Engine smell, low oil after drive

I have a 2000 olds alero with 94k miles. I was driving home from work today, down some steepish hills. When I got home, I noticed a slight odor from my engine. I checked my oil and it almost empty. I had been driving for about 1 hour and checked the oil while the engine was hot. I’d had the oil changed 10/14/09 and switched to a high mileage oil at that time.

Any thoughts?

You didn’t switch soon enough?

How many MILES since you changed the oil? How many quarts did it take to bring it up to the “full” mark?

I’m not sure exactly how many miles - probably around 1000. It’s at 94k and I’m supposed to change it again at 96k. It took one quart to get it back up. I wonder if it’s because I checked the oil on a really hot engine?

There is a big difference between the oil being almost empty and having to add only a quart. If it really was only a quart I’d say you don’t have an issue. That much consumption in a thousand miles isn’t out of the ordinary.

Is there any evidence of an oil leak?

You didn’t lose a quart of oil during your two hour drive. You lost a quart over the last two months.

I asked about the leak because you mentioned a smell. If oil is leaking onto the hot engine it may be the source of the smell.

You will have to start checking the oil level more often.

When I checked the oil level, the dipstick had barely any oil on it. When my boyfriend checked it later, the oil level had gone up.

I haven’t noticed any oil leaks but I can’t tell if my engine coolant is low - maybe that’s it? Is it ok to just add a quart here and there?

I have a new problem - I could take my key out of the ignition while the care was still on. I had turned it off but the radio was on and the battery light on. I finally shoved the parking shifter into park very hard and it let me take the key out of the ignition. I wonder if I need a new ignition? Something wrong with the shifter?

You should learn how to determine whether or not the engine coolant is low. This is very important, and it’s also very simple.

Check the coolant level before you start the engine. The engine should be cold. Open the radiator cap and look inside the radiator. Coolant should be right up to the level of the cap. The radiator should be completely full, and the coolant should be clean.

The coolant reservoir should have coolant in it, between the “low” and “full” marks, but you can’t go by the reservoir level alone. You have to open the radiator cap and check the coolant level in the radiator.