Oil Spilled On Engine: Is It Bad & What Might Happen?

Engines are considered to be the heart and soul of every vehicle that can be seen on the streets of every nation, car engines come in different sizes and horsepower depending on the type of vehicle.

Since they are internal combustion types of engines they are usually powered by fuel such as diesel and gasoline, but aside from the source of power engines also require certain maintenance to prolong their life such as proper cleaning, check-up, and replacing old or damaged engine parts.

While the other parts of the car require oil maintenance wherein sometimes gets spilled on the engine can lead to serious engine problems that can have a negative impact while the vehicle is being driven.

Is Spilling Oil On The Engine Bad?

Yes, and there are several reasons why it is very bad for the engine.

Fire Hazard

Since oil is considered to be a flammable type of chemical and can easily be a fire starter especially if it comes in contact with an engine that is hot.

Since most vehicle engines can get hot while being driven or due to external factors such as heat waves the spilled oil can cause a chain reaction that can internally start a fire within the interior of the vehicle which is why it is very dangerous to spill oil into the engine.

Smoke and Odor

If the oil has been accidentally spilled on the engine it can also cause a distinct burning odor which can be very dangerous for the driver as well as the passenger since when it is inhaled it can lead to certain lung diseases because a burn oil odor is considered to be hazardous and even poisonous for some people that has respiratory problems.

Young woman hold her nose because of bad odor from the car.

Engine Damage

Accidents do happen at some point aside from being a fire hazard the spilled oil can also damage the other components of the engine such as the seals, and gaskets, and can lead to a decrease meant of the engine’s overall performance.

This can be devastating to the owner since it can lead to an entire engine replacement which is very expensive and bothersome.

Environmental Impacts

Since the oil has been spilled in the engine some of the excess oil might have gone to the soil or grass which can harm the environment because it can start a fire or poison the vegetations which can have negative and long-term effects on the environment.

What Happens If You Spill Oil On Your Engine?

There are major problems that can happen to the vehicle if the oil is spilled on the engine.

1.     It damages the engine’s paint

The chemical properties of the oil can damage the paint or better-called sealers on the engine wherein it keeps the internal parts of the engine safe from external dirt and water.

2.     It can attract dirt and debris

Oil spilled on the engine can attract dirt and debris which can cause problems for the engine and even reduce its performance, since some of the dirt can also get into the gears or any other moving parts of the engine can also lead to engine breakdown which can be dangerous for the driver.

Close up shot of professional car detailer cleaning car engine space with a brush .

3.     It can lead to fire

Since oil can be seen as a fire hazard a simple spark or excessive heat can lead to fire which can lead to an explosion of the engine since there are times that the engine is overheating.

4.     The serpentine belt can come off

This is perhaps one of the most notable parts of the engine which can come off if it has been spilled with the oil it can lead to catastrophic accidents and endanger the lives of the driver as well as its passengers.

Can Spilling Oil On The Engine Cause A Fire?

YES, oil spilled on the engine can cause fire, and here are the reasons.

Oil is a flammable substance – the chemical properties of the oil are considered to be flammable and can easily start a fire internally, especially if the oil spills when the engine is turned on.

Engines have electrical components – since most modern engines have more electrical parts built inside them, sometimes certain sparks can occur especially when the vehicle has been started and when it comes in contact with spilled oil it can start a fire and sometimes even an explosion of the vehicle.

The hot exhaust systems of the vehicle – the exhaust systems of the car can have excessive heat temperatures this is needed to properly ventilate the hot air inside the vehicle but these excessive heat temperatures can also make the spilled oil become a fire starter which can cause a fire.

Will Oil Spilled On The Engine Burn Off?

It may burn off depending on the type of engine since there are different varieties of engines in the market today. As soon it comes in contact with the engine that revs up the driver can smell the burning oil from inside the vehicle sometimes there might be smoke that can come from the engine signaling the oil is being burned.

However, there are instances that the entire spilled oil will get burned which is why it is still best to manually clean it since the smell of the burned oil can be hazardous to the health as well to the health of the passengers because the smell of burned oil can be very poisonous especially if the exposure is long term.

It is also harmful to the environment since burning oil can have a negative impact on the environment because it can damage other living things which is why the burning oil must be attended to as quickly as possible.

What Do You Put In Spilled Engine Oil?

In case oil spills on the engine, it is very important to clean it up as soon as possible to avoid staining the engine components as well as penetrating the internal parts of the engine which can have moving or electrical components.

The best way to prevent any more spillage is to place a dry and self-absorbent cloth to absorb the oils as much as possible, and place as many self-absorbent cloths into the engine to absorb all the oils as quickly as possible to prevent any more damage that can occur from the oil spillage and also keep the moving parts of the engine from the oil spill.

Then carefully wipe the engine with the dry cloth and continue placing another dry cloth as long as there is oil being absorbed this will help you monitor if there are still excessive oils that are still in the engine area.

How To Clean Spilled Oil From An Engine?

Here are some of the steps to do in case oil spills on the engine.

1.     Absorb the Oil

To properly clean the oil, wipe it with a self-absorbent cloth or rag to be able to absorb as much oil as possible, place it on the area where there large spillage of oil, and let it absorb the oil.

2.     Sweep Up the Oil Properties

After removing the cloth or rag there are still some oil properties left which is why it is best to sweep it with a material that has brushes or bristles such as a broom or toothbrush to fully clean the engine area.

3.     Clean The Entire Area That Has Been Spilled

To fully clean the area use a mixture of dish soap and water to scrub and clean the entire area of the engine removing all the oil properties that have been left. Then rinse it with water and wipe it with a dry towel.

4.     Dispose Of The Waste Properly

After wiping and cleaning, some rags have oils on them which is why it is best to dispose of them properly by bringing them to a recycling facility wherein they have the proper tools how to properly dispose of the oil properties

Expert Tip: But in case the oil has penetrated the other parts of the engine it is best to seek assistance from a professional mechanic to help you clean the entire engine without causing any damage plus it is a great way to get assistance in assessing the status of the engine after an oil spill has occurred.

This is also a great way to be relieved of the unexpected expenses from the oil spills since the professional mechanic will be the one to guide and help you take care of and safeguard the engine.


In conclusion, having oil spilled on the engine can be dangerous since it is flammable and can make the engine explode which is why it is best to be equipped with the right knowledge and information.

When it comes to cleaning oil spills on the engine of your vehicle, especially if you want to save some money in the long run and be able to prolong the life of your engine in the process it is best that before conducting any cleaning process try to seek assistance from a professional mechanic to avoid damaging your engine.

But in case this occurs, the best thing to do is to be able to place a dry rag or cloth on the affected to absorb as much oil as possible to prevent any penetration on the other parts of the engine.

Avatar photo
About Brock Rangel

Hi, I am Brock, and I am the lead editor/photographer for TheCarColony. I have been a mechanic for over 14 years now, and I am here to spread my car knowledge across the web!