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Oil Consumption - Miles per Quart Were these real consumption rates?


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I came across this form today from Ford Canada that was in use in 1970.  I was surprised at what was considered acceptable oil consumption that would amount to, on the surface at least, a quart of oil with every fill up of gas.  I'm old enough to have been in the practice, when I first started driving (mid 80s), of checking the oil at every fill up, though I don't remember ever actually having to add oil between oil changes.  Now I've become one those who never checks the oil between oil changes, though I still stick to the 3 000 mile/5 000 km service schedule regardless of what the manufacture suggests.  

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Oil consumption has moved over the board over time.  Years ago, it could have been one qt for every fill up, but more recently meaning in the 80's +-, a quart for every two thousand miles was good and less than 1 qt/1,000 miles became unacceptable.  

 

Into the late 80's and into the 90's a typical oil consumption amount would be 1 qt/3,000 miles.  From the mid 90's on, the target for oil consumption would be in the maybe 1qt/5,000 miles.  A lot of this increased miles/quart of oil consumption was required for emissions.  Another reason for the elimination of zinc in the oil.  The last time I redid the engine in my Silverado, I was getting more than 6,000 miles / quart on a fresh engine.  Over a couple hundred thousand miles later it eventually was heading to 2,500 miles/ qt.

 

Naturally, the more miles on an engine, the more oil that would be consumed.  Remember that it is not just the rings.  It is the valve stem seals, gaskets start to leak, as to where the oil goes.

Edited by Larry Schramm (see edit history)
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My 78 Sunbird used a quart every 250 miles and needed plugs changed every 500. Prolly too many 6,000 rpm excursions had something to do with it. (Special big 2bbl 2GC and valve adjustment made it possible)

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At the other end of the time spectrum, a 1928 Buick owner's manual said (not a direct quote since I no longer have the manual) "An engine properly broken in and in good operating condition can be expected to consume one gallon of oil every thousand miles" (emphasis added).

 

And my 1922 Paige came with four compression rings and NO oil control rings; the previous owner converted the bottom compression ring to an oil control ring.

 

Advancements in piston ring technology, and in engine metallurgy, have truly spoiled us today.

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Never having bought a new car for myself, I have had several used/antiques in the category of "fill the oil and check the gas" .🤣

 

The worst was a very worn but ran well 1950 Studebaker Champion that got 50 miles to the quart of 40 weight non-detergent!😳

 

It's so different now, even with high miles vehicles from the 80s forward to not have to open the hood at every fuel stop!👍

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Up thru the late 70s Ford's warranty standard was that a quart of oil every 1000 miles was acceptable.

 

If a Chevy came in to the local dealer service department with high oil consumption complaint, they would change oil and filter using Sinclair 20 weight oil and instruct the owner to monitor oil level closely for 1000 miles, then bring it back for inspection. This trick would often clear up an oil issue. Only thing I can figure is the Sinclair was perfectly blended to Chevrolet engineering standards and may have even been the factory fill.

 

I know that Kendall was the factory fill oil for Olds and Cadillac well into the 80s, or so I was told by an Olds zone service rep.

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Kendall exists today as Brad Penn and is supposedly good for older flat-tappet engines. Named for Kendall's old BRADford PENNsylvania corporate HQ.

 

Olds-Cad dealer here had a big hand-lettered sign in the service area "We proudly use Kendall lubricants to service your Cadillac and Oldsmobile"

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Friend of mine owned a '64 Barracuda. He broke the dip stick so he would just add a quart of oil every 2000 miles or so. He sold the car to another friend of mine who intended to dismantle it and sell the parts. First step was to drain the oil. To make a long and messy story short my friend drained 16 quarts of oil from the engine, not counting the puddle on the floor.

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My folks bought a Ford motorhome in the 80's with a 460 engine. It used a quart every 1000 miles and never got better. Dad took it in and they said that was normal. I still have a hard time believing that. 

 

 

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my first car, a 1954 chevy, was part of the reason that Pep boys sold drain oil in 2 gallon cans. i was however, unsuccessful in getting any money from the state for mosquito control. on a serious note, in the mid 1970's a quart per 1,000 miles was considered acceptable per oldsmobile servie updates.

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I have a 2001 Suburban 2500 8.1 L engine (496).  I bought it with 36,000 miles,  and it seemed to use up a quart of oil about every 1500 miles from "new".  After researching it, this is typical and not a problem.  No smoking, nothing at tail pipe.

 

It's a fabulous tow vehicle for enclosed trailer and heavy car, by the way.  A period review of the above combination stated that it was "capable of towing small planets".

 

With today's engines and quality of oil, I believe that 3000 miles between changes is too soon.  I used to work for a company that had lease cars, and the cars I had always came with coupons for an oil change every 5000 miles.  To me that sounds correct.

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Am strange that almost all of my cars have an oil pressure gauge (always preferred full instrumentation). As said when the idle psi drops 2-3, I change the oil and filter. Used to buy oil by the 24qt case, now buy 5 quart jugs. Used to be Quaker State Racing, now Mobil 1. No additives.

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Modern BMWs are oil burners as well.

 

https://www.bimmerworld.com/BMW-Engine-Oil/

 

Quote

BMW Oil Consumption
BMW engines are designed to consume some oil and there are factory-authorized guidelines for how much is considered normal. In order for the oil to reach critical areas it's normal for some of it to make it's way into the combustion chamber and be burned up with the air/fuel mixture. If your BMW engine is consuming/burning oil, do not panic. It could be normal operation. Side note: Leaks and consumption are not the same thing. Oil leaks may also be a "normal" fact of BMW life but they should still be properly repaired or diagnosed. Below is a table outlining accepted oil consumption for BMW engines (data is from BMW).
 

BMW Engine Code    Normal Oil Consumption
B-series turbo engines (B46, B58)    1 liter per 1,500 miles
N-series 4/6-cylinder turbo engines (N20, N55, etc)    1 liter per 1,500 miles
N-series non-turbo engines (N52, N62, etc)    1 liter per 1,500 miles
N-series V8/V12 turbo engines (N63, N74, etc)    1 liter per 750 miles
M-series non-turbo engines (M54, M52, etc)    1 liter per 750 miles
S-series Motorsport engines (S54, S55, S65, etc)    2.5 liters per 1,000 miles

 

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My 93 F150 5.0 with 265k miles does better than those BMW numbers. At that price point I'd consider any oil consumption unacceptable.

 

My experience with Olds engines is that big-blocks (400/425/455) tend toward higher oil consumption than the 260--403 engines. Losing a quart in 1500-1800 miles, sometimes more, has been the norm on my 455s. The two currently owned 350 cars use no appreciable oil. Dipstick level might drop 1/8" off full between 3k mile oil changes.

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My first car was a '69 Falcon with the 200 cid six.  It never used a drop of oil.   I recently had a 2007 Lacrosse with the 3.8 v6.  That used a quart every 1,000 miles.  The Lacrosse called for a thinner oil than the Falcon for fuel economy purposes (less pumping losses moving a thin oil than a thick oil), and I suspect that's why it went through more oil.

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Bought a super-cheap "back row of the used car lot" 1960 Rambler American for next-to-nothing back around 1965?

Huge smoke screen, and had to add 2 Quarts of Drain Oil every 60 miles, but it was affordable to drive and to keep running until I could pull the head off the flathead "6".

First two cylinders had broken/shattered rings, along with deep scores in both cylinder bores.

Installed new rings in only those first two cylinders, and the oil burning stopped completely !

Drove the Rambler for some time, until I could afford a pair of used '59 Chevys, a Six, and a 283 V-8.

Downstairs neighbor bought the Rambler from me, and may still be driving it - he said it was the best driving car he ever had, and needed no attention, other than the "collapsing" back of the driver's seat.

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One of the three MoPaR flathead sixes I've owned, a 1948 DeSoto Suburban, would burn off the first quart rather quickly--perhaps 300-400 miles, then almost no oil consumption beyond that.  Back in the days when I was working in gas stations, that was a common observation on MoPaR sixes.  Does anyone have an explanation?

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23 hours ago, Flivverking said:

We had a mosquito killer '25 Willys Kight for a while..Not a drip but

blew out good 1/2 quart every 250-300 miles. 

Ran like a swiss watch.

30W Oil was 78-85 cents per Qt. at the time.

I believe that was very characteristic of Knight engines.  They did consume a LOT of oil.

 

Craig

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I knew an old time collector who drove a 1924, 4 cylinder Willys Knight as a tour car in the sixties. He told me it would burn a quart of oil in the first sixty miles, after that, nothing. Next day same thing, a quart in sixty miles then nothing. It seemed to take that long for the engine to warm up and everything to seal.

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In the early '90s I was daily driving a '64 389 Catalina. When I got it then, it was a 69K mile car. I put 25K miles on it in 2 years, and never had to add oil in between. Changed the oil/filter I believe around the 3000-mile mark.

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7 hours ago, Marty Roth said:

Bought a super-cheap "back row of the used car lot" 1960 Rambler American for next-to-nothing back around 1965?

Huge smoke screen, and had to add 2 Quarts of Drain Oil every 60 miles, but it was affordable to drive and to keep running until I could pull the head off the flathead "6".

First two cylinders had broken/shattered rings, along with deep scores in both cylinder bores.

Installed new rings in only those first two cylinders, and the oil burning stopped completely !

Drove the Rambler for some time, until I could afford a pair of used '59 Chevys, a Six, and a 283 V-8.

Downstairs neighbor bought the Rambler from me, and may still be driving it - he said it was the best driving car he ever had, and needed no attention, other than the "collapsing" back of the driver's seat.

I've heard from people on AMC-specific forums that the long stroke on old Rambler engines is responsible for that ring wear and damage, especially if the engine was run at high speeds (some call it a tractor engine). Mine was a smoker when I got it, I think it burned a quart in 25-30 miles. Same story, pulled the head and replaced the broken rings, and now it burns/leaks a quart every 800-1000 miles.

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17 hours ago, Rusty_OToole said:

I knew an old time collector who drove a 1924, 4 cylinder Willys Knight as a tour car in the sixties. He told me it would burn a quart of oil in the first sixty miles, after that, nothing. Next day same thing, a quart in sixty miles then nothing. It seemed to take that long for the engine to warm up and everything to seal.

 

When I first met my then-future father-in-law back in 1968, his 1964 Oldsmobile 88 used the first quart of oil quickly, and then didn't use any more until the next 3,000 mile oil change. He used it to commute 2.5 miles round-trip from home to his pharmacy, and then 240 miles round-trip each weekend to and from Grand Isle, LA where he would then trailer his 22 ft I/O Chevy-engined boat a round trip total of 8 miles to and from the marina. 

After some research, I finally figured out that at some time in the past, either the Mossy Olds Dealership. or his friendly Esso service station employee had "lost" the correct oil dipstick, and had replaced it with an incorrect one, resulting in Overfilling (and overcharging) by a quart every change. Once I sourced and provided the correct dipstick, his oil consumption miraculously was solved. He was also impressed that, during our very first introduction, I was able to back his boat/trailer under his Fishing Camp between the pilings in One-Shot, where it generally took him extended attempts (maybe that is why he invited me to come back anytime, and later permission to marry his amazing daughter).

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On 12/15/2020 at 6:44 PM, Larry Schramm said:

a quart for every two thousand miles was good and less than 1 qt/1,000 miles became unacceptable. 

 

That's what I kind of remembered when I was first buying used cars back in the mid 1970's to early 1980's. If we got a 1200 mile per quart consumption rate (or better) we figured the engine was in acceptable condition. If it inched down to 1000 miles or less, we would start investigating. And the first place we'd check was on the driveway: if part of that oil consumption was from leakage instead of burning, the engine could still be considered in acceptable condition, as long as you weren't followed by clouds of blue smoke everywhere you went.

 

In fact, oil smoke (or the absence of it) was a bigger factor in determining the health of our engines back then. Even more important was the fouling of plugs. If your plugs never fouled from oil use, a lot of guys figured your rings were in fine condition...good enough, anyway. And if you couldn't afford a new car or engine, the main consideration was how OFTEN do your plugs foul? 😉

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Agree, have had A Lot of 3800s (back to first that had "3800" cast in the plenum). Still have two. None have used oil. Something else is wrong.

I used to wipe a finger inside the tailpipe(s) and decide condition based on the color. Other's I could tel by the color of the inside of the garage door.

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My Dad bought a 66 Falcon with 289 new and always changed the oil every 2000 miles because at 2000 miles it was down a quart and it was use a quart every 500 miles after that so he figured he might as well change it. I got it from him at a bit over 100K miles and it was still doing the same oil usage as when it was new.

 

The there was a fellow I knew in High School that drove some old English sedan that really burned oil. It used a couple of quarts between fill ups and he would buy used motor oil from the local garage hangout for, if I remember right, 25 cents a gallon he brought his own container.

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10 hours ago, Frank DuVal said:

 

How many miles on it? All my 3.8s never used that much oil. One as 270k on it!

 

Talk to Brian Heil here on the forum.  He was an engineer for Buick on the development team for the 3800 engine.  He can tell you all kinds of things about that engine and why it was such a great engine.

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