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Excessive Oil Consumption?


I have a 1999 Honda Civic LX, and beginning about two oil changes ago, at the end of the last winter, my vehicle has been draining less oil than it should be. According to every oil change i have done in the past and the manual my vehicle is supposed to drain and then accept 3.8 quarts of oil including the filter. For the past two oil changes it has only drained 3.3 quarts of oil, and so that is all i have added, and the dipstick reads full. Could this be a sludge problem? My oil change intervals have always been approximately 3000 miles. Any thoughts? Thanks!



I would not think sludge, but rather oil consumption due to engine wear. Overtime the piston rings will wear and there will be oil that gets into the combustion chamber. 1/2 quart in 3000 miles is not excessive in any case, and I would not be too concerned about it. Keep changing oil at regular intervals and check your oil level 1/2 way through your oil change interval to make sure consumption does not get out of hand.

Posted: 20th July 2009  |  Author: Kevin Schappell  |  Category: Engine, Oil & Lubrication

Valve Seals 2000 Toyota Camry


Just purchased (July) 2000 Toyota Camry from Toyota dealer.  The 3 mo.
warranty doesn’t cover valve seals.  Car has 130,000 miles, runs well, very happy with it otherwise.  When it starts there is some smoke, doesn’t do it once car has run a minute even with start stops for errands.  Smoke is white to perhaps slightly blue.
Doesn’t appear to be using oil and no drips under car.  I won’t put enough
mileage on the car to get to 200,000 by the time I retire in 5 years and
buy a new car but I do want to take care of it.

AAA said 1,500 to replace seals.  Toyota dealer said 1,100 to replace
seals.  The used car dealership consultant said there is no big problem and
not to worry about it that I’d be spending money needlessly as long as there
is no big oil consumption going on I’m okay.  He said he’s sure no oil will
have to be added between changes.

What is your opinion?  Should I have repair done or just watch how much oil
it uses?



I would keep checking the oil level, and live with it.  You may wear out your spark plugs a little sooner, but not a real big deal.  Besides the annoying smoke at cold startup, you are not doing any real damage to your car.  You may want to look at your owners manual and change your oil to the highest viscosity recommend.  So if your car manual says the range is 5W-30 to 10W-30 I would make sure the next time you get an oil change they put in 10W-30.  The higher the number, the lower the viscosity (thicker oil)  Running a thicker oil in the engine will allow less oil to seep down past the valve seals.  I would stay away from oil treatments which advertise to reduce oil consumption, they never seem to do any good, and sometimes do bad things to your engine.


Posted: 28th August 2006  |  Author: Kevin Schappell  |  Category: Engine, Oil & Lubrication

Automotive Oil Change

The Automotive Oil Change, a Saturday afternoon tradition for many people. Why spend the money at a quick lube shop, only to drive off worrying if they tightened your drain plug! You can buy your oil and filter and a few cheap tools, and save some money doing your own automotive oil change.

Let’s look first at a list of tools you will need to change your own oil.

1. Automotive Jack and Jack Stands, or a set of ramps. If you have a large truck or SUV, you may be able to fit under the vehicle without raising it.

2. Set of wrenches or adjustable wrench to remove drain plug. Most cars today use metric fasteners, so a metric wrench set will be best. An adjustable wrench will work, but not as well as a properly sized wrench.

3. Drain pan. There are some cool designs out there which allow you to seal up the pan after draining the oil, and haul it to your local oil recycling place. I do a lot of oil changes, so my pan has a spout where I can pour the oil into a larger container. I take my oil to my local garage where they burn it in their heater during the winter months.

4. Oil filter wrench. The style you buy will be determined by your car. If the engineers were kind to you and gave you room to get to the filter, an adjustable band type will work well. If you have little room, the style which fits over the end of the filter may work better. Take a look under your car and see what will work best for you.

5. Shop rags or towels. It can be a messy job, make sure you have something to clean up with.

Now it’s off to the automotive store to buy your supplies. You will need oil, filter and a drain plug gasket. You may not need to replace the drain plug gasket every oil change, but have one around just in case. I won’t go into what brand of oil to buy, regular or synthetic, or what brand of filter. I will include some links at the bottom of this article to other sections of this website which cover all that.

So now you are back to the house with your supplies and tools, let’s get on with your automotive oil change.

1. Raise the vehicle with your jack and secure with jack stands… never leave the vehicle resting on the jack, always use the jack stands to support the vehicle. If you have ramps, make sure they can not slip when driving onto them, and no matter how you raise your vehicle chock the rear wheels so the vehicle can not move.

2. Position your drain pan under the drain plug and remove the plug. Try not to get too much oil all over yourself and make sure the majority of the oil gets into the pan. Some people recommend draining the oil when it’s hot… I am not one of them. Todays multi-weight oils are thinner when cold and when changing oil burn a lot less ! Let the oil drain for a few minutes.

3. Inspect drain plug and remove any debris from the end. Most drain plugs have a magnet in the end to catch metal shavings floating around in the oil. Also check the gasket if your car has one (not all do) and replace if damaged.

3. Locate the oil filter and loosen it. Move the drain pan under the filter to catch any oil which may run down.

4. Clean the gasket mating area where the filter meets the engine block. This is important for a good seal with the new filter.

5. Take you new filter and put some fresh oil around the rubber gasket at the face. You can prefill the filter with oil if your filter mounts vertically, but if it’s horizontal, I would not prefill.

6. Tighten the oil filter. Thread the filter on finger tight then tighten 1/4 turn. Anymore and you will not be able to remove it at the next oil change, any less and you will have oil leaking out as you start your engine.

7. Bring your car back down to the ground and open the hood.

8. Fill engine with oil. Your owners manual should give you the recommended amount of oil for your engine. Once you have put that amount it, check the level with the dip stick to verify.

9. Start the engine, while watching your instrument panel. If you have an oil pressure gauge, make sure you have oil pressure after the first few seconds. If you have an idiot light, make sure it goes out after a few second.

10. With the engine running, look under the front of the vehicle and inspect for any leaking oil. If you tightened the drain plug and the oil filter properly, you should not see any oil slicks under the vehicle.

11. Turn off the engine, wait a few minutes and check the oil level again. Add if needed. It’s a good idea to take a permanent marker and write the total amount of oil you put in the engine on the engine sticker which is located under the hood. This way, the next time you attempt your automotive oil change, you will know exactly how much oil to put in the first time.

12. Celebrate the fact that you saved some money, and got a little grease under your finger nails.

Some good links related to this article….

Everything you wanted to know about oil

And if you decide to pay someone else to do it, we have a list of oil change coupons from all your favorite service centers.

Kevin Schappell


Posted: 6th June 2006  |  Author: Kevin Schappell  |  Category: Oil & Lubrication

Oil Change Disaster

Dear Kevin,

I am a Los Angeles Superior Court Mediator and I was hoping that you could help me with a technical question I have regarding a case I am hearing?

The case involves a litigant who took his car in for a 7-10 point check and a regular oil change (this being done before a long weekend driving trip). The party picked up his car, drove about 10 miles to his home and packed up the car and then drove on the freeway about another 20 miles until the car died. Knowing a little about cars, he checked the oil and it was bone dry, he proceeded to purchase 5 qts of oil and put it into the car, which took all 5 quarts. He then tried to start/run the car to no avail. Then had it towed and filed suit with our court.

My understanding is that the car would not have made it 1-2 miles without oil, not 30+? Is this true. It was also a cool evening (if that matters).

The car is a 1977 Pontiac LeMans (a classic and am told not many were made). The plaintiff also had the engine rebuilt just 5 months prior and it seems now, with some of the testimony I have in, that the engine needs to be rebuilt again.

Does any of this sound correct to you? I respect your opinion. The trial is Thursday so time is of the essence.

Thank you.


Peggy R.
Court Mediator


There are three possibilities that may have caused this situation…

1. The oil filter was not tightened properly and the oil slowly leaked out or

2. the gasket from the old oil filter was left on the engine, and when the new filter was installed, it caused a leak due to having two gaskets instead of one.

3. The drain plug was not tightened and fell out a few minutes before the engine seized. Any of the scenarios should be able to be proved by inspecting the underside of the engine looking for fresh oil indicating a leak, or a missing drain plug.

If the shop forgot to put oil in the engine, the car would not have made it more than a mile.

When doing an oil change, the mechanic should start the car, check for proper oil pressure (either on the oil pressure guage if installed, or by the absense of the oil pressure warning light) and check for leaks. Then check oil level after the engine has run for a minute or two.

Unfortunetly I have heard way to many stories of loose drain plugs, or loose oil filters from quick lube shops.

Take Care,

Kevin Schappell

P.S. We have a list of Online Oil Change Coupons updated daily for those visitors who use a mechanic for their oil changes. (Nothing wrong with that!)

Posted: 5th May 2006  |  Author: Kevin Schappell  |  Category: Oil & Lubrication

Valve Seal Replacement


There’s a good chance I have to replace my valve seals on my ’98 Jeep GC – 5.9 since I am using up 5 qts of oil in about 4-5 mos, no leaks nor smoke except at start-up. How much damage am I causing by not repairing it ASAP ?

How much does a repair like this cost ? Am I better off going to a dealership or a private mechanic ? Everyone knows dealerships will charge an arm and a leg and your 1st born.

Thanks for taking the time to answer.




As long as you keep the oil level up, I would not be too worried about the damage being done to the engine. You may be wearing out the spark plugs a little sooner due to having to burn that oil and the deposits left on the plug. I would estimate between 4 and 8 hours of labor depending on how involved it is to get to the seals. If it is an overhead cam engine, expect a little more time, but I believe the 5.9 is a V-8 with the camshaft in the block. The seals themselves are usually very cheap and the expense of the job is mostly in the labor.

Good Luck,


Posted: 5th May 2006  |  Author: Kevin Schappell  |  Category: Engine, Oil & Lubrication

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