99 Camry oil gets down to 1 quart between changes

I have a 99 Camry 4 cyl, 146k miles. I change the oil every three months since I never hit 3k miles in that time. I noticed that when I drain the old oil only about one quart comes out so I’ve started adding a quart between changes when it starts getting low. I haven’t seen any oil spots in the driveway or smoke from the tail pipe. I know there could be other reasons for losing oil, is there possibly something wrong that’s worth fixing or is it just older and high mileage and I should expect to have to add oil?


Check/replace that PCV valve

Remove the spark plugs and look at them?

Oil fouled?

I believe your engine is one of those that was considered a sludge monster. There was some dispute, but it was generally agreed that the sludge was MOSTLY the result of negligence.

I suggest you remove the valve cover and have a look. If the cams and valve cover are covered in sludge, you should start making arrangements.

Check the oil monthly or every 1000 miles whichever comes first. Add oil as needed to keep the oil level near the full mark. Adding a quart every 1000 miles is expected in an older car. A quart every 500 miles means there is internal wear in the engine. Oil is cheap, and an engine overhaul can get expensive, so adding oil wouldn’t be a big problem for me.

I suspect that one reason that you have a car that burns oil is that you never checked the oil.

It’s unusual to burn 1 quart/1000 miles on a car w/just 150K, but not totally unexpected. My Corolla w/200K is down about 1/2-3/4 quart in 5000 miles for reference. I think Toyota would say your oil burn rate is within their spec, and the sol’n is to just add oil as required between changes.

As mentioned above, it is prudent with this symptom to check that the pcv valve is working correctly. And check for oil getting into the coolant and visa-versa.

If only one quart comes out then its been running really low. Could have done damage to the engine. My Toyota burns about one at per 1500 miles. You have to check it and put oil in between changes. Checking is big. I wouldn’t let it go beneath the fill mark on the stick.

My guess is the piston rings have coked up due to the type of driving and running the engine oil level low. Running it down to a quart is engine damaging.

You might consider running a dry and wet compression test which is not 100% definitive but can provide some insight about whether there’s a ring problem or not. This test would apply to a compression ring problem but may provide no info on whether the wiper rings are seized.

It sounds to me like the OP is not in the habit of checking the oil between oil changes … until now. Now, you should get into the habit of checking the oil every time you fill up with gas.

If you had been in the habit of checking the oil sooner, you might have prevented this issue.

Toast? Maybe. The OP did say he changed the oil every 3 months. And also that he never got to 3000 miles in 3 months. Maybe he’s not the original owner, but that type of maintenance seems more than adequate. If you’re still here OP, a little more detail please. Original owner? Driving habits? PCV change recently? How often do you check your oil? My advice would be to at least check it every other gas fill-up, like at 500 miles. Rocketman

This person let the oil drop to a bit more than one quart (assuming some of the oil doesn’t drain out in a normal oil change). Estimating that this car probably holds about four quarts. I’m pretty sure the oil was below the “add” line on the dip stick. I’m surprised the oil light never came on when this car was passing through turns and curves.

It might not be toast yet, but it’s on its way.

Same Car, Same mileage, same problem. Turned out a gasket that connects the engine to the rest of the car ( I know that not real technical) was worn, and once my guy replaced it the 'Leakage" stopped. I use a quikie oil service and take advantage of their top-off service and they were the reason I could gauge my use. they also told me they could see the small leak.

@bette page, sounds like the rear main seal in your case. But these create a very visible leak when they go. The OP stated an external leak is not visible. However, given the age and miles, oil consumption, ie burning, is very possible. Checking the oil and topping off as necessary is very prudent on older cars.

I’m with Whitey. If what @mcmatt11 says is absolutely true, it’s a wonder the car runs at all at this point. That the oil light never came on probably means there was more then a quart in it. Regardless, count every day the car still runs as a blessing and keep adding oil.

My car lost all oil (according to the dipstick- there was only a glint of oil on the last half millimeter of the stick, and even that was from parking on an incline) and NO oil light ever came on.

Any idea why the oil light never came on?

Mcmatt11 should have posted. My 99 Camary is consuming 1 quart of oil every 1000 miles. Is that excessive?

SaganGathering, the little red light is not an oil level light, it is an oil pressure light. Unless the engine is badly worn the oil light will only come on when the oil level is so low the pump is sucking air. Every owner’s manual I’ve ever read states to check the oil level at every fill up. A bit excessive perhaps, but checking the level every week or two would save people a lot of grief.

A few cars have a low oil level light like my 93 Caprice, but very few. While I was driving the car I checked the oil on a regular basis even though the level didn’t drop between changes. Then one time I checked and the Caprice was down a quart in 1k miles. The low level or oil pressure lights never came on because the level was just above the add line on the dipstick. It turned out to be a leaking oil pressure sending unit that was replaced at the next oil change. If I wasn’t in the habit of checking the oil, the Caprice might have been in the need for a replacement engine. The sending unit was much cheaper.

Ed B.