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Old 11-28-2009, 10:34 PM   #1
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Any relationship between altitude/elevation and oil leaks?

Does anyone have any experience with the impact of altitude on oil leaks? Here's my situation:

I live in Colorado. I just bought a 2004 Boxster S (sight unseen) from a dealer in Santa Cruz, CA and had it shipped to Longmont, CO. Prior to purchasing the vehicle I had it inspected by a certified porsche mechanic in Santa Cruz and he told me the rear main seal (RMS) had a small "seepage" but was nowhere near dripping on the floor so he suggested I not worry about it. I believed him and took his advice.

The first 10 days in Colorado were issue free - I didn't really drive the car too much. I then took it for a good 100 mile burn up into the mountains - started at 5000ft and climbed to 8000+ ft and then back down. The next morning there was a good sized puddle of oil (approx 3 inches by 3 inches) under the car. Over the following couple days there would be a drip or two every time the car cooled down. I haven't confirmed yet but it looks like the leak is coming from the RMS or IMS area.

So the reason I ask about altitude is because the car appeared to be problem free at sea level but within a week of being at 5000ft it developed a leak. Whats extra strange is that I have a 1999 Audi A6 that I drove problem free in Vancouver BC (sea level) for 3 years, and within a week of being in Colorado it started to drip from the RMS. So two different cars with identical symptoms and the only common thread is being new to the 5000 ft?

I looked at many fourms but have seen no discussions on the relationship between oil leaks and altitude. Would appreciate any feedback.

Also, any recomendations for a good independent mechanic in the Boulder CO area - one that has the correct tool for doing a RMS assessment?

Thanks for any help,
Joel
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Old 11-29-2009, 06:55 AM   #2
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I bought my 03 S from a guy in Cheyenne and live at 8700 ft near Bailey, Co. No oil leaks or even signs of moisture anywhere on the engine for me. 4 of my cars are drip free, and the 5th one is an old Triumph so I would say its an outlier in your informal poll.
I brought several cars out here from Illinois (840 ft) in '92 and never had any oil leak issues.
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Old 11-29-2009, 12:18 PM   #3
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If you already had an RMS seep and the car was moved up to altitude where the air's a little dryer and it spent the night in colder weather than it's used to, the seals and metals may have shrunk a little, maybe.

It's also possible that all the jostling from being loaded and shipped and unloaded exacerbated the slow leak that was already there.

In any case, it doesn't seem like there is an oil leak epidemic in the mountain states that I'm aware of.
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Old 11-29-2009, 01:58 PM   #4
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I bought my 98 Boxster back in February, and it hasn't dripped a single drop from the car for the entire time I've owned it. Its sealed up good and tight.

Are you parking the car on an angle of some form?

BC.
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Old 11-29-2009, 09:23 PM   #5
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Thanks for the replies. I'm sensing that its something far less than an epidemic since I seem to be the only one that has seen something like this. I didn't really consider that the problem could be the effect of the environment on the seals themselves. I always suspected the altitude had some impact on oil pressure.

>>> re. It's also possible that all the jostling from being loaded and shipped and unloaded exacerbated the slow leak that was already there.

Its possible, but the shipping was first rate - Intercity Lines uses enclosed air ride trailers. I doubt damage came from there.


>>> re. Are you parking the car on an angle of some form?

No, we park it in a level garage.


Still looking for answers...
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Old 11-29-2009, 10:34 PM   #6
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Unless you have air in your oil lines, the altitude would not affect oil pressure to any noticeable degree.
It is unlikely altitude has any bearing on the oil leak. The engine is not a completely closed system. When the engine shuts down, the internal crankcase pressure slowly equalizes with the surrounding atmospheric pressure. While at operating temperatures, the pressure differential between the environment and crankcase interior is about the same whether you are at sea level or in Colorado.

It is most likely just happenstance that both of your cars are doing this. It could be that the seals were 'just about' to go, and the 100 mile drive into the mountains along with the cold temperatures (a big maybe on the temps) forced the seals to finally give.

Also, did you change the oil once you got to Colorado? If so, did you change the type of oil?
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Old 11-30-2009, 08:43 AM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by JTP
Unless you have air in your oil lines, the altitude would not affect oil pressure to any noticeable degree.
It is unlikely altitude has any bearing on the oil leak. The engine is not a completely closed system. When the engine shuts down, the internal crankcase pressure slowly equalizes with the surrounding atmospheric pressure. While at operating temperatures, the pressure differential between the environment and crankcase interior is about the same whether you are at sea level or in Colorado.

It is most likely just happenstance that both of your cars are doing this. It could be that the seals were 'just about' to go, and the 100 mile drive into the mountains along with the cold temperatures (a big maybe on the temps) forced the seals to finally give.

Also, did you change the oil once you got to Colorado? If so, did you change the type of oil?
+1, the pressure difference that the seals see is the same at any altitude.
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Old 11-30-2009, 10:32 AM   #8
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Q: "Any relationship between altitude/elevation and oil leaks?"

A: Eventually, yes. Up about 85,000 ft. all the seals are going to leak...

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Old 11-30-2009, 05:17 PM   #9
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Seals and Oil

Since you are at a higher altitude the oil may need to thinner for the colder climate. Check with your Porsche dealer for the right grade. Also, most seals are a combination of rubber and plastic and it my have seated in nicely for CA climate, but dosen't like cold weather.
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Old 12-01-2009, 04:51 AM   #10
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Service in Boulder/Denver:

You might want to try Dart - talk to Dave
Dart Web site

We order parts from him - no direct service experience - but worth a try if someone else doesn't give you a closer Indie

Take care
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Old 12-03-2009, 03:11 PM   #11
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My conclusion from all my research is that elevation is not a contributor. Most likely the issue was just some already worn seals that were pushed over the edge by change in climate/temperature.

I've come to terms that my new baby has a leak, so getting it fixed immediately is not as critical as it was last week.

Thanks all for the responses.
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