How do I stop my Oil Sump Washer leaking?

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Do you need to change sump washers, every time?
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Do you need to change sump washers, every time?

Introduction

The simple and short answer is change it !

Well, ask yourself: how many times have you gone to a supermarket and seen oil stains in the car park, or have gone past someone else's house and seen oil stains on the drive?
Ok,  most sump washers leak.

Maybe they weren't fitted by a garage, maybe they weren't tightened properly, or
maybe somebody decided to fit a washer that wasn't a sealing washer or reuse an old sump washer, because it looked alright....

So, do you need to change all sump washers every time? No
Yippee! Which ones don't need changing? Well, ONLY the bonded
seal sump washers are designed to be tightened and used more
than once, but it is important to check the rubber seal before
reusing,...and most importantly don't OVERTIGHTEN any sump
washer!
Surely, I just get a better seal don't I? Well, many cars now
have aluminium sumps and if the sump plug is overtightened, it
may strip the thread on the sump or crack the sump which
becomes an expensive mistake. Also, tighter isn't necessarily
better- many sump washers won't do a good job if they are
overtightened as they deform too much.
So why can't I reuse a sump washer if it looks fine? Sump
washers fall into different types:



Flat Washers
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Flat Washers

Flat Washers

These are made of many different materials from
solid copper, aluminium, mild steel, vulcan fibre, ptfe.
Many of these look absolutely fine if they have been used, but
what you don't see is the minute change to the thickness and  flexibility of the washer to provide a perfect seal. 
A good  example is the humble copper washer: 

Copper washers fall into 2 categories:
1) hard copper washers- no use as sealing washers, as too hard!
2) sealing washers which have been annealed ( heat treated)

How do I tell the difference? Tricky, because they both look the same!
The only way to check is to sacrifice one washer. Check out our youtube video below of an annealed copper sealing washer!
To provide a good seal a  copper washer is annealed (heat treated in a vacuum, to reduce  its hardness, until it has been tightened once). An annealed
copper washer can be easily twisted, just with your fingers,
once and once only- you won't be able to twist it back because
the copper becomes hard again. Try doing it with a standard
copper washer and you wont be able to twist it either. The
purpose of this heat treatment is to ensure that the washer
gives a perfect seal on first tightening.
So essentially, always make sure copper washers are annealed, or
they won't provide a good seal, even on first use.
Aluminium and other flat washers, don't have the same hardness
issues as copper washers, but the thickness and size changes on
tightening to give a good seal, which isn't guaranteed on
subsequent tightening.
Verdict: ALWAYS change
Is it a Sealing Washer or not?
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Is it a Sealing Washer or not?
Compression Washers
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Compression Washers

Compression Washers

These consist of a thin metallic outer layer and a soft pliable gasket material inside. The metal can be copper, aluminium or mild steel, but most commonly it is copper, for sealing washers.

Verdict:  ALWAYS change



Folded Washers
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Folded Washers

Folded Washers

These washers are a special type of compression washer, just made of a thin, crimped metal layer. The most common types are copper and mild steel
These washers are very popular as you can see straight away, if it has been used or damaged. They are a simple, cheap, very effective seal, which does a great job.
Important: do NOT overtighten or tighten more than once, as it damages the seal and it may leak.
Verdict:  ALWAYS change





Bonded Seals
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Bonded Seals

Bonded Seals

These washers are a metal washer with a bonded rubber seal. Again these are available in several types: self retaining bonded seals and ordinary bonded seals.

Verdict:   Check seal for nicks or tears,  change if you find any, to ensure a perfect seal
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