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I don't change the oil all that often (maybe every 8000 miles) and on my 10 year old car the oil light comes on and I need to add a quart or two (and then I start thinking I practically changed the oil and don't need to worry for another few thousand miles!). Does that mean it's leaking for sure? Or does oil make it's way though the pistons in an older car and burn off in the combustion process?

Note there are no (new) spots on my driveway.

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+1 - I'm really glad you asked this question! Please, please follow the advice below to take care of your car ;) –  jmort253 Mar 19 '11 at 3:29
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What kind of light is that oil light? Low Oil? Low Oil Pressure? Change Oil? –  Mark Johnson Dec 19 '11 at 6:21
    
@MarkJohnson It's just the little picture of a...well, I don't know what it is but it's what we accept as a representative of oil. Should be changed to a Chevron icon or something for future generations. –  tooshel Dec 20 '11 at 14:56

2 Answers 2

The oil is most likely being burned by the engine. You should change your oil more often, it's not just new oil you are putting in, when you change your oil, it takes the old oil and contaminates suspended in that oil out. So by added 2 new quarts every so often is not nearly the same as changing the oil.

Also I would recommend checking the oil level on a regular bases, if you are waiting for the oil light to come on that means there is not enough oil in the pan for the pump to pick up. Oil lights come on around 8 psi in most cars. If you are waiting this long you could be damaging your engine because the oil pressure is too low. Now in the event the light you are referring to is an oil level light you might be alright as far as the oil pressure goes.

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+1 - I second that. The oil light isn't like your low fuel warning light. The oil light means you are doing damage to your motor. Don't let it get to that point! Please! Unless you want a lawn ornament in your yard. –  jmort253 Mar 19 '11 at 3:28
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It really depends on the oil that's being put into the engine - you can't really make the definitive statement that the oil needs to be changed more often. A lot of vehicles these days (and even 10 years ago) have oil change intervals in the 7.5k-10k mile ranges if you use the appropriate oil. That of course makes checking the oil level even more important. –  Timo Geusch Sep 18 '11 at 18:01

The oil is going somewhere. If your vehicle is not marking its territory (leaking when parked), it's probably burning it.

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