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Old 03-19-2021, 11:26 PM   #1
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1999 SL2
Question Synthetic oil's effect on consumption?

Hello,
My 1999 SL2 has been burning a quart per ~1300 miles for a long time. I have always ran Supertech conventional oil, although previous owners have put all kinds of stuff in it with varying effects.

I decided to treat it with some synthetic (still supertech) oil recently, and the rate of consumption immediately changed to a quart per 100-150 miles. I changed the oil after a few weeks of constantly topping it off, and put conventional back in it, but the rate of consumption is still around a quart per 150-250 at best.

I put a quart of Lucas in it a few days ago, because it was a quart low, and it seems to be fine with it but I'm not noticing any effect on the high rate of consumption.

I've heard Saturns do just fine with switching to synthetic etc -- and this one has certainly seen its share of switching, as it has 7 previous owners before me -- but please educate me if there's any insight into what happened here, or if there's anything I should try! I want to keep this car on the road.
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Old 03-20-2021, 12:50 PM   #2
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Default Re: Synthetic oil's effect on consumption?

Mileage on this engine? There may be disputes of regular versus synthetic. One fact of syn oil superiority over regular oil is its detergent action to clean engines efficiently. This ability may be contributing to sudden higher oil consumption or just a coincidence. If coincidence, something occurred in the engine resulting in higher oil consumption. Going back to regular oil didn't change anything. A mechanically worn engine won't benefit with syn oil.

A compression test may reveal worn piston rings. A dry test followed by a wet test can determine worn rings. Worn valve seals are revealed by oil on valve stems.
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Old 03-20-2021, 05:56 PM   #3
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Default Re: Synthetic oil's effect on consumption?

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Originally Posted by fdryer View Post
Mileage on this engine? There may be disputes of regular versus synthetic. One fact of syn oil superiority over regular oil is its detergent action to clean engines efficiently. This ability may be contributing to sudden higher oil consumption or just a coincidence. If coincidence, something occurred in the engine resulting in higher oil consumption. Going back to regular oil didn't change anything. A mechanically worn engine won't benefit with syn oil.

A compression test may reveal worn piston rings. A dry test followed by a wet test can determine worn rings. Worn valve seals are revealed by oil on valve stems.
The car itself has 199,400 miles. The engine "may have been" replaced around 100,000, but that was many owners ago.
Either way, it needed a timing chain last year, and when I had it apart, the tensioner was NOT maxed out but was actually clogged with sludge.
Unfortunately this engine has been turned into a "high mileage" motor by prior neglect. I change every 3,000 but the damage has already been done.

I was worried the detergents may have cleared up places for oil to seep and burn, or sneakily leak out without me noticing.

I have not yet tested compression but that's a good idea. A Dry and then wet test will reveal a worn ring if the compression increases, right?
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Old 03-20-2021, 06:53 PM   #4
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Default Re: Synthetic oil's effect on consumption?

A perfectly good engine with healthy compression around 185 psi takes into account cylinders free of scoring, without any taper from top to bottom, pistons and rings free of carbon build up, valves seating perfectly and valve seals minimizing oil seeping into the the exhaust and intake manifolds. A dry compression test takes into account a thin film of oil always providing lubrication and most importantly a hydraulic seal for piston rings to develop normal compression pressures (between 185-205 psi). A wet compression test performed after a dry one requires about a spoonful of motor oil poured into each cylinder to disperse around rings. With this additional oil, any worn cylinder/piston/rings/valves/valve seats will have more oil to help with sealing resulting in higher compression. Lower compression in a dry test (well below 185 psi) followed up with higher compression after additional oil is poured into each cylinder suggests worn cylinders, worn pistons filled with carbon deposits in piston lands, worn/damaged piston rings. Burned valves/valve seats would produce zero compression before and after additional oil into a cylinder.
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Old 03-20-2021, 11:03 PM   #5
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Default Re: Synthetic oil's effect on consumption?

If your burning oil or have lots of sludge, try a diesel rated oil....

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Old 03-21-2021, 08:19 PM   #6
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Default Re: Synthetic oil's effect on consumption?

For the most part, big changes in consumption are probably more due to viscosity changes in the oil. Not all oils of any grade are the same, and the combination of operating conditions and oil will probably be the biggest factor.

It the engine wasn't maintained in the past, the suggestion to go with diesel rated oils is probably a good start to trying to clean things up. Myself and some other have had some luck with various piston soaks as well, in attempts to clean up the ring package. As in all cases with oil burning YMMV.
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Old 03-22-2021, 03:32 PM   #7
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Default Re: Synthetic oil's effect on consumption?

I'd double check to make sure you don't have an oil leak at the filter or drain plug (drain plug gasket may need changing).

I thought my oil burning had increased once, turned out to be a slow drip at the drain plug. I parked in a garage at the time and hadn't noticed any spotting on the floor. After that, I started using a torque wrench on the drain plug instead of the "feels good enough" method.
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Old 03-22-2021, 07:58 PM   #8
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Default Re: Synthetic oil's effect on consumption?

Thanks for all the suggestions. A big leak's a possibility, because I don't make a smoke screen unless I really get on it (and it always did that before).

I got some 10w30 today because walmart was out of 5w30. I know they're the same when warmed up, but I've heard having a smaller "spread" is better to prevent burning, because of some technical polymer science.

Either way I'll try some kind of piston soak and/or a brief ATF addition next time I change oil. I will consider diesel oil, but I want to be careful not to go too thick for the oil pump.
I regret putting Lucas in -- I didn't know it was just 60 wt oil. If I wanted thick stuff I would have bought diesel oil.

I've seen spots under the oil pan when parked, so I suspect that could be related. But I'm not losing oil when parked, it's directly related to mileage not time.

Anyways, current hypothesis is the synthetic oil broke down a seal somewhere and it's leaking, not burning, excessive oil.
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