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2007 Chevy Malibu - Burnt Oil smell when still

I have a 2007 Chevy Malibu, with 163,000 miles. About three weeks ago, about the time it really started to get cold, I had a ‘Low Oil’ warning come up. I drove about 150 feet to get out of the road and added oil. Ever since then I have been smelling burnt oil when stopped. I have taken to checking the oil every couple of days. I have yet to see any leaking oil. Is this something that I need to worry about, or is the car just getting old?

Has the car actually been raised up and inspected for oil leaks or is the statement that you have yet to see any leaking oil based on not seeing anything on the ground underneath?

If the latter and if there is a leak, it’s quite possible for the engine to have a leak and nothing hit the ground as much of it will blow off while the car is moving and what you smell may be the residual oil left on the exhaust system.

If there are no leaks then there’s the possibility that you may be smelling burned oil from the tailpipe.


You might want to put the car on jackstands and crawl underneath for a peek

“smelling burnt oil” is sometimes caused by bad valve cover gaskets, which can allow oil to drip onto the hot exhaust manifold

It is something that you should be worried about. If a leak onto the exhaust manifold gets bad enough you can create fire under there. But did you spill any oil while adding it? If so, how much and where did it go?

I’ll bet db is right about the source of the smell.

There is an additive available at the parts stores made just for tracing oil leaks. It glows under UV (blacklight). That’s probably going to be the easiest way to trace it. And while you’re at the parts store, buy ramps or good jackstands and chocks, whatever you need to help ensure safety when sliding under the car.

If it IS the valvecover gasket(s), don’t just try tightening the bolts. These bolts often go into “blind holes”, and in some cases are “shoulder bolts” designed to mechanically stop at a specific gasket compression. You could easily break a bolt by trying to just tighten it. And man, will that ruin your day!

And if that’s all it is, you don’t need to fix it as long as you monitor your oil level. But it’ll stink up the car if you don’t.

I’d say that either you spilled some when adding oil and it’s now burning off, or you have some seeping gaskets on this old car. Next time you smell it and it’s really strong, pop the hood and look for any visible smoke. Putting it up on a lift to check for leaks is a good idea. You can also get dye to put in in the oil which will reveal where it’s seeping if it’s a pretty small leak.

I think its just getting old. Do not worry about it, just check your oil level regularly. If the oil level is getting low then I would be worried.

How much oil did u add? Low oil sensor is a good idea. Which motor is in car? 3.5, 3.9?

It’s the 3.5L engine. I added about a quart of oil in all, but I will say that I was about 500 miles past the point of a oil change, which happened about 48 hours later. I did spill some of the oil, but only on the plastic dust shield.

I had not yet gotten beneath the car yet, I need to get a set of ramps and find a level area to do that, and level ground is rare around here. Does the UV dye glow with the same type of light as the HVAC dye kits? When I get under the car, and there any areas that I should check more then others? Also, is it safe to hit the engine with a pressure washer to clean off the road grime to aid tracking this leak down?

Thanks in advance,

1 qt use during typical service is not excessive. 4-5k miles? Do u park in same spot everyday? Do you see any obvious oil stains there?

Update: I did have bad Valve Cover gaskets. After grabbing an inspection mirror from my father I looked around the rear valve cover and found my leaking oil. I took it to a local mechanic to confirm.


Thanks for the update

I take it you’ll get this taken care of, now that the source of the leak has been confirmed?

Kind of. The valve cover gaskets where bad, but so was the gasket on the oil-filter adapter. Took another month to find the second leak.