How to Tell If a Car Is Burning Oil

by Contributor

Part of the responsibility of car ownership is to maintain your car. Brakes, tires and oil changes are basic maintenance issues. It is easy to tell if your car needs tires, and if the brakes are bad, the car will not stop as it should or will make a noise. While you can monitor oil changes can by the car's odometer or by the calendar, it is more difficult to tell if your car is burning oil.

Check the oil. Open your car's hood and pull out the oil dipstick. Wipe the dipstick clean with a clean rag and insert it back into its tube. Pull the dipstick back out and check the level of the oil. Add oil until the dipstick reads full. Repeat this every 500 miles. If it reads a quart low in 500 miles, you have an oil burning problem.

Check the exhaust. Blue smoke coming from a car's exhaust pipe while it is running is a sign of oil burning. Smell the exhaust. An engine that is burning oil produces higher emissions. It will also fail to pass an emissions test due to elevated hydrocarbon emission.

Monitor the engine to see if it is misfiring or running rough. An engine that is burning oil will foul the spark plugs, causing it to run rough.

Inspect the spark plugs. Pull the spark plug wires off one spark plug. Use a spark plug wrench to remove the spark plug. Examine the spark plug. An oily, wet or sooty spark plug terminal is a sign of oil burning. Replace the spark plug and wire. Repeat for each spark plug, working on one spark plug at a time.

Tip

  • check When checking your car's exhaust for smoke, have a friend follow in another car to monitor your smoke to see if the smoke increases as you increase speed.

Warning

  • close Never operate a car with low oil levels. Damage to the engine's internal parts could result.

Items you will need

About the Author

This article was written by the It Still Runs team, copy edited and fact checked through a multi-point auditing system, in efforts to ensure our readers only receive the best information. To submit your questions or ideas, or to simply learn more about It Still Runs, contact us.

Photo Credits

  • photo_camera oil well image by michael langley from Fotolia.com