Can I get away with just buying more oil to avoid a hefty repair bill?

Dear Car Talk

Dear Car Talk | Sep 01, 1995

Dear Tom and Ray:

We recently decided to reduce our expenses and increase our fitness levels by becoming a one-car family. Unfortunately, it now appears that we will increase both our expenses and our fitness. The remaining car is a 1989 Hyundai Sonata, which burns a quart of oil every 500 miles. Without pulling the head off, our friendly, trusted mechanic shook HIS head and predicted the need for new piston rings. He also mentioned that Hyundia piston rings have an average life span of somewhat shorter than the 68,000 miles we now have on our car. Our choices seem to be: A) case lot purchases or oil and sneakers; B) a $1,500 repair bill; or C) a different car. With either of the first two choices we will still have a car with a dysfunctional air conditioner, minimal heat, intermittent radio reception, uncooperative door handles, and a clock that skips from one time zone to the next. Any thoughts?

RAY: Yeah. My first thought is "Gee, I'm glad I don't own this heap."

TOM: I wouldn't panic, Yvette. A quart of oil every 500 miles is bad, but it's not horrendous. When you get down to a quart every 100 miles and voluminous clouds of bluish-white smoke envelope your car at every stop light, then it's time for urgent action. But I think you've got time.

RAY: Not a lot of time, mind you, but my brother's right. As long as you keep an eye on the oil level and don't let it run down, you can continue to drive this heap for months... maybe years. Alright...year, maybe year.

TOM: But I wouldn't put any money into it. I'd be hard pressed to recommend putting $1,500 into a 1989 Hyundai under good conditions. But with all the additional problems yours has, I don't think you should even consider it.

RAY: Here's what I'd do. I'd put the $1,500 in a piggy bank and start adding to it. And in the mean time, I'd throw two cases of oil and pair of sneakers in the trunk of the Hyundai. Then, when you use up the oil, take the plates off and use the sneakers to hike to the nearest car dealer. Good luck, Yvette. You're a good sport!

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