2001 Saturn Burning 1 qt oil every 1000 miles

I just discovered recently that my 2001 Saturn SL2 (92000 miles) has been burning about a quart of oil every 1000 miles or so, and I’m wondering what I can do about it. I’ve had a mechanic tell me there’s nothing I can do about it, and that it would be a total engine rebuild because of oil in the piston rings, or leaky valve gaskets, and a second tell me that people live with this condition, and to just put more oil in when needed.

Since I’m also having issues with brakes and shocks, and that this oil condition may prevent me from passing my next CA smog test…might it be time to search for another car? How much would something like this cost to fix?


If it’s the valve seals, it might be repairable without removing the heads, still a fair amount of work, you’d need to get an estimate. If it’s the rings, it’s time for a new/rebuilt engine, not worth it to me. How to tell? A compression test would be the first step, worn rings shows up as low compression that’s improved with a squirt of oil in the cylinder. Worn valve seals shows up as good compression (but your mechanic should know all this).

I tend to agree with your mechanic on this one. Yea, the oil usage is high, but Saturns seem to do that.

How long have you owned the car? What has the oil usage history been?

If that’s all it’s burning, it’s so much cheaper to top off the oil than get a new car. Brakes are routine costs for this age of car, and the shocks aren’t that much more, and also routine maintenance.

I’ve owned the car for the better part of 6 years now…driven it about 40000 miles including a trip across the country (and subsequent brake repair once crossing the Rockies…). This problem is new to me, and if it has been happening for any span of time I never knew it because I kept up with my oil changes. Work got hectic this time and the 3000 miles stretched to 4000. Just before leaving on a trip to Vegas we checked the dipstick and it came up dry.

I would agree that the brakes are routine as well, but there’s something fundamentally wrong with them that 3 mechanics so far have failed to fix. The car definitely doesn’t stop as well as it used to before I drove out to California from New England. I boiled off the fluid and broke some lines driving down Mt. Evans (tallest auto road in the country) and since then have had them “fixed” three times, with the last being at a Saturn dealership before they went kaput. Over the past 8 months or so theyve cost me about $600. I don’t feel 100% that they stop my car as well as they used to…maybe its me?

Your mechanic should perform a compression and/or leakdown test to determine if the rings are at fault. This test is not 100% definitive, but that’s all you can do.
There is no test for valve seals if that’s what you’re referring to by “gaskets”. That’s a replace and hope repair and this can be done with the cylinder head in place.
Rings would mean an engine overhaul.

Just offhand, your post comes across as someone who never checks the oil level on a regular basis. This is a horrible habit, and all too common, to have.
Running an engine down to a dry dipstick is rough on an engine and depending on how dry it may be time to throw in the towel on this car. Running an engine low on oil affects piston rings megatively because they rely on splash lubrication.

Checking the oil level is something that should be done about every other tank of gas no matter if it’s etched in stone that the car uses zero oil.

I’m having the car put in for an oil change and a compression test this week.

I’ve kicked the bad oil habit now, trust me…this was a rude awakening, and now I check it before I go to fill up every time, or before and after a long road trip. Won’t make that mistake again…

Unless you actually FAIL an emissions test (highly unlikely, only 4% or so fail) You do not HAVE a problem… A quart of oil every 1000 miles is considered NORMAL for most cars…Check your oil more often and drive on…Your Saturn is not a candidate for major repairs.

By not checking your oil regularly, you have greatly shortened your engines life…

It’s too bad that 92K Saturns use oil, but they often do. You can buy an awesome amount of oil for the cost of an engine rebuild. Just keep it topped off, and drive on. If you don’t run it extremely low again, it may not get worse for a long time.