What Causes Engine Oil to Burn?: Unravel the Mystery

Have you ever noticed that your car seems to be guzzling engine oil faster than you can say “oil change”? That means your car might be burning engine oil.

Engine oil burning is a common issue that many car owners encounter, often leaving them puzzled and concerned about the health of their vehicle.

Keeping a close eye on your vehicle and fixing any issues promptly helps it last longer.

Besides paying attention to warning lights and sounds on your dashboard, you need to regularly check your car’s fluids, listen for strange noises, watch out for smoke, and even sniff for unusual smells from the engine, vents, or exhaust.

This is especially true for your oil system. One key indicator to watch for is your car burning oil.

Whatever the reason, it’s crucial to fix this problem quickly to prevent serious damage to your engine.

Keep reading to find out about the signs, reasons, and best solutions to stop your car from burning oil.

An image illustrating what causes engine oil to burn
A car emitting bluish smoke, a possible indicator of burning oil.
Source; amsoil

What Does It Mean When Your Car Burns Engine Oil?

If you notice that your engine oil level keeps dropping frequently, it could be because your engine is using it up either by burning or leaking it.

When your car burns engine oil, the oil gets into the combustion chamber by slipping past the piston rings.

As the seals and gaskets in your engine wear out over time, oil might start leaking from the engine and dripping onto hot parts like the exhaust.

This leads to a noticeable burning oil smell in your car.

Additionally, if certain internal engine parts aren’t working properly, oil can leak into places it shouldn’t be.

That’s why it’s important to have a skilled mechanic check your engine to diagnose any issues before they become dangerous or cause serious damage.

Indications Your Car Might Be Burning Engine Oil

Curious about how to tell if your car is burning engine oil? Look out for these signs:

  1. The oil level gets low quickly.
  2. There’s a smell of burning oil.
  3. Blue smoke comes out of the exhaust.

If you notice that when you check your oil level on different days, it’s consistently lower each time, your car might be burning oil.

Additionally, keep an eye on the dashboard indicators for oil quality and pressure dropping rapidly, which could signal oil burning.

In addition to the oil level dropping, you might catch a strong smell coming from your engine.

That’s the scent of leaked oil landing on hot engine parts, and it’s hard to miss.

Moreover, you might see thick, bluish smoke coming from your tailpipe while the engine is running.

This smoke tends to get worse when you speed up or slow down, indicating that your car is burning oil at a fast rate.

What Causes Engine Oil to Burn?

It’s good to not only know the signs of your car burning oil but also understand what causes it.

This way, you can be better prepared to deal with the issue if it arises.

Knowing what makes a car use up oil too quickly can help you spot and fix issues early.

Some common reasons include clogged parts that manage oil flow, worn-out seals or gaskets, using the wrong type of oil, or simply having an old engine.

1. Worn Out Gaskets

The cylinder head gasket, which seals the oil passages in the engine, can wear out because of the regular heating and cooling it goes through.

If it starts to leak, oil can spill into the engine and cylinders and get burned up.

2. Worn or Stuck Piston Rings

If the piston rings in your car’s engine, especially the wiper and oil-control rings, are damaged or worn out, they can’t stop too much oil from getting into the area where fuel burns.

This leads to oil being burned up quickly. The burning oil also creates carbon buildup on the rings and cylinders, and this can cause gases to leak into the lower part of the engine, mixing with the oil vapor.

3. Wrong Type of Engine Oil

Using low-quality oil can lead to your car using up oil faster.

This type of oil isn’t good at handling high temperatures.

It’s like how the sun can make water evaporate from a puddle.

In the engine, the oil turns into carbon deposits because of the heat, which causes the oil level to go down.

4. Oil Entering the Turbocharger

If you have a turbocharged car, keep an eye on your seals for any damage or wear out.

When seals wear out, oil can leak through them and end up in either the warmer compressor side that leads to the intake or the cooler exhaust side of the turbo.

In both cases, this oil leakage can lead to burning and damage to the bearings, eventually causing the turbo to fail.

5. Broken or Clogged PCV Valve

The positive crankcase ventilation valve (PCV) helps recycle combustion gases back into the engine where they’re burned before being released through the exhaust.

However, if the PCV valve is worn or blocked, it can cause engine oil to be sucked into the engine through the air intake instead of just gases, leading to burning oil.


In conclusion, understanding what causes engine oil to burn is crucial for keeping your car running smoothly.

From worn-out parts to clogged valves, there are various culprits behind this issue.

But armed with knowledge, you can handle these problems head-on and ensure your engine stays in top shape.

So, the next time you notice that telltale smell of burning oil or see bluish smoke coming from your tailpipe, don’t panic.

Instead, take action to diagnose and fix the issue promptly.

By staying vigilant and addressing problems early on, you’ll not only save yourself from costly repairs but also enjoy the thrill of a well-maintained vehicle roaring down the road.

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