At least once or twice in three months, John Aturinde spends between Shs20,000 and Shs40,000 to top up engine oil in his Toyota Nadia.
This expenditure, however, unfortunately comes at a time when he has not reached the 5,000 kilometre mark, not even a half of the same mileage that he is required to visit the garage for regular service according to the service manual.
He usually drives from his home in Nansana, Wakiso District, to his office in Ntinda and drives upcountry once or twice a year.
“I have had the car for approximately six years. I bought it from a friend who had owned it for about two years. When I bought it, I would only top up engine oil at every service interval but as time went on, I started topping up every three to four months,” Aturinde recalls.
According to Isaac Mujjawa, a mechanic in Makindye, if you have driven your car for a number of years regardless of whether you bought it from someone you know, the fact that it runs on a somewhat old engine may explain why it burns a lot of engine oil. This is because most cars sold in local bonds were first driven in their country of origin before being shipped to Uganda.
“Car engines are like consumable products. They tend to have expiry dates but the difference between car engines and consumable products is that when they (engines) become old, they continue serving the car yet a consumable product will be thrown away when it expires. As your engine gets old, it starts consuming more oil because its power reduces overtime,” Mujjawa explains.
According to Mujjawa, the more mileage your engine covers, the more it will subject engine parts such as pistons and crankshaft, among others, which mostly use oil, to more functionality thus the need to use more oil. As such, oil top ups may become unavoidable.
During one of his garage visits, Alex Kalumba’s engine oil was drained to replace it with newer oil. Before he drove out of the garage, the mechanic had sold off the drained oil to someone he later found out was a taxi conductor.
“The mechanic said taxi drivers normally use oil obtained from different cars in their cars. It is when I realised that I have to be present when carrying out an oil replacement or top up,” Kalumba says.
Abubaker Kasozi, a mechanic and spare parts dealer at Kisekka Market in downtown Kampala says poor quality oil raises the possibility of your engine burning more oil. While Kalumba makes an effort to buy new oil from trusted dealers in Kampala, Kasozi observes that poor quality oil is not only used in commuter taxis but that some of it may find its way into your engine.
“If you are buying one litre of oil, a half of it may be new oil that was mixed with a half of adulterated oil. It is hard to differentiate new from old oil when you are buying it because the culprits take time to package it well to appear as if it is new. It is, therefore, advisable to buy oil from trusted fuel stations where oil seals are not broken because you can check them yourself,” Kasozi advises.
Old piston rings
According to Mujjawa, the primary role of engine piston rings is to prevent excessive burning of engine oil in the engine cylinder wall. When your piston rings are old, there will be more oil going to the oil burning chamber and this will be evident when you start to feel your engine lose power, especially when you accelerate.
As a result, your engine oil will be burning faster and will get depleted within a short time.
Bad valve seals
According to Bluedevilproducts, engine oil circulates around the valves in your engine’s head. There are seals around each valve to keep the oil from leaking into the combustion chamber. These seals can wear out from high mileage, low oil levels or they can simply dry out and crack if your car is not driven often.
If your valve seals are bad, they can allow oil to seep past them while your engine is off allowing the oil to pool on the piston. When you start your car, you will notice the same blue cloud of burnt oil from the exhaust as the pooled oil burns off the top of the piston.
How to fix
Most of these causes are fixable and preventable if you simply pay attention to the oil that you are using and all the components that work with it. If you have an old engine, then you should consider just selling your vehicle for a brand new one that has a new engine.
As for the rest of the causes, just remember to use top quality oil that is recommended by your vehicle’s manufacturer. Fix any oil leaks as soon as you notice them and replace your piston rings and valve stem seals when necessary.