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Okay, go easy on me. I'm a bit of a vehicle lightweight. I can do basic maintenance, but in terms of "how bad is this," I'm usually lost.

My boyfriend bought a 2010 VW CC a few days ago. Two days after buying it, he discovered (through an inspection at a mechanic) that it looked like it might be leaking oil. Took it back to the dealer because it was still under warranty and it turns out it has a bad seal. They're working on repairing it, but he's concerned that this is a big issue, as who knows how long it's been like this / if it may have been run low on oil.

I suspect it probably wasn't run low on oil, as it was previously a fleet vehicle, and I would expect the oil leak would have been fixed if they noticed it was bad enough to notice the oil was low every time it was changed. I worked somewhere with company vehicles, and we were required to baby them. Obviously I have no evidence to know it wasn't run low, though.

By the contract, he originally could return it in the first five days for a full refund if he wants, which they're holding until he gets it back. He's considering it, but is this bad oil seal something which is that big of a deal?

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up vote 8 down vote accepted

Personally I wouldn't be all that concerned unless the oil leak was large.

One simple check for the state of health of the engine would be to take the car to an independent mechanic and have a compression test done. It won't catch everything that could be wrong with the engine, but if the compression test comes out OK, it can provide you a bit more peace of mind. If it had been run dangerously low on oil for any length of time, you might expect low or uneven compression.

As for the vehicle previously being part of a fleet--I think that could go either way. It was very responsible of you to follow the directive to baby your fleet vehicle. Another reasonable behavior when driving a fleet vehicle is to drive it like you stole it, after all, you're not directly responsible for maintenance, and you're going to get a new one in a few years anyway.

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+1 on independent mechanic: pay someone who has no investment in this car to give you their honest opinion. –  Bob Cross Mar 1 '13 at 20:13
    
Yeah, an independent mechanic is how we found the leak, but he was just doing a buy inspection, so he wasn't doing anything extremely in depth like a compression check or anything like that. I'll definitely consider that! –  trycatch Mar 1 '13 at 20:17
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Oil seals are just part of the car game. They all get them, sometimes one make or model more often then others.

A way to tell how severe, or at least how long it's been that way without someone cleaning is to see how much of the area around the leak is coated with oil. If it's all nasty everywhere under the car, it's probably been there a long time.

Typically, oil leaks fall into one of two categories:

  • Ones that happen fast, without much of a warning and the engine is ruined

  • Ones that leak slowly and never get fixed because they don't leak enough to matter between oil changes.

All the ones I've dealt with are the latter. I suppose the third option would be an oil leak that was moderate and caused damage due to too much loss before the next oil change. Unlikely that the car would be for sale in this case, as idiot lights go off and the sorts of problems that would result usually end up taking the entire motor out in a short time anyway.

And further, the VWs from at least 2008 turn the motor off immediately when encountering low oil pressure. Not that I would know anything about that...

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