Needing to change your car’s engine oil can be a sticky situation, especially if the oil drain plug itself is stuck. Usually, you won’t be able to unscrew the plug because –
- A mixture of dirt, debris, and oil created a thick sludge around the plug
- The plug is rusty and there is too much friction
- It was tightened too much.
It might seem like a messy and tough job to unplug the oil drain, but it is actually quite simple. You just need the necessary tools and a few additional items to help make the job easier. Let’s look into all the details.
Why Does the Oil Drain Plug Get Stuck?
There are several reasons why you might struggle with changing the engine oil when the drain plug itself is the main problem. Here are some of the common causes:
Lack of Maintenance
When you send your car out for maintenance regularly, be sure that the vital components will be cleaned as well.
Maintenance includes keeping the engine oil area clean for drainage and refills when needed. So when you keep skipping this, the plug will wear over time and even get misshapen.
Rust Around the Outside
Over time, there will be a buildup of rust on the outer part of the plug. This can happen mainly due to changes in weather and overexposure to moisture. The rust will harden the outer surface of the plug, thus making it stuck.
Rounded-off Edges in the Plug
If your car’s oil drain plug has already been replaced once, it is likely that the plug or bolt was cross threaded in the hole. As a result, the drain plug gets rounded off.
This can also be a result of the oil drain plug having been replaced once already. While it was replaced, it is likely that the mechanics tightened the plug way too much.
If the plug is tightened beyond the torque recommended in the car owner’s manual, then it will be extremely difficult to unplug it manually afterward.
Engine oil can slowly turn into sludge as it attracts dust and debris over time. This increases the oil pressure and can get into the plug. The sludge will eventually harden, and then lock the plug shut.
How to Remove a Stuck Oil Drain Plug
Before you get started, there are a couple of essential tools you need to gather first. Here’s what you’ll need:
- Gator grip
- Hydraulic car jack
- Socket/impact wrench
- Penetrating oil
With the help of these tools, these are some ways you can pry open the stuck oil drain plug:
Let the Car Warm up
The first thing you should try is turning on your car, and then leaving it idle for several minutes so that it warms up. The heat generated from the car will expand the plug hole and allow it to come loose easier.
After the car warms up, take the hydraulic jack and lift it up and crawl under your car to find the oil drain plug. Make sure to turn the plug counterclockwise to unscrew it open.
Tap using a Hammer and Oil
Spray some penetrating oil in the oil drain plug and let it stay like that for a couple of hours. Then take a hammer and tap the plug counterclockwise until it loosens down.
Loosen with a Socket/Impact Wrench
Check your drain plug’s size and get a socket wrench of the same size. It is best to use an impact wrench if you are experienced with car repair. Otherwise, you just need to be a little more careful with this method.
You will also need to use the car jack and lift up the car, as the wrench might not fit underneath the car while you work with it.
Make sure to release the trigger as soon as the plug start turning. If you let it turn for too long, the plug will come undone completely and the engine oil will spill out.
Use a Lubricant
A lubricant or rust remover will work best if the oil drain plug is stuck because of rust or sludge.
Get a good quality lubricant and spray it on the plug and let it sit for several minutes to allow for the chemical reaction to occur. Then go ahead and use a wrench to turn the plug.
Remove with a Gator Grip
As the name itself suggests, a gator grip has little teeth-like structures that allow a strong clutch on surfaces. Take a gator grip and place it around the plug, and then turn it anticlockwise until the plug loosens accordingly.
Send the Car to a Mechanic
If you have exhausted all your options and the plug is still stuck, then it is best to take your car to a mechanic. Skilled professionals will ensure the best fixes are implemented in a safe manner for the oil drain plug to come off.
How to Avoid Oil Drain Plugs from Getting Stuck
Prevention is better than cure, so there are a couple of practices to maintain to ensure the oil drain plug doesn’t get stuck again. Here are some things you can follow:
Always use the Right Tools
Avoid using tools such as breaker bars or adjustable wrenches. These will likely damage the shape of the plug and cause it to be leaky after you manage to extract it once.
Don’t use Tools Without Prior Experience
Tools like impact wrenches can be useful, but can go horribly wrong if you’ve never used them before. An impact wrench creates a significant amount of torque.
So, if you don’t stop the trigger at the right moment, the plug will come off and will lose its shape when you screw it back in.
Send for Maintenance Regularly
Taking your car for maintenance can feel like a tedious task, but it is necessary to ensure the best health of your car.
A stuck oil drain plug might not have seemed like a major issue until you faced it – and this can be easily avoided if your car is properly cared for by mechanics from time to time.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
How can I detect a faulty oil drain plug?
This is a check you can do visually – look for leaks or accumulated dirt around the oil drain plug.
Why is my oil drain plug leaking oil even after screwing it tightly?
If the plug was removed and replaced once already using a heavy-duty tool, the size will have expanded and the plug won’t fit properly, thus leaking the oil.
When should I replace the oil drain plug?
When you notice that the plug is heavily covered in dirt, is leaking, or is stuck, then it is time to get a new one installed.
Can removing the oil drain plug affect the oil pan?
Yes, the car’s oil pan can get damaged if you use a tool with too much torque to open the oil drain plug.
Having an oil drain plug that is stuck can be frustrating, but it is not something unfixable. All you need are the right tools and knowledge on how to use them properly.
If not, you can always fix a stuck plug with a help of a professional. With regular maintenance and by avoiding the usage of unnecessary tools, the condition of the oil drain plug will stay well for longer.