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2008 Nissan very low oil but no leak and ticking sound

Two weeks ago my car began to making a ticking/vibrating sound that seemed to be solved by a tank of premium gas. Twice I noticed a large by short lived puff of white exhaust upon starting the car. I also had an oil change that week.

Over this past weekend I had a long drive of about 750 miles round trip. On the way home the ticking/rattling/vibrating sound came back (although it seems to be in a different place) and my oil light began to blink at irregular intervals. The sound is present while accelerating, becomes a bit louder when the clutch is engaged, and seems to disappear once the car is up to speed holding a steady speed. The oil light comes and goes without a pattern.

I took it to my Nissan dealer today, (I’m out of warrenty on this car-80,000 miles) and so far they have recommended an engine flush and oil change. They noted that my oil was extremely low, but it is not leaking.

I have been told that then they can determine what is wrong.

1. what do you think is wrong?

2. is the engine flush/oil change just the beginning of my car dealer racking up the bill?

So, how often did you check your oil level?
If you read your owner’s manual or the owner’s manual for any car, it will tell you that as soon as the oil light comes on (even just a flicker), you need to pull to the side of the road and shut the engine off. To do otherwise is to add several thousand to your repair bill.

The charge for the oil change will be completely unnoticeable compared to the probable engine rebuild or replacement bill.

When the oil light was flickering it was indicating low oil level and/or low oil pressure. You should have pulled over immediately and shut your car down. By driving it with low oil, you may have made a minor problem into a major problem.

White smoke could be a coolant leak but bluish-gray smoke could be burning oil. It’s hard to tell the difference sometimes.

Premium gas would stop something called “pinging” or “octane knock”, that is especially prominent on acceleration. It can happen in older cars, sometimes as a result of carbon build-up in the cylinders. Other kinds of tapping/clicking could be caused by low oil or low oil pressure. A good mechanic can tell the difference on a road test.

Loosing at least 2 quarts of oil on a 750 mile drive is a bit excessive, especially if it never lost that much before. I would consider the possibility that the shop that changed the oil made a mistake and either under-filled it or left the oil filter or drain plug loose. It might only leak when driven, so you wouldn’t see it in your driveway.

What is an “engine flush?” If they propose some kind of treatment to clean out the carbon deposits, I’m sure someone here will have a recommendation for much cheaper things to try first. There is stuff you can add to your gas tank, I don’t want to throw out a name because I’m not positive which is the right one for this situation.

An “engine flush” will not help oil burning, if that’s what’s happening.

If it were my car, I would change the oil and filter only, make sure it was full, then monitor it over the next few weeks, checking it every few days. You could be burning oil now, even if you weren’t before, if you ran the car for a substantial period of time with very low oil. The worst case scenario is that you damaged the engine, in which case you will need to keep a case of oil in your trunk and add it as needed to keep it full, don’t bother doing any other repairs, and start saving for a new car. Best case scenario is the last oil change place goofed up, you got lucky and didn’t hurt the car, and premium gas will solve your ticking sound. You can then decide whether it is worth an expensive carbon cleaning procedure, or trying some cheap additives, or just ignore it and use the premium gas. (Driving for long periods of time with pinging or octane knock can damage the engine, so if that’s what the noise is, you need to address it one way or the other. The dealer’s “engine flush” procedure may not be the most cost effective way, however.)

FInally, there is no reason to go to the dealer if the car is out of warranty. Any good independent repair shop can do any repairs or maintenance you need and will probably be cheaper.

I probably should have pulled over immediately, instead I made an appointment and took it to the dealer. As I had just had an oil change and the light did not stay on more than a flicker at a time, I made a judgement call to drive the last hour home; that probably was wrong. But thanks for the advice on what I will do right after I invent my time machine.

I’m not concerned about the cost of the oil change. I’m concerned that my service center hasn’t been able to tell me anything beyond that, am I wrong to assume that something as serious as an engine rebuild would be obvious?

What do the various sounds mean?

If the engine is not actually seized, the only way to tell if you need a rebuild is to drive it for a while and see how much oil it burns, or to tear it down and look at the rings and bearings, which would cost a lot more. I’m assuming an “engine flush” has to do with carbon build-up, which suggests they diagnosed the ticking noise as classic pinging. But you would have to ask them to clarify their diagnosis to be sure.

If you need a rebuild it will become apparent over the next few weeks as you drive around. They want to get you back on the road with an oil change, and make a boat payment with the “engine flush.”

Thanks for your help!!!