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2001 Chevy Prizm LSi - Burns Tons of Oil

I’ve owned a 2001 Chevy Prizm LSi for about 12 years and it’s been burning oil at a rate of about 1 quart every 200 miles or so. No tail pipe emissions or noticeable smoke and no OBDC codes. Anyone have similar problems?

This is suggestive of a possibly serious problem. It is definitely extremely excessive.

How many miles does it have on it?
Have you kept it maintained per the owner’s manual recommendations?
Do you check your oil level routinely?
Is this recent, or has it gradually built to this??
How’s the power?
Any other symptoms?
Any recent work done?
What was the last repair done?

Answer the questions and we’ll have a place to begin.

Have you replaced your PCV valve. This will cause excessive fuel burn. How many miles on this car?

I agree that, as a first step, the OP should replace the PCV valve and flush out the PCV hose with an appropriate solvent. A gunked-up PCV system can definitely lead to excessive oil burning and/or leaking.

If that doesn’t work, then the OP will have to decide how much he is willing to spend on repairing a 13 year old car. The repairs could well involve tearing down the engine in order to replace piston rings, valve guide seals, and…God only knows what else. Personally, I question whether that type of expense would be a worthwhile “investment” on a car of this age.

Depending on how the engine was maintained, it is also possible that the main bearings are shot, so it is very possible that tearing down this engine will be an exercise of great expense with a vehicle that has only a limited life left under the best of circumstances.

Incidentally, the reason why the OP is not seeing oil smoke is that it is being “eaten” by the catalytic converter, so failure to rectify the oil burning problem a.s.a.p. will probably necessitate replacement of the cat converter, and that can be pricey.

Sure, the cat is suffering . . . but OP said there are no codes

It seeems the cat isn’t bad enough to throw a P0420 just yet

A full tuneup, plus a PCV valve seem to be in order

"A full tuneup, plus a PCV valve seem to be in order "

Yeah. And probably a new set of oil rings.

A tuneup and a pcv valve are cheap

OP will know soon enough if the problem remains

I’d certainly try the cheap tuneup before giving up on the car and/or tearing down the engine

I wasn’t suggesting that the engine should be torn down. I was just being a pessimist. I’m often pretty good at that.

I’m also a member of the club

I’ve actually got an oil burner right now. The PCV has been dealt with. I’m not tearing the engine down. But I am probably going to try some “unstick the rings” methods with my fingers crossed that they are stuck - rather than just burned up. Other than that, it will just be driven 'til it won’t go anymore. This is a Neon of the same age and I’d say the same about a Prism of this age.


Here’s an article about oil consumption, and some ideas on how to possibly resolve it

Hey, thanks db. It has no leaks to speak of, but does have a “shady” history. But it was cheap. These apparently aren’t widely known to have oil consumption issues (this one is doing the 1qt per 6-700 miles or so). But they are known for a poor PCV design that leaves a constant pool of oil in the intake manifold where the PCV enters. I’ve had that puddle of oil, and have rigged a catch can system to try to get rid of it. I know it spent some time doing mostly short trip city driving and has sat a lot. My minds eye sees a lot of gunk build-up in there.

I’m thinking of an MMO soak on the the piston tops and and a general top end decarbonization of some kind. Though I wonder about that “X-66” stuff in the article. I don’t know. I figure the worst I can do is not change anything, and I get to tinker along the way.

Is this one of the re-badged Corollas?
If so I think this vintage engine had pistons that were prone to coking around the oil control rings.
Only a very conservative oil change regime and/or synthetic oil kept these from becoming oil burners.
The OP might have done the standard 5000 mile oil change combined with a lot of short trips and stop-and-go driving.
If it were mine I’d pull the plugs and fill the cylinders with a solvent overnight, then change the oil.


I believe the engine you’re referring to is the 7A-FE 4 banger with a timing belt

My last car had that engine, and it used COPIOUS amounts of oil, in spite of the fact that I tried to keep it in tip top shape, mechanically speaking

OP’s engine is a completely different design, but yes, the car is basically a Corolla. The Corolla and the Prizm were both built at the same factory. Different sheet metal and interior trim, but the mechanicals are identical

That said, it may very well have its own problems

Evanto, we need to hear from you!!! We have some questions.

Well, the oil has to be going somewhere. If it isn’t leaking onto the ground, or going into the coolant, or being splattered all over the engine compartment b/c the oil cap or dipstick fell off or something, then the oil must be going out the tailpipe. The cat is probably burning it up first, so there’s no visible smoke out the tailpipe. But this process is hard on the cat, and will ruin the cat eventually. Servicing the PCV and a general tune-up to bring all routine maintenance up to date as advised above is great place to start. A wet vs dry compression test is probably in order too.

I support the PCV recommendations. But I don’t see it causing a quart every 200 miles burn rate.
Honestly, the first thing I’d do is a compression check. My guess is that the numbers will reveal the problem.

Hopefully the OP will return an answer some of the questions. Hopefully this isn’t another driveby.

mountainbike has a good point

OP’s car uses shims for the valve lash, and most guys don’t check the valve lash

No offense intended to anybody

Tight valves could cause low compression . . . I’ve personally seen it

As for oil consumption, I’d rather not have tight valves

Some 2000-2002 Corolla/Prizm cars are known to have an oil consuption problem.

I believe the pistons were redesigned to correct this.

@db490, this link shows a DIY piston fix of the '98-'02 1ZZ-FE engine (timing chain).