly shakes your hand. Regardless the reasons, you must agree that spilling oil on the engine is messy, and cleaning it is a bit frustrating.

In this article, I’ll discuss what happens if you spill oil on your engine. You’ll also learn what to do if you spill oil on engine. Grab a seat while I walk you through the consequences of not cleaning spilled oil on engine cover.

what happens if you spill oil in your car

What Happens if you spill oil on your Car Engine?

No doubt spilled oil on the engine will make the engine compartment dirty and messy. The spilled oil will accumulate dirt on the engine component as you drive. This is quite true for vehicles with no underneath cover.

Spilling oil on engine can be dangerous if you do not clean it. If the spilled oil touches the drive belt, it will cause the belt to pull off or break. If this happens, the power steering, the alternator, the AC, and other functions will stop working.

But will oil spilled on the engine catch fire? Yes, spilled oil on the engine is a fire hazard, especially when it spills on hot engine components like the exhaust manifold. Also, it can cause fire hazards if it spills where there’s an electrical spark in the engine compartment.

What could be more panic-inducing than seeing a cloud of white smoke from your engine compartment with a burnt smell? If you have spilled oil on the engine; white smoke is coming from the engine bay, it means the oil has dripped on the exhaust, which can cause fire hazards.

Now that we have seen what happens if you spill motor oil on your engine, let’s look at how to clean oil spill on engine to prevent these dangers from happening.

What do you do if you spill oil on my engine?

With over a decade in the mechanic garage, I have spilled oil on car engines several times, especially during my early days in the mechanic field. Plus, I have watched my colleagues and trainees make the same mistakes. Of course, it is not often, but it happens.

But is it bad if you spill oil on the engine? If you spill oil on the engine compartment and clean it properly, there’s nothing wrong. However, you’re at risk if you ignore the spilled oil. Here are a few things you should do when you spill oil on the engine.

Keep filling the oil

Do not stop filling the motor oil because you spill oil on the engine. Keep filling the oil until you are done. Check the oil level with a dipstick after filling it to ensure it is at the right level.

Here’s why I said you shouldn’t stop until you are done filling the oil. You may spill the oil again, and I know you won’t want to repeat the cleaning. Therefore, I recommend you get a funnel if you don’t have any. A funnel will prevent you from spilling oil on the engine.

Clean up the spilled oil

The truth is, some of the spilled oil may have dripped beyond your reach. But don’t worry. Concentrate on the one you can access and clean it thoroughly using a paper towel or cotton rag.

Pay more attention to the exhaust manifolds, pulleys, and electrical components if the oil spills in these areas. The oil can swell, weaken, pull off, or break the drive belt, leading to several issues in the engine.

You don’t need to proceed to the next steps if you can reach out and properly clean all the spilled oil.

Flush the engine

Apply a degreaser on the spilled parts and allow it to douse. Let it stay for a few minutes, and flush the engine using a steam washer or garden hose. However, you need to apply caution here. Avoid spraying water directly on electrical components like connectors, alternators, and wiring harnesses if they are avoidable.

Start the vehicle

After washing the engine, leave the bonnet open for the engine bay to dry for some minutes. Now, turn on the engine and run it for some time. Don’t panic if the belt squeals or you perceive a burning smell. It’ll go off in a short while. The spilled engine oil and the degreaser will burn off and cause a burning smell.

how to clean oil spill on engine

Frequently Asked Questions – FAQs

Q: Can spilled oil damage an engine?

Spilling oil on your engine may not look like a big deal, but if you ignore it, the outcome will be negative. Spilled oil on the engine could damage engine components and lead to fire outbreaks that could damage the entire vehicle and endanger your life and your passengers. Hence, it is crucial to clean spilled motor oil, no matter how small.

Q: How long does it take for spilled oil to burn off engine?

It’ll take less time for the spilled oil to burn off engine if you run the engine for long. This is true because running the engine for long will produce enough heat to burn off the spilled motor oil. It’ll take 10 to 45 minutes or a few hours for spilled oil to completely burn off from the engine.

Q: Can I drive my car after spilling oil?

Yes, you can drive your car after spilling oil. Spilled oil will not prevent the vehicle from moving. However, you can doesn’t mean you should. Driving with spilled oil may cause the drive belt to pull off, which will stop certain car functions like preventing the battery from charging and stopping the power steering system and the air conditioner from working.

Plus, as the engine gets hot, white smoke will emit from under the hood. The smoke will continue until the spilled oil is completely burnt off.

Q: How much does it cost to clean oil off an engine?

Typically, you don’t have to spend money to clean oil off an engine. You only need to get a paper towel or rag and clean off the oil. If your mechanic spills the oil, you have nothing to worry about because he will clean it at no extra cost.

However, if you pour a large sum of oil on the engine beyond cleaning with a rag, you may have to call a professional to thoroughly clean the engine. Expect to pay $100 to $150 for the cleaning.

Final Words

If you have been reading to this point, you’ll no longer ask what happens if you spill oil on your engine. Spilled oil on the engine can pose risk if you refuse to clean it. So, if you spill motor oil on the engine when changing it, be sure to clean it thoroughly before driving out of the garage.

Otherwise, you risk damaging the drive belt if the spilled oil reaches it. It can also cause fire hazards if the oil spills on hot engine parts like the exhaust manifold. You can search for spilled oil on engine Reddit to see other motorists’ experiences before driving with spilled oil on the engine.

Osuagwu Solomon

Osuagwu Solomon is a certified mechanic with over a decade of experience in the mechanic garage, and he has over five years of experience in the writing industry. He started writing automotive articles to share his garage experience with car enthusiasts and armature mechanics. If he is not in the garage fixing challenging mechanical problems, he is writing automotive repair guides, buyer’s guides, and car and tools comparisons.

Recent Posts