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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Sometime in the last day or two I noticed that my FJ was leaving a bit of oil in the driveway. It's almost odorless if that helps at all:

Wood Gesture Finger Thumb Road surface


Here is a photo I took of what seems to be the source, but let me know if I should get further under to take a better look:

Automotive tire Motor vehicle Bumper Automotive design Rim


Is this enough information to identify the cause? Also, how big of a concern could this be? And what might a shop tell me is the solution and cost to get the work done? We took a long road trip from central Mexico up to Houston, TX to visit family. By far the most driving I've done with this FJ since I bought it last August. It has continued to perform fine, I've noticed no issues, but of course if something needs to be addressed ASAP I'd like to tackle the problem before we get on the road and do a bunch more highway driving to get back home.

Thanks!
 

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The slight reddish tinge and location of staining under trans leads to auto trans fluid leaking. Need to see more pics of the trans. It could be either the pan gasket weeping or something higher up like a cooling line fitting leaking or worse, something with a torque converter seal. It looks like it's been doing it for awhile, so it should be checked, at least the fluid level in the trans. It needs to be checked asap because it could be low. Look at other areas of the trans to see if you can pinpoint the leak.
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
Thanks for the perspective! I gave the transmission area a closer look, wiped down the really grody areas to see if that would reveal the source and didn't see anything. Looked further up above the transmission and couldn't see any source. The vehicle has a bit over 80k miles and I am pretty sure the transmission filter hasn't yet been replaced, so fingers crossed it's just a failed gasket for the transmission pan. It did seem like one of the engine-side bolts was wet with oil, but I couldn't tell for sure:

Wood Door Automotive tire Automotive exterior Auto part


Visually it does seem like the oil could be bleeding out from around that second from the bottom bolt in the photo. I decided to just take it to a local shop and see what they have to say. After using this trip up north to pick up a front bumper, suspension system, and all the tool necessary to install the new suspension components, I really hope I don't have an expensive transmission repair bill as well. o_O
 

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Discussion Starter · #4 ·
Well, that could have gone worse. Just paid for a diagnostic fee (seemed hefty at $110 but what do I know), and got a list of things I can fix once we get back to Mexico. Nothing of immediate concern. According to them there was no transmission fluid leak, only a combination of some small coolant leaks and engine oil leaks. But small enough leaks that there should be no issue driving back as long as I keep my eye on the levels. I'm familiar with some of the items listed but definitely not all, so can't wait to start digging through the forum for clarifying info in a few weeks. lol
 

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Sorry, I got myself turned around in your original pic. That's the engine oil pan with the crud and oil all over it in your first pic, not the transmission oil pan, so yeah, that's motor oil leaking. It looks like you wiped the trans pan when you were looking. The oil pan is coated in grime and oil. The stuff on your finger looked reddish on my monitor too unfortunately. Judging from the wetness on the oil pan and that puddle on the ground, there's more than a slight oil leak. I'm almost guessing the engine rear main seal is leaking. Did the shop indicate that to you or is it coming from higher up or forward on the engine? There's a lot of staining on the crossmember as well, like it's been doing it for awhile. Do you notice the engine oil level dropping a little too fast between oil changes? And if there's 80K on the auto transmission, it should have a fluid change and filter service before the dreaded transmission shudder rears it's ugly head (search here for that one). Auto trans fluid is NOT lifetime, despite what Toyota claims.
 

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Discussion Starter · #6 ·
No worries at all, I was definitely less than clear with my original post. A result of learning about all this stuff for the first time relatively late in life. Here is their recommended work:

1) Timing cover re-seal with o-rings kit
2) valve cover gasket
3) water pump w/ gasket
4) thermostat housing water outlet o-ring
5) thermostat w/ gasket (already have this part since I had read that changing the thermostat could help improve mpg. then I read that it wasn't worth changing unless you'd tested with a scan tool that the thermostat was actually malfunctioning. now at least I have "real" justification for doing this swap)
6) front crank shaft seal
7) drive belt (I guess because coolant was leaked on it from the thermostat?)
8) oil filter adapter o-ring (was planning to change the oil when we got back anyways)
9) intake plenum gasket
10) vtec solenoid (is there a right side and a left side vtec solenoid? there is a line break in the labor description which confuses things a bit, but at this point I'm assuming it is meant to say left side vtec solenoid)

I haven't yet done my first oil change on it. Bought it only last August and have probably put less than 300 miles before this road trip. Previous owner had changed the oil around 1200 miles previous to sale (or so he claimed), so I decided I'd do my first oil change after we got back from our road trip.

One question. It seemed like the previous owner might have overfilled the oil when he changed it last. Given that we had two 8+ hour driving days over the last two weeks, could that overfilling have created excess pressure and so caused some of these engine oil leaks? I was alerted to the possibility of it being overfilled when I took it to a local shop before leaving, but with the rush I was remiss in really focusing on it as a potential problem.

And yes, thank you for the push to get the transmission fluid changed soon. This event pushed me to look up info on the process, and I plan to do that without waiting too long once we get back home. With some videos I've found on youtube and info here, it looks pretty manageable as something I can do myself.
 

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Too much oil put into the crankcase can damage the rear crank seal and even blow excess oil through the PCV system. Hopefully the engine wasn't too full for too long. I still think from the appearance of things at the back of the oil pan that the rear crank seal is leaking. But I would wait to do anything about figuring that one out until all other oil leaks are fixed. No more oil, then it was from all the other leaks. Still oil there, then you've got a bigger fix.

What year is your FJ? Pre 2010 (2007 to 2009) FJ engines had only had VVIT-i, which controlled only intake camshaft timing. 2010 and up BOTH intake and exhaust camshafts had VVIT control. Each bank or cylinder head of the engine has VVIT solenoids and an accompanying external oil feed line. Sounds like you've got a later FJ from your description of your oil filter cartridge (2010 and up). Maybe one of those oil lines is leaking? Get that one fixed asap if true. If it fails catastrophically, ALL the oil will get pumped out of the engine if it's running when it happens. A HUGE mess and probably engine damage if you don't get it shut down quickly enough.
 

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Discussion Starter · #8 ·
Thanks, I greatly appreciate the information. Mine is a 2009. From that list, are there any items that really stand out as being much more difficult for a novice DIYer to tackle on his own? For instance, at this point all I've done myself is clear the throttle body and MAF. I'll also be doing all my own oil changes, will be installing the suspension system including UCAs I've bought. I've done the research on replacing the thermostat and flushing the coolant system, so I'll be doing that soon. And from the videos and stuff I've read I feel comfortable replacing the transmission filter and flushing the system. So just wondering if all the stuff on that list is around the same level of difficulty? (sounds like if replacing the rear crank seal is necessary that is a more difficult task?)
 

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Here is their recommended work:

1) Timing cover re-seal with o-rings kit
2) valve cover gasket
3) water pump w/ gasket
4) thermostat housing water outlet o-ring
5) thermostat w/ gasket (already have this part since I had read that changing the thermostat could help improve mpg. then I read that it wasn't worth changing unless you'd tested with a scan tool that the thermostat was actually malfunctioning. now at least I have "real" justification for doing this swap)
6) front crank shaft seal
7) drive belt (I guess because coolant was leaked on it from the thermostat?)
8) oil filter adapter o-ring (was planning to change the oil when we got back anyways)
9) intake plenum gasket
10) vtec solenoid (is there a right side and a left side vtec solenoid? there is a line break in the labor description which confuses things a bit, but at this point I'm assuming it is meant to say left side vtec solenoid)

I haven't yet done my first oil change on it.
A high oil level can certainly lead to crank seal leaks. If you haven't corrected the oil level, do it immediately, or do the oil change. At the right oil level, these seals might stop leaking, avoiding the need to change them.

Attached is a Toyota TechTip and a TSB regarding oil leaks and water pump replacements that they made to help people from making needless repairs. Consider this first for each of your listed jobs to see if it is really a leak, or just seepage.

Resealing the timing cover will be expensive or labour intensive if you do it yourself. Look at it closely and see if it really needs to be done before starting down that road or decide if you can live with it.

The transmission filter is just a screen, there is no need to replace it and you risk pan leaks after if you do change it. Just change the fluid with Toyota WS fluid unless the transmission pan is already leaking.

The water pump may be OK if it sounds ok and is just normal seepage or dried coolant at the weep holes. Review the TechTip first to see what is normal. Some slight leak is sometimes indicates a need to change the coolant rather than the pump. You can buy premixed coolant at Toyota.
 

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You can pretty much do everything if you're mechanically inclined and have the patience, fortitude and tools. There's easy access to the service manuals for your year rig right here at this link too:


The transmission change and refill job is a little more involved since there's no dipstick, only a fill plug on the side of the trans and the drain plug on the bottom. You have to drain, refill, run the engine to circulate out the old oil still in the torque converter and radiator cooler, drain again and repeat a couple of times. Keep track of the amount you drain and be sure to put back in a similar amount of new fluid. When your doing the final fill, read what you need to do in the link below because trans temp is important for the final oil level check. You don't have to replace the screen, but if you find that the pan seal IS leaking, THEN you can pull the pan down and clean it as FJ6-MT pointed out at this time. He gave you a couple of really informative PDF's. Otherwise just drain and refill, following the procedure below. If of coarse you have access to a flushing system or a mechanic who has a reliably clean auto trans flusher and will use Toyota trans fluid, you can go that route. But it will of coarse cost you some cash.


The timing cover seal replacement involves taking off the water pump anyway, so if the pump is leaking a significant amount of coolant out the weep hole behind the pulley, you could replace it at the same time. All the other seals are just labor intensive when taking apart the top of the engine and require patience and care. The VVT lines (they're big metal lines and are found on the front/side of each cylinder head) can be checked for leaks or cracks at this time as well. I don't know why the mechanic flagged the intake seals. Is the engine running rough or the ECU throwing a code?
 

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Discussion Starter · #12 ·
I don't know why the mechanic flagged the intake seals. Is the engine running rough or the ECU throwing a code?
Fantastic info, thanks!

That's something I should have thought to ask, if any codes popped up. I just assumed that they would have told me all relevant info, but this is the first mechanic shop I've interacted with in 15+ years so I'm a little out of practice. Is it worth investing in one of the "cheaper" obdii scanners, to check into things like this?

I would say the engine runs very smoothly, gears shift smoothly, no weird sounds/vibrations/anything noticeable. Day 1 we drove 8+ hours from central to northern Mexico, and I really don't recall any oil puddles being left in the driveway for the week or so when we were in Monterrey. Then we drove 8+ hours up to Houston, and it was here where I started noticing the leaks. I agree that the amount of oily grime depicted in the first pic was very significant. I'm wondering if there were a few smaller leaks that got it started, and then the two long days of driving opened it up enough to create that dirtiness.

In terms of the engine oil being overfilled, I assume that you should check the dip stick after the engine has been running for a bit (obviously turning the engine off first). Wipe it off, then put it back in to check the level, which should be between the two markings? That should give you an accurate reading? Because when I've done that, oil has been consistently still well over the higher marking, hence me thinking that the previous owner overfilled when he did the last oil change. Suffice to say I am extremely excited to get home and give it my first oil change!
 

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If there's synthetic oil in the engine, it's kind of hard to read since the stuff likes to creep up the dipstick when you pull it out. I think FJTest had the best solution for that problem. He glass beaded the end of the dipstick to give it a rough surface and that helps keep the oil from creeping up the stick for accurate readings. I usually check my oil when the engine is cold. That oil/dipstick creep issue seems to be less of an issue cold since the oil is slightly thicker, but it's still an irritating quirk, especially with 0W-20 synthetics. If I'm doing an oil change, I let the engine sit for a few minutes after the first fill and run so that the oil drains back into the pan and then check it to see what I need to add to replace what filled the new empty oil filter upon restart. If you check the oil and it's higher than it should be, you should definitely remove some of the oil or even change it and put in the right amount asap.

As for the intake seals, I wonder if the mechanic did the old run propane gas around the intake seals to see if the engine picked it up. I wouldn't depend on that if the ECU hasn't thrown a code, the engine runs fine and just leave well enough alone, unless you find a code. But I'd think a CEL light would be "ON" in the dash if that were the case. A lot of people here recommended this Bluetooth OBDII reader from BAFX. I just bought one to use with my Android tablet, it's great and gives me all sorts of relevant information. You need to purchase either the Torque Pro app (or another listed by BAFX) from the Google Play Store (it's cheap) and use either an Android tablet or Android smart phone to read what's going on with your FJ. If you're living in the Appleverse, there are other options as well.

 

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Discussion Starter · #14 ·
Again, fantastic info, thanks! I didn't know that about synthetics but that's exactly what I was seeing. Even with that I feel sure I was able to visually verify that the previous owner had overfilled the oil. Now that we're back home (it was just too difficult to address this before then, and I took the risk that if it held together on the drive up it would hold together on the drive down), it's time to get to work! The old oil filter was majorly over tightened but managed to get it loose. And look what I found when I checked the drain plug:

Table Dishware Tableware Textile Plate


Apparently, instead of sourcing the proper gasket (or any kind of gasket for that matter!), he just put a bunch of silicon as a "seal." Amazing! He seemed like such a nice and relatively competent guy during the transaction. That could be part of the story, right? Engine oil leaking from the drain plug and blowing back during driving? I don't believe it's the whole story though. I need to go through the docs you guys have provided, go through the coolant system and give the engine bay a close inspection. And of course the one thing I forgot to order while we were in the states was the replacement gaskets for the drain plug, so I'll have to wait for Amazon to deliver those down here. Poco a poco, as we say down here, little by little.
 

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A leaky drain plug would definitely be a big part of an oil leak, especially if the previous owner tried silicone instead of a gasket. Duh! The air flow under the vehicle would then blow it backwards while driving. Once the plug has a proper drain gasket, hopefully a major source of any external oil will be fixed. Say, why didn't that shop mechanic notice all that lovely silicone and comment on it? That had to show up like a giant fat wart. I bet it wasn't hard to peel off either. :oops:
 

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Discussion Starter · #16 ·
Ya, the fact that the mechanic didn't notice the silicone kinda confirms my suspicious that they only gave a cursory glance at my vehicle. Hopefully the laundry list of small leaks he gave me were just things that "could" be leaking, as opposed to leaks they actually verified. When I picked it up the boss said they had topped off the fluids, but I checked afterwards and the oil was still overfilled, so it seems like they didn't even check the oil level. Cost me $120 to remind myself why I hate going to mechanics.

On the plus side the drain plug gaskets came in today, a few days earlier than expected, so I can get this taken care of. What's a good cleaner for getting gunky oil off the underside of the vehicle?
 

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Discussion Starter · #17 ·
Well, got halfway through the oil change and found out why the previous owner used silicone. He somehow managed to strip the threads on the oil pan and/or drain plug. When I went to screw back in the drain plug, it would screw in up to the point that it was finger tight, but then would start to spin freely when I tried to tighten it to spec with my torque wrench. I noticed the same but in reverse when I was unscrewing it initially as well, it seems to spin freely and then catch and get tight when it started to actually unscrew, exactly as if some of the threading was stripped. How does the drain plug look to you:

Hand Tire Body jewelry Finger Wood


I've never see a new FJ Cruiser drain plug bolt in person, but to my eye the threads towards the "head" of the bolt (where my fingers are) seem like they've been stripped. Now, please check my thinking. The oil pan is relatively thin metal. The upper part of the bolt screwed in like normal. It only began to spin freely once the bolt was nearly all the way in. Is that enough to say that the threads on the pan should be fine, and I should just need a new drain plug bolt? Obviously, I want to do this right, but I'd rather not start taking apart the FJ unless it's necessary.
 
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