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ATV Oil Leaking From Exhaust Manifold (3 Reasons why)

Oil leaking from an ATV manifold isn’t a good sign, and you already know that. But the fault could be something simple.

Top 3 reasons oil leaks from an ATV exhaust manifold include:

  1. Crankcase over full
  2. Blown head-gasket
  3. Oil stem valve seal failure
ATV oil level check

In this post, you’ll learn the most common reasons for oil leaks from your ATV exhaust manifold and what you can do to fix it.

1 Oil Level

I’ll start with an overfull oil level since this is the easiest to check and fix. Overfilling your oil is easy to do but can cause some unexpected problems. The correct oil level is very important.

Too much will cause the piston at BTD (Bottom Dead Centre) to displace the excess oil to wherever it will flow. You’ll find an engine with too much oil, will develop oil leaks around the pan, dipstick, breather pipe, crank seal, exhaust, head-gasket, and anywhere else it can push it.

Dirt bike dipstick

If this turns out to be your problem, it’s an easy fix unless, of course, you’ve damaged some seals.


Allow the engine to cool and check the oil level. If it’s too full, and you suspect you overfilled it, you’ve found your problem. Just drain off the excess oil and ride on, but do check for further oil leaks.

However, there’s another possibility for the overfull oil level – a faulty carburetor float needle. The float needle controls gas flow from the tank to the carburetor. When it fails, it allows gas to fill their cylinder, which leaks past the rings and into the crankcase.

To test for this condition, smell the oil. If it stinks of gas, you’ve likely found the source of your high oil level.

ATV carburetor needle valve

To fix this, you’ll need to remove the carburetor fuel bowl, test and replace the needle, seal, and seat. It won’t hurt to also check your float level and adjust if necessary.

2 Blown Head-gasket

A blown head-gasket can happen for various reasons, excessive blow-by, too much oil, old age, loose head bolts, engine running too hot, etc.

ATV head gasket

Depending on where your head-gasket blows, oil can be drawn into the combustion chamber and blown out the exhaust valve where it leaks from the exhaust manifold.

This, however, is usually accompanied by plooms of smoke. If you do have a lot of smoke, you’ll also need to consider failed rings.

Leakdown tester

A leak-down test is the best way to check a cylinder issue.

3 Worn Oil Stem Seal

Oil stem valve seals are nylon seals that fit over the valve stems and sit on top of the valve guides. The seal to designed to fit tightly around the valve stem and prevents oil from escaping into the exhaust manifold. The trouble is, as the seals age, they become hard. The oil then sneaks past the seal, where on the exhaust side, it escapes directly into the exhaust manifold.

Your seals may not be worn. They may be damaged. Your valves move up and down inside a valve guide. Wear and tear on guides can cause them to wear out. This creates excessive valve play, and the valve damages the seal.

How to check valve guides and valve seals? You have two options. Remove the exhaust manifold and check the route the oil takes to the manifold.

Valve seal

Or, remove the valve covers and check the condition of the valve stem seals and check for valve stem play.

Replacing the valve stem seals is possible without removing the cylinder head.

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