What causes excessive engine oil consumption?

Excessive engine oil consumption is a common problem that many car owners have to deal with. Ironically, most of these car owners aren't even aware that there's a problem in the first place and they tend to dismiss it when their cars exhibit symptoms.

But if car oil consumption isn't taken care of immediately, it can lead to a host of other problems that will be detrimental to your vehicle's health. Understanding car oil consumption, what causes it and the symptoms are the first steps to take to rectify the problem to avoid further damage.

What causes excessive engine oil consumption?

man pouring oil

Engine oil is a lubricant in an automobile engine. For your engine to function at full capacity, there is a need for it to have this proper lubrication. Another point to highlight About engine oil is that it works in a type of reciprocation system. Meaning oil that is consumed/rotates tends to return to its original state.

Engine oil consumption is caused by issues relating to the engine. More specifically, it's a result of problems occurring near or through the combustion chamber as well as leakages from various parts of the engine. It's as a result of either external leakage or burning of the oil in the engine. And excessive engine oil consumption can be a result of the following:

  • Worn gaskets or seals
  • Problems with the piston rings
  • Poor quality engine oil
  • Old engine

Worn gaskets or seals

Worn gaskets

A worn-out or damaged gasket is most likely going to be leaking oil. The seal is made out of plastic this makes it quite flexible compared to the other metallic parts of the engine.

The seal ideally is to stop the spillage of engine oil. Over time, however, the seal might become stiff which reduces its functionality. This means that when revolutions take place on its axis, what is supposed to be a complete revolution, the oil can pass through an opening caused by the worn state of the seal, and spill.

This causes a reduction of engine oil within the engine. Meaning to avoid engine damage you would need to consistently top up the oil that is going to waste. This tends to happen when you are driving your car.

Problems with the piston and rings

Problems with the piston and rings

The piston and rings are probably the most essential part of an engine as we've mentioned in this article. Any problem with the piston and rings can also cause excessive engine oil consumption. By problems with the piston and rings, can be wearing out or general damage.

In the case of damage to the piston and rings, you'll notice that when you drive or attempt to accelerate your car, your car exhaust will be producing a whitish smoke. This is a clear indication that your piston and rings are damaged and oil is being seeped into the combustion chamber. Thereby, causing excessive engine oil consumption.


Everybody loves that new car smell when they just purchased their vehicle fresh from the dealership. Similarly, you'll also enjoy that new engine performance. When a car is brand new, that's the best time to enjoy the entirety of the performance of the car especially for the engine which would be at its peak performance.

Unfortunately, as the car ages, the engine does too. As various parts of the engine begin to deteriorate, car oil consumption is going to happen eventually.

Poor quality engine oil

Poor quality engine oil‍

Engine oil is an essential part of an engine as mentioned previously. Meaning it's not only the parts of an engine that determine how well the engine will function but also the engine oil which serves as a form of lubricant. Engines require a specific level of viscosity to properly function.

Meaning a lack of engine oil to offer that certain level of viscosity can result in excessive engine oil consumption or worse engine damage. Engine oil that is of poor quality for example doesn't have enough viscosity to lubricate your engine. That's why you need to take into consideration the type of oil you're using in your engine.

Engine oil that doesn't provide your engine with the right amount of lubrication will eventually cause "an escape of the oil" otherwise known as excessive engine oil consumption. To better help you in understanding what oil might work best for your engine, you should check out this detailed article with a broad analysis of engine oil components.

Symptoms of excessive engine oil consumption

If your car ever starts to consume an excessive amount of oil, the symptoms can be glaring and easy to identify. It's up to you to pick up on them and have your vehicle looked at by a professional. Here are some of the signs and symptoms of excessive engine oil consumption:


If you're ever driving your car and you notice a smell coming from the car bonnet, this might indicate that your car oil is short. The smell is a very specific burning smell. Simply put that this smell will smell A lot like engine oil burning. There are very few things that can cause that specific type of smell, meaning if at any point in time you perceive this smell, it means that you have a problem.

Indication on the dashboard

 Engine oil shortage indicator

This tends to occur during the later part of the problem. It comes as a check oil light on the dashboard. At this point, your engine is already starting to get affected by the excessive amount of oil that's being consumed and a lack of enough lubrication. To avoid your engine getting to this point, you must watch out for other signs.

Exhaust pipes

Another clear indication that you might have leakage or car oil consumption is the smoke coming out of your exhaust pipes. In the case of Car oil consumption, you might notice a bluish or thick smoke coming out of your exhaust pipes.

This smoke indicates that oil has leaked out and is interfering with the combustion process in the combustion chambers. The engine needs oil to function, but the oil needed is usually isolated to helping the piston and rings and it's not needed in the combustion chambers.


Staining can be of two types; there's one over the engine bay and another one as a result of the thick smoke coming out of the exhaust pipes.

In both cases due to the car oil consumption, the staining around them will get darker. A small amount of staining is negligible but when it gets excessive, that's where the problem lies.

In the case of the engine bay, these stains will appear dusty and very oily. This means that oil is being consumed excessively or there's a leak somewhere.  The leak can be a result of a worn-out seal etc.

Low oil level

 Checking oil level with the dipstick

If at any point in time you top up the oil in your engine and you go in to check a couple of days later and see the quantity of oil left is significantly low, this indicates car oil consumption. Especially if there are no clear leakages, this indicates oil loss from another location.

Definitely, as the engine uses the oil, some amount of the oil is bound to be consumed. However, this amount shouldn't be so much that it becomes significant. In this case, you should have your vehicle checked out immediately.

How to solve the problem of excessive oil consumption

Excessive oil consumption is mainly caused by an issue with the gasket and seal, piston and rings, and various other components of the engine.

That means to find a solution to your problem of car oil consumption, you'll need to fix the problem from the root. If you at any point in time notice symptoms of car oil consumption, get your vehicle to an automobile expert to ascertain the exact location of oil spillage and offer solutions for the problem.

Some common engine oil consumption questions by car owners

Can bad oil cause engine problems?

Bad oil can definitely cause engine problems. Various engines require a specific amount of oil to function properly. Meaning if the oil is not delivering, the engine might not run at optimum performance Causing a series of issues over time.

In fact, bad oil is among the reasons why your engine might be consuming engine oil consumption excessively. For example, if you purchase an oil that doesn't have enough level of viscosity, it means that it will be burning up more in comparison to an oil that has the right amount of viscosity.

That goes to show that you need to understand your engine and its oil needs and not any retail oil you see might work for you. To understand engine oil components, you can check out this previous article we did on the exact topic.

Can low oil cause white smoke?

The simple answer is no, low oil can't cause white smoke. This might sound misleading as it has already been stated previously that oil leakage can cause thick smoke coming out of your exhaust pipe. However, it must be noted that this thick bluish smoke is a result of the engine oil leaking into the combustion chambers of your vehicle.

Ordinarily, oil functions along with the piston and rings to lubricate them as they make their up and down movement. A situation whereby oil leaks out and goes into the combustion chambers is when you'll notice this bluish smoke. Low oil in itself has nothing to do with white or bluish smoke coming out of your exhaust pipe.

What causes white smoke from the exhaust?

When oil burns in the combustion chamber of your engine (which ought not to happen) the white smoke that comes out of the exhaust pipe will have a bluish tint to it. Of course, this blue smoke is completely different from white smoke.

white smoke from car exhaust

In fact, white smoke coming out of the exhaust pipe is a completely different issue entirely. While blue smoke has to do with leaking engine oil, white smoke coming out of your exhaust pipe is an indication of a coolant leak. If this coolant leak is not managed immediately, it can seriously damage your engine.

Will a car start without oil?

Engine oil provides your engine with lubrication. That means your engine and your car as a whole cannot function without it. Your vehicle can not start with low oil levels. A situation whereby you try to start your car with a low oil level, it might cause your engine to seize and cause a severe amount of damage to your vehicle.

For example, an engine like the V6 engine requires about 5 liters of oil to function and it's left with as little as 1.5 liters, which means the engine is not getting enough oil.

Parts of the engine like the clamp shell that needs oil to function, won't have enough to work with it. Even the engine oil pumped which we discussed in this article, will be searching for a sufficient amount of oil to distribute to various engine parts. In conclusion, Low oil level can cause your car not to start plus it can also damage your engine.

How long will an engine go without oil?

The presence of engine oil in your vehicle's engine is crucial to the functioning of the engine and its various components. Engines can actually work without oil, but the side effects of this condition are extremely detrimental to your engine. An engine working without oil is so dangerous that it can cause severe Damage within 30 minutes of working.


Engine oil consumption or leakage is a simple enough issue that can be resolved. It's usually caused by wearing out of various components of your engine that can be replaced.

But, failure to resolve this issue accompanied by continued use of your vehicle can lead to damage to your engine. This might be even more costly to repair. By reading this article, you are now equipped with the necessary knowledge about excessive oil consumption. And most importantly, how to resolve it.

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