Phantom Oil Leak...
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This is a discussion on Phantom Oil Leak... within the General Maintenance, Troubleshooting & Accidents. forums, part of the Tech & Modifying & General Repairs category; I have an 03 WRX and rebuilt the engine about 500 miles ago. I had a few minor problems but ...

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    Registered User subcon's Avatar
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    Phantom Oil Leak...

    I have an 03 WRX and rebuilt the engine about 500 miles ago. I had a few minor problems but nothing too bad. The two biggest problems were the leaky thermostat housing and an oil leak that appeared to be coming from the passenger side valve cover. I ordered a new thermostat seal and a new valve cover gasket from Subaru. I got the coolant leak squared away and started working to change the valve cover gasket; I was thinking that the one that was on the car might have been defective. Upon removing the gasket I realized that nothing was wrong with it. Confused, I wiped everything clean and put in the new gasket that I had just purchased. I drove the car home from the shop and hoped that the problem had been solved. This morning, the same leak taunts me. It is coming from somewhere on the bottom side of the valve cover. It isn't the oil line for the turbo and I can't think of anything else on that side of the car where the oil could possibly be coming from to land directly on the bottom side of that valve cover. If anyone has any ideas, please throw them my direction because I am ready to stab my eyes out. Thanks.

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    Moderator Donkey's Avatar
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    What oil are you using?
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    He simply abides. SD_GR's Avatar
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    Isn't there a black plastic housing mounted onto the valve cover? It's visible when standing by the passenger fender and looking straight down. Maybe that's seeping?
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    Registered User subcon's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Donkey View Post
    What oil are you using?
    Castrol conventional 5w-30. I'm more a fan of synthetic but on a brand new, rebuilt engine you're never supposed to use synthetic the first go round.

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    Registered User subcon's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by SD_GR View Post
    Isn't there a black plastic housing mounted onto the valve cover? It's visible when standing by the passenger fender and looking straight down. Maybe that's seeping?
    It's definitely not coming from there. If it were coming from there it would most likely be running down the side of the valve cover. There is nothing but air coming in that way anyway. I appreciate the idea. Anymore suggestions?

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    Moderator Donkey's Avatar
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    Its either turbo drain line or turbo feed line. Buy a mechanics mirror.
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    Registered User subcon's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Donkey View Post
    Its either turbo drain line or turbo feed line. Buy a mechanics mirror.
    It isn't either of those. With the car jacked up I can see that it isn't coming from the oil output line on the turbo; the bolt is clean and there is no burnt oil collected there. As for the input side, there would be evidence of it on the exterior of the engine because of the lines location. It has to be something underneath because the drip keeps reappearing on the back side (the bottom corner nearest to the firewall) of the valve cover...even with the car stationary and not running. The mirror would be helpful however...I actually have one, I just forgot I had it. Thanks for the ideas...keep them coming.

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    Moderator Donkey's Avatar
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    Honestly there are no other ideas except find where the oil is coming from. An oil leak really is very simple to track down (if the oil has some mileage on it). Wipe down/clean motor,drive,find oil leak. Pull the TMIC if you have to but this is a purely visual diagnosis. Trying to diagnose an oil leak over the internet is like Stevie Wonder trying to read braille off a laptop screen.
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    Registered User subcon's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Donkey View Post
    Honestly there are no other ideas except find where the oil is coming from. An oil leak really is very simple to track down (if the oil has some mileage on it). Wipe down/clean motor,drive,find oil leak. Pull the TMIC if you have to but this is a purely visual diagnosis. Trying to diagnose an oil leak over the internet is like Stevie Wonder trying to read braille off a laptop screen.
    I appreciate the help; I knew it was a shot it the dark. I was hoping there was some kind of recall or some recurring problem with the valve covers warping...something to that effect. Thanks again for the suggestions, hopefully I can find the problem soon...

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    Registered User EvoEatr's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by subcon View Post
    I appreciate the help; I knew it was a shot it the dark. I was hoping there was some kind of recall or some recurring problem with the valve covers warping...something to that effect. Thanks again for the suggestions, hopefully I can find the problem soon...

    Those VC gaskets can be a tad difficult sometimes to get on there perfectly....did you use any Fujibond or RTV on the half moons on the back side of the cylinder head or on the corners of the cam towers right behind the timing cover?...If you didnt use any there is a good chance oil will leak at those locations....Ive seen it many many times... Also if you really cant pin point it get some dye and add it to the oil...clean everything off really well..and in a couple days hop back under the car with a black /UV light and the leak location should become noticeable...

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    Registered User subcon's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by EvoEatr View Post
    Those VC gaskets can be a tad difficult sometimes to get on there perfectly....did you use any Fujibond or RTV on the half moons on the back side of the cylinder head or on the corners of the cam towers right behind the timing cover?...If you didnt use any there is a good chance oil will leak at those locations....Ive seen it many many times... Also if you really cant pin point it get some dye and add it to the oil...clean everything off really well..and in a couple days hop back under the car with a black /UV light and the leak location should become noticeable...
    I have done just about all I can think of. It seemed like more and more leaks keep popping up, so I changed the pcv valve thinking that there was too much pressure building in the crank case. I was stoked when I pulled the old valve out and it was so gummed up that it was stuck shut because I thought for sure that the oil leaks would calm down. They seemed to slow down at first but there was so much oil under the car already that it was difficult to tell. From what I can see with the car on jack stands, it looks like the front main seal and the valve cover gasket are the only thing left leaking. It may not be the front main seal leaking, it just looks like it's coming from that area. The half moons on the back side of the head had rtv on them and they are for sure not leaking. As for the humps in the gasket between the timing cover and the valve cover, that may very well be the source of the leak, but with the up pipe in place, it is difficult to spot any oil at all. I will check that out tomorrow; today is wife day. Thanks for the help, I'll continue to update on the situation. If you think of anything else, let me know. Thanks again.
    Last edited by subcon; 01-31-2010 at 12:28 PM. Reason: typographical errors

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    Registered User EvoEatr's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by subcon View Post
    I have done just about all I can think of. It seemed like more and more leaks keep popping up, so I changed the pcv valve thinking that there was too much pressure building in the crank case. I was stoked when I pulled the old valve out and it was so gummed up that it was stuck shut because I thought for sure that the oil leaks would calm down. They seemed to slow down at first but there was so much oil under the car already that it was difficult to tell. From what I can see with the car on jack stands, it looks like the front main seal and the valve cover gasket are the only thing left leaking. It may not be the front main seal leaking, it just looks like it's coming from that area. The half moons on the back side of the head had rtv on them and they are for sure not leaking. As for the humps in the gasket between the timing cover and the valve cover, that may very well be the source of the leak, but with the up pipe in place, it is difficult to spot any oil at all. I will check that out tomorrow; today is wife day. Thanks for the help, I'll continue to update on the situation. If you think of anything else, let me know. Thanks again.
    No problem man...Just common leak areas I see everyday...lol..Like i said if you can..pop under there and clean everything off well and use some tracer dye in the oil it works miracles when it comes to locating the source of the leak...Also..make sure its the front crank seal leaking and not the oil pump....Did you personally rebuild the engine or did you have a shop do it? Did you split the block case halves? What exactly did the "rebuild" include with the exception of ALL new seals ( hopefully)?...

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    Quote Originally Posted by EvoEatr View Post
    No problem man...Just common leak areas I see everyday...lol..Like i said if you can..pop under there and clean everything off well and use some tracer dye in the oil it works miracles when it comes to locating the source of the leak...Also..make sure its the front crank seal leaking and not the oil pump....Did you personally rebuild the engine or did you have a shop do it? Did you split the block case halves? What exactly did the "rebuild" include with the exception of ALL new seals ( hopefully)?...
    I pulled the motor and took it down to the long block and took it to a machine shop; they primarily build race car engines. The rods, crank and block were machined, as well as replacing the bearing sets, seals, gaskets and rings. The valves, springs and seats were replaced as was the timing belt, oil pump and water pump. I reassembled everything and stuck the motor back in the car (I never want to do that again for the record). The car runs fantastic; it has never sounded better, it's just the damn oil leaks...

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    Registered User EvoEatr's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by subcon View Post
    I pulled the motor and took it down to the long block and took it to a machine shop; they primarily build race car engines. The rods, crank and block were machined, as well as replacing the bearing sets, seals, gaskets and rings. The valves, springs and seats were replaced as was the timing belt, oil pump and water pump. I reassembled everything and stuck the motor back in the car (I never want to do that again for the record). The car runs fantastic; it has never sounded better, it's just the damn oil leaks...
    Wow so I suppose they did split the case halves than..I was just thinking this fore there are some o-rings as well as a hell of alot of gasket sealer used to properly re adhere the block halves together...Yeah man give the tracer dye a try...sounds like your best bet at this point...

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    Registered User subcon's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by EvoEatr View Post
    Wow so I suppose they did split the case halves than..I was just thinking this fore there are some o-rings as well as a hell of alot of gasket sealer used to properly re adhere the block halves together...Yeah man give the tracer dye a try...sounds like your best bet at this point...
    At this point I am ready to try anything. I will try the dye and if I still haven't found the leak(s), I am just going to take the damn thing to someone. I hate to do that as I am a mechanic in training but this **** is wearing me down; not to mention my wife threatening to light the car on fire because it consumes all of my free time. I appreciate all of the help, and if at any point you have anymore suggestions, I will keep an eye on the thread. Thanks again.

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