1999 Honda Accord Using Engine Oil – But No Exhaust Smoke?

Reader Question I have an old Honda Accord, 1999 standard EX model. It’s had a
problem with oil for a number of years and no one seems to be able to find the cause.

It’s not burning it, no blue smoke under load or when revving the engine, and no white tail pipe. There are no drip spots under the car when parked. It seems to be most noticeable with highway driving however this could be due to the amount of time the engine is actually running as opposed the strain on the engine. The amount of oil is significant, up to 4 liters per 1000 km.

I would think that much oil should show up somewhere. I’m not a backyard mechanic and I have some one else change my oil. The mechanics who work on the car don’t seem to know what’s happening but say there is some oil around the back of the engine near the oil filter but not enough to drip. The valve cover gasket have been replace twice in the last year when they were replacing valves. (possibly damaged from low oil?)

As I said I understand if you don’t have time to respond to this email, I just thought you might have some suggestions on where to look for the missing oil.

Thanks for your time.

Nova Scotia,

Howdy Murray,

I would suggest you do a little more investigating on this issue. Either the oil is physically leaking from the engine and onto the ground, or it is being consumed by the engine and leaving out of the exhaust system. Some internal oil consumption is normal and might not be visible to the naked eye as smoke out the tailpipe.

The amount you mention is pretty significant though, so I would look harder for a physical oil leak at the engine. Remove all plastic splash shields from under the engine so you can get a clear view underneath.

Buy 2 cans of CRC BrakeKleener from your local auto parts store and spray off any oil spills from the engine. This cleaner is non flammable, dries almost instantly and there is no need to wash the engine with water afterwards.

Some very common oil leaks spots on these vehicles are around the distributor, there is a small rubber oring that leaks, and inside the timing cover where the timing belt is are two seals that can leak and not be readily visible because they are concealed by the plastic timing cover.

I would also check the PCV system and make sure you have plenty of vacuum and there are no restrictions. This is how the engine breathes, and if the PCV Positive Crankcase Ventilation system is not working it puts excess internal pressure on the engine, seals and orings etc. etc. Your mechanic can check this.

I have seen the PCV systems get completely plugged up with oil sludge and carbon on a handful of these vehicles. We had to use an ice pick and a chisel to remove the sludge from the intake manifold on one Honda that I can remember.

If you don’t have any external oil leaks, and your PCV system is working properly I would suggest you try using thicker weight engine oil and see what happens. You live in snow country, so talk to your dealership or mechanic about how thick of engine oil they would recommend to slow down oil consumption without causing any adverse issues do to the extreme temperatures.

They also make some over the counter oil additives that are designed to reduce oil consumption, one that I have used many times is ENGINE RESTORE, and you just add the can to your engine oil.

You are probably using 10W-30, which is recommended, but it pretty thin oil….you might benefit from using straight 30 weight and a can of RESTORE additive….but talk to a local mechanic FIRST. I live in Houston….it does not get cold here and I am not familiar with your climate.

I would also check your air filter and make sure it is not covered in engine oil and feels oily to the touch. This could indicate internal engine wear if oil is getting on the air filter. A compression test of the cylinders should be done if this is happening to determine if the engine is worn out or needs to be rebuilt.

Keep me posted as to what you find out will ya?


Austin Davis

Posted in: Exhaust Smoke

10 Comments on "1999 Honda Accord Using Engine Oil – But No Exhaust Smoke?"

Trackback | Comments RSS Feed

  1. NKinAlberta says:

    I recently learned that engine computer will recieve bad or no signal from an O2 sensor and interpret as a ‘cold condition’. The computer then causes the engine to overfuel. A rich fuel condition can wash oil off of the rings, amongst obviously causing other problems…something to look for. In my Hondas I run 3 10W40 and 1 20W50 summer, 5w30+ 20W/50 winter. 91 Accord EX 455,000kilomters.

  2. P.B.inLosAngeles says:

    This sounds to me like what is known as “porous block” a known problem in 98’s and some 99’s; mine is a 99….check your coolant reservoir and squeeze all your coolant and heater hoses; you’ll feel how weak and crunchy they are. In the resevoir, you’ll find where that oil has been migrating.
    Choices are – according to my research and if you don’t have a shop, a pro welder, and weeks to do the job yourself – is to either change short block or swap out engine in its entirety. I found my little nightmare when I went to change upper radiator hose, which was collapsed and crunchy when I squeezed it: oil in hose lead me to check reservoir. Ugly, ugly sight and no overheating – YET!! Unemployed and nervous, but that’s the problem, I guarantee it. Good luck!

  3. Robert says:

    I have a 1999 Honda Accord with 103,000 miles that I bought in 2002 with 35,000 miles. In 2007 the engine started using oil. The shop I brought it to said its either leaking it or burning it (of course). I put a sheet of cardboard under the car overnight. Nothing. I tried the Engine Restore. Didn’t work. For 4 years (its now 2011) I’ve added a quart of oil about every 400 miles. I recently asked another mechanic. He said after four years, if it were burning oil, the engine should have deteriorated in some way (loss of power, loss of compression). But in every way the car runs just fine. With the car running he looked at the tailpipe, and put his nose to it, and said he thinks it’s not burning oil. He also said if I try to get it fixed, it will be costly just to investigate it (is it rings, valve stem seals, an internal leak, or what?) and with a mystery like this, they might not fix it. It could be a money pit. So he recommended I just continue adding oil.

    • Austin says:

      I would concur with your mechanic. Trying to solve this problem will cost a heck of a lot more than adding a few quarts of oil every now and then. I would suspect you have a valve stem seal problem and the engine is burning small amounts of oil. I would however try a few things.

      1. Make sure the PCV system is working properly, that is the vent system for the engine. if its plugged up or not working it will increase internal pressure on the engine…and thus cause seals and gaskets to fail and leak oil.

      2. Check with your mechanic about using a thicker weight engine oil, like 20-50 Castrol, thicker heavier oil can reduce consumption but not recommended for snowy climates

      3. Continue to use the Restore additive, it has worked for me in the past. You might want to keep adding a can with each oil change

      4. Remove the valve cover and see if the oil drain back hole are plugged up and restricted. These small holes allow the oil to drop back into the engine and recirculate. if the holes are clogged up the oil can not drain back fast enough, thus causing increased internal pressure inside the engine. I have seen these holes clog with oil build up on a few of these vehicles.

      If you are really bothered by this and want to try something to correct it, I would probably remove the cylinder head and do a valve job. if this is a 4 cylinder, it will probably cost you about $750-900 This would be my best GUESS without being there to test the car myself. The valve stem seals would get replaced at this time. yes, its a costly GUESS but this car will last a very long time if properly maintained and if you are going to keep it for a long time it might be worth doing. Just my two cents.

  4. Gene says:

    I have a 1998 Honda Accord EX with a 4 cyclinder engine with 175,000 miles. It started burning oil at about 125,000 miles. It has no oil leaks,no smoke out of the exhaust, has had PCV valve replaced and oil consumtion is about a quart for every other tank of gas. Cyclinder compression checks are good on all cyclinders and no fouling of spark plugs. I was told by a mechanic that smoke will not appear in the tailpipe because the catalytic converter removes it. I have read about a lot of Honda owners are experiencing the same problem. I think there is a problem with the design of the engine rings possibly?

    • Austin says:

      This is probably going to be cured by doing a valve job, which is basically rebuilding the top half of the engine. This could cost $1800, so think twice about doing it as engine oil is pretty cheap πŸ™‚ You can try adding a can of Engine Restore additive to your oil every oil change. You can find it at all auto parts stores. You can also increase the weight of your engine oil a little…talk to your oil change place and see what they would advise for your weather climate. Possibly 20-50 castrol?

  5. Larry says:

    I too have a 1999 Accord EX that is using oil. It’s been using a quart in 1500 or 2000 miles for some time but this fall has jumped to a quart in about 500 miles. Ditto on the other comments about no drips and I just checked the PVC. It opens under suction (spit spit)but doesn’t rattle. I just added a quart of Valvoline Max Life 10-40. I’ve been using 10-30. Guess I’ll check again in 500 miles and try Engine Restore before the dealer.

    It’s the first car I’ve owned at 170,000 miles. I’m not complaining!

    • Austin says:

      I would try using the Engine Restore additive and possibly using thicker oil like straight 40wt depending on how cold it gets where you live. More than likely you will need to do some internal engine work to correct the problem but you might be able to slow down the consumption with the additive and thicker oil weight

  6. Alex says:

    I have the same problem and it started when they replaced my shift shaft seal. I’m burning A LOT of oil, but no smoke and no leaking….

    • Austin says:

      You might want to try thicker weight engine oil like Castrol 20-50 unless you live in the snow and I would also make sure your PCV system is working properly and not restricted. Lastly you can add a can of Engine Restore Motor Oil additive which you can buy at the local auto parts store. this all assumes you do not have annEXTERNAL oil leak somewhere leaking oil on the ground πŸ™‚

Got Something to Say?