Oil just evaporates? 1999 Accord


Hello, this is probably a dumb question, but does oil just evaporate/get used up even if there’s no leak?

Yesterday as I was driving to work the check engine light went on, then on the trip home the oil warning indicator started to flash.

When I arrived home I checked the oil level and I had probably on 1 qt left, and I quickly went out and bought some oil and refilled it (also, just a quick note, this is the first time I changed/added oil so hopefully I did it right-- well actually I did do it once decades ago in an auto shop class, but i have no recollection of the activity besides knowledge that I did it).

Ok, apologies for being long winded.

Anyhow, I checked my garage and there are no oil leak patterns anywhere, so I’m not sure how this leak occurred.

It’s been about 6months since my last oil change, and I’ve been carpooling mostly so I’ve only put about 1000 miles on it in the meantime.


It doesn’t evaporate or get used up at that rate UNLESS there’s some sort of problem. Nor does it leak at that rate unless there’s some sort of problem. Leaks can occur through bad seals, especially if the crankcase ventilation system is plugged and there’s excessive pressure building in the crankcase. But they usually leave tracks.

Burning oil can occur through worn out valve stem seals and/or worn out cylinders. Or a blown headgasket. Since you drove it without oil pressure (that’s what that light means) then my guess is that if your engine wasn’t worn out before, it is now. Someone would have to look at it to determine where the oil went. A “reading” of the plugs, a few tests, stuff like that.

But, man, you need to learn to check your oil level periodically. Like, maybe every other week. And familiarize yourself with your owner’s manual. That tells you how to fill the oil. And get the oil and filter changed. What was left was probably glop.


6 months ago who did your oil change? Did they put the correct amount of oil in the car then? If not that could explain why your level was low. The oil does not evaporate…as the engine ages you begin to burn it or loose it through leaks.


Thanks for your replies. I always take it to the dealer for service so I’m taking it there tomorrow but I just wanted to check here first to get some ideas.

To be honest, I’ve never heard that oil needs to be checked that often until you mentioned it and also when I read the manual the other night on how to add more oil. I guess I just thought as long as you take it to service every 3 months/3000 miles, that was it (though I did break that rule this time in not taking the car in for so long…)


Also, what does a “worn” engine mean? That the unit is toast and I have to replace it?


Oil can disappear in a number of ways. As pointed out another post, it can get sucked past the valve guides and go out of the exhaust. You can easily check for this by driving at normal city speed and taking you foot off the gas. The high engine vacuum will suck the oil past leaky valve guides, burn it and show up as blue smoke in the exhaust. Check your rearview mirror. Very fast driving will force oil past the rings and oil consumption will be high. My previous car (a Caprice ) was stolen by some kids who used it for racing. When the police returned it, it was a mess and the oil was down 2 quarts! This car normally consumed 1 quart in 2000 miles. The most common leak, however is past the oil filter seal. When the car is parked and turned off, there is no pressure on the seal and it will not leak. Starting the car and warming it up will let oilld past the seal if the filter is not on tight enough or the seal is defective. Years ago I nearly lost my car when the oil filter popped off and oil gushed over the exhaust manifold. The service station accepted responsibility and even paid for the towing, since only 1 quart remained. If you have teenage kids you might ask some questions as well.


I guess I do punch it when in the car…usually going 80-85mph on the freeways when out of the gridlock traffic jam areas. uhoh.


Just after changing th eoil I check mine at least once a day just in case I installed a filter with a faulty seal or something like that. Once I’m satisfied, I back off to about once a week and taper down from there. My car uses no discernable oil between changes, but if it ever does I want to catch it early.


Worn engine means in this case that the cylinders and bearing surfaces probably have extreme wear and/or even scoring (grooves) from running metal to metal. Since the engine didn’t seize, all you can really do is start monitoring the oil carefully and hope for the best. You may be lucky.


Actually, you can test the valve stem seals more positively by pnuching it (with an auto tranny, which I assume the Accord has) and then letting off the gas and looking in the mirror. That causes it to downshift and gets the RPMs up, then when you pull your foot off the gas and restrict the intake with the closed throttle plate the vacuum spikes even higher. The volume being drawn in depends on the engine speed…the higher the speed, the more volume it’s trying to draw in.


When the oil light comes on, you don’t continue on and check it at home. You stop and resolve the problem right on the spot! Because if you don’t, you will be lucky to make it home…

If you haven’t checked your oil in 6 months, it’s impossible to tell what the problem is. Start off with a fresh oil change, check the oil that day, then check it every week for a while and see what develops…