It is essential, therefore, to ensure that all of your gaskets are in proper working order and that worn gaskets are replaced as soon as they are spotted. Fortunately, this does not mean going around the car and dismantling large pieces of it to check the gaskets. Instead, it is only necessary to check the vehicle for evidence of gasket failure, i.e. the presence of liquids where they should not be. This is an easy process that can be performed without any mechanical knowledge whatsoever, by any layman with a good eye and a few spare minutes. Conducting this check once every few weeks will let you know if any gaskets are failing or have failed, and then you can go to your mechanic, dealership, or turn to yourself to have these gaskets properly replaced.
The first sort of check requires a good rain, or failing that, a quick car wash. The purpose of this is to ensure that all gaskets around the doors, trunk, hood and other areas are keeping water out. If you are washing the car yourself, it may be a good idea to run the water against any gaskets you suspect of wear for up to a minute to allow it to permeate through any possible cracks. After the rain or wash, it is then a simple matter of checking the interior of the vehicle for any wetness. If you have any doubts, or if you know an area will be hard to check for wetness, it’s a good idea to put down some butcher paper, old newspaper or paper towels, which will absorb any moisture and make it readily apparent. Likewise, when dealing with small areas (especially under the hood), a quick wipe with a paper towel will let you know if any gasket is failing.
The second sort of check requires only time and a good eye. In the past, it was not unusual for even brand-new cars to drip oil, antifreeze or other liquids onto the garage floor beneath them. However, for both safety and efficiency reasons, modern engines only leak fluids when something is wrong with them. Therefore, it’s a good idea to keep a fresh piece of white cardboard under your engine and transmission and check it regularly for the appearance of stains. If such stains appear, replace the cardboard, and if they reappear, it means you’ll need to start looking for a leak. It’s important that the cardboard is fresh, since small amounts of oil, gunk, grime and other road mess will always accumulate under the car and then drip off over time, and are not necessarily indicative of a failed gasket. Likewise, you can’t expect the leak to appear as a noticeable puddle, especially if it is of a low viscosity liquid such as gear grease or axle grease.
When you find a worn or destroyed gasket, there is a high likelihood that you will be able to replace it yourself, or that it will be relatively inexpensive. Most gaskets cost only a few dollars and are designed to be easily replaced with standard tools. Some will be harder to reach, and it may be necessary to hire a mechanic for those located in and near the engine bay, but the primary cost will be labor, not parts. Replacing these gaskets when they get worn will prevent damage due to lack of lubrication, the growth of mildew in undesirable places, and even many electrical problems.