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Oil burn smell - significance?

What is the significance of oil burn smell? What should I do about it?

Since 100k I used high mileage as I notice some oil seepage - it stopped - I also drifted from using high mileage - now at 170k (87 Integra), noticed some leak - so started using high mileage synthetic hoping it will fix the issue.

Changed oil 2 weeks ago - but notice that after 4 miles of drive, I can smell it - what is the consequence of it if I continue to use the car?

What do most people do? Timing belt was done at about 160k - then the seals were also changed due to minor leak.

1987 Acura Integra LS Auto 170k miles

Could you have spilled a little oil when you changed the oil.

if you spilled even a small dribble of oil, you may smell it until it burns away. If this is the case this oil should burn away after a good long drive with the engine warmed up good.

it is rare to find an engine without at least some minor leaks and unless you are actually seeing a small puddle under where you p[ark…it is not a problem, just stick with the high milage oil.


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What do most people do? Fix the oil leak so it isn’t dribbling on the exhaust.

It is likely a leak higher up in the engine, like valve covers or even an oil sender. Clean off the engine at a self-serve spray wash and watch where the oil seeps out. Replace that gasket. At 170K, the old girl deserves a bit of pampering and no amount of “specialty” oil products will fix a leaky gasket.


Mustangman, I have no doubt that you could do that but not knowing the OP’s actual ability there is the chance that they could power spray the wrong place and cause more problems… I myself would take a bunch of old rags and wipe everything I could ( on a cold engine of course ).

And you are correct, the oil is not going to fix anything.

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Well, he did ask what I’d do… :wink:

But you are right, don’t hit the spray wash if you aren’t sure where TO spray and where NOT to spray.

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Never seen oil on the ground

Only last oil change, I had to top it off - then there was another thing that was going on - which got repaired. Oil change is only done once a year since I do less than 3-4k miles in a year and use full synthetic oil.

Of course not… it burned off. :wink:

It doesn’t take much oil to make a lot of bad smells. As @Yosemite posts, spilling a little on an oil change will do it. Same for a small oil leak from a valve cover gasket. It also sounds like the engine doesn’t use much oil. So get the gasket fixed and the smell will most likely go away.


I believe that this gasket is not the valve cover gasket.
This gasket is underneath - am I correct that it is very expensive to get that far to fix it - I don’t do this type of repair. Need to pay for the mechanic.

Which gasket do you think it is? The oil pan gasket? I don’t think an Integra oil pan gasket is all that expensive to repair. It also depends on what you think is expensive compared to what I think is expensive.

Not oil pan gasket - it was replaced too.

It is the gasket on the engine below the valve cover.

The head gasket. Yeah, that’s not so inexpensive. Oil leaks there are not so common. Coolant leaks are more common in that spot. I’d clean things off and take note of what gets oily first. On an engine with 170K that isn’t losing enough oil to need a lot between changes whose head gasket is other wise OK - because the engine is running well - I’d live with with it.

Thanks @Mustangman
Yes engine runs extremely well - its fun to drive.

Another guy has this engine with 550k miles on it!

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It isn’t the head gasket. That would cause operating problems.
Odds are excellent that it’s the valvecover gasket.

Valvecover gaskets prevent seepage of oil past the junction between the head’s surface and the valvecover. When the engine is operating, the area under the valvecover becomes pressurized by “blowby”, gasses that get blown by the combustion pressures past the piston rings and pressurize the crankcase. The crankcase is openly connected to the space under the valvecover by the “return paths” through which oil that was used under pressure to lubricate the camshafts runs back to the crankcase. When an engine gets old, the rubber valvecover gaskets become compressed and lose their ability to properly seal the aforementioned periphery around the bottom of the valve cover. Pressure from the crankcase then causes oil to seep past the valvecover gasket. This is very common, and because rubber gaskets constantly under compression change their ability to seal over time, and because crankcases can become more pressurized as “blowby” increases due to normal wear, this seepage is extremely common and pretty much inevitable.

Now, the good news. I’ve never done an '87 Integra, but valvecover gaskets are inexpensive to buy and generally removable/replaceable without major effort such as engine removal. If there were engine options, tell us which you have and perhaps one of the regulars here can tell you exactly what’s involved in the gasket replacement.

More goo0d news; as long as you don’t let the oil level run low, seepage past the gasket won’t cause other damage… but if it’s burning on the exhaust manifold, the acrid smoke isn’t pleasant… or healthy… to breath.

I tend to agree that valve cover gaskets leaking oil onto hot exhaust manifolds are more common that head gaskets leaking oil, but no coolant getting into the combustion chambers

That said . . . there were a few Benz engines which were well known for external oil leaks coming from the head gaskets. And the gaskets did NOT have a breach, allowing coolant into the combustion chamber. These engines had engine oil clearly seeping down the block, yet there were absolutely no driveability complaints. In some cases, it was possible to reduce the severity of the oil leak by retorquing the head bolts. These were in the days before mls gaskets, by the way

So therefore, I partially disagree with mountainbike. You can have a defective headgaskets . . . external oil leaks are a defect, in my opinion . . . without operating problems

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Fair enough.
But if I were a bettin’ man… :grin:

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For sure

The odds are certainly in your favor, and I agree that it probably is the valve cover gasket

The symptoms certainly point in that direction

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I have witnessed at least a couple of examples of head gasket external oil leaks (all on 4 cylinder engines) that did not involve compromised compression or coolant leakage/consumption.

VaIve cover gasket leaks are more common and gravity will cause the oil to migrate downward, but I definitely would not rule out a head gasket leak.

Other sources of oil leakage are possible. Old oil pressure switches are good ones, for example.


Ahhh nothing better than the smell of burned oil in the morning…

If it was the head gasket you would have other problems/symptoms as well. Clean the engine as much as you can and then keep checking after each drive where it might leak.

At 100k, in 2000, I was told that the oil seepage is from head cover gasket - high mileage engine oil took care of it.

Now its got worsen to the extent I am smelling it - still unsure if I would need top up within 12months (I change every yr since it does not drive many miles and I use Synthetic).

So 17 years, head cover gasket has not given any other troubles - 3 yrs ago had timing belt done.

I will ask you straight out

Are you disputing what common sense answer and I said . . . ?!

Yes or no