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Three Ways to Deal with a Leaking Oil Pan Bolt or Stripped Threads

Updated on September 8, 2016

Every now and then, you will find a mechanic who thinks the oil drain bolt should be tightened with an impact gun. An oil pan is made from either stamped steel or aluminum, and either metal can be damaged if the oil drain bolt is over-tightened or cross-threaded. Stripping the threads in the pan can cause the oil to leak out around the bolt.

It's unfortunate when a customer comes in for a simple oil change and ends up walking out of the dealership with a bill for over $200. Usually a customer will never even know the oil pan or its bolt are damaged until the next visit to the garage, because if the mechanic who caused the problem tells you about it it makes him look like a bad mechanic.

Here are three options for dealing with a leaking oil drain bolt and damaged oil-pan threads.

Temporary rubber drain bolt
Temporary rubber drain bolt

Option 1: Use a Rubber Plug as a Temporary Repair

If you are in a tight spot and you don't have time to repair the threads in the oil pan, you could install an rubber drain plug for the oil pan. The rubber plug is used as a temporary fix, and it's not meant to be a permanent fix. There are several different styles; you just need to choose the correct one for your application. Once the rubber plug is installed, be sure to tug on it and push it to make sure it is installed correctly. Run the engine until it reaches normal operating temperature—that is, until the engine cooling fan cycles twice—and check for leaks.

Keep reading: options 2 and 3 give you peace of mind and they are permanent.

Option 2: Repairing the Oil Pan Threads With a Helicoil

Using a helicoil is one option for repairing threads. The helicoil is a hardened steel thread insert that comes in many different sizes and thread pitch. Repair with a helicoil is strong and permanent. I have used helicoils to repair head bolts without regret.

Option 3: Repairing the Oil Pan Threads With a TIME-SERT

The third and best option for repairing oil pan drain bolt threads is to use a drain bolt repair kit made by TIME-SERT. The kit comes with everything you need to produce a professional repair that will last for the life of the car—as long as nobody screws it up again.

A Time-Sert insert is similar to the helicoil, but is specially designed to repair damaged oil pans. The kit also comes with new oil drain bolts and sealing washers. This is a plus, and there is no need to try to match up the thread pitch or find the right diameter bolt to fit the pan after the repair.

The TIME-SERT Kit: Highly Recommended

How to Install the TIME-SERT Threads

Using the Time-SERT kit, you can install threads in this oil pan in about 30 minutes without removing the oil pan.
Using the Time-SERT kit, you can install threads in this oil pan in about 30 minutes without removing the oil pan. | Source

Replacing Missing Threads on an Aluminum Oil Pan

If you are repairing aluminum oil pan drain bolt threads, no problem, TIME-SERT works extremely well during this application and the repair looks like it came from the factory. I have had to make at least 50 repairs on oil pans during my automotive career, and Time-Sert has been the best oil pan drain bolt repair kit on the market that I have used. The TIME-SERT kit is a bit expensive, but it doesn't compare to the cost of replacing the oil pan—or the cost of replacing the complete engine because you lost all the engine oil.

The cost of replacing an aluminum oil pan can easily exceed $500 for parts and labor. You need to remove the sub-frame on some vehicles to remove the oil pan and that alone can get costly. Using a Time-Sert repair kit will take about 30 minutes from start to finish with professional results.

If you have any questions leave them in the comment box below, and I will answer them as soon as possible. Thanks for stopping by.

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    • natures47friend profile image

      natures47friend 5 years ago from Sunny Art Deco Napier, New Zealand.

      I never knew anyone would be silly enough to over tighten an oil drain plug unless they were a first timer or a kid learning. Great hub...up and interesting.

    • eddiecarrara profile image

      Eddie Carrara 5 years ago from New Hampshire

      We see a lot of mechanics over tighten drain bolts, they are either in a hurry or they will use an impact gun, cross thread the drain bolt or just stretch the treads beyond repair. The best way to re install the drain bolt is by hand, and then tighten it a 1/4 turn to crush the aluminum washer. Thanks for taking the time to comment natures47friends, I really appreciate it.

    • profile image

      Mit1 4 years ago

      Which TIME-SERT Metric Thread Repair Kit would i need to

      repair 2001 Mitsubitshi Montero sport oil pan?

    • eddiecarrara profile image

      Eddie Carrara 4 years ago from New Hampshire

      Hi Mit,

      You would need the M14 x 1.50 metric, let me know if you have any other questions or if I can help in any other way, thanks.

    • profile image

      Mit1 4 years ago

      Appreciate it! Thank you so much!

    • eddiecarrara profile image

      Eddie Carrara 4 years ago from New Hampshire

      Sure Mit, glad I could help :) If you have any question about installation, I'll be right here :)

    • profile image

      Katlin 3 months ago

      Thank you for this very helpful.

      Happened to me in my Chevy Cruze. $600 to replace the oil pan. Way better solution

    • profile image

      Robert C 2 months ago

      Have you heard of Eco Plug and do you recommend it?

    • profile image

      Chuck 2 months ago

      Which Time-Sert metric thread repair kit would I need to repair a 2009 Mitsubishi Galant oil pan

    • eddiecarrara profile image

      Eddie Carrara 2 months ago from New Hampshire

      Hi Chuck,

      If you call an auto parts store, they should be able to give you that spec.

    • profile image

      Mark 2 weeks ago

      Can I do this without removing the oil pan? What about debris?

    • eddiecarrara profile image

      Eddie Carrara 2 weeks ago from New Hampshire

      Hi Mark,

      No, you don't have to remove the pan, and the debris is minimal and can be flushed out by spraying brake clean in the oil pan and rinse it out. Let me know if you have more questions.

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