Car Concern: Yet Another for Rick And Gary

1997 Sable. LS Trim - VTECH - 24 Valve engine.

The engine eats oil. It has about ~250,000 Kms on it. It passed an emissions test this summer. I’m thinking that it eats about a litre of oil every, say month or two.

It gets parked in the garage, so I can assume it’s not leaking anything perceivable.

Thoughts? Is it nearing its “pooched” phase?

How many kilometers are your driving for it to use a liter of oil? 250K is a pretty good run, there may be serious or not so serious issues at this mileage.

Barring significant external leakage, the logical assumption is that the engine is burning oil. An old rule of thumb is that fixing it is probably not justified if it consumes a quart or less per 1000 miles. Based on your mileage figures, it sounds like you haven’t reached that point yet. Until you get other sympoms (e.g. oil fouling of spark plugs) or the consumption gets rather worse, I’d say there’s no compelling reason to do a repair.

The two common cause of burning oil are leakage past the valve stem seals and leakage past the piston rings. Replacing the valve stem seals (rough round figures here) is maybe a $500 job and is often a reasonable thing to do. Replacing the piston rings probably costs four times that, and if one is going to go that far it usually makes more sense to go a little further and overhaul or replace the engine.