Why Does A Car Burn Oil

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When your engine starts to burn oil, it may be due to a variety of issues.

You will need to get to the root cause of the burning oil smell and/or oil consumption issue to help determine the nature of the issue, the cost of the fix, and if it is worth fixing given the age, condition, and miles on your vehicle.

You’ll need to immediately address the issue because it can quickly lead to extensive damage as the engine more oil burns in the combustion chambers.

Below is a guide to help you navigate that pesky check engine light and your burning oil problem.

Take a close look at the oil when your vehicle is on a flat surface and when it’s also cold, making it necessary to wait until the engine is turned off and cools for a few minutes.

When checking the oil level with your dipstick, you may discover that there isn’t much oil left, which is a sign that a leak is present.

You can fix a car that burns oil by replacing the valve seals, which requires removing the engine head to access the valves. You can also use products that stop the oil leak and recondition your valve seals.

In some cases when the problem is more extensive, you’ll need to replace the catalytic converter, which is an expensive part to purchase when the car isn’t under warranty.

How much does it cost to fix a car that burns oil?

The cost to have your car fixed by a mechanic when it’s burning oil ranges from $900 to $1,800 for every cylinder head that needs to be replaced.

If the issue is due to a clogged PVC valve that needs to be replaced, you can expect to only pay $100.

If you have to repair a blown motor, it will likely cost $2,500 to $5,700. The cost that you pay will be determined by the extent of the damage and which parts need to be replaced.

It will also be influenced by the type of mechanic you visit and how much experience they have in the industry.

Why is my car losing oil but no leak?

If you notice that your vehicle is losing oil but there isn’t any visible smoke or leaks present, then it may mean that an internal leak has formed.

There may also be faulty components and parts present in the engine.

Although you may not know the cause, you’ll need to have it properly diagnosed by a mechanic to ensure the proper repairs are made.

Driving your car around when it’s low on oil can put excess strain on the engine and can even cause the vehicle to break down in severe cases.

Is burning oil bad for your car?

Oil that is burning in the engine is never a good sign and can lead to extensive damage to the vehicle. This may be caused by damaged or worn:

  • guides, seals, rings or PVC pipe
  • valves, valve stems and valve covers
  • piston rings
  • head gasket
  • crankcase
  • or even a very dirty oil filter

These factors can lead to oil leaking into the combustion chambers and burning, which can lead to blue exhaust smoke that starts to come out of the tailpipe.

The smoke can initially have a gray tint before it becomes blue and is a sign the car needs immediate attention as the oil burns inside the engine.

If blue smoke isn’t present, you still need to have the engine expected if you’re losing too much oil as you drive the car around.

You’ll also need to check with the manufacturer to determine how much oil should be burning and what is considered to be excessive because each model varies with how much oil it goes through in-between oil changes.

Should I consider selling my car if it is burning oil?

If you discover that your car is currently burning oil, you can still choose to sell your vehicle.

Keep in mind that it can be more difficult to find a buyer if repairs are needed on the vehicle and if the engine needs attention.

You’ll need to disclose the issue to potential buyers to ensure they’re aware of the defects and are informed of the car’s condition.

Expect to receive lower offers for the car than if it didn’t have any issues present.

You likely won’t be able to trade the vehicle in at a dealership because they only accept cars that are in good condition.

There are some types of car dealerships or companies that are willing to purchase the car in its current condition, even if repairs are needed.

If the cost to repair the engine is more than the value of the car then you may want to sell it to someone who will use the parts.

How long can an engine run without oil before damage?

When there isn’t any oil in the engine, you can expect it to run for an average of 30 minutes before it starts to fail. In some cases, it can even shut down much sooner.

The oil is considered to be the blood of engines and is necessary for keeping the parts lubricated.

When the parts aren’t coated with oil, they start to cause friction as they rub together, leading the metal parts to become thin and quickly wear down.

This can make the parts vulnerable to damage, which starts to cause to severe issues with the engine.

Can low oil cause a car to shut off?

Low oil is one of the main causes of a car shutting off if there’s a leak present or the oil hasn’t recently been topped off recently.

The oil is responsible for lubricating all the parts in the engine and keeping the mechanisms operating smoothly.

One or more of the parts will eventually wear down to the point of breaking, causing the engine to shut off and fail.

In some cases, this requires replacing the entire engine, depending on the extent of the damage.


Talk to an auto mechanic to determine how much is it going to take to fix cause of the oil leak. If your car is at its end of life considering selling it for parts.