99 Alero - Suddenly Using Lots of Oil

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I have a 99 Alero with 83K miles on it and have always used the oil change indicator light as my guide to having the oil changed, and have always had it done within a week or so of the light coming on. Until now I've never had a problem with the engine using any oil and whenever I've checked the oil it has always been full and clean.

Last week, as I was driving around I heard the warning bell a few times but there were never any indicators lit. I double checked on starting the car that all the indicator lamps worked so was a bit puzzled as to what was causing it, but had noticed it was always when I was making a turn and had a bit of speed, but not every time I made a turn.

A few days later it happened and I saw the oil pressure light flicker on and off once so I stopped to check my oil and found it was low. It barely registered on the tip of the dipstick, though it was clean in appearance. I added 2 quarts at that time. Now today, about a week later I got the warning again so I stopped to check and once again I'm about 2 quarts low. I've checked for noticeable leaks and haven't seen any evidence and the car does not seem to be burning excess oil.. ie: no smoky exhaust. I do occasionally get a light burning smell from under the carriage but I noticed that long before this sudden change in oil usage and it's not always present.

I'm puzzled as to how my car is suddenly going through so much oil when it seems to be in pretty good condition otherwise, and especially since there is no overt evidence (smoke, oil puddles) to indicate a problem. When I had my oil changed last a couple of months ago I did use a different place than I normally do and someone suggested a loose filter or something might be the problem but why didn't the problem show up until now? If I can lose 2 quarts in a week it seems like it'd have shown up sooner.

Since it's close to time to change my oil again I'm trying to decide to have that done and see if that elminates the problem (if it's a loose filter, etc) or if I should go have it checked out so I don't waste money on an oil change that will have to be done over for some other problem.

Any ideas/advice, anyone? :confused:

Update: I finally spotted a fresh oil puddle under the car and did a little snooping around under the hood and it directly underneath the oil filter, although it is slightly further back. I'm thinking the oil is leaking around the filter and running back to a low point to drip. It wasn't actively dripping when I checked and on a hunch I started the engine and checked while it was running and it was dripping about a drop a second so I'm guessing that's why I had difficulty spotting the leak, since I was only looking when the engine was off. I'm guessing that when the engine is running the oil pressure builds up and is leaking out around the filter. At least I'm hoping it's that simple.. and inexpensive to fix!

posted by  TedEBearNC

It just sounds like who ever did your oil last didn't check the block to see if the old rubber oil seal from the other filter was stuck on. So when he put the new filter on there was a double rubber seal. That is probably what happened. Just a thought. I've seen it before. Those 5 minute oil change places. Later.

posted by  snapper69

Doubt it's the oil filter gasket, if there was two, it'd be leaking a lot more than a drop a second. Problems would have arose quite quickly if that were the case.

Do you know how to change your own oil? If you can reach the filter see if you can tighten it, if not, if you have a jack, jack it up and see if you can tighten it. Should be only as tight as your arm can make it, one full turn after the gasket makes contact with the block. If you know the basics, take off the filter and check the gasket. Could also be a head gasket, doubtful, but it could very well be. I don't know where the filters are located on the Aleros, but if their towards the front of the motor, front seal or cam seal inside the timing belt housing could be broken or loose and dripping down onto the filter.

posted by  88GrandPrixSE

Actually grand, it could very possibly be the head gasket, the Aleros in that year range are very problematic in that area, and there have been far more than numerous accounts of a need for a new head gasket.

Beyond that do check the filter, it should be on the bottom of the car so just jack it up and you should be able to see it pretty simply, as I recall it isn't a terribly hard place to reach, nothing like a 97ish cavalier let me tell you :wink2: or even my firebird. Once you have checked that I'd go get the car checked, if it is the head gasket it is better to get it checked now then wait for the problem to get worse.

A final question: What color are your exhaust fumes?

posted by  Flame Roller

A drop a second is fairly significant.

Unlikely it's head gasket causing oil loss. Check you PCV for blockage and have a compression test done to see if the rings are knackered.

A quick not necessarily accurate test on blowby and PCV is to take the oil cap off and see if oil vapour billows out.

posted by  Wally

I'd also recommend even checking the bolt on the oil pan. As sad as that sounds ya never know. I've heard stories of people getting their oil changed at one of those 10 buck places and then coming home, having low oil and finding out they don't even have a bolt containing the oil in the pan.

posted by  Flame Roller

The bolt in the oil pan should never need to be changed. Unless you use the wrong size wrench and round it of course, the only thing that would ever need to be replaced is the drain-plug gasket, and those last... a long time to say the least.

posted by  88GrandPrixSE

you wouldn't make it home if they left the bolt out, and your oil would be non existant, not low

posted by  BanffAutoSpa_ap

Im sure it is to late for you..but I would tell you that is it the SENSOR beside the knock sensor on the front of your block that is leaking. Same thing happened to me but I was on the highway...knock knock. Easy to fix if not already done.

posted by  bigfrye

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