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If you’ve recently taken your car to get the oil changed or changed it yourself and realized that the car took more oil than what was drained out you might be wondering if this is normal.
Even if your car is brand new it will still burn some oil with normal use. Typically a properly working vehicle will burn no more than 1 quart of oil in between oil changes.
However the older your vehicle gets the more oil that it will burn. So if you aren’t careful you can end up destroying your motor by running it with not enough oil in it.
It is normal for a car engine to consume engine oil over time but this should be a very slow process.
The slow burning of oil does not affect the car engine unless you let it get too low.
Since oil lubricates the car’s piston rings, cylinders, and valves, if there is not enough oil in the engine then the motor can be destroyed.
Oil burns when combustion occurs in the cylinder of the engine so it is normal for a vehicle to burn a quart of engine oil after traveling for roughly around 3000 miles.
However, if your car is losing more than 1 quart of oil in between each oil change then there is likely another issue that needs to be fixed such as a leaky gasket.
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Reasons Why A Car Is Losing Oil
The most obvious reason why a car is losing oil is because of its age and mileage. Apart from this reason, there are other factors that can affect oil loss as well.
1. Engine Oil Leaks
When there is a massive engine oil leak, the car will start indicating the problem by either a red warning sign on the dashboard or a pool of oil under the car whenever you park itZ
But if there is a slow oil leak, it may go unnoticed without any sort of indication at all. The only way to spot these smaller oil leaks is for you to keep an eye on your car’s oil level and if you notice it burning more oil than normal then you will know there is something wrong with it.
2. Bad PCV Valve
A PCV Valve or a Positive Crankcase Ventilation System relieves the “blowby” pressure built up in the crankcase of the car and sends it to the intake manifold to get used up by the engine. Now, if this system is faulty, then it forces engine oil inside the gasket, increasing the pressure and leading to an engine oil leak.
This problem might lead the engine eventually to backfiring or stalling.
3. Faulty Piston Rings
If the above two are not the reasons for a possible oil loss in your car, then there is likely a problem inside the engine that needs fixing.
If there are faulty piston rings in the engine, oil might travel from the combustion chamber into the crankcase, leading the engine oil to burn up. This can be spotted by bluish-grey fumes coming out of the tailpipe of the car.
4. Blown Head Gasket
In this scenario, the car is likely to show signs that include rough idling, engine overheating, and poor fuel economy. If this is the case, then the engine will consume more oil than normal.
To repair a blown head gasket, a professional mechanic is required and often the repair cost is quite high.
What Happens When A Car Loses Oil?
If your vehicle is a bit older and has quite a lot of miles on it then it should come as no surprise when it starts losing oil. The engine oil level on older cars should be checked on a regular basis to avoid any possible issues.
However, even though older vehicles burn more oil as long as you are regularly changing the oil and it doesn’t get more than a quart or quart and a half low between changes it shouldn’t be an issue.
Many people start having issues because as their vehicles age they don’t take as good of care of them. So while they might have changed the oil every 3,000 miles when the car was new, now that it has 150k miles on it they aren’t as careful about changing the oil.
Going longer between oil changes plus the fact that the older car is burning more oil now means that often older cars will go from being 1- 1 ½ quarts low at an oil change to be 2- 2 ½ quarts low!
That’s when problems are likely to start happening!
Engine oil creates an atom-thin layer between engine parts that increases mobility. Without oil or with less oil, an engine would wear out faster owing to the metal on metal friction.
Oil provides supplementary cooling to the areas where the coolant system fails to reach as well. Thus, low oil means the engine might get overheated due to low lubrication.
Oil also helps in cleaning the engine by removing metal scrapings or potential damaging remnants.
Less engine oil means these get deposited in the engine, increasing wear and tear, and finally causing a breakdown.
Thus, a car should not lose oil rapidly and to ensure that, regular oil checks are a must especially as your vehicle ages.
What To Do If Your Car Is Losing Oil
There are some quick remedies that can be done for an oil leak. There are certain “stop leak” additive chemicals that can be bought and added on your next oil change.
These are chemicals that are poured into the engine which conditions rubber seals to help stop automotive leaks.
This is effective only when there is early detection of oil leaks and won’t work to stop larger leaks.
Another way is by changing or cleaning the PCV valve.
The most challenging part of this process is to locate the valve inside the engine system. PCV valves have nylon plastic warps inside them, so it is always better to change them every three-four years.
In case of faulty piston rings, the engine has to be dismantled to a large extent in order to fix them. The entire process is tedious and expensive.
The same goes for the blown head gasket case.
A car losing some oil is entirely natural and it will even happen with brand new vehicles. However as cars age and have higher mileage they will start to burn more and more oil.
The only solution to this problem is to consistently check the oil and have a mechanic check for any sort of possible problems if you are burning/leaking oil at a rapid pace.
A small leak leading to rapid oil loss might lead to severe irreparable damages to the engine of your vehicle.
Any subtle signs of low oil, low oil pressure, leaks, or overheating must be addressed immediately; else the repair costs can become massive very quickly.