Oil Drain Plug Stuck

Having your vehicle serviced regularly improves performance and extends the life of the car. Getting an oil change means the oil drain plug must be removed. When the plug is stuck or stripped, it can really be a pain. Since you must get an oil change periodically, this article show you how to get that stubborn plug unstuck.

What is an Oil Drain Plug

Many people have no idea what an oil drain plug (view on Amazon) is or why it matters if it gets stuck. However, a stuck oil drain plug can stop you from getting an oil change. The oil drain plug is an oversized nut that is lodged under or beside the oil pan under the engine. The plug will measure either ¼, 3/8, ½ or ¾ inches. Although it’s pretty small, the oil drain plug is very important. It keeps the oil (view on Amazon) from flowing out of the oil pan against natural forces of gravity and pressure generated inside the crankcase.

The oil drain plug is positioned at the lowest point on the pan. The oil pan is attached to the lowest point under the engine. Some may be located more to side to prevent damage while driving over speed bumps or other potentially damaging objects. You may see the oil drain plug, but that is a different story from actually accessing the plug. That’s because the plug may be lodged close up against other engine components or the chassis, areas that are hard to reach.

When to Replace Oil Drain Plug

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There are simple signs that the oil drain plug needs to be replaced. If the oil hasn’t been changed in a long time or the car is old and has been sitting up, the oil drain plug could be stuck in position. When the plug is no longer functioning properly, oil begins to leak and the oil level in your car changes.

You can perform a test to make sure there is an oil leak. Slide a piece of carboard or whiteboard under your engine and leave the car sitting overnight. If you find spots or puddles of oil on the board, then you know there is an active leak. You can also lift the car with a jack and look for any signs of oil around the oil drain plug seal. If there is debris around the plug seal, clean it and then watch for any oil coming out onto the metal seal.

Stuck Oil Drain Plug

The oil drain plug becomes stuck for a couple of reasons. Engine sludge is the primary reason. Gasoline engines tend to form a black emulsion consisting of water, oil, and by-products of the combustion. Engine sludge comes from oil that has leaked or spilled onto the engine parts and has been allowed to solidify. The sludge contains debris that has been caught up and makes the sludge even more of a problem.

Engine sludge also forms around the oil drain plug when the vehicle has not had an oil change in a long time. Oil oxidizes in high temperatures, during which time the molecules in the oil break down. These molecules mix with the debris from the engine after the combustion process. The resulting material is a combination of fuel, carbon, sludge, water, and metallic particles.

The second primary reason why the oil drain plug will not come off is because it was installed too tightly. The head of the oil drain plug becomes distorted and can no longer be removed with a wrench. Inexperienced auto mechanics often make the mistake of installing the plug too tight. When the plug is installed too tightly, the screw pitch becomes damaged. Once this type of damage occurs, it is sometimes impossible to remove the plug.

Other things can cause problems with the oil drain plug, including getting stuck. The plug may have a crush washer or a gasket to help the seal. It may even have a combination of both. If the washer becomes damaged or missing all together, it can form a leak. If the gasket becomes dried out or damaged, this could also cause a leak. Perhaps the oil drain plug was installed too tightly, damaging the threads. In some cases, the oil drain plug could just be too loose. In others, the oil drain plug has become stuck.

How to Remove the Oil Plug

A replacement oil drain plug is not expensive. Removing the oil drain plug is not a huge problem; however, it requires special tools, such as manual or hydraulic jack to raise the car up. You will also need some type of wrench and a catch pan, a cloth to clean up any spills. Reaching the oil pan can be challenging. Most times, you’ll have to jack the car up and crawl under it. Some people use a ratchet with extensions while others may use a hammer. Here are the most common ways to remove a stuck oil drain plug:

1. Warm Up the Car

Sometimes the oil drain plug is stuck because the car has been sitting up for a while. Warming the car up generates heat that expands. To remove a stuck oil drain plug by warming up the car, follow these steps:

  1. Park in a safe place, turn the engine on and let it idle. Let the car warm up.
  2. Turn the ignition of and pull the emergency brakes on.
  3. Use the jack to lift the car up.
  4. Find the oil pan and then the oil drain plug. Do not interfere with the gearbox oil pan.
  5. Try to turn the plug in a clockwise and counter-clockwise direction. If the plug loosens, drain all of the oil into the oil pan.
  6. If the plug does not loosen, you can try applying heat directly to the plug using a heat gun.

2. Use a Socket Wrench

If warming the car up first did not work, you may need to use tools and add a little muscle. The socket wrench is practical tool for this job. To remove a stuck oil drain plug by using a socket wrench, follow these steps:

  1. Make sure you have the correct socket size for the plug. You may have to use the extension along with the wrench.
  2. Park in a safe place and turn the engine off.
  3. Pull the emergency brakes on.
  4. Use the jack to lift the car up.
  5. Find the oil pan and then the oil drain plug. Do not interfere with the gearbox oil pan.
  6. Use the socket wrench to try to turn the plug in a clockwise and counter-clockwise direction. If the plug loosens, drain all of the oil into the oil pan.

3. Use Rust Remover

Lubricates are a great way to loosen parts that are stuck together. A rust remover or some other lubricant can erase some of the sludge and rust around the plug which is keeping it stuck. To remove a stuck oil drain plug by using rust remover, follow these steps:

  1. Park in a safe place and turn the engine off.
  2. Pull the emergency brakes on.
  3. Use the jack to lift the car up.
  4. Find the oil pan and then the oil drain plug. Do not interfere with the gearbox oil pan.
  5. Spray the rust remover around the edges of the oil drain plug. Wait for a few minutes to let the remover soak in.
  6. Use the socket wrench to try to turn the plug in a clockwise and counter-clockwise direction. If the plug loosens, drain all of the oil into the oil pan.

4. Use a Hammer

Using a hammer may sound a bit aggressive; but hey, that plug has got to come off. Don’t be afraid that you’ll break something. If you do it the right way, a hammer can be effective, especially if the plug is stripped. To remove a stuck oil drain plug by using a hammer, follow these steps:

  1. Park in a safe place and turn the engine off.
  2. Pull the emergency brakes on.
  3. Use the jack to lift the car up.
  4. Find the oil pan and then the oil drain plug. Do not interfere with the gearbox oil pan.
  5. Tap the oil plug lightly in a clockwise or counter-clockwise direction. You may have to apply some extra force if the plug is very resistant. Be careful not to tap too hard and damage some of the parts. You can also try using the hammer after the car has been warmed up.
  6. Now, use the socket wrench to try to turn the plug in a clockwise and counter-clockwise direction. If the plug loosens, drain all of the oil into the oil pan.

You Need to Know This About Your Oil

If you want to avoid engine problems or other issues and save $100s of dollars that you’ll spend at the auto repair shop, you’ll need to service your vehicle often – you can use our mechanic-rated Auto Maintenance and Repair Manual to do this. It’s basically what mechanics use to go through your vehicle to check if there are any problems that need fixing. As soon as they notice the most minor problem, they’ll ask you to fork out some money even though it’s a problem you can fix yourself in minutes – the manual will teach you how to maintain your vehicle every few thousand miles and it’ll teach you how to fix minor problems that mechanics will ask you to pay for; saving you money in the long run.

A lot of our readers have the Auto Maintenance and Repair Manual printed on their garage wall and 92% of them haven’t visited the auto repair shop in the last year because they know what to do to avoid problems. All it takes is giving your vehicle a little attention every few thousand miles and you’ll never spend money at the workshop again.

5. Use a Gator Grip

A gator grip is a self-adjusting, universal socket wrench that can be used with any type of bolt, plug, or socket except the round head. The gator grip can be used on a power drill. To remove a stuck oil drain plug by using a gator grip, follow these steps:

  1. Park in a safe place and turn the engine off.
  2. Pull the emergency brakes on.
  3. Use the jack to lift the car up.
  4. Find the oil pan and then the oil drain plug. Do not interfere with the gearbox oil pan.
  5. Now, use the gator grip to try to turn the plug in a clockwise and counter-clockwise direction. If the plug loosens, drain all of the oil into the oil pan. This method can also be combined with letting the car warm up first.

6. Replace the Oil Pan

There are some situations where the oil drain plug just will not come off. That means you must remove the oil pan. To remove the oil pan, follow these steps:

  1. Park in a safe, level space.
  2. Turn the engine off, chock the rear wheels, and pull the parking on.
  3. Place the catch pan under the oil pan,
  4. Remove any cross members or the motor mounts using a socket wrench or a ratchet.
  5. Unscrew the oil pan mounting bolts around the pan flange using a swivel socket wrench or ratchet and extension.
  6. Use a rubber mallet to strike the side of the pan gently to loosen it. You may need to use a gasket scraper.
  7. Carefully remove the oil pan.

7. Go to a Repair Shop

If you could not remove the oil drain plug or the oil pan, take your car to a repair shop. They can remove the plug or the pan and change the oil. Going without an oil change because of the plug will cause problems eventually. Have the plug removed correctly and drive safe.