What should I do when my mechanic finds a bunch of leaks but I don't see any oil leaking?

Dear Car Talk

Dear Car Talk | Sep 01, 1999

Dear Tom and Ray:

I have an '89 Toyota Camry, which I maintain in good condition. It has 96,000
miles. At my last oil change, my mechanic, whom I trust, wrote, "Found oil leaks:
distributor O-ring, valve-cover gasket, front crankshaft seal, rear crankshaft
seal, oil pump seal." He said none of this was needed immediately, but he
suggested I do the rear crankshaft seal first. I don't see any oil on the
driveway or anyplace else, and I'm thinking of waiting until I do. Does that make
sense to you guys? -- Mary

TOM: Yes. I would recommend that you do nothing, Mary -- with one exception.

RAY: I WOULD have the crankcase ventilation system checked. If the crankcase
isn't venting properly, pressure could be building up inside the engine, and that
could be what's forcing oil to leak from all of these places -- and some places
you've probably never heard of before.

TOM: But if the crankcase ventilation system is working, I'd sit tight on the oil
leaks themselves. In 15 years of working on Camrys, I've never had to replace a
rear crankshaft seal. So I wouldn't go racing to put in a new one. That doesn't
mean that you won't have to replace yours someday, but it could just as well hold
on for the life of the car.

RAY: What you should do is check your oil level on a regular basis. Start by
checking it once a month, and see how much is actually leaking out. I'd say if
you still have the car when you start losing a quart every 500 miles or so, then
you can ask your mechanic to take another look and consider fixing the worst of
the leaks.

TOM: But until then, I'd say leave the leaks alone. A lot can happen to a car
with 96,000 miles on it, so don't plan too far ahead. The engine could blow, the
transmission could self-destruct, or you could even be abducted by aliens
interested in the longevity of Japanese cars. And if you were abducted by aliens
next summer, wouldn't you be miffed that you just put $400 into a rear engine

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