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Sudden loss of oil in RAV 4

I have a 2008 Toyota RAV 4 that I have serviced regularly, and it’s not due for an oil change for another 1,000 miles. Recently, the oil light started flashing briefly only when I stepped on the brake pedal. I finally checked the dipstick, and it needed 2 quarts of oil. There is no evidence of oil leaks on the ground under the car. It is also not smoking. If it was burning oil, wouldn’t there be smoke from the exhaust pipe? If there are no visible oil leaks and it doesn’t appear to be burning oil, how else could the oil have disappeared? Thanks for any ideas you can provide.

The oil is being burned. An engine can burn oil at a surprising rate without smoking. If your engine is burning oil at a rate of, say, one quart per thousand miles, you would not see smoke.

Unfortunately, RAV4’s seem to have a general problem with burning oil:

Check with your dealer to see if they have a TSB (service bulletin) for this problem with your car.

Edit: Yes, Toyota has issued a TSB for this problem.

Unfortunately, Toyota claims that burning one quart or less per 1200 miles is “normal” and they won’t help you unless your rate of oil loss is higher than that.

You should check your oil AT LEAST every 1000 miles…How many miles on this vehicle? Sometimes a malfunctioning PCV system can cause an otherwise sound engine to burn oil…Check to see if there is any oil or oil residue inside your air-cleaner box…How often do you change your oil?

Your catalytic converter will eliminate any smoke that might otherwise be present…

How many miles ago was the last time you checked your oil? We need to get an idea of how quickly you went through those two quarts.

I can confirm that Rav4s of that vintage do have a tendency to burn oil, as that is what I have helped a friend to deal with in his '08 Rav. By the time that the odometer got to 50k miles, it was consuming 1 qt every 800 miles, and while that might be normal for an Audi, it didn’t seem normal for a Toyota, IMHO.

So, I replaced the PCV valve, and the rate of consumption dropped to 1 qt every 1,000 to 1,200 miles. I still think that this is a bit much for a well-maintained vehicle, but because it falls w/in Toyota’s stated “normal” consumption rate, there isn’t much of anything that can be done regarding it.

And, as was already stated, the catalytic converter is “eating” the oil smoke, so that you don’t see it. That is the good news.
The bad news is that, if the rate of oil consumption is excessive, it will ruin that expensive catalytic converter.

All of that being said, we need to know the following from the OP:

How many miles are on the odometer?
How often do you check the dipstick?
What do you mean by “it is serviced regularly”? Please tell us about both the odometer mileage and the elapsed time between oil changes.

Here you go . . .

Since the “real” solution seems to be new pistons and rings, I suggest checking the engine oil level more often. If you are vigilant about this, the engine will have a long and happy life

The 2008 Rav4 manufacturer’s recommended oil change schedule is every 5000 miles. The capacity is, I believe, 4 quarts. It can probably drop about three quarts before the level drops to where the oil pressure warning light begins warning you.

If you had 1000 miles left to the next change and the lights started blinking, you’re probably using a quart of oil about every 1300 or so miles. You didn’t tell us how many miles you have on the vehicle, but that would not be abnormal or a sign of a problem for a 2008 with normal mileage (12,000+/yr). It would even be considered acceptable for a new engine, although on the higher end of the new-engine usage curve.

The problem is that you need to learn to check your oil regularly, as others have said. Even if the low pressure warning light hasn’t illuminated before, constantly running an engine on low oil accelerates wear. A quarter cup of contaminants and dilutive components has a much larger deleterious effect in 2 quarts of oil than in 4 quarts of oil… by a factor of 2.

The good news is that your engine isn’t destroyed. The bad news is that it probably won’t stay healthy as long as it would of had you been checking the oil all along.

Thanks for all of the info. I didn’t know any of this, so you’ve all been very helpful. My RAV has 76,000 miles on it; last oil change was at 72,000. I’ve always had the oil changed every 3,000-5,000 miles. I’ll start checking the oil every 1,000 miles from now on.

Another good time to check the oil is right after you have the oil changed. There is a slight possibility that they didn’t fill the oil to full capacity so it would seem you burned more oil than you actually did.

“Another good time to check the oil is right after you have the oil changed”.
Good advice. Sometimes the person changing the oil does not account for the oil needed to fill the oil filter. When I used to change the oil on my car, I would add the amount of oil needed without the filter. It would bring the oil up to the full mark. I would then back the car down off the ramps. When I checked the oil again, it would be between a pint and quart low. I would then top off the oil.

Excellent advice, and something I do myself… and I change my own oil!
I always double-check, and I always monitor the level for a few days just I case I screwed up and installed a filter without its gasket or something dumb like that.

Another good time to check the oil is right after you have the oil changed.

The only times I have ever let anyone else change my oil is when I buy a new car and it’s under warranty. Even then, it’s not every change but when I do, I never leave the lot without checking the oil level. Trust, but verify… :wink: