Where's the Oil?

Is it possible for a 1999 Toyota Camry LE 4cyl. to burn 3 quarts of oil over 8,000 miles? The car showed NO evidence of leaking oil or no evidence of burning oil. I had the oil seals checked at about 130,000 miles and the dealer said they were fine. The car had 165,000 miles on it, but now the engine is ruined because it was 3 quarts low.

I wasn’t in the habit of checking the oil because I always had it changed every 3,500-5,000 miles.

It is just a guess that perhaps the service department didn’t put enough oil in at the last oil change.

Certainly a car with 165k could burn 3 quarts in that period. If you were changing at, say, 4,000 miles, it might have been 1.5 quarts down, no harm done, but going to 8,000 is what killed it.

It’s entirely possible for an engine to use 3 quarts in 8000 miles. Many cars like the Jaguar straight 6 used 1 quart evry 1000 miles or so right from the factory.

That’s why you should always check your oil regularly; it’s one of the “owner’s responsiblity” activities outlined in your owner’s manual.

The engine is not necessarily ruined because you ran it down 3 quarts, if the crankcase holds 4; you just caused excessive wear and gave yourself a very expensive lesson in proper car care!

If the engine does not smoke, runs well, and can meet the smog test, just kep drivng it. Oil is cheap, and new cars are expensive. A new Ferrari would probably burn the same amoint of oil as your car.

From now on, I would just check the oil with each fillup, a mechancic can show you how to do this accurately. Your car probably has a lot of life left in it.

Yes, it is possible for a car–even a Toyota–to burn 3 qts. of oil in 8,000 miles.

That works out to a qt. of oil being consumed ~ every 2,600 miles, which is not only considered to be normal oil consumption, but would actually be considered very low oil consumption by many people–especially Audi owners. When you consider that the engine had 165k on it, this was certainly not excessive oil consumption. Many people with far newer cars would be envious of you for having a car that only burned a qt. of oil every 2,600 miles.

There is a contradiction in your post that you might want to clarify. You tell us that you didn’t check the oil during the time that the car accumulated 8,000 miles on the odometer, and then you rationalize that you didn’t check the oil because you “always had it changed every 3,500-5,000 miles”. Apparently you didn’t really change the oil every 3,500-5,000 miles, as evidenced by this incident.

If you did, in fact, drive this car 8,000 miles without checking the oil, then you have only yourself to blame. In fact, on a car with this many miles on it, if you didn’t check the oil during the usual 3,500-5,000 mile interval, that in itself would be irresponsible and negligent. You apparently compounded your “normal” negligence by not checking the oil for an even longer period of time recently.

You can try to guess or to transfer the blame to the service department that did the most recent oil change, but if you were exercising the type of diligence that a normally responsible car owner would practice, you would have checked the oil at least every couple of weeks. There appears to be an epidemic nowadays of people who cannot accept responsibility for their own actions, and apparently you are one of this growing number.

I’m sorry to bring you back to reality, but you are the one responsible for the engine being ruined. Hopefully you have learned something from your negligence and you will lift the hood and check your fluids more often with your next car.

Yes, I was negligent. But, truthfully this was the longest I had ever gone without oil change since 1991 when I bought my first new car. This was an expensive lesson. I will be sure to be diligent from now on.
So is it necessary to CHANGE the oil every 5,000 miles as long as the oil is at the proper volume?

Changing the oil as recommended by the manufacturer is critical. The oil picks up contaminants and also starts to break down with time.


And if your driving patterns fit the “severe service” or “extreme service” described in the manufacturer’s maintenance schedule, it might actually be necessary to change the oil as often as every 1,000 or 2,000 miles. For those who drive only short distances daily (Severe Service), the oil should be changed every 3 or 4 months, and there might be very few miles on the odometer at that point.

Unless you’re running synthetic oil I would consider 5000 miles the maximum distance to go, and then only if that’s mostly highway miles.

Well stated. There is only one place to lay blame when an engine is damaged from not having its oil checked in 8000 miles, and that’s with the owner/driver.

Most manufactures view burning 1000 miles/quart as the threshold for when they’ll do warranty work to repair it. Why, on an engine with 165,000 miles, you believe you can go 8000 miles without checking the oil, is beyond me.

Other people have addressed the lack of checking oil regularly. I’d like to address the comment about guessing that the service department didn’t put in enough oil. Given how many mistakes are made by rushed service departments, it’s crazy not to check the oil immediately after an oil change to make sure the level is right (and the oil is actually new).

Excellent point Lion. I’ve been changing my own oil for 40 years, have never had a problem, and I STILL check my oil after filling, start the engine and watch underneath for drips, take it for a drive and recheck it, and then check it daily for a week or so.

Okay, I overdo it. But if I ever have a faulty filter gasket that gets installed unnoticed I won’t regret my extreme caution.