Can Idling Your Car Burn Oil? (Answered)

Oil is an important aspect of your car’s performance, and it is essential to make sure that your oil levels are where they should be. It is also important to be aware of how your driving habits can impact your oil levels. But can idling your car burn oil?

Yes, idling your car can burn oil. When you idle your car, the engine is still running and using oil. Oil is necessary to lubricate the engine and keep it running smoothly. However, when you idle your car for long periods, the oil can start to break down and degrade.

How Idling Your Car Burns Oil

Idling your car can burn oil unless you are driving a hybrid, in which, when sitting in traffic, the engine stops. When your traditional car is idling, the engine is running, but the car is not moving, which means that the oil isn’t being circulated. This can cause the oil to break down and form deposits on the engine, leading to a loss of oil pressure and increased wear on the engine.

When you’re going to be idling your car for more than a few minutes, it’s best to turn off the engine. This will save you fuel and help prolong the life of your engine. If you have to idle your car, make sure to do it in a well-ventilated area to avoid breathing in harmful exhaust fumes.

Symptoms Of Burning Oil In Cars

Blue Exhaust Smoke

This is the most common and noticeable symptom of an oil-burning car. If you see blue smoke coming from your car’s tailpipe, that’s an indication that your car is burning oil. Blue smoke can indicate a more serious problem, most likely with the engine.

Decreased Oil Level

When you notice that your car’s oil level is decreasing more quickly than usual, that’s another symptom of an oil-burning car. This can lead to serious engine damage if left unchecked, so it’s important to keep an eye on your car’s oil level.

If you are unsure how to check your oil level, your car’s owner manual will provide guidance. If the level gets too low, it is important to top it up with the right oil. Again, the owner’s manual will tell you the right type of oil.

When noticing a sudden drop in oil level, it is important to check for leaks as well.

Increased Exhaust Gas Temperature

In case you notice that your car’s exhaust gas temperature is higher than usual, that’s another symptom of an oil-burning car. I understand that this might not be easy to spot, but some people will be able to tell the difference.

This increased temperature can cause damage to your car’s engine, so it’s important to get it checked out by a mechanic as soon as possible.

Smoke Coming From Under The Hood

When you see smoke coming from under your car’s hood, that’s a sure sign that your car is burning oil. This can be caused by several different things like an oil leak, a faulty oil filter, or a problem with your car’s piston rings.

Engine Knocking

In case you notice that your car’s engine is making a knocking noise, that’s another symptom of an oil-burning car. This can be caused by several different things like a faulty piston or connecting rod. If you hear this noise, it’s best to avoid driving the car and have a specialist check the engine.

Driving with a knocking noise coming from the engine will only make things worse. This is a sure way to get a repair bill from a few hundred to a few thousand dollars.

Effects Of Engine Idling

During regular vehicle operation, it’s nearly impossible to avoid idling. Excessive idling causes engine wear, whether it’s sitting in traffic or waiting at school.

Here are the long-term effects of idling your car excessively:

  • Poor fuel economy
  • Increased emissions
  • Increased oil consumption
  • Poor car performance
  • Damaging the battery

Let’s dive into further information, so you can better understand each one of these idling side effects.

Decreased Fuel Economy

Your car’s engine needs about two-tenths of a gallon of gas to restart from cold. If you do this five times a day over a week, you’ve wasted a gallon of gas. Cold starts also put additional stress on your engine, which can lead to accelerated wear.

Increased Emissions

Idling also increases emissions, including carbon dioxide (CO2), nitrogen oxides (NOx), and particulate matter. These pollutants contribute to climate change and can cause respiratory problems such as bronchitis, aggravated asthma, and other serious health conditions.

Increased Oil Consumption

While idling, your engine’s oil isn’t circulated and properly lubricated. This can cause the oil to break down and form deposits on engine surfaces. Over time, this can lead to increased oil consumption and accelerated engine wear.

Incomplete Fuel Combustion

When your engine is idling, fuel isn’t combusted completely. This can lead to a build-up of carbon deposits on cylinder walls and valves, which can cause engine knocking and decreased performance.

Compromised Battery

When you frequently idle your car for long periods, it can put a strain on your battery. The battery provides the spark that ignites the air-fuel mixture in the cylinders. If it’s not functioning properly, your car won’t start.

Diminished Performance

In case you frequently idle your car, it can lead to diminished performance. This is because the build-up of carbon deposits can cause engine knocking and decreased performance.

Why Your Car Consumes More Oil When Idling

If your car is consuming more oil when idling, there are a few potential reasons why. The most common reasons are:

  • The engine isn’t operating at its optimal temperature. When the engine is cold, it can cause increased oil consumption.
  • The oil isn’t being circulated properly. When the engine is idling, the oil isn’t being circulated and can cause increased wear on engine parts.
  • The piston rings are worn out. Worn-out piston rings can cause increased oil consumption because they allow oil to leak past them into the combustion chamber.
  • Too much oil in the crankcase. If there’s too much oil in the crankcase, it can cause increased oil consumption.

Frequently Asked Questions

After finding out about how bad idling is to your car, you probably have more questions. Here is a short section covering the most popular questions around the subject.

Is It Normal If My car Burns Oil When Idling?

No, it’s not normal for your car to burn oil when idling. If your car is burning oil, it’s best to take it to a car mechanic to have it checked sooner rather than later.

How Often Should I Check My Oil Level?

You should check your oil level at least once a month. If you’re driving more often or in harsher conditions, you should check it more frequently. It only takes a couple of minutes, so I definitely recommend doing it every time you get the chance.

What Happens if I Don’t Check My Oil Level?

To put it simply, when you don’t check your oil level, you may end up damaging your car’s engine. Oil starvation will cause the engine to overheat and eventually seize up.

What Happens if I Use the Wrong Oil?

Using the wrong type of oil might result in your car performing worse than usual. In some cases, using the wrong oil might damage the engine. Therefore, it is important to check the owner’s manual to find out the exact oil your car needs.

Can I Go a Long Time Without Changing My Oil?

You can go as long as 5,000 miles to 7,500 miles without changing your oil. Over time, the oil will break down and won’t be able to protect your engine as well. Driving conditions can also influence the mileage you are able to do between oil changes. If most of the driving is sitting in traffic, you should consider an oil change sooner than usual.

How Often Should I Get an Oil Change?

It’s generally recommended that you get an oil change every 5,000 miles to 7,000 miles. However, this may vary depending on your car and driving style. A more spirited driving style will lower the distance you can safely drive between oil changes.


Idling your car will burn oil. When you idle your car, the engine continues to operate and consume oil. This can cause your car to burn through its oil supply faster than normal, which can lead to engine problems. Oil is required for the engine to function smoothly and keep lubricating. However, when you idle your vehicle for lengthy periods, the oil may begin to decompose and lose effectiveness.