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Why Is My Car Burning Oil? What Can I Do?

Car Burning Oil

If you notice your car is burning oil, then you should take the time to get to the root of the problem. It may be a minor issue that is easily resolved, or it may be a more serious problem.

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In some cases, your car may require expensive repairs to overcome the burning oil. In that situation, you may want to just sell the car as-is and put the money towards getting a new vehicle without any problems.


What Does a Car Burning Oil Mean?


Depending on your level of automotive expertise, you may not understand what car burning oil is. You cannot learn how to tell if your car is burning oil or how to fix it if you do not even understand the issue.


Keep in mind that engine oil should always remain within the engine. Sometimes, leaks occur when the gaskets or seals are exposed to extreme heat or experience excessive wear and tear. The oil leaks cause the oil to get to the outside of the engine. The oil then spreads to the exterior of other extremely hot engine components.


When the oil comes into contact with extremely high temperatures, you will usually notice a burning oil smell.


Understand Normal Oil Consumption


To put the answer to why my car is burning so much oil into perspective, make sure you understand the typical consumption of oil in a car. Remember that engine oil will be consumed by your car, at least to some extent.


Compared to older vehicles, modern ones tend to rely on thinner motor oils. These thinner oils boost fuel economy and reduce friction, but they also leak through gaskets more easily because of that thinness. This means that many manufacturers explicitly tell owners that even normal driving will lead to a large amount of oil consumption. If you have one of those autos, your owner’s manual should indicate you need to add multiple quarts of oil regularly, likely at least between and during oil changes.


If you are unsure whether your vehicle is one that consumes a lot of oil, check your owner’s manual or ask your mechanic. No matter your vehicle’s expected oil consumption, you can always confirm that you still have enough by checking the engine’s dipstick.


What Causes a Car to Burn Oil?

car burning oil causes


There are a few potential causes of the burning oil smell.




As mentioned, a common cause of burning oil is if a leak occurs. Anytime that the engine oil gets exposed to extremely high temperatures, you will notice the burning oil smell.


If this is the cause of the car burning oil smell, then you will likely detect it if you open the hood of the car when the engine is at its full operating temperature.


Some of the most common spots for leaks that lead to burning oil include oil cooler lines, oil filler caps, oil pans and gaskets, oil drain plugs, oil filters, and gaskets or seals, including the valve cover gaskets.


Internal Engine Damage


While a leak may be fairly easy and affordable to fix, depending on the specifics, you may also notice that your car is burning oil or your car smells like burning oil and smoking if there is a problem with an internal engine component.


Damaged Piston Rings or Cylinder Head Valve Guides


Sometimes, your car will burn oil due to a damaged piston ring or damage to the cylinder head valve guides. This will lead to not enough compression within the combustion chamber as well as extra oil getting into that chamber. That combination causes the oil to burn.


Valve Seals and Guides


The valves are responsible for ensuring your engine performs well and runs smoothly. Intake valves allow air-fuel mixtures to get into the cylinders while exhaust valves let the mixture that is burned leave the cylinders. Motor oil lubricates the system while staying out of the combustion chambers. If your engine is old or poorly maintained, the valves and related parts may fail. This can allow the oil to enter the combustion chambers and burn there. This typically results in bluish smoke from the exhaust when you start the car.


Piston Rings


The piston rings create a seal to separate the cylinder bores and pistons. It lets oil in a very thin film lubricate the cylinders but is tight enough to prevent too much from entering. If more entered, it would burn with the mixture of air and fuel that is supposed to be there. However, when the piston rings are damaged or worn, too much oil can enter, leading to that issue.


Damaged Positive Crankcase Ventilation Valve


It is also possible for the burning oil to be from wear on the positive crankcase ventilation (PCV) valve. This type of damage is similar to that of piston rings in that it lets oil enter the combustion chamber. If the PCV valve is worn or defective, pressure will build up, and that pushes out the gaskets that should seal the oil.


The PCV system in your car relies on a one-way valve that ensures blowby cannot get back into the crankcase. Additionally, it separates the oil, so it cannot reach the combustion chamber and burn there.


Problems with the PCV system can lead to the blowby gases being unable to leave the crankcase. This would cause the gas to dilute the oil along with the crankcase being pressurized and the oil getting forced into the engine cylinders, which is where it will burn.


PCV system issues can also lead to the pressurization of the crankcase, which can result in blown gaskets and seals. This will make any potential burning oil problem even worse.


It is also possible that the oil will not separate from blowby gases properly. In this case, the oil may travel with the gases into the combustion chambers where it will burn.


How to Tell If a Car Is Burning Oil

How to Tell If a Car Is Burning Oil 

Learning how to tell if your car is burning oil is a relatively straightforward task. The sooner that you realize that your car is burning oil, the better. The longer you take to correct the problem, the greater the chance that your auto will have serious damage and require expensive repairs.


The Smell


One of the biggest indications of burning oil is the smell. In the case of burning oil from an oil leak, you will usually notice the smell associated with burning oil before you actually see any smoke.


Bluish Smoke


Although the smell comes first, you will also typically notice smoke when dealing with burning oil. The smoke typically appears when your motor is running and is bluish in color.


Pay attention to whether the smoke appears during acceleration, as this likely indicates damage to the piston rings. On the other hand, if the smoke appears more during deceleration, then valve guides within the engine’s cylinder heads are likely damaged.


Car Burning Oil – Do I Need to Fix It?


You should make sure you understand how to stop a car from burning oil because this is the type of problem you want to fix right away. Remember that a car burning oil fast can indicate a serious problem, and that is even more likely in the case of a car burning oil with no leak since this indicates internal engine damage.


You Can Run Out of Oil


In the best-case scenario, if you leave the engine oil when you know the car is burning oil, you will run out of engine oil. This would result in friction occurring as the various components would not have the proper lubrication. That friction could directly damage the engine, or it could lead to heat buildup that causes damage.


Too Much Oil Can Be a Problem


Just like too little oil in your engine can cause problems, so can having too much oil. Specifically, having too much oil could destroy the catalytic converter. This component is very expensive to replace.


It Can Lead to Engine Failure


If you do not fix the problem behind the burning oil, your vehicle may end up with some serious issues that require extensive and expensive repairs. It is even possible for your car to develop engine failure, which would easily cost at least several thousand dollars to replace, if not more.


You Will Lose Efficiency and Power


Not only will you increase the risk of your car requiring major repairs down the road, but if you fail to repair the cause of the burning oil, you will also likely notice a decrease in efficiency and power. This can hurt your driving experience and cost you more money as you will go through gas more quickly.


You May Fail Emissions Testing


It is also possible that if your engine is burning oil, your car will not pass the emissions test. Depending on where you live, that will mean that you cannot drive your car until you get it fixed.


What to Do If Your Car Is Burning Oil

What to Do If Your Car Is Burning Oil


If your car is burning oil, you should visit a mechanic right away. This is particularly important if you think that the oil is burning internally. Remember that if you let more oil burn, then your engine will likely face even greater damage.


Check How Much Is Burning


Ideally, you want to know how much of the oil is burning. To figure this out, check the engine oil level at regular intervals using the dipstick. If you notice it dropping constantly, then you know you need to go to the mechanic.


Visit the Mechanic


Visit your mechanic right away and tell him, “My car smells like burning oil when idling,” and the other symptoms you have noticed. He will be able to diagnose the problem.


How to Stop a Car From Burning Oil


Your mechanic will be able to show you how to stop your car from burning oil, but this may require expensive repairs. The car burning oil fix requires repairing the source of the problem, whether it is a leak or internal engine damage. This means that to fix the problem, you need to figure out why the car is burning oil.


Outside the Engine


If the problem is with the oil filter or oil filler cap, then you will be in luck as this is a quick and affordable repair. Just replace the items, and you should be good.


Alternatively, you may need to replace the valve cover or a component in the area, such as the gasket. This is a little more complicated, but it is easy for a mechanic to do. You should leave this repair to mechanics as it will be messy.


If you have a car burning oil but not leaking, you will likely have to deal with more serious repairs.


Inside the Engine


In the case of oil burning inside the engine, the repairs can easily be more intense and expensive, although some may still be relatively straightforward.


PCV system repairs tend to be more straightforward and affordable. Issues with valve seals or guides can be simple and easy or serious and expensive. Replacing the valve guides, for example, is incredibly expensive and also has high labor costs.


If the problem is with piston rings, then it may not even be worth it to fix your engine. You will likely need to completely rebuild or replace the engine, which will cost thousands of dollars plus labor.


There Are Alternatives to Fixing the Engine


Once you have answered, “Why does my car smell like burning oil?” you may decide that the repairs are too expensive or time-consuming. You know it is not safe to drive it, whether you have a car burning oil with no smoke or car burning oil with white smoke. Continuing to use a car burning oil fast with no leak will only result in more damage.


But what if the repairs are more expensive than the car is worth? Or what if you cannot afford the repairs? What if you cannot be without transportation while waiting for the repairs?


Then sell us your car as-is.


We Will Buy the Unit Even With a Burning Oil Smell in the Car


We offer a convenient alternative to expensive repairs on your car by buying your vehicle in its current condition. You do not have to worry that your car smells like burning oil after driving as we will tow it from your home, no need to drive it to us.


We always offer a fair price for your car and pick it up quickly. Put the money towards a newer vehicle that does not have any engine problems, so you can enjoy reliable, safe transportation.

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