Reasons Why Engine May be Low on Oil - Service Questions serving Sacramento, CA

April 23, 2019

Oil is absolutely crucial to your engine's functioning. It lubricates the moving parts--so without it, an engine could suffer major damage. Because it's so important, it's a good idea to check your engine's oil levels often. If you find that your Subaru has less oil than it should, it may be due to one of these five problems. All of them are important to deal with as soon as possible.

A close-up of the underside of a Subaru, with particular focus on the oil pan.

5. A Leaky Oil Pan

The oil pan is the place where your vehicle's engine oil rests when the car is turned off. If there's a leak in the oil pan, it's often pretty obvious. The stereotypical puddle of oil underneath a parked car may be from a leaking oil pan, so you'll probably have more than just low oil levels telling you something is wrong. If the oil pan has a leak, replacing the gasket or the drain plug may solve the problem. However, if the oil pan is damaged, it will likely need to be replaced.

An illuminated red oil light on a vehicle's dashboard

4. An Oil Leak Elsewhere

Though the oil pan is a common culprit, leaks can occur lots of other places in the engine. These leaks can be trickier to find, and they won't always leave visual clues like an oil pan leak will. That's because it's entirely possible that the oil will leak onto the engine itself, congealing before it can hit the ground. Finding the source of an oil leak is tricky business, and technicians often use a dye test to pinpoint the trouble spot.

3. A Bad PCV Valve

If the technicians have ruled out a leak, chances are the low oil levels are caused by oil being burned up in the engine. A faulty Positive Crankcase Ventilation valve (or "PCV valve" for short) can cause this issue. Its purpose is to let air escape, which releases pressure in the crankcase. If it's been damaged or worn out, The system's pressure could remain too high and cause oil to leak into the combustion chambers, where it will be burned up.

A close-up view of someone adding more oil to an engine using a funnel.

2. Bad Intake or Exhaust Valves

The intake valve allows the mixture of fuel and air to enter the cylinders in your engine, where the combustion takes place. Once the combustion process has happened, the exhaust valves let the exhaust gases exit the cylinder. Worn intake or exhaust valves could allow oil to get into the cylinder alongside the fuel and air mixture, causing it to burn up during combustion.

1. Bad Piston Rings

As the pistons move up and down the cylinders, the piston rings make sure that there's a tight seal. If these rings aren't tight, that's yet another chance for oil to leak through. However, bad piston rings may be a sign that your engine will need to be rebuilt soon, as they're long-lasting parts.

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