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Civic HX: engine oil overfill

Vehicle: 2001 Honda Civic HX (D17A6 “vtec-e” engine), 5 speed manual transmission, 190K miles. I bought this car used in 2007 (55K miles) as the second owner. I change my own oil (running synthetic/Amsoil), and in 2011 I noticed for the first time two oil issues:

  1. it finally started consuming oil (not a lot; my best
    estimate was 1/3 qt per 15K miles).

  2. Installing 3.7 qts resulted in an overfill of about 1/3 qt. (this engine has a 3.7-qt capacity). This had never happened before 2011, but it continues with oil changes to this day. I’ve never measured the used oil drained, I have enough problems capturing it as it is. But I let it sit draining on a level surface for an hour. Is it not all draining out? Is some trapped in the system somewhere?

My question is, what’s going on? How could it be that installing 3.7 qts of oil in a 3.7 qt capacity engine results in an overfill?

Related: I averaged 42.5 mpg until 2013 (41.7 mpg @146K miles), and it’s
been dropping since: 2014 was 41.0 mpg (160K miles), and 2015 was 40.9 mpg (177K miles).

Thank you all for any insight you may provide.

It looks like you have created a problem where one did not exist . When refilling after draining oil you add oil until it reaches the full mark on the dip stick then you stop. Just because a certain capacity is listed means completely empty from new.
As for MPG on a vehicle with 190000 miles it sounds as if you are doing much better that EPA ratings. I have reservations about your mileage figures but I will pass on that.

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I agree with Volvo

There is no problem, and you should just keep driving the car

The reading on the dipstick is what you need to be concerned with, not so much the capacity listed in the owner’s manual Those are guidelines. Some engines need a little less, some actually need a little more than what’s listed, to bring the level on the stick up to max

I’m just curious about one thing . . . why are you using amsoil?

It’s generally quite expensive, and harder to find than mobil 1 synthetic, for example

almost none of the parts stores in my area even carry amsoil

From 2007 to 2011, adding 3.7 qts to the drained engine would reach exactly the top “full” mark on the dipstick. Starting in 2011, 3.7 qts would go past the top “full” mark. So I did start adding in increments to reach the “full” mark, which now, for some reason, takes only ~3.4 qts.

As for Amsoil, I also use their filter. Perhaps I am a sucker for the Long Life/extended drain hype. I go 10K - 12K miles, or 10 months, whichever it is when I remember to do it.

An aside: Before this [non-] issue started, I’ve had segments of road trips that were 55 mph on cruise control for hundreds of miles and averaged 49 mpg. But the mileage aspect is aside from the oil question.

Well just my take but I suspect the engine is wearing out due to the extended oil changes and that’s why the mileage drop. I change my synthetic at 5000 miles. At any rate, if it always before it took 3.7 and now will only take 3.4, I’m wondering if the extra oil is not draining down from the valve lifters. This would be due to the drain holes being all crusted up from the extended oil changes. You could try to take a look under the valve cover to see if the engine is all gummed up but I suspect it is. If so, nothing to do about it except wait for the end.


Huh. I just had the valve cover gasket replaced when I had the timing belt done. I’d think the mechanic would have noticed that and mentioned it.

Your oil consumption is negligible, so don’t worry about it.

Is it possible that the filters you are using are a little smaller than the ones you were using earlier?

1/3 qt every 15,000 miles on an engine with 190,000 miles is phenomenally low. There’s not even a hint of a problem here.

I believe 15,000 mile oil changes is too long between changes, especially on an aging engine. I would recommend changing your oil more often. Oil has a hard job to do, and it’s better not to push your luck.

Your mileage variation is well within normal. I don’t believe you have a problem. You should, however, catch up with any maintenance that’s overdue, such as new spark plugs. And be sure to use NGK or Nippon Denso plugs. These are OEM suppliers and I’ve had problems trying other brands on riceburners.

Meanwhile, I tip my hat to you for paying close attention to these things. I’d far rather answer a post like yours than try to explain to someone why failure to monitor oil levels has caused their engine to self destruct, and we get a lot of those.

Honda did NOT design this engine with extended oil change intervals in mind

Other manufacturers were doing this back in 2001, and Honda could have chosen to do so, but did not

I don’t think an oil change interval should be extended, even if upgrading to synthetic oil

I would stick to the original oil change interval listed in the manual

The oil since 2011 may be better at “clinging” to surfaces. Oil makers add chemicals to promote this to avoid dry startup. I suspect @Bing has it right, just a little bit crusty inside this high mileage engine. Just fill it until the dipstick says its full.

You mileage can be affected by several things such as your fuel supplier is using just a little more ethanol in the fuel you buy, something else in the driveline is starting to wear out and you are catching it very early (CV joints maybe? transmission bearings?) or you changed the tires to ones with slightly higher drag, or even a failing battery or alternator (that’s not FREE energy, you know).

I agree with those here. This engine is overall in good shape for its age but DO NOT run as long as you have been between oil changes. Also, why the Amsoil? Run a good Mobil 1 EP oil and change it every 5,000 miles and this car will last you a lot longer. I get 5 quart jugs at Wal-Mart for like $25 all the time.

As for the capacity, the filters were also first thing on my mind. One of my cars is a 3 cylinder Geo Metro that calls for 3.5 quarts of oil. I have switched to an oversized filter and now my engine takes 4.0 quarts of oil to read full on the stick. Even the same filter between makes and models will be slightly different in size.

The mileage could be loss of compression. Do a compression test and compare to the factory new specs. It could also be something like old O2 sensors. I have found that these can be quite bad but won’t throw a code until they are REALLY bad or the wire has become severed! A general tuneup and changing the O2 sensor would be my first order of business on this one.

I use an Amsoil filter, size EA15K13, I use their filter selector to choose the size… I’m not aware that it’s a different size. I change the filter when I change the oil.

You still haven’t answered my questions concerning Amsoil?

Why are you using it, and not Mobil 1 or castrol synthetic

Both of those others are cheaper and easier to find than amsoil

Mobil 1 is on sale frequently at Costco, in a 6-pack. Works out to roughly $5/quart . . . next month it’s on sale again, in case you’re a Costco member

where do you even get your amsoil

Like I said, around here, hardly any parts store bothers to carry it . . . low demand, and people don’t like paying those high prices, either

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Amsoil has a distribution center near me. I used to use Mobil 1. Someone talked me into Amsoil. Perhaps I’ll switch back.

[quote=“scepticus, post:13, topic:95025, full:true”]
I use an Amsoil filter, size EA15K13, I use their filter selector to choose the size… I’m not aware that it’s a different size. I change the filter when I change the oil.
[/quote]Take the filter to an auto parts store and compare it with the other filters listed for your car.

Yeah didn’t see the relationship with the filter and the change in quantities but could well be. I buy OEM Honda filters on line for a little over $5 each. Even at the dealer parts counter they are only $10. So yeah I’d suggest using an OEM Honda filter like it had when it came from the factory, and see what happens.

The oil pan on your Civic is made from stamped steel.,2001,civic,1.7l+l4,1373217,engine,oil+pan,5562

If the bottom of the oil pan got bent upwards, the reading on the dip stick will be higher than full when oil is added.


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Thank you all! There is a lot of insight here.

@VOLVO_V70: my mileage numbers are, as always, estimates. I can tell you that since owning this car, I have made 331 fuel transactions for 3,267.059 gallons (if you can trust pump accuracies) and driven 136517 miles (if you can trust odometer accuracy) (as of Thursday). Through 2012 my ownership average mileage was ~42.1 m/g, now my ownership average mileage (before and after 2013) is ~41.8 m/g, which makes me sad. The worst part is, this data is not in a spreadsheet. It’s in a little book.

@Bing, I’d be afraid I’d start a leak if I remove the valve cover. Wouldn’t I have to start all over with a new gasket? I once changed the valve cover gasket on a 1974 Ford Maverick to address a leak, and my incompetence made it worse. I just had the valve cover gasket replaced in May, I would think the mechanic would have said something if he had observed anything out of sorts while the cover was off.

@NYBo, I had never considered that I had installed a different-sized filter. I didn’t consciously choose to do so. I didn’t notice a size difference at that time (Feb 2011). If so, all the filters since then likely have been consistently the same size. My next filter will be a Honda OEM, and I’ll be sure to take note.

@the_same-mountanbik: plugs are scheduled every 105K miles, and I installed platinum Densos at 105,328 miles. I should have another 20K or so on these.

@db4690, thanks, good advice.

@Mustangman. There was a sudden mileage drop (~ 7%) when I bought new tires in July 2013. Michelin Defenders, replacing Michelin X Radial DTs. Both of those are supposed to be low rolling resistance, but the new ones are heavier. I had hoped mileage would come back up as they wear. By now they’ve got 50K miles on them. Michelin had discontinued the X Radial, which I greatly preferred.

I’ve been wondering when the CV joints will go. (The clutch is original, too.) No indication yet (unless this is it). No obvious alternator issues yet. I’ve changed the MT oil twice (most recently May) since I’ve had it.

@cwatkin: I speculated compression but haven’t checked yet. (BTW, Last time I did a compression check on anything, it was in 2002 on a 3 cyl 1993 Geo Metro LSI convertable; it was like driving a big go-kart). Without a code, I had not considered O2 sensors.

Thank you Tester. I’m only under the car 2-3 times a year, but I 've never noticed any deformation of the oil pan.

All you guys are great, thanks again!

If the top-end drain holes are “crusty” as suggested by @Bing, What do you all think about doing an engine oil flush as part of this next oil change? Good idea? Bad idea? Terrible idea? Any recommendations on a brand? Thanks again.