What happens if you accidentally spill oil on your engine?

You’re probably here because you’ve accidentally spilled oil on your engine.

Don’t worry, we have all been there, either when trying to change motor oil or trying to top up and suddenly getting distracted.

Accidentally spilling oil on your engine is a common occurrence, and while it’s not ideal, it usually doesn’t cause any significant damage.

Oil spillages not only create a messy situation but can also pose risks if not properly addressed.

So it’s advisable to clean it off as quickly as possible to avoid potential issues.

In this article, we are going to talk about what happens if you accidentally spill oil on your engine and the most effective methods for cleaning it.

An image illustrating what happens if you accidentally spill oil on your engine
What happens if you accidentally spill oil on your engine
Photo Credit: rxmechanic

Is it bad to spill oil on your Engine?

Yes, there are several reasons why it can cause damage to the engine.

1. Risk of Fire

This is likely to happen because oil is combustible and can easily start a fire, especially if it touches a hot engine.

It’s extremely dangerous to spill oil in the engine because car engines can get hot while driving or due to external factors like heat waves.

As a result, spilt oil can start a chain reaction and cause a fire inside the vehicle.

2. Damage to the Engine

In addition to posing a fire risk, spilt oil can damage other engine components like seals and gaskets.

Damage to these components could potentially result in a decline in the overall performance of the engine.

This can devastate the owner as it may demand a costly and inconvenient complete engine replacement.

3. Smoke and Odor

If oil accidentally spills on the engine, it can produce a noticeable burning smell.

This poses a danger to both the driver and passengers.

Inhaling this odor can lead to respiratory issues, particularly for individuals with existing lung problems.

This is because a burnt oil smell is deemed hazardous and potentially poisonous.

What Happens If You Accidentally Spill Oil On Your Engine

Spilling oil on your engine can lead to various issues.

1. It damages the engine’s paint

Engine oil’s chemical properties can potentially damage the paint or, more precisely, the protective sealers on the engine.

These sealers safeguard the engine’s internal components from external elements like dirt and water.

2. It attracts dirt and debris

When oil spills on the engine, it grabs onto dirt and debris, which can clog up your engine and cause it to malfunction.

Some of that dirt can even sneak into the gears and other moving parts, possibly causing the engine to break down, which is risky for the driver.

3. It may cause a fire hazard

Due to the flammable nature of oil, a small spark or excessive heat can start a fire.

This could potentially result in an engine explosion, especially in cases of overheating in the engine.

What Should You Do If Oil Accidentally Spills in Your Car?

First, dab it with a paper towel to soak up as much oil as you can.

After that, use some gentle soap and water to get rid of the rest of the oil.

If it’s tough to clean, you might have to use a stronger cleaner.

Ensure that you thoroughly rinse the area after cleaning to get rid of any leftover soap residue.

You can use sawdust, cat litter, or cornstarch to soak up the oil.

Put the absorbent stuff on the spill, leave it for a few hours, and then sweep it up and throw it in the trash once the oil is soaked up.

An image of a car owner cleaning accidental oil spillage

What happens if you neglect to address an oil spill?

If you overlook that oil spill, it’s not just a mess, it’s risky.

Your drive might get bumpy if the serpentine belt slips, leading to a loss of power steering and other functions.

Plus, spilled oil? That’s a fire risk! Hot steel, hot oil, and electrical sparks don’t mix well.


A simple accidental oil spill on your engine might seem like a small mishap, but it can lead to a whole lot of problems.

From potential fire hazards and damages to your engine components to the risk of a breakdown, it’s clear that swift and proper action is crucial.

Keep in mind, that whether you’re soaking up the oil, using absorbent stuff, or giving it a good clean with soap and water; dealing with the spill promptly can prevent future problems.

So, next time you find yourself facing an oily mess, don’t underestimate the impact,  tackle it head-on and keep your engine running smoothly.

Oil is combustible, meaning it can catch fire easily, but the oil in engines is made to not catch fire easily.

So, if you accidentally spill oil on your engine and it starts a small fire, it will probably go out on its own pretty fast.

Oil spillage can damage the paint and plastic on your engine, so it’s advisable to clean it off as quickly as you can.

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