2003 Accord Exl 4 cylinder excessive oil usage

I bought this car off the showroom floor with about 1,200 miles on it. Since just past 70,000 miles or so, this car has been using more and more oil between changes. It now appears to be up to about 1 quart per thousand miles, maybe just 800 miles. I don’t see any sign of a leak. There now are 201,000 miles on this engine. The V-tech solenoid had to be replaced about 30,000 miles back. Timing chain has never been replaced; nothing else major has been repaired. Last new PCV valve was put in about 30,000 miles back. It didn’t seem to slow down oil consumption. This oil problem is the only problem with this car, except for the V-tec before, and some rattles. Otherwise it is as reliable as any car I’ve ever owned, and I’ve been around a while.

I’ve read many blogs and other web pages on this, and it’s a common problem with this particular Honda engine. Is there any chance that this oil usage is something besides worn piston rings? Any ideas what it could be ? Some people seem to think it might be worn valve seals, and/or worn cam shaft seals? how expensive is that to get fixed? If it’s any of these things, is there really any practical solution other than a new engine, or maybe a rebuilt?

Short of thousands of $ in repair costs, would a different type of oil help to at least reduce oil consumption? I read some people saying to stay away from synthetic (why would that matter?); some talk about oil treatments; one honda service manager says he puts good old STP in a high mileage Honda he owns. I tried that with this car, just one application, and I didn’t notice any drop in consumption, but I drive a LOT, in all types of conditions, so I don’t know that I gave it a real chance to work. Why would that kind of stuff help, anyway? In such an old engine, if I experiment with these, is there any chance of doing further damage to the engine? For that matter, would switching to 5W-30 or maybe a 10-weight, possibly slow down this excessive oil usage?


I really don’t want to buy a new car. Any ideas?

You might try a different brand of oil and/or changing to a full-synthetic oil. My oil consumption went way down when switching to Mobil-1 from dino oil. A different weight might help, but it might actually make it worse too. Other than that, I’d just live with it. There are owners of new VWs with worse oil consumption than you have. If your car blows some blue smoke at startup, you may have worn valve guide seals, which can be replaced, but it’s likely going to be a pain to do so, or if you have it done, the money spent could buy a lot of quarts of oil for this 200K+ mile engine.

There are no additivive that will help. If a new PCV didn’t make any difference, I suggest you learn to live with it.

At 200K+ miles this is not really horrible oil consumption. I know VW owners whose cars use this much oil at only 50K miles.

I would stick with the recommended oil, keep an eye on the dipstick, and continue driving.

Agree. With over 200k, just keep driving and keep an eye on the oil level (as you seem to be doing). I personally would not spend any money on an engine or valve rebuild unless the car became undriveable. (Aside: is “undriveable” a word? Spell check on my MAC does not think so)

I have had some success with “Stop Leak” additives on a Honda Civic engine–do you know if the oil is burning off or leaking out?

Do you still change the oil and filter every 3-5K or do you simply add oil as needed?

How often did you typically change the oil over that 200K miles?
What are the driving conditions (city vs hwy)?

If you’re really attached to the car consider a rebuilt engine:

Most older Hondas use a timing belt, not a chain, but that’s a different issue…With Honda’s, it’s not the rings that wear out, it’s the cylinder walls…But first, you might try servicing the PCV system from end to end, including cleaning the vacuum port the PCV hose is connected to…

One chemical product that helps a little, “Restore”…

Thanks to all the commenters, I appreciate the suggestions. Responding in no particular order: this honda does have a timing chain, not a belt, but as Caddyman said, that’s not likely a factor; I did have the oil changed religously every 3500 miles the first few changes, then about every 5000 after that; I live in the 'burbs, but the majority of miles on this car are freeway miles, based on all of which I followed the normal usage maintenance as opposed to “severe”. Maybe that was a mistake, but, the consensus seems to be this oil usage is not surprising, on such a high mileage engine.

Working through a container of Mobil-1, so we’ll see if that’s any better.

I don’t see smokey exhaust on start up, or any time. In the places I park (garage, driveway, and the same parking space daily at my work) there is no sign of oil dripping on the pavement.

I am still having both oil and filter changed at the same interval, but I have wondered at this level of oil consumption if that makes sense - - maybe I should just change the filter out after every 4 or 5 quarts of usage? I meant to include that question in the first place. In essence, your’e cycling through 4 new quarts of oil every 4000 miles, so. Maybe do a complete oil change after every third or 4th filter change?

Anyway, thanks again to all.

I will try cleaning out the pvc system to see if that helps. I did buy a gallon of Mobil -1, so we’ll see if that helps.

I would just change the filter at a normal oil change interval–3-5K miles. Whether you’re burning or leaking the oil, the same amount is going through the filter, so it shouldn’t get any dirtier than usual. Probably less so, since you’re adding fresh oil all the time.

Hopefully the Mobil-1 helps.

With 200K on the clock using a quart of oil every 800-1,000 miles is nothing to address, other than to make sure the oil level never gets more than 1 quart low. Sure, there may be some long-term effects on the catalyst and O2 sensors, but I think they are negligible. When you think of the cost of repairing or replacing the engine, figure out how many quarts of oil you could buy.

Remember, there’s a lot more to a car than an engine, and at your mileage, other things that can be quite costly–like transmission, A/C–may fail and require a sizeable repair. I’d just keep driving it, check the oil at every other fill-up, and you’re likely to go another 100K on that engine.

Restore usually works for a while, changing to 20w-50 oil for the summer would reduce oil consumption but slightly hurt gas mileage. Unless you plan on keeping this car another 200,000 miles,rebuilding or replacing the engine doesn’t make economic sense.

“.With Honda’s, it’s not the rings that wear out, it’s the cylinder walls…”

Usually have 350k miles…So I wouldn’t worry about it.

I have a 97 Honda Accord with 170k that uses very little oil, less than one quart between changes at 7500 mile interval. I use Mobil 1 10w30. I do not have the V-tec engine.

I did find that it burned significantly more oil when using 5w30 Mobil 1, something like 2000/qt, and that was when the engine only had about 80k on it. For this reason, I would recommend 10w30, but not necessarily Mobil 1. I have nothing against Mobil 1, I think its great oil, but I think the 10w30 is more responsible for less oil consumption than the brand.

I also have an 02 Saturn with 235k on it. I use 10w30 in it and it burns a quart about every 1200 miles. I use whatever brand is on sale and change it when the little light tells me to, which is about every 6000 miles.

BTW, since yours is an 03, did it recommend 5w20? It may actually use less of this then 5w30. Like 10w30, it has less viscosity improvers which tend to increase oil consumption.

the manual does specify the 5W-20 and that’s all I’ve used; I wondered about stepping up to a higher weight and/ or higher viscosity, but I have not seen any recommendation for that; I’ve asked a couple of Honda service people, but I just get blank stares.