Top Reasons Why Your Car Is Burning Oil

Top Reasons Why Your Car Is Burning Oil

Sign Up to get great deals for cars!

Subscribe to our blog that will make you look like an expert dealer.

The oil in your car's engine serves many vital functions.

In addition to providing essential lubrication to the pistons, cylinder walls, crankshafts, and connecting rods, the oil helps your engine run smoothly and attain good fuel economy.

Checking your engine oil level ensures optimum lubrication and engine protection and, when combined with regular oil changes, may increase your vehicle's longevity.

However, sometimes engines burn oil, causing a gradual drop in oil level. That can lead to poor performance or even internal damage.

Engines burning oil is normal, and some do it more than others. Knowing this can help you determine if your engine needs repairs or just a simple top-up for the oil tank. 

But what are the reasons for a car burning oil? What is excessive oil consumption? 

Let's look at the subject of engines burning oil and when to know if you should visit a repair shop.

No items found.

Motor oil explained

Today's motor oils come in two formulations: conventional and synthetic.

Conventional motor oil comes from regular petroleum and, when freshly changed, provides excellent lubrication. But traditional oil slowly loses its effectiveness as the miles add up and offers less protection than synthetic formulas during high-performance driving or hotter temperatures.

Automotive oil manufacturers prepare synthetic oils from artificial compounds uniquely designed for demanding conditions.

The building blocks of synthetic oil are of a better grade than conventional formulas. Synthetic oil is less prone to acidification or oxidation due to its chemical stability. and may last 7,500, 10,000, or even 15,000 miles.

For daily driving, conventional oil should provide satisfactory engine protection. But synthetic oil lasts longer and offers optimum resistance to heat and heavy loads during hard driving.

Before you pick out engine oil, it's essential to know your vehicle's correct weight and viscosity. You can find this information in your owner's manual or the oil filler cap.

Everyday passenger cars usually require conventional oil in a unique grade like 5W40. However, high-performance vehicles with turbochargers or complex valvetrains mandate synthetic oil for its ability to stand up to additional heat.

The weight of a motor oil will tell you its lubrication properties over a range of temperatures.

In a 10W40 motor oil, the 10W conveys its viscosity during winter temperatures. The 40 stands for an increase in thickness once the engine reaches its normal running temperature.

Just like your vehicle needs a unique grade of gasoline, the same goes for using the correct weight of motor oil. Using the manufacturer-recommended grade in either instance ensures your engine works as designed.

Even if an advertisement for a used vehicle seems appealing, how can you know if a car's been well-maintained, with regular oil changes and tire rotations? Shift's certified mechanics perform extensive 150-point inspections on every car and have complete vehicle history reports, so you know your used car feels as good as new. And with Shift's best-in-industry service contracts, you receive peace of mind that your vehicle will run strong mile after mile. With a Shift Vehicle Protection plan, not only are essential components covered, but you also receive roadside assistance if you run into trouble. Wherever you happen to be in the continental U.S., help is just a phone call away, 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year. Shift offers fair, no-haggle prices driven by powerful machine-learning algorithms and tons of data. We take the stress out of car buying and negotiation.

Why do cars burn oil?

Oil consumption is a common occurrence with many engine types. However, knowing how much consumption is typical or excessive may be hard to know.

Manufacturers offer differing guidelines for oil consumption, depending on the model and engine type.

For instance, BMW says it's acceptable for a few of its vehicles to burn a quart in under 1,000 miles. But General Motors, in a tip sheet for fleet vehicles, says regular oil consumption "can be in the range of one quart within 2,000 miles on a properly driven and maintained vehicle."

Other automakers don't specify a tolerable oil consumption rate, and answers may differ, depending on whom you ask.

A general rule of thumb is that cars with less than 50,000 shouldn't burn more than a quart of oil between oil changes. However, this isn't the case if specified otherwise by the manufacturer.

When an engine burns a quart of oil every 3,000 miles or so, it may indicate an oil leak or more severe issues like worn piston rings or valve guides.

On older cars with 100,000 miles or more, increased oil consumption is to be expected.

At the same time, many new cars require lighter weight oils — like 0W30 or 5W20 — instead of more traditional ones like 10W30. These finer oils smoothly seep by gaskets, rings, and seals, increasing oil consumption.

How to fix excessive oil consumption

Although burning some oil is typical, some scenarios require the attention of a mechanic.

If you notice blue smoke emanating from the tailpipe, it's a sign that your car’s leaking oil into the combustion chamber. This is a significant mechanical issue and scheduling an appointment with your mechanic is the best course of action.

But even if there isn't smoke coming out of the tailpipe, heightened oil consumption can still indicate engine damage. Visiting a service facility can inform you whether it requires a simple fix or more in-depth repairs. 

Because consumption guidelines differ so much, regularly checking your engine oil dipstick keeps you informed of low oil levels and lets you know when to add more. Over time, you'll gain an understanding of your vehicle's usual rate of consumption and will recognize when something's not right. 

It also helps to know a mechanic you trust if you suspect a problem. Even if you have a small oil leak in your engine, it can damage engine components down the line. 

Selling your old car can be a hassle. Even if it runs just right, doesn't burn oil, and has an excellent finish, how can you be sure you’ll receive a fair offer? When selling your car to Shift, there's no need to worry about any of that. All you'll have to do is enter the make, model, year, and mileage on Shift's easy-to-use website, and you'll instantly receive a purchase offer that's valid for seven days. You can get a fair offer, better than at the dealership, driven by powerful machine learning algorithms and tons of data. And with Shift, there is no need to spend the extra time waxing and washing the car. A little dirt won’t affect the quote, as we fully detail the cars ourselves before listing them for sale. After you've sold your previous vehicle, you can then browse Shift's easy-to-use website, where you'll find a wide selection of fully inspected cars and trucks located across the country.

2019 Land Rover Range Rover Velar R-Dynamic SE (from $62,500)

2019 Land Rover Range Rover Velar R-Dynamic SE (from $62,500)
Thank you! Your submission has been received!
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.
30-Day warranty
Free 7-day return
Free 7-day trial return
30-days warranty
No-Contact Test DrivesButton Text
No-Contact Test Drives
Shop Used Land Rover Range Rover Velar
2019 Land Rover Range Rover Velar R-Dynamic SE (from $62,500)
30-Day warranty
Free 7-day return
Free 7-day trial return
30-days warranty
No-Contact Test Drives
No-Contact Test Drives
Shop Used Land Rover Range Rover Velar
Thank you! Your submission has been received!
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.

2017 Nissan Altima 2.5 SV (from $16,950)

2017 Nissan Altima 2.5 SV (from $16,950)
Thank you! Your submission has been received!
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.
30-Day warranty
Free 7-day return
Free 7-day trial return
30-days warranty
No-Contact Test Drives
No-Contact Test Drives
Shop Used Nissan Altima
2017 Nissan Altima 2.5 SV (from $16,950)
30-Day warranty
Free 7-day return
Free 7-day trial return
30-days warranty
No-Contact Test Drives
No-Contact Test Drives
Shop Used Nissan Altima
Thank you! Your submission has been received!
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.

No items found.

No items found.

No items found.

No items found.

No items found.
Author
Shift Editorial Team