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Oil consumption in a 2003 Corolla

I recently purchased a used 2003 toyota corolla. It runs great and gets great gas mileage. It has 57,000+ miles on it and I have only driven it for about 700 miles.I do not know who owned it before me, what kind of oil they used, what problems if any they had, etc. I suspect the car was used mainly for short trips before I bought it at 56,900 miles. I just finished, yesterday,a 400 mile trip. Before the trip I changed the oil and filled it with Mobil One fully synthetic, 5W-30. 5W-30 is the viscosity recommended by Toyota. At the conclusion of the trip I had used 10.4 gallons of gasoline for gas mileage of 38.4mpg, but the car used a little over a quart of oil. I don’t see any visible oil underneath the engine or dripping from under the engine like I would expect from a leak. During the 400 mile trip I drove on the interstate, between 65-70 mph, fully loaded car, with the air conditioner running. The coolant looks OK. Coolant is red in color like Toyota coolant. I did check the oil level again this a.m. to be sure that the low level was not due to oil that had not drained back to pan. I just had my wife rev the car and I saw no oil drips or smoke from the tailpipe. Any ideas as to the cause of the high oil consumption? Should I be worried about this?

You should be very worried about this. This is excessive oil consumption for a car with this many miles on it. But, consider all the factors that you can. Like, was the oil added to the proper level after the oil was changed? If you change an oil and filter, the filter can (Possibly) take up to a quart of oil to fill up. It may also be that you were just demanding too much from such a small engine. I’ve been a fleet mechanic for a government agency for years and I can always tell when a driver is driving a car way too fast. The tires won’t provide proof as quick as the oil and fuel useage will, but the tires are the final nails in the coffin. At a sustained rate, and for a sustained time, some brands of oils will simply burn off because the oil is contributing to the cooling off of the engine. Also, because the oil is not part of the fuel system, you won’t have both poor gas mileage and poor motor oil mileage. For a sustained time and over no more then a month the tires will become cupped regardless of the tire pressure in the tires - wrong or right. Simply put, 65-70 may be just too fast for this car. Once you have considered all the factors and you are still useing a lot of oil there is a major defect in the internal parts of the engine.
Makes you glad you bought into all this “Get a high mileage car quick” thing, huh? Somehow, owning a car is going to be expensive regardless of the fuel mileage so you might as well buy a car that is appropriate for all your needs.

Basic, but it must be asked:

I assume you changed the filter. Did you pre-fill the filter or run the engine to fill the filter with oil and recheck the level?

Toyota should tell how much oil to replace with an oil filter renewal. Normally after one drains the oil and installs the new oil filter, the amount of oil to be added is in one’s owner manuel. One should run the car a bit after an oil change checking for leaks at the drain plug and the filter…Turn off the engine wait a bit and check the dip stick (after wiping it off and reinserting) . If all is good, and the next 400 mile trip burns oil, you have some big problems. Good luck with that 38+mpg.

Think you should be concerned, but watch consumption closely for at least 1K miles or so. You may also find that this engine does better with either conventional or a different brand oil. Some engines seem to “like” some oil better than others, sometimes. Our Corollas didn’t seem to have this kind of problem, and they weren’t exactly “babied”.

Some level of watchful waiting is probably in order.

Add oil up to the mark and check it again in a few hundred miles. If a 56k+ miles Toyota is going through oil that fast then you should worry. With no leaks, and assuming the PCV valve is fine, the only other place for oil to go is the piston rings. A leak down test could possibly determine this.

The problem is that you have no idea as to how the engine was broken in or if it had an episode of overheating in the past since it was a used car purchase. One 5 minute overheating event can ruin piston rings and/or cylinder walls.
Once someone discovers this has happened to their car they often trade it off and the next owner gets stuck with the previous owner’s problem.

Say a prayer and check the PCV valve first.

Unless there is something really different about this specific 2003 Corolla, no, 65 - 70 mph is not too fast. The Corolla is fully roadworthy for the Interstate. Some people may prefer a larger car, but it runs out fine at 70. Yes, even the 4 cylinder.

I certainly think you have a really good suggestion that he may have inadvertently checked the oil before starting the motor, and the filter took a bunch. He will have to top it off, and check it again.

That deal about tires cupping no matter the pressure does not compute. Could you expand on that thought?

I have had similar problems with my 97 civic. The car runs perfect but it tends to lose oil around every 500 miles. Heres what i did in order:

  1. replace PCV valve, if this doesnt help go to 2
  2. leakdown test/comnpression test, if good test then go to 3
  3. valve seals might be bad
    You should monitor the oil closely, if you are still going through oil then you might consider replacing the valve seals. I just replaced them on my car and that seems to cure it.

If the piston rings or cylinder walls were damaged wouldn’t there be performance problems as well, such as poor accleration, bad gas mileage, etc.?

Check your owners manual. You will probably find out that the manufacture states that it is normal for that vehicle to use some oil while driving it at consistant high speeds (70+) for long distances. As far as the cupping goes, it is probably an alignment issue. Have your vehicle checked at a certified alignment shop. This car needs to be checked at all 4 wheels. Do not let someone convince you that you only need to check the 2 front tires. Overall, this car recieves a 5 star rating from my perspective.

From what I have read on other sights, its not uncommon for early 2000 model Corollas to become oil burners if oil changes intervals were to long. The cure seems to require a ring job. I have a relative whose 2000 Corolla engine was done at 100k.

Perhaps, perhaps not. If the cylinder walls were scored or the compression rings worn you’d have performance and gas mileage problems. However the oil rings could be gumped up allowing oil to get past and into the combustion chamber while the cylinder walls and compression rings are fine.

I’m going to add this to the list of a PCV valve. It’s possible that the previous owner didn’t change the oil very often and the rings are gumped up. You may have one of the rare applications where the over-the-shelf sludge removal flush additives may actually help. But follow the directions TO THE LETTER.

Not necessarily. I’ve seen engines with 180 PSI of compression that would burn through a quart of oil in 15 miles.

What can happen is that the problem will be in the oil control rings (or wiper rings as they’re called, not the 2 compression rings.
Lack of regular oil changes or an episode of overheating may sludge up the oil rings or seize the rings in the piston lands (grooves).

The oil rings should be able to easily expand and contract in the cylinder bore. If they’re seized up for whatever reason the rings will not wipe the oil off the cylinder wall on the piston downstroke. Much of this oil will then get by the compression rings and burn in the cylinder. Smoke may not be visible because the catalytic converter will catch it.
Hope that helps to explain it.

Agree, Toyota had s retreated from the 7500 mile oil change interval to 5000 for all driving. Corollas are family cars in many countries, and I’ve seen them going a steady 80 mph overseas, without any loss of life. The key was timely and correct oil changes.

Beefy Norm seems to think small cars can’t last at high speed. Most of the world’s cars are small be US standards, and most of them are driven much faster than US speed limits. Beefy Norm should fly to Germany, rent a small car and try driving on the expressways at 60 mph, in the slow lane, of course.