Maxima oil consumption - time for a new car?

First of all, I know I am responsible for the damage to my engine. Scold me if you must. I have been young and dumb and negligent.

Now I am trying to figure out whether given the damage already done, how long before I should get a new car (which I will take better care of, after learning my lesson)…

As a 22 year old I got my used 2002 Maxima. I have never been good about checking the oil. I know - bad, bad girl. For the most part I have changed the oil between 3k-4k miles. The car now has 145,000 miles.

A couple months ago my engine oil pressure light came on. It stayed on a day or so then went off so I just figured the light was malfunctioning. Stupid I know. Scold me if you must. I just figured that it was a “change your oil” light - dumb. I know. I kept driving it and the light would flicker on and off.

Then one day a couple months ago, the car pretty much decided to stop working. I took it to the shop the next day and lo and behold, oil didn’t register on dipstick.

They changed my oil and told me engine is burning oil and I need to monitor it closely. Now I am adding oil once every week or two and am checking my oil twice a week (at least).

It seems to be running fine. I do hear some rattling from the engine (I think) but as long as I stay vigilant with keeping oil in it, should I be OK for another year or two? Or is it just a matter of time before it flat out dies? I seem to be getting varying opinions from shops, my dad, etc., so wanted to get some more opinions before I go out and buy a new (used) car. I love the Maxima, it still drives well, but I know I’ve done a lot of damage to it.

Thanks so much in advance for your opinions!

Using very broad assumptions or condition, model, etc… your car is probably worth around $2000. That might buy a used engine at this point.

Another factor is how much you rely on your car to get to work, school, etc. Do you need a reliable vehicle every day? Or could you do without for a short period (due to repairs, like engine replacement)? Does the car otherwise meet your needs in terms of fuel economy, seating/space, etc.?

Given the engine’s history and the suspicion that it’s making oil-starvation related noises, I’d say its days are numbered. Just keeping oil in it might prolong the life, but not indefinitely. No one can say exactly how many more years/miles it has in it.

Food for thought. It’s not a simple decision. Good luck to you.

Ledhed, thank you so much for your thoughtful response. I figured that the clicking is happening because the engine has been damaged. I guess I have sort of been hoping the clicking is OK as long as there is oil in it…I don’t really understand the underlying mechanics of what has actually been physically damaged. Not that I need to understand it - what’s been done is done.

The car meets my needs in every other way; cosmetically it’s in great shape and the interior is still beautiful. However, I can’t afford not to have a car that works and I sort of can’t see putting a $2000 used engine on a car that might have another major issue in the forseeable future, given its age, milage, etc.

You’re right, it’s not simple. I have been hemming and hawing for a couple months now. It is so hard to bite the bullet on another car when in every other way, the car seems to be in such good shape!

There is nothing to lose to continue knowing the situation and keep driving it. i would guess you only have a limited time before it completely stops running but as long as you are cautious, just add oil and run it to its last day. why not?

Make sure you sign up for AAA or have towing insurance thru your agent, and continue to save up for your next car. When you find it, buy it and dump this one.

I agree with others; just keep adding oil and checking it frequently and hope for the best. In the mean time start saving up for your next vehicle.

At this stage economy oil of the right grade from Walmart will do; your engine will not know the difference.


The noises you hear are most likely caused by damaged bearings

kelly blue book says a 2002 maxima with your miles is worth about $3500 private party

Depending on the total price of the engine (engine plus installation), it may or not be worth getting an engine for the car

There are a lot of other factors

Factory rebuilt engine versus aftermarket rebuilt

Used engine

“low mileage” Japanese engine

What condition is the car in otherwise

What you have to loose is $2500 for potential trade in value of this car not if but when this engine goes kuput. You likely took a significant amount of life out of motor running with low oil pressure. Also if you ran to the point it would not go the engine damage is likely severe.

I personally would start peeking around for a car since you have a running trade in if using a dealer. You also have way more leverage poking around instead of needed a car asap.

Don’t waste your money fixing this car except for safety and running for <$500.

Don’t be hard on yourself. This is a $2k-$3k car that still has value running. You learned some valuable stuff in life and move on.

Thank ALL of you for the thoughtful responses. I appreciate the discussion - it helps me in this big decision. You have brought up some really good points and things to think about.

A couple of you have brought up the value of the car when I am ready to get rid of it.

I would prefer to buy next car from private party as in my price range, it looks like I can get more car for the money from a private seller. But that does away with trade-in, so I’m stuck selling it myself, and selling a car with known mechanical issues to an individual just feels wrong to me. Then we get into an ethical dilemma with what to disclose, what not to disclose, etc. I can also look into selling to Carmax. It’s not like the car is worth much anyway… I am guessing there are others on here who would have a problem (ethically speaking) selling a car like this to an individual. Yes/no?


I take it you’re set against replacing the engine?

Here’s something to consider

You know your car. If you fix your car, you essentially have your old car back, as it was before the engine was damaged

If you buy a used car from a private party, there are no guarantees. He may or may not be honest with you. There are a lot of shady people out there. You might be buying their problem car.

Personally, I would feel uncomfortable trying to sell a car with a damaged engine. Unless it was for $500, as is, no hard feelings . . . and I’ve disclosed the major problem

I’d just keep checking the oil and adding oil, and changing the oil every 3,000 miles until the car dies. Make sure you have a plan for when the car dies. If you have a close friend or family member who owns a large truck or SUV with a trailer hitch, the plan can be to go to a U-Haul location, rent a car dolly, and tow the car to the junk yard. That’s probably cheaper than a AAA membership.

No way I would replace the engine. Maximas of that period had an oil consumption problem brand new. Not all of the engines but some models. I suspect yours was one of those. Unless the dealer can do something for you to stand behind a bum engine from the start, I’d just keep on driving it but be prepared to trade a little sooner if necessary. We had looked at the Maximas but the engine oil issues and the transmissions pushed us to an Acura.

Personally, I would just keep monitoring the oil level very carefully, keep it filled with the cheapest oil possible, keep my cellphone charged and my AAA membership current, and hope for the best, but plan for the worst. (Translation=Keep driving it while saving your money. The car may crap-out at any moment, but–then again–it could keep running for a few months while you save your money for a replacement vehicle.

As to the wisdom of putting in another engine (junkyard) or overhauling the old engine, the ultimate question is…If the OP ignored her engine to this extent, did she have the transmission serviced as it should have been?

I ask that question because, if the trans has not been serviced regularly, at 145k miles, it is due to die in the very near future, and it would be a very bad bargain to spend money on the engine if the trans dies shortly thereafter.

What can you tell us about the maintenance of the transmission, enkessler?


So a used engine might also guzzle oil?

You never know the condition of a used engine. I would just put oil in it and run it till it dies. Cheap oil from Walmart is good enough since it will blow out the tailpipe.

If the engine is making noise, no dealer is going to give you a genuine $2500 for it , the damage has been done and the loss has occurred. I would just keep driving and adding oil. Who knows you could get 2 years out of it. If you are going on a long trip I would make sure the license plat screws are free.

Don’t know ur budget. Do u want to spend 3-4k on new car? Maybe shop at some small mom/pop lots that specialize on cheaper cars. U might be able to trade in ur car for a similar priced one and not take a huge money hit. Maybe the next car will have been taken care of better?

If this were my car and I liked it otherwise I’d most likely just replace the engine. I’d figure even if it cost $4,000 ,well that’s as likely about the same hit to my pocketbook as buying another similar car. And then I’d know I had a good engine, which I wouldn’t with another used car.

But from an economic point of view, your time has some value right? And you’d need a car while the current one was having its engine replaced, so you’d probably have to rent one. So it really, if truth be told, makes more sense to sell this one or donate it or send it to the crusher, and buy another used car.

No one can tell how long the engine is likely to last. If it were mine, I’d just keep adding oil and driving it until it dies, which might be next month or two years from now. Meanwhile, I’d start saving a couple hundred dollars per month for a “next” car.