Engine oil plays such a crucial role in keeping various internal car parts lubricated to reduce friction. Besides, it filters out dust and dirt particles that can clog and damage the engine.

As your car gets older, it’s not uncommon for it to lose a bit of oil or produce more smoke than usual. However, if it’s losing too much oil too quickly or producing a strange smell akin to that of burning oil, then you may want to find out if there’s an underlying issue. Remember, a lack of enough oil is one of the main causes of engine damage.

Here we will explain possible causes of car burning oil, signs your vehicle is burning oil, and possible fixes. But first…

What Does a Car Burning Oil Mean?

Engine oil should always remain within the engine. However, leaks can occur when the seals or gaskets are exposed to extreme heat or experience excessive wear and tear. When the oil spills outside of the engine, it spreads to the exterior of other hot engine components. This leads to a characteristic smell of burning oil.

Keep in mind that every car burns oil albeit at a gradual pace. The problem arises if the levels are going down quicker than normal or if the smell grows stronger.

Some modern engines use thin oils to boost fuel economy and reduce friction. The downside of these oils is that they tend to leak through gaskets more easily due to the thinness.

If you are unsure whether your vehicle is consuming more oil than usual, check your manual or consult your mechanic about it.

What Causes a Car to Burn Oil?

Are you wondering why your car produces a strong smell as if oil is burning? The following are five possible causes:


The most common culprit of burning oil is when leaks occur. When it happens, you can easily detect it by opening the hood while the engine is at a high temperature. Some of the key spots worth checking are oil filler caps, cooler lines, oil drains, oil filters, and gaskets (including valve cover gaskets).

Internal engine damage

While a leak is likely to cause your car to smell like burning oil, a problem with an internal engine component will possibly cause both the smell and bluish smoke.

Damaged piston rings or valves guides

Piston rings are used to separate the cylinder’s bores and pistons. While they allow a thin film of oil to enter and lubricate the cylinders, they can loosen us and end up allowing too much oil inside. If this happens, the mixture of oil and air can burn, leading to this issue.

On the other hand, torn-out cylinder head valve guides can result in compression within the combustion chamber and the addition of more oil to that chamber. This combination leads to oil burning.

Worn out valve seals and guides

Valves are essential for ensuring that the engine runs well and operates smoothly. Intake valves facilitate air-fuel mixture to enter the cylinders while exhaust valves release the mixture that’s burned to leave the cylinders. A poorly maintained engine with worn-out valves can allow the oil to get to the combustion chambers and burn there, resulting in a bluish smoke when you start the engine.

Damaged PCV valve

The burning oil issue can also arise from a worn-out positive crankcase ventilation valve. The damage is similar to that of piston rings in that too much oil enters the combustion chamber. A defective PCV valve causes pressure to build up in the engine cylinders, pushing out the gaskets that should seal the oil. This makes the potential burning oil problem worse.

Signs Your Car is Burning Oil

Here are the possible signs that your car is burning oil and might need checking by a professional mechanic or dealer.

Burning smell

This is the most obvious symptom and one of the first ways to tell if your car is burning oil. When the oil heats up after coming in contact with hot components, it emits a distinct burning smell.

Oil declining at a faster-than-normal rate

This is another telltale sign that you may have a problem with burning oil.

A bluish smoke coming from the tailpipe

This can become more apparent on acceleration or deceleration. Any production of a strange smoke should signal a problem under the hood!

How To Fix A Car That’s Burning Oil

As with any technical issue, you should visit a mechanic as soon as possible after identifying signs of burning oil. The longer you wait to address the problem, the bigger the damage could become; and that also means the heftier the repair bill will be.

If ignored, the engine will run rough, damage the spark plugs and catalytic converter and ultimately blow the engine.

How Much Will it Cost to Fix My Car?

Well, it depends. If you’re lucky that only the PVC valve needs repair, your mechanic might charge you $100 only. Other repairs will be much more expensive. For instance, replacing the head gasket can cost up to $1800 depending on your car model. A blown motor can demand not less than $2500 and up to $6000. These prices are as of 2021.

Buy a Clean Car from Motors on Wheels

Are you frustrated by a car that can’t stop burning oil or is too expensive to repair? This could be a good time to get another car. Contact us here at Motors on Wheels and we’ll be happy to sell you a clean car that’s sure to serve you for many years to come.

We also buy well-maintained cars in Houston, San Antonio, and Austin, TX. Fill out the form on this page and we’ll get back to you with an unbeatable offer!