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Low oil after head gasket replacement

My 2002 altima 4-cyl started to have low coolant and my mechanic


diagnosed as a leaky head gasket.

I’ve searched in the internet and indeed the new Altimas have a problem with head gaskets leaking at low mileage.

So when it was the time to do the 60K maintenance the head gasket was replaced.

The mechanic changed the oil at 500mi and on the next oil change, 5000 miles later the oil was low.

This car has changed oil every 5K miles for the first 60K miles and never had low oil. On the first oil change after the replacement of the head gasket it has low oil.

My mechanic refuses to consider that the two events could be related saying that he checked the oil level at five hundred miles after the head gasket replacement and the oil level was normal. No visible oil leaks. So he said it is normal for oil level to start do drop suddenly at this mileage (65K). And it was a coincidence that the problem started after the head gasket replacement and the 60K maintenance.

So despite his work being “fully covered” by their warranty they will not spend time diagnosing the car to see if the problem was caused by their work and covered by their lifetime warranty.

For this third oil change, after the 500 and 5K oil changes, I am checking the oil level regularly. At 500 miles the oil level didn’t change but at 1500 miles the oil level is already below midway between H and L. So I expect it will be below the Low marker when it reaches 3K.

Is the mechanic correct and the low oil is unrelated to 60K maintenance and head gasket?

And if you can think of something related to the head gasket replacement and 60K service that could cause the oil to get lower, do you have any suggestion on how to approach the mechanic to request that they look at the car as part of the warranty?

The oil useage could be unrelated to the head gasket/maintenance service. The only way I could see those services being behind this problem would be if the new gasket was leaking interally or externally. The former could dilute the engine coolant and the latter will be visible of course.
You reference 5k miles oil changes. Based on driving habits and environmental conditions this may be far too long an interval between those oil changes and this possibility should be considered.

Delayed oil changes can cause the oil control ring to seize in the ring land (groove) due to oil coking. (coking is basically hardened, cooked oil)
There is no test for a stuck oil control ring. Each piston has 2 compression rings and these generally remain free so a compression or leakdown test will not reveal anything.

Your best option is to use an additive (Berryman B-12, SeaFoam, etc.) with the engine oil and see if the problem clears up. Also check the oil level on a regular basis.
Hope that helps.

A quart of oil consumed in 3000 miles is a darn good oil consumption rate. If you drive this car fast in a hot climate using A/C, I would expect some oil consumption – even more than you are experiencing. The usual upper limit of comsumption is a quart per 1000 miles before any repairs are even considered.

How determined are you to find something to complain about?

If you took a NEW car to the dealer and complained that it required adding a quart of oil every 1,000 miles the service department manager would say “SO WHAT?”

as far as oil consumption, I dont think you have a problem. 1500 miles per 1/2 qt is pretty fair. On the other hand, the fact that the mechanic wont look at it is troubling, since this is by all accounts (yours) a sudden increase in oil consumption. A compression test will tell if there is head gasket leakage, and you wont always get oil in the coolant when that occurs. Keep a check on the level once a week. put down a cardboard under the car when you park it overnight. Inspect whatever you can see, top and bottom for leaks. I doubt if you have a crisis here, but follow the advice other guys have given here, and good luck with this.

The first thing I noticed was the way you quoted a condition that did not apply to your car, your car is not a “new” Altima and it is/was not leaking oil at low mileage. Why do you feel this failure description applies to your car?

I have never approved of popping off the head(s) on any car unless the was a very strong reason. The mechanic should have been experienced enough to have pursuaded you to “wait and see” on this one and not performed the inital uneeded repair.

The 2002 model was the first year of the redesigned (new) altima. With the engine that presented problems with the head gasket.

The coolant level was going down and based on the research I did it seemed reasonable to replace the head gasket so I trusted the recommendation of my mechanic.

The oil marker goes from H to close to L in 1500 miles. I didn’t know that was 1 quart of oil. It may be considered normal for a car. But, as pointed out, it is not the norm for THIS car and had never happened to this car before. Is it normal for changes like that to occur?

I will try ok4450’s recommendation and get some B-12. I saw websites saying to add the additive to the gasoline and a recommendation to add to the lubricant oil before an oil change to remove carbon build up.
What usage you recommend for Berryman B-12?
Any contra indication to adding B-12 to the oil? And how long can/should one drive with B-12 in the oil before the oil change?

Are you sure your engine doesn’t have a slow oil drip?

If you try the B-12 just add it to the oil and forget about it. It will do its job and burn off on its own over time.

Something else for consideration. If this car has suffered even one overheating episode in the past (reason for the head gasket job?) it’s possible for piston rings to be damaged in some way. (coked oil, metal seizure of ring to piston, or the rings losing their temper which mean springiness)

Replace a head gasket, the compression pressures change along with manifold vacuum, and now you have an engine that uses oil. This is really not a rare phenomenom at all and is why great care and consideration should be given when even performing a head gasket job.
Repair one thing and the now hidden secondary problem appears.

As to the B-12 use that may cure a coked oil problem but it will not cure a ring seizure or loss of temper problm. Hope that helps.