Is your car burning oil? This is a question that certainly sends shivers down the spine of any car owner.
In most cases, the first thing that comes to mind is big repairs, lots of expenses, and worries.
This article will try and explain the whole problem. To shed some light on the whole matter, and perhaps help what to do next.
Besides this, you have our video at the end of the article which you can also watch on our YouTube channel.
WHEN A CAR BURNS OIL WHAT DOES IT MEAN?
The simple definition of what it means when the car is burning oil would be that the engine consumes oil while it works.
Instead of just lubricating the engine, the oil finds a way to get into the combustion chamber and burn together with fuel.
Thus the expression that the engine burns oil.
There are various reasons why this happens but more about that later in the article.
HOW MUCH OIL SHOULD A CAR BURN?
In ideal conditions, the car shouldn’t burn any oil. As mentioned, engine oil is meant for lubricating and not for combusting and burning.
In most cases, the engine shouldn’t burn oil from one oil change to another.
But this is highly debatable as there are other major factors that influence this like the engine condition and engine build.
If the engine has a higher mileage on it, there’s a good chance that it will probably consume more oil. Mainly due to the wear of its inner components (like the piston rings for instance).
Added to this, if the engine is poorly maintained (like not doing regular oil and filter changes for instance) it will certainly add to the oil consumption.
But also have in mind that some engines are meant to consume a certain amount of oil from one oil change to another.
Simply, the engine is built in such a way that it’s meant to consume a certain amount of engine oil (usually not a large amount).
If you drive a newer car and it burns oil, best check the manual and see if there’s any information about it.
But to be more concrete and give a loose estimate:
For a fairly used engine (with over 200 000 km or 120 000 miles):1 liter or 1 quart for every 10 000 kilometers or 6000 miles is tolerable.
Under that and you can say that you still have a good engine.
Above that, you should check out what’s wrong.
An alarming rate would be 1 liter or 1 quart every 1000-2000 kilometers or 600-1200 miles.
Again this is a loose estimate.
WHAT SHOULD YOU DO IF YOUR CAR’S ENGINE BURNS OIL?
When you notice that the car is burning oil there are a couple of things you can do. Especially if you know your way around cars.
The main purpose of this would be not so much to solve the problem but to make an assessment of what lies ahead of you. Mainly in terms of repairs and costs.
Make a visual inspection of the engine
The first thing you can do is to make a visual inspection of the engine and around it.
Take off the engine cover and check for leaks, oil smudges, oil stains, or else.
Besides this, check under the car if there are any oil stains or small puddles.
These signs may give you a clue to what’s wrong and how to further react.
Small stains and smudges are not that bad. But if you see a small puddle under the car or oil dripping you should take action as soon as possible or take your car to a mechanic.
I’ve had a similar problem, with the PCV valve and crankcase ventilation system. If you want to see the complete story of what happened, click here to read the article and watch the video.
Check out the engine condition
On the other hand, if the engine is dry and there are no visual anomalies present, you should consider taking your car to a mechanic (or do it yourself)and check the engine condition.
Namely the engine compression, then the head gasket, and else.
There are numerous instruments for doing this. Checking the engine compression is, at least in my opinion the best. It’s the most simple, least time-consuming yet very effective.
In a matter of minutes, you’ll get a pretty good picture of the engine condition. Weak compression on one or more cylinders means a pretty big problem.
But if it’s OK on all cylinders, then the car burning oil may be caused by a less serious problem.
Once you get this data, combine it with the overall mileage and how much oil the car consumes per every 1000 kilometers.
This should give you a pretty good picture of the overall situation and what lies ahead in terms of repair.
Make the best assessment you can
Simple repairs like certain gaskets, punctured hoses, loose clamps, or else can be solved pretty easily and cheaply. It mostly depends on the accessibility of the problem.
For instance, if the loose clamp or gasket is in a place that’s hard to reach and demands a lot of dismantling, it can prove to be costly. Despite the fact that the faulty part is cheap.
But if you come to the conclusion that more major things are a problem like the piston rings, head gasket, turbo, or else that demand major repair or even an engine rebuild think twice about your future actions.
These kinds of repairs usually cost a lot of money and take a lot of time.
So, depending on the car, its’ sometimes better to sell the car or scrap it instead of paying a large sum of money for repairs.
This is why it’s necessary, once more, to make a good assessment. Otherwise, the whole repair may prove to be a costly mistake.
Despite what most people say if your engine burns oil it’s not the end of the world. Lots of people think that when it starts, the car is finished and good only for the scrapyard.
From personal experience, I’ve driven cars that burnt a liter of oil every 1000 kilometers and still managed to get around.
That car started, ran, and had acceptable performance, all in all, it wasn’t that bad to drive.
So, if the car is burning oil, don’t panic. Rather first try and check out what’s wrong, try to make a good assessment, and act accordingly.
Even if it’s the worst-case scenario, like an engine rebuild in most cases you won’t have to do it immediately.
You’ll have enough time to make queries about where and when to do it, how much will it cost, are all the parts available, etc.
In the meantime, a key factor is to always have enough oil in the engine. While the engine burns oil, be vigilant and pay attention to the oil consumption.
Be very aware that If you neglect this it will result in the engine running out of oil which inevitably leads to serious damage.
You’ll make an even bigger problem, for sure.
Written by: Sibin Spasojevic
Former car technician, life-long car and DIY enthusiast, author for Despairrepair.com
CAR BURNING OIL-YOUTUBE VIDEO