Oil Guzzling Toyota Celica

I just purchased a used 2000 Toyota Celica with 91,000 miles from a private owner 2 weeks ago. I drove it mimimally in the city, then took a small road trip (highway) 150 miles and the oil light came on, I pulled over immediately. The level had been normal when I bought the car (I still had 500+ miles until the next oil change). The dipstick didn’t even register, I added 2 qts and proceeded to add 3 more over the next 24hrs as I returned home and parked it. I went the next day for an oil change, they overfilled it slightly and 2 days later, with minimal city driving I lost another 1.5 qts. Then, the check engine light came on, and the reading stated that the Catalyst system was below threshhold (yikes!!!)

No oil leaks on the ground, while running or parked. Oil consumption is only while driving (level does not change when car sits…which it has been doing frequently now). I took it to 2 mechanics, both said they do not know where the oil is going, the smoke out the tailpipe is black, not white, there is black soot on the body of the car near the exhaust. Both have suggested that I just need a new engine (thou$ands of dollar$ I do not have!). They have also said the kid I bought it from (or more literally just gave all of my money to) must have known about the problem.

A friend suggested checking the PCV, using blow-by to determine if the rings are indeed bad.

I called a Toyota specialized mechanic, hoping they had seen this problem before, and explained the symptoms over the phone and he was just as baffled. Is there a way to determine if the rings are bad without pulling the engine apart? Could there be another reason it is burning so much oil? Where is it going? Why is the car burning rich? Is my catalytic converter really defunct? Does this guy I bought the car from really have NO conscience? (he was quite unhelpful and arrogant when approached about the situation).

Any suggestions???


Sorry about your situation. The oil must be burning/leaking down into the catalytic converter and it sounds like the cat has been almost ruined already (not to mention possibly the engine.)

Others will chime in here with more technical info for you, but this could be a very painful and expensive lesson for you to ALWAYS have a used car that you are thinking of purchasing be thoroughly inspected by a qualified mechanic prior to the purchase.

You don’t say what state you live in, but you may want to check with an attorney about your local consumer-protection laws. However, I don’t think many states will intervene in a private-party sale. Did the bill-of-sale say anything like “no warranty, not responsible for any problems or any repairs, buy at your own risk, etc?”

Good luck to you.

If there are no oil leaks and the mechanics do not know where the oil is going you need new mechanics.

If it’s not leaking there is only one place the oil can go. It’s being burned in the engine and going out the tailpipe, which explains the oily soot on the back of the car.

This is an EXTREMELY high rate of oil consumption, and putting this much oil through the engine could, indeed, ruin the catalytic converter.

The original owner knew all this, and cleaned the oil off the back of the car before you looked at it.

A bad PCV valve might increase oil burning a bit, but I don’t think it would make it burn this much. Try a new PCV valve (they’re cheap), but don’t expect miracles.

The original owner also very likely reset the check engine light just before you bought it too.

In NH all used motor vehicle purchases are legally “as-is” unless otherwise specified in writing. I suspect your state’s laws are similar. The laws are written this way to prevent civil courts from being completely clogged up with used-car suits, which they otherwise would be. I doubt if you have any recourse. Sorry.

Yes, there is a way to find out if the oil rings are bad. A tech can “read” the sparkplugs. That much oil will leave significant residue.

If one or more plugs are oil-fouled, a cylinder leakdown test may be in order here too. It is possible that you have a bad valvestem seal that’s allowing oil to be drawn into one or more cylinders on every intake stroke and on deceleration when cylinder vacuum is at peak. A leakdown test would eliminate the possibility of a headgasket breech (you have oil passages in the headgasket) and point squarely to either gummed up oil rings or bad valvestem seals.

One other suggestion comes to mind. You could try an additive from the parts store made to degump oil rings and such. Try it a few times. It is possible that the prior owner simply never changed oil and everything is all gumped up in there.

Sadly, there’s no way to reverse the damage to the cat converter and (likely also) oxygen sensor. These devices operate by their surfaces coming in direct contact with the exhaust stream. Once they’re coated, they’re no longer any good.

Car sales by private individuals are NOT covered by consumer protection laws and do not come with warranties.

Although all used car purchases are risky and should only be done following inspection by a private mechanic of the buyer’s choosing, the absence of any and all warranties and legal protections on private party sales makes it imperative to have a private party used car checked by a mechanic prior to purchase.

I fell very sorry for zebragirl. She apparently bought a piece of damaged goods from a person with no conscience or morals, and sadly, she has no legal recourse. Her only course of action is to repair the engine (which may be cost-prohibitive for her) or to just park the car permanently.

Thank you for the helpful suggestions! The last mechanic I paid only pulled one of the spark plugs, found that it was not dirty enough to be the problem, but never checked the other 3. I did put “Restore” into the engine, but it is still losing oil rapidly. I am keeping a log with milage and oil level to keep “scientific” track of the loss, hoping thicker oil will help…but at this rate I think that is futile. The car runs fine, so I assume the headgasket is not a problem.
So, am I to understand that all that is left to guess is that the valvestem seals really are bad, that this would cause the car to burn such large quantities of oil and I do need a new engine? Just 23 miles round trip to work today and I lost another .5 qt.
As for inspection, I did follow a checklist during drive/inspection and the mechanic I 1st took it to said he would have not seen this problem, it was only through driving it that the it became apparent. I am sure the kid knew this too :frowning:

Sorry, but bad valve stem seals can’t account for this much oil loss. If the engine is consuming 0.5 quarts of oil in 46 miles you have a major problem.

Additives such as “Restore” won’t make any difference. You’re just wasting your money. Stop doing that.

Thicker oil won’t help. Nothing will help. The engine in your car has suffered abuse or neglect, and it’s been permanently damaged. Nothing you do, short of replacing or rebuilding the engine, will make any difference.

He may be unhelpful and arrogant, (avoids negotiations) do not take another car as a replacement, and perhaps there is a really slim chance something developed after you bought it, but I assume he has lied to you and now it is fair to lie to him. Try the you take this back at full price or I and my lawyer on retainer will see you at civil court! He will make you a lowball offer I bet but don’t take it, if you can get out at loosing 500 bucks take it, if you are really good you might make it out for 250, and if you are really really good and threatining he just might give you all your money back. But as is you have a car that will exceed it’s value in repairs(imho)

I don’t know what state you’re in, but in Massachusetts used cars are required to pass safety/emissions. If the car fails either you can return it regardless of whether it was a private or dealer sale.

The seller can then either repair the car so it passes, or must refund the purchase price, minus a few cents for each mile that was put on it by the new owner.

Pulling one plug only is inadequate to determine anything. They all need to be looked at, as the problem may not be happening in all cylinders.

I agree with McP that that’s a huge amount of oil usage and that you likely have internal damage, perhaps scored cylinders, but I still maintain that you have nothing to lose by trying the additive to degump the oil rings. I’ve frankly never heard of anything using that much oil, and in my mind all possibilities are worth trying.

This is a sad story, I actually feel bad for the kid who sold this to you, because he/she will pay back much worse than this. Call the seller up and tell that the engine is a pure junk, you know that you were taken. Listen to his side of the story too. I don’t know the purchase price, but you might be able to take him to small claims court. It all depends on the state laws regarding used cars sale and emission and etc and in most states you will loose the battle, BUT at least the mention of a lawyer and small claims court might make him think twice and at least talk to an adult and learn that he should have disclosed this prior to the sale.

On the same topic, I once bought a 12 yr old car with 100+KM. When I test drove it everything was fine and the AC was working too. Two days later delivered the check and took the car, but since it was late night and colder did not use the AC. Next day on the way to DMV the weather was warmer so tried the AC and nothing. So it had a leak and probably needed a new compressor which was more than what the car was worth. Called the seller, got a lot of eh and ah and “it was fine when you tested it”. I reminded him that on the test drive day he asked for a 2 hour window and that the leak is not from some place that burst open today. I also reminded him that I am working on minimum wage and he is healthy and has a healthy family and goes to church. Long story short the next day I dropped the car off and got my check back. To date my wife reminds me that I got lucky and after all the guy was nice and admitted that he should do right.

My son has the same problem with his car we just gave him so he can get to work. The shop cant figure out where the oil is going; no smoke from the exhaust, oil leak down test fine, compression test fine, changed the pvc valve, no oil (wet spots)seen anywhere in engine or under car. This is the second engine in 6 weeks to be placed in the car with the same mysterious oil consumption problem (original engine blew a head gasket because my same son decided to take his dads car out when he came home on Christmas leave while I was at ER with his sister, the car had been sitting for 2 months since my husband went oversea and I don’t drive manual and it was in need of an oil change so when he was speeding around on low oil he ruined the engine in same day). Anyway I am wondering can I really be that unlucky that now 2 different used engines that ford installed can have the same problem or is there something small they are missing?? By the way they are at the point where they said I need to call Everdrive’s warranty department for another engine, ford says its a bad engine just like the first engine they installed. But how can it be a BAD engine if its passing all the stupid test ~_^

Mountainbike please see question I posted below your other comment and answer if you can, wish this posting board had private message that way I could send you email and know for sure you are going to see my question.

I caught your question.

First, my thanks to your husband for serving and to you for your sacrifice while he does so.

It is possible to get more than one bad used engine. Used engines are always a gamble.

The difficulty with diagnosing bad oil rings is that there is no real definitive test. The oil rings on the pistons are below the compression rings, and while a compression test can definitively tell a worn out engine, one with bad oil rings can still hold compression. The other thing is that oil rings can have a mode of failure other than wear. The can become gummed up with sludge and they can also become tired. The rings are actually like round springs that push outward againt the cylinder walls to wipe the oil in a controlled manner, but they can lose spring tension and begin to do a less that good job. Either failure mode can result in an engine that allows oil to be drawn into the cylinders and burned without it showing up on a compression test. The reason this can happen is that the compression rings are designed to seal with force on the top of the ring, and during the intake stroke the force is on the bottom of the rings.

I’ve used my allotment of words already so I’ll try to summarize. yes, it is possible to get two bad used motors. And unless a flourescing dye is used and/or a leak trace detected, or oil residue is apparent on the exhaust or the spark plugs, oil usage can be difficult to definitively diagnose. Possible causes can be eliminated, but the oil rings themselves can be tricky.

Have you called Everdrive yet?

Thank you and sorry I didn’t see your response sooner, I thought I would get an email letting me know that I had a response.

That is what Ford is saying also, that is has to be the oil rings under the compression rings and for them to rebuild the engine it would be around $5000 (that is if they rebuilt engines which they don’t). The oil was not seen anywhere, the mechanic took off the muffler and drove it (nothing), took out all spark plugs (nothing), he put a file mark on the dip stick filled it with more oil then took it home 50 miles and drove it back to work next day 50 miles (after they had went to Toyota to get OEM PVC valve) and thats when the manager said to give them my warranty info and he was going to try and get Everdrive to give him a rebuilt engine this time because they have already sent 2 bad engines (the last engine I did a carfax report on and found it had 107,000 miles not 70,000 like they said, wonder what the 1st one had) I just don’t know if Everdrive will since this has already cost them almost as much as I paid them.

What do you mean about a fluorescing die, and if it isn’t seen anywhere then we’re back at the oil rings and another engine??

I just sent an email to Everdrive to follow up on the ones that the service manger sent.

ps. I thought as long as a compression test, oil leak down test, and spin test were performed then you were safe to get a used engine and with a Toyota engine they should be good for 300,000 miles so buying one at 90,000 - 100,000 miles would be fine.

Just found out they did do a die test and found no leaking. My husband said what if we took it to a place that would do a reverse oil flush to clean out the engine. My question is; if we did that and it appeared to work would the same problem come back after a couple months because the oil rings really needed to be replaced and therefor we only patched the problem and did not fix it (image in my head leaky water pipe with tape around it, good quick SHORT TERM fix as long as you replace the pipe soon) ~_^

Zebragirl6, I feel your pain.

I have a 2002 Toyota Celica that I bought and was doing fine for about 3 months and is now experiencing the same issue after a long road trip. I also have the check engine light on with the code P0420 for “catalyst system efficiency below threshold (bank 1)” which only goes to reiterate what others are saying about engine damage. I also can smell exhaust with the windows down, someone said it could be a leak in the exhaust manifold gasket and the CC needs to be replaces. The tailpipe is black so I know the engine is burning it fast and furious (BP would be proud of me for keeping 'em in business). I check the oil every other day now, mileage is still good. The irony is that I’m still paying on it and now I need a new engine; somehow I can make lemonade out this.

So now that I know I need an engine, should I get this one rebuilt or should I get a new/rebuild one? How long does it take (can this be done on a Fri/Sat)? Anyone know where I can get one cheap?

Thank you.

If the poster is in MA consumer protection laws on her side especially if this vehicle will not pass emissions.