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Oil Leak problem

My 2000 Toyota RAV 4 has had an oil leak problem for some time. So far, we have just been checking the oil frequently and adding oil as needed. The problem seems to be getting worse. I have taken it to more than one person and have received more than one recommendation. The car does have 244,000 miles on it so I realize that it would use more oil than a newer car. The last time the oil was checked it was after the car had been driven 136 miles. We added a little over a half quart of oil. Is that extreme? Should I be thinking of getting rid of the car?

One quart per thousand miles is the most that’s considered normal by manufacturers, so yours is apparently much worse than that.

Where is the leak? Can’t you just fix it instead of getting rid of the car?

I think the leak is from the top of the engine. I have never noticed any leaks in the drive way or anywhere the car has been parked. Honestly, I am not sure where I should take it to get an accurate and honest appraisal of the car’s situation. I love my RAV to pieces but I don’t want to start pouring money into something that is going to die soon.

That;s extreme. Have a wet/dry compression test done.
And don;t be fooled thinking it might be just the valvecover gaskets. It isn’t. Valvecover gaskets that weep oil do so not onlky because they’ve been compessed too long, but also because there’s excess prssure under the valvecovers from blowby.

I would check out the PCV valve and its hose & port.

It wouldn’t be unusual that this would be simply the valve cover gaskets springing a leak. I have a early 90’s Corolla with 200K, and at about 140K it developed an oil leak. I noticed it when it dripped oil on the pavement. It was hard to tell the origin by a visual inspection, but it appeared to be coming from the top of the engine, like yours. I replaced the valve covers, and that solved the problem straight away. You may simply need new valve cover gaskets, which cost less than $25-$30. Plus installation. It took me about an hour to do the job.

It could be other things too of course. As mentioned above. Your oil loss might not even be a leak, but oil consumption. Any oil consumption much over one quart per 500 miles usually needs to be addressed at some point. And if not consumption, there’s other places that can leak. A common one near the top of the engine is the camshaft seal. From what I understand, that is particularly expensive to replace, but is more difficult than the valve cover gaskets. And if it is this, it needs to be fixed as the oil can get onto the timing belt, which as you might expect, isn’t good.

As I said before, I have never noticed any drips or anything. There is oil on the engine but it is hard to tell where that is coming from. Very frustrating. With the amount of miles the car has on it, I don’t want to start pouring money into it if it isn’t going to last much longer. On the other hand, I cannot afford to buy a new car. I could buy a used car (which I would prefer anyway), but I might inherit the exact same issues with the used car. Tough decisions and also tough finding someone reliable that will do the repair at a reasonable price.

There’s not much risk in either dollars or time involved by simply replacing the valve cover gaskets with new ones. Trial by fire. See if it stops the leaks. That’s probalby what I’d do first if it were my truck. If the car has been well maintained, it should have quite a few miles left on it. If the engine maintenance has lagged well behind what the owner’s manual says, well, 244K may be near the end of the line. At any rate, at 244K, reliability is going to be a continuing problem compared to a new truck. Best of luck to you.

As there any smoke coming out the back, especially under load or higher RPMs? I suspect you might be burning oil if you don’t see any on the ground. Definitely check the PCV and compression. If it is the valve cover gasket, there should be oil on the ground where you park. The same is true for other engine seals.

You might try a clean oil and filter change and drive it for a day with some Seafoam in the oil to see if it loosens anything up. You might have a stuck ring.


are you due for a timing belt soon or does this engine use a chain? If it does have a belt and its due soon, you should be able to get a complete package deal at the Toyota dealer for the belt, water pump and all oil seals, including the valve cover gasket.

I have been a stickler for maintaining this car. I have the oil changed every 3,000 miles and I always get repairs done as soon as possible to prevent other problems from happening. I don’t think it has anything to do with the timing belt. I am hoping that it will end up being a simpler rather than complicated problem. Unfortunately, I cannot do any of these repair jobs myself. A major problem is finding someone reliable and trustworthy who can.

I dunno but a quart every 300 miles is not a valve gasket problem IMHO. That much loss of oil is either a severe leak such as a pan, cooler lines, front or rear seal, or rings. On my diesel I was down to I think somewhere around 500 miles to the quart and there was no blue smoke or anything to speak of.

I will look around the engine bay and from underneath to see if there is one major area of leak. If that doesn’t show much, then you can change the valve cover gasket yourself, along with the PCV “valve” and see if it helps. Otherwise, you are probably burning more oil than leaking which means time for a new engine or new car.

At a quart every 300 miles you’re going to soon have a LOT of oil all over the engine. You’ve already said the engine is covered. It’s only a question of time before that oil catches fire and burns your beloved RAV4 to the ground. Get it fixed soon or get rid of it.

"A major problem is finding someone reliable and trustworthy who can. "

Another common source of leaks is the oil pressure sensor. Cheap but can pour out a lot of oil in a short period of time and only do it when the engine is running.

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Browneyes, I did not mean to imply that you are not maintaining the vehicle or that the timing belt was the problem. Many times, an oil leak of this severity is due to the crank seal, sometimes the cam seal. I was just saying that if a timing belt is coming due, you could save a lot of money by combining the new seals with the timing belt as the timing belt has to come out in order to get to the seals. But if you have a timing chain instead, or just had the belt replaced, then these seals will be very expensive.

Before jumping on these though, a leak of this magnitude could be due to a leaking oil pressure sending unit. That would be a cheap fix. Other things to look at are the oil drain plug and the oil filter. One of these could have been damaged at one of the oil changes and is leaking now. If this level of oil consumption started suddenly and right after an oil change, then this would be a real suspect.