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  • Engine: How much is too much oil consumption?

    My '60 Lark consumes oil. Not excessively, but enough that I put about a quart in every month or so (probably every 1000 to 1500 miles). Keep in mind, I drive this car every day.

    A few days ago I noticed a bit of blue smoke sputtering out of my tail pipe when I started the engine cold in the morning. It cleared up after a minute or two, and I've kept my eye on it; this morning, however, there was no smoke at all. (Confusion mounts).

    So how long do you all think I can expect to get away with this rate of consumption? It's likely something with the valves wearing out, but that level of repair is way out of my budget at the moment. For what it's worth, I don't have any smoke when the engine is up to operating temp--I've had someone tail me to watch for it--and my spark plugs are all clean and all look identical.

    Some technical details:
    Flat head six engine
    Oil is Rotella T4 15W40 w/a bottle of STP oil treatment.
    I only add oil when I top off. STP is added only at oil changes (every 3k miles)
    Oil condition looks good. Viscosity seems normal and color is a medium to deep brown (oil was changed September 11th).

  • #2
    I would drive it till the wheels fell off. 1k to 1.5k for oil consumption is not worth the trouble & expense to rebuild in my opinion.

    Remember to only add the STP after you've started & warmed up the engine (pour it in with the motor running).
    Mike Sal

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    • #3
      This sounds a bit more like oil blowing by the oil rings when cold. As the engine warms up the metal expands reducing the blue smoke but not completely stopping a bit of blow by when operating on the road. This would result in a mild usage of oil resulting in topping up every 1,000 miles or so. The STP thickens the viscosity of the oil helping to reduce consumption but it's not a CURE-ALL. Blue smoke is the result of oil burning. Black smoke is often valve related and white smoke is a sign of a blown head gasket allowing coolant into the combustion chamber or chambers depending on the severity of the blown gasket. Others may chime in with more detailed knowledge or corrections. Best of luck.

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      • #4
        When I got my car on the road with a late model 289 that had been in storage for several years, I checked the oil often and found that after about 200 miles, it was down 1 1/2 quarts. I kept checking it, and added a quart, about every time I filled the gas tank, 200 to 250 miles. This year, I failed to check the oil every tank full, checked it after 1150 miles. It was down 1 1/2 quarts. I'm beginning to think it only needs 4 1/2 quarts on an oil change. I won't attempt this, but I continue to wonder. I've never seen blue smoke behind the car, but I have seen oil on the garage floor, lots of it.

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        • #5
          Originally they would not warranty a car unless it used more than one quart every 500 miles. This is normal!

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          • #6
            As long as the oil pressure is good and the price of the oil is not an issue, just drive it. Those symptoms sound my first 59 Lark and I drove it for a long time like that.
            "In the heart of Arkansas."
            Searcy, Arkansas
            1952 Commander 2 door. Really fine 259.
            1952 2R pickup

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            • #7
              1000 to 1500 miles per quart is not excessive oil consumption. Drive your car and check the oil level regularly. Oil is a bunch cheaper than rebuilding the engine. Bud

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              • #8
                Originally posted by Tom B View Post
                When I got my car on the road with a late model 289 that had been in storage for several years, I checked the oil often and found that after about 200 miles, it was down 1 1/2 quarts. I kept checking it, and added a quart, about every time I filled the gas tank, 200 to 250 miles. This year, I failed to check the oil every tank full, checked it after 1150 miles. It was down 1 1/2 quarts. I'm beginning to think it only needs 4 1/2 quarts on an oil change. I won't attempt this, but I continue to wonder. I've never seen blue smoke behind the car, but I have seen oil on the garage floor, lots of it.
                My 289 will throw out or somehow get rid of oil until it is a quart low and then run that way until the next change. It just does not like to have the dipstick read full I guess. I now put in only 5 quarts with oil and filter change and that seems to solve the problem.

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                • #9
                  We're used to getting more than 5000 miles to a quart with modern cars these days. That wasn't the case back in the early 60's. I recall my grandfather bought a new 63 Impala and was delighted to be getting 2000 miles to a quart after 5000 miles on the odo. His previous car was a 50 Merc which got 400 miles to a quart.
                  Fred

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                  • #10
                    Just a guess, but maybe the timing cover seal would leak more with the oil level full. That depends of course , if you are running the original felt seal or an updated neoprene one.

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                    • #11
                      When I was browsing the original MB documentation for my 1981 230E, I was astonished to discover that an oil consumption of 25cl/100km (roughly, the quart of a quart for sixty miles!) was considered as normal! You could try to switch to 20w50 oil during warm months but I wouldn't say your engine needs a rebuilt. The slight advantage of this kind of situation is that you tend to check your oil level more often and that is cartainly a good thing.
                      Nice day to all.
                      sigpic

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                      • #12
                        Originally posted by 53starliner View Post
                        We're used to getting more than 5000 miles to a quart with modern cars these days. That wasn't the case back in the early 60's. I recall my grandfather bought a new 63 Impala and was delighted to be getting 2000 miles to a quart after 5000 miles on the odo. His previous car was a 50 Merc which got 400 miles to a quart.
                        A fresh Stude V8 rebuild will often get 3000-5000 miles per quart, for the first 15,000-25,000 miles. My last one got around 5,500 miles per quart for the first 20,000 miles. Now with about 40,000 on the rebuild, it still gets above 2000. Not sure about the lil six cylinders though, but I would not tear it down as long as its getting 200 miles or more. I have torn V8s down for rebuild when they got down to around 1000 miles per quart, but older and wiser now, the next one will have to be much worse before I will fool with it.

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                        • #13
                          Every Champion I've ever worked on had worn lifter bores and worn valve guides. That's usually where the oil is being sucked up and burned. On my first Champion, someone told me "re-ring 'er." and so I did; no reduction in oil consumption.

                          Not worth starting a fight here on the Studebaker legacy forum, but I wouldn't use STP if it were free; it's A BAD THING and Granatelli was a huckster for that crap. Pouring in sludge just momentarily masks worn engine problems and makes them worse faster. Learned this the hard way, as I kept dumping STP into that first oil-burning Champion, until one cold morning, the sludge in the crankcase was so thick, the starter wouldn't turn it over. If 10-40 doesn't do the job, fix the problem.

                          jack vines
                          PackardV8

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                          • #14
                            And another thing; Stude bakers hold fluids like sieves hold water. Am working on a 63 Galaxie, and can't get over no puddles of ATF, oil, or antifreeze on my shop floor. Don't try to fight it!!!! You will only end up on meds and in therapy; you will still need a drip pan under your car.

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                            • #15
                              Originally posted by PackardV8 View Post
                              Every Champion I've ever worked on had worn lifter bores and worn valve guides. That's usually where the oil is being sucked up and burned. On my first Champion, someone told me "re-ring 'er." and so I did; no reduction in oil consumption.

                              Not worth starting a fight here on the Studebaker legacy forum, but I wouldn't use STP if it were free; it's A BAD THING and Granatelli was a huckster for that crap. Pouring in sludge just momentarily masks worn engine problems and makes them worse faster. Learned this the hard way, as I kept dumping STP into that first oil-burning Champion, until one cold morning, the sludge in the crankcase was so thick, the starter wouldn't turn it over. If 10-40 doesn't do the job, fix the problem.

                              jack vines
                              I've been adding STP for the zddp and the increased viscosity (it gets over 110 degrees outside here in the summer) not as a cure for the oil consumption. Incidentally, the first thing I had to do when I bought the car was replace the timing cover gaskets, pan gasket and rear main seal. As a result, I got to see the inside of the lower end of the engine and it was remarkably clean. No sludge, nothing. Piston skirts and the cylinder bores all looked good and what I could see of the valve train looked normal. Granted, there's only so much one can learn from a visual inspection.

                              As for starts, it fires up immediately without any drag. My only starting issues result from vapor lock, which I've mostly corrected. I had a heat shield made for the fuel pump when I replaced it, disconnected the spring on the heat riser so it stays open, rebuilt the carb, replaced the plugs, condenser, coil, starter cable... Hot starts are much easier now, except sometimes when I try to restart it within a few minutes. At gas stations, I've got into the habit of paying for the pump and taking a cup of ice back to the car and putting that on the fuel pump while I fill up.

                              I've been putting Rotella in my engine, but I think I'm going to try 20w50 VR1 next time and see what happens.

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