How much oil can a car burn in 1000 miles, a week of driving?

I have a 2007 Ford Escape. It seems to be losing oil, but I know it’s not leaking as I see no spots in my driveway. I just got the oil changed 7-10 days ago, I went on a highway trip and have put about 1000 miles on it in that time. Because I have had to add oil between the last time I got an oil change my shop told me to come back after the 1000 miles.

I took the car to the shop this morning, they drained the oil and said it only had 1.5 quarts come out. I believe the car takes about 5 quarts. Is it really possible to burn that much oil in a week and not notice a thing? I’ve seen no smoke coming out the tail pipe. I don’t smell anything when driving or sitting at lights. I even got behind it yesterday to smell and couldn’t smell anything.

I know the shop pretty well, and they know the car since they do the majority of the work on it for the last 7-8 years. The car runs great, I still get about 24-25 mpg and have noticed no real performance issues. It needs some things done to it, but I am fine thinking about taking it on vacation.

Is there something I should ask the shop to look at? They are going to refill the oil and said to come back in 1000 miles. It has 174k on it, but I’d like to at least get it to last until the fall before I can get a new car.

I would guess that they made a mistake on the amount of oil that came out; your low oil light should have come on when it was about a quart low- if it takes 5 quarts, the light would have come on and stayed on at 4 quarts.

That said, what I’ve read in owner’s manuals and seen on various boards is that 1 quart per oil change interval is considered “normal”, or at least not cause for concern. In today’s cars, that’s about 1 quart per 6000 miles or more.

I would think that 3.5 quarts/1000 miles would produce some noticeable smoke- that’s something like an ounce every 9 miles or so, which in your car is like 2.5 ounces/gallon more or less. That’s in the same ballpark as most modern 2-cycle engines, which produce a little bit of smoke.

Here’s what I would do: Let them refill it, check the level yourself to verify, and then keep an eye on your mileage- check it at say… 300 miles. If you’re burning at the rate that you say above, you should be right around a quart low by then- your level should go from the Max/Full marker on the dipstick to the Min/Add marker. Usually that’s a hashed section, but sometimes it’s notches, lines or holes in the dipstick.

If indeed you are a full quart down at 300 miles, I’d take it in and ask why you’re burning oil so fast. If not, then figure out how fast you are burning oil.

Some manufacturers consider it tolerable for an engine to burn up to one quart every 1000 miles. I still think that’s a lot but it used to be the threshold before the manufacturer would perform warranty service due to oil consumption. If you are burning any more than that, you definitely have a problem It could be piston rings, the PCV system, or valve guides and seals. If it is burning, you should see and smell blue smoke coming from the tail pipe.

It might also be an oil leak that only leaks when its running and that gets burnt off by the heat of the engine, like a leak from the valve cover gasket that drips onto the exhaust manifold. You would possibly smell that from inside the car while it was running.

Wouldn’t you think that I’d see something like that? I’ve poked around a bit in my engine block and don’t see anything, the engine is pretty clean for its age. I also don’t smell anything when it runs. And I would know what it smells like as a few weeks ago I spilled some on the valve cover when I was adding oil.

I don’t know what can escape your attention but since it apparently cannot include things that might cause your problem, there is obviously nothing I can do to help. Good luck.

OP, does your oil light work? It should come on when you turn the key to the “on” position without starting the car.

Sorry if that came out bad, I would think that with the amount of oil it’s supposed to be losing it would be wet around the engine. I haven’t noticed anything, but I didn’t get my hands everywhere.

It does. It comes on when I start the car, and it came on a few weeks ago when I added oil.

I used to have an old pickup truck that burned 3 or 4 quarts or so of oil for every 1000 miles. The truck made a good puff of smoke when it first started, but after that it didn’t have visible smoke coming out the tailpipe and I never smelled oil while driving it, even when stopped at red lights. According to my son (who happened to drive behind it a few times), if I stomped on the gas it would make some visible smoke, though it wasn’t visible to me from inside the truck.

If the rings are worn, you’re basically talking an engine rebuild to fix it. I wasn’t willing to do that on this old clunker. It was much cheaper to just throw a couple of quarts of oil into it every time the oil light started to come on. The nice thing about this truck was that the oil light would start to flicker going around turns when it started to get low on oil but long before any damage was done to the engine. With a lot of engines, once the oil light comes on you’re already doing damage, so I don’t recommend waiting for the light to come on as a visual cue for when you need to add oil, but it worked for this truck.

I put over 100,000 miles on that truck with it burning oil the entire time. The rate at which it burned oil never got worse. In the end, it was the frame rusting out that finally killed the truck, not the engine.

Assuming that the problem is worn piston rings, as long as you keep the oil level reasonable, there’s no reason that the engine can’t keep running for a very long time. You’ll burn oil and the engine’s performance won’t be quite as good as it was when the engine was new due to blowby, but worn piston rings alone won’t kill the car.

If you’re burning 3 or 4 quarts every 1000 miles, you need to check it every 300 or 400 miles or so to make sure you don’t get more than a quart or so low. Some engines are more tolerant than others about running a bit low on oil. I don’t have any practical experience with Ford Escapes so I don’t know how yours is.

A bad PCV valve can cause excessive oil burning and is about as cheap as an auto repair can get. Other causes of burning oil are $$$.

This is good to know. I have one more trip coming up next week of about 1500 miles. I can carry some extra oil. If it will keep on running for that I’m good.

I can check to see if it’s an easy fix for me. The shop did not suggest that as a problem, they actually didn’t suggest anything right now, just noted that it was losing oil some how.

I went left on the one-lane gravel road, went fourteen west on County 12. Took two full quarts of forty-weight oil just to get her to the Conoco station. And I pulled up to the Regular pump and then Harold Sykes and his kid come out. He says, “I’ve seen better stuff at junkyards and where’d you ever get that truck?”
“Classified” – C.W. McCall

I knew I had a problem with my much-neglected old Honda Civic many years ago, when I went around a corner rather hard and the oil light came on.

That’s a simple test. If you don’t see an oil feed problem in an engine that takes 5Q then you probably were not at 1.5Q.

Is this the first time you noticed this problem? You didn’t have high oil burn before this last oil change?

If not, and if you don’t see high oil burn again, the simplest explanation is that the shop screwed up and didn’t put the right amount of oil in last time.

However, my wife’s WRX clone has always burned a lot of oil. I put about two quarts into it between oil changes. This is just the way some vehicles are. OTOH, I had a 2003 Escape and it hardly burned any oil at all.

Or they drained the wrong fluid? :grimacing:

I think (I hope) they’d notice if there was now 10L of oil in an engine which should have 5L.

Heh. I don’t buy pickup trucks for their looks. I get old beaters so I don’t feel bad about tossing firewood or car parts or all kinds of other junk into the bed.

I think I paid $1500 for it. It had almost 100,000 miles on it when I got it and I had it for about 15 years and put another 100k on it. The frame rusted through last year otherwise I’d still have it.

My Subaru (and also my wife’s Subie, come to think of it) has a lot of oil leaking / consuming issues. The owner’s manual actually says to check the oil after every other fill-up of gasoline. Apparently the oil consumption is due to the way the engine manages oil. The piston rings are supposed to provide a pressure seal to the cylinder but also be lubricated by engine oil, and have the ability to spread the oil around and also to send it back to the oil pan. In a Subaru this often becomes blocked, so excess oil stays in the cylinder and gets burned off…and out the tailpipe.

I just had a bunch of gaskets, including head gaskets, replaced. The engine smelled of oil and the level seemed to be going down. Had a Subaru expert check it out after a 1400 mile trip, and he said the gaskets were just breaking in. He replaced the oil as requested. After 1250 more miles (return trip) the oil was fine and the engine no longer smelled.

During the trip I checked the oil level dutifully but found the results depended strongly on whether I was on a flat surface, or slightly uphill or downhill. Surprisingly strong effect on the measured oil level: I thought I was getting low so I put in a full quart, but the next day it read as overfull. Oh well.

Well after reading around a bit I’m not going to worry too much about it. I will keep some oil in the car for my trip. The shop was good, they drained it, measured it, and topped it off and didn’t charge me for it.

I looked around about the PCV Valve and it looks like it is under the intake and from what I’ve read costs a pretty penny to get to. I think what I will try and do is keep the car running til October or so and get a new car at that point. If this one is running ok have some work done to it and give it to my daughter when she turns 16 in a few months.

Cars still have dip sticks so you can check the oil yourself. Seems like a perfect use case here.

My last car had leaky cam shaft seals and would drip oil onto the exhaust manifold. It was rare that oil would drip on the ground, but there would be an occasional puff of smoke from under the hood, which was only noticeable when stopped in calm weather with an already hot engine. It would actually be worse after a fresh oil change, I assume because the clean oil was more prone to leak out before the seals had a chance to re-gunkify. It was like this for years and I never fixed it, nor did enough oil ever leak to matter.