How to Detect Oil Leaks

No-sweat leak detector

Troubled by embarrassing wetness? Unlike personal hygiene issues, which are easily rectified, chasing down an oil leak, whether it be from the engine, transmission or rear drive, can be a real hassle. Vibration, heat and airflow tend to smear the oil all over the place, which complicates finding the source of the leak, especially if it’s a relatively small one. Professional wrenches have access to leak detection kits that use dye and a black light to pinpoint the gusher, but those aren’t something the average Joe generally has floating around in his medicine cabinet. On the other hand, aerosol deodorants usually are, particularly if Joe is well groomed, and in a pinch they make a very passable leak detector. Here’s the drill.

Finding an oil leak with deodorant
Your deodorant can be the medicine-cabinet resource for finding that pesky oil leak.Photography by Mark Zimmerman
  1. Wash away the oil slick.
  2. Take the bike for a ride, making sure it gets good and warm.
  3. Spray the suspected area of the leak with a powder-type deodorant (my personal favorite is Arrid Extra Dry).

The deodorant will leave a chalky white, easily removed coating on the surface, with the outline of the oil track clearly revealed. A little detective work should lead you right to the spring. The only trick is to make sure you use a powder-type spray; the clear stuff won’t work, and obviously neither will a roll-on! Not only will your bike lose that embarrassing wetness, it’ll smell fresh as a daisy.


Just having oily issues? Check out how to remove oil stains from your garage floor.