Oil consumption is when your vehicle’s engine is consuming oil during normal engine operation and that oil passes through the exhaust system. While oil consumption does cause oil loss it is different than an oil leak(s) that can also cause oil loss. Low oil level can lead to loss of oil pressure and can cause internal engine wear and damage.
Some of the causes of oil consumption can be a malfunctioning PCV system or carbon, dirty oil, worn valve stem seals, rings or ring seals, or a more extreme engine component design issue.
How much oil consumption is considered o.k. and acceptable? Each manufacturer has a different theory on what is acceptable oil consumption. Volkswagon and Audi recently declared that 1 qt. of engine oil consumption every 650 miles is normal. General Motors states that 1 qt. of engine oil consumption every 2000 miles is acceptable, while Ford came out with a statement that 1 qt. of engine oil consumption every 1000 miles is acceptable.
The problem is that if you are not regularly checking your oil level, or if you are using the newer extended oil change intervals that are 5,000, 7,500 or in some cases 10,000 miles between oil changes, you run the risk of running your vehicles engine low on oil. Especially if you have an oil loss issue with your vehicle due to an oil consumption problem or an oil leak.
Keep in mind also, that in a vehicle that is consuming oil, that oil that is burning through the exhaust can contaminate your catalytic converter (potentially shortening the life of that converter), or onto the interior surfaces of the exhaust. The remainder passes into the atmosphere causing pollution. As this condition worsens your vehicle may not pass the smoke test standard of the Department of Environmental Quality making it impossible to legally register your vehicle in certain counties of Oregon.
We recommend having your engine oil checked regularly and keeping the oil clean by having it changed regularly. This will help to prevent internal engine carbon, varnish and sludge build up, oil loss by leak or consumption and the damage that can be caused by running your vehicle low on engine oil. If you are having an oil consumption issue have your trusted repair facility keep track of that consumption, inspect and research for common issues with your vehicle by checking for Recalls, Technician Service Bulletins (TSB’S) or any Extended or Good Will Warranties being offered by the manufacturer of your vehicle. Happy Motoring!