Oil leak with no warning

Tiny
ALTIMA2005
  • MEMBER
  • 2005 NISSAN ALTIMA
  • 2.5L
  • 4 CYL
  • 2WD
  • AUTOMATIC
  • 46,000 MILES
I bought this car used two years ago.

I brought it to the mechanic for an oil change and engine noise (sounded like rattling). The mechanic said the oil was low, and that was the cause of the rattling. I know how bad it is to run a car with little to no oil. But, I swear, the check engine or oil light never came on. I dismissed the engine noise as something simple (clearly I was wrong). The mechanic said that there is no external leak. So, it is an internal leak. I now check the oil once a week, and can see that it drops pretty quickly. So I will get repaired.

My question is this: I could have, potentially, driven the car for 1,000 miles, maybe more, without knowing about the low oil. How bad is this? The engine sounds mentioned earlier are gone, and I will repair keep on top of the oil, but can anyone provide some detail on the damage?
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Thursday, February 23rd, 2017 AT 7:19 AM

3 Replies

Tiny
STEVE W.
  • EXPERT
Did the oil change stop the rattle? If it did and the engine is running okay it is burning the oil. That is not a good thing as it will damage the converter (if it has not already).

That engine has a couple of very bad habits, One they were actually subject to a recall due to excessive oil consumption caused by bad piston rings.

Also, the pre-converter starts to fail and the engine draws some of the debris back into the cylinders and that acts like grindstones. This damages the cylinder walls and cause the engine to burn oil. Unfortunately this is also a catastrophic failure that just gets worse.

Have you noticed any bluish smoke from the tailpipe, or is the interior coated with gooey black soot?

With 46,000 miles on it I would probably take it to a Nissan dealer and explain the situation to them. Some people have been getting these things repaired for a greatly reduced price. I am not sure if they would do anything but it would not hurt to try.
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Thursday, February 23rd, 2017 AT 7:58 AM
Tiny
ALTIMA2005
  • MEMBER
It did stop the rattle. There has never been any indication of smoke or soot. I am going to get it repaired, maybe I will get a deal, maybe I will not.

But I am more concerned about the damage that was done. Is there anything preventative that could be done? Again, I cannot be certain on how long I drove it with low oil.
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Thursday, February 23rd, 2017 AT 8:15 AM
Tiny
STEVE W.
  • EXPERT
If the rattle went away it was probably the cam chain tension-er or the variable valve timing system. No real way to tell if it did real damage without tearing the covers off and looking. But it is a fairly common issue when they get low on oil and most did not seem to have any real issue if it was caught early.

Repair process for the oil issue will depend on what they find. It could be something like a bad PCV valve or bad valve stem seals. Or it could be bad enough to need a replacement engine. No real way to tell without testing it.
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Thursday, February 23rd, 2017 AT 9:01 AM

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