Oil Drip (ugh, there's always something)

1997ThunderbirdLXV6

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Am I the only one who expects a 28-year-old car to be perfect? Only to be disappointed again and again...

After my transmission service, I started looking under the car to check for leaks. Sure enough, there was a drip from the bell housing:

20240206_145457.jpg20240206_155641.jpg

I noticed it two days ago and again today. This approx. 4"×4" stain comes from parking for just 20 minutes:
20240206_152236.jpg

On a white towel, it looks like this:
20240206_152309.jpg

Compared to coolant:
20240206_152616.jpg

Compared to oil:
20240206_152915.jpg


The last oil change was 800 miles ago. Ironically, that was the first time I ever used an oil marketed as "high mileage": Pennzoil Platinum High Mileage 5W30, which should prevent leaks!
Prior to that, I used Supertech full synthetic once, Valvoline full synthetic twice, and Motorcraft blend the rest of the time, all 5W30. There's never been any leaking on the ground, though the bottom of the oil pan has always been moist.

Checking the oil level, it is still about 1 mm above the top hole on the dipstick. Could it be that I overfilled it, and that causes this? I don't see myself doing that, but who knows...
Could the new oil brand/type have caused this?

What should I do, if anything other than monitoring? I park on the street; small drippings aren't an immediate concern. I'm more concerned about a small leak potentially growing bigger.
 
Let me add:
It seems most noticeable after very short drives, when the car was cold.

I just got home, and I don't see dripping.
 
I would start by leaving a fresh paper towel/ cardboard box under the car to collect a better sample. Yes, it does look like oil, but you need to make absolutely sure. Then you would have to get in there and investigate. I do not think the different oil brands/ types matter that much. Never did. I know some people that only use oil for diesel engines and they seem fine to me. I use conventional Valvoline. I highly doubt the type of oil would be the cause of your leak. More likely something else on the 28yo car.
 
Looks like you need a new motor and trans. LS7/TR6060 would fit nice😅.

Brake clean and rags are your friend. Get under it and clean any oil off you can. That way next time you see it, there is a better chance of identifying where it's coming from
 
These cars lose oil. That's nothing, really.At this point. the front and rear mains at the crank are leaky, the oil pan and filter adapter gasket are leaky, and there's oil going into the exhaust. :) If the stains on the driveway bug you, put a 1/2" layer of cat litter on the driveway, under the leak(s),and sweep it/change it every week.
 
IIRC you have a low mile car so it may have went long intervals of not being driven. That can cause seals to dry out and leak. Hopefully it isn't, but if it looks like oil and is coming from the bell housing it's likely the rear main seal. From what I know the older Chevy engines commonly leak at the rear main, and being the 3.8 it's a similar old school engine.
You can find additives that claim to help. But the only real fix requires a transmission removal to get to it.
Like other said clean it up and recheck to locate the leak. Maybe it's just an oil pan gasket or something. When the vehicle is at speed leaks can get all over the underside.

Am I the only one who expects a 28-year-old car to be perfect? Only to be disappointed again and again...
Yes, and yes. :ROFLMAO:
 
It's definitely not overfilled either. This is from the owner's manual. Kind of funny: they tell you to put in a little more, because why not...

Screenshot_20240207_165638_Samsung Notes.jpg
 
If you put 6 quarts in a 4.6, it will make noise; I think the pistons slap the oil. they mean 5.3 qts, lol.
 
Is that the difference between checking oil Hot or Cold ?
 
Is that the difference between checking oil Hot or Cold ?

No. The page in the manual states that the oil must be warm when checking, but that's unrelated to that image.

Following that image, the manual states: "It may be necessary to add some oil between oil changes."
So they're saying after an oil change it may be high, but don't worry, it'll consume some.
 
Oil level always reads high after a change until you start the engine and circulate the new oil through it.

(Assuming you don't prime the filter first.)
 
Oil level always reads high after a change until you start the engine and circulate the new oil through it.

(Assuming you don't prime the filter first.)

After changing the oil and filter hold the gas pedal to the floor and crank it for a bit. Car wont start and it will get oil into the filter and circulating.
 
Normally I prime the filter. But yeah, that usually works too.
 
Start up top in the rear and work your way down looking for leaks. A few years ago I was convinced I had a leaking rear main on our '97. Wound up being a coolant leak, but by the time it got to the ground it had mixed with all the oil and grease on the engine and it looked like oil. I know on several 3.8 cars I've worked on through the years I came across loose valve cover bolts more than once.
 

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