How Long Can I Drive With Bad Piston Rings?

Perhaps you have wondered – “How long can I drive with bad piston rings?”

Your engine has a series f these small rings known as piston rings. They regular how much oil your engine consumes, as well as the oil pressure.

When you hear a bad piston rings sound, then it is most definitely a cause for concern. This is why you should never ignore this problem and try to get it fixed as soon as possible.

Find out more about the temporary fix for bad piston rings, how long you can drive your car with worn out piston rings, and everything else related to this topic. Let’s get started.

how long can i drive with bad piston rings

Understanding Bad Piston Rings

Piston rings tend to get worn out over time. These rings create a seal to the piston, which then envelops the piston. But as your engine wears out over time, the rings will loose the seal they once make. Moreover, too much heat can also cause the rings to crack as time goes by.

There are many signs that show an issue with piston rings. Here they are:

1. Excessive Exhaust Smoke

When you notice too much smoke emitted by your vehicle, it is possible that the piston rings are to blame. Thick and dark gray smoke with a hint of blue colors is a clear sign of bad piston rings. You may also smell what seems like burning oil that comes with the smoke.

As the piston rings go bad, this will result in an engine oil leak right into your vehicle’s combustion chamber. This explains the burning oil smell and the thick, gray exhaust or smoke that comes out of your car.

2. Too Much Oil Consumed

The piston regulates oil consumption, so if the rings are worn out and damaged, this leads to oil leaking into the combustion chamber. Hence, your vehicle uses up more oil than usual.

As a result, you will need to add oil more regularly instead of the typical 3000 to 5000 miles. So, if you need to keep adding more oil, it is time to get the piston rings inspected by an expert.

3. Acceleration Issues

When your car struggles with accelerating, it may mean that the piston rings are damaged or worn out. This is why the engine is not as powerful as it used to be since there is a reduction in the compression happening.

You may notice that even if you press on the gas pedal, it takes some time to speed your vehicle up. A more thorough inspection of the piston rings is needed, so you can get this issue fixed.

4. Poor Performance

Overall, your vehicle is losing its power and quality of performance as the piston rings wear out. You may even lose all power and have problems with accelerating. This is why you need to have the piston rings checked right away because leaving the issue unsolved will only create more damage to your vehicle.

Piston Ring Replacement

Typically, a piston ring replacement can be quite pricey. Just the rings can cost you about $30 to as much as $150. But the biggest chunk of the cost is in the labor. It is a tedious job that can take about 10 hours or longer, depending on how much damage has been done to your vehicle.

On average, mechanics may charge you about $100 to $200 an hour for a piston ring replacement. So, if the job takes 10 hours, that’s between $1000 and $2000 for the labor – that’s excluding the parts.

The length of time it takes to fix piston rings and other damages affected can also take longer, depending on the model and make of your vehicle. So, there are many factors that come into play when calculating the price.

How Long Can I Drive With Bad Piston Rings

You can drive with bad piston rings for a few kilometers but it is best not to attempt to do so as this can cause further damage to your engine and vehicle.

In fact, it is better to get your car towed when you suspect bad piston rings are the cause of the problem. When you notice less compression and reduced acceleration, and an overall reduction in power of your vehicle, you should arrange to have the vehicle towed instead of driving it. Otherwise, the problem can get worse and can cost you more to have it fixed.

Temporary Fix For Bad Piston Rings

It is possible to do a temporary fix for bad piston rings even without removing your engine.

  1. Remove the oil pan after draining the oil
  2. Remove the rod bolts and the piston, so you can then remove the piston rings.
  3. Clean your old piston and install the new piston rings.
  4. Replace the cap and that’s it!

But in other cases, you may need to remove the engine, as this can make this easier for some vehicles. When removing the piston, be sure you have the replacement rings ready. There are also instances when you will have to work on the cylinder bore to obtain the best results. This would mean removing this component from your car.

Replacing the piston rings is a complex task, which is why taking your car to a mechanic is the best option. With some people, however, as long as they have the right tools and techniques, as well as their car’s service manual, they can get it done. But if you are uncertain about how to do it, you should go to a professional to have your car worked on.

Read More: How To Remove Excess Coolant From Reservoir


Bad piston rings mean terrible news for your vehicle. The damage can be so severe that it will impact the performance of your car, causing it to lose power and an inability to accelerate. With this in mind, it is best to take your car to a specialist to get the piston rings replaced and address the other issues before everything gets worse.


Bryan Mark is the founder of Bryan’s Garage. He own a small garage in IOWA town, and spend a lot of time on study all technique both hardware and software of car. His mission is contributing the best car knowledge and experience  to the automotive community. It is the most meaningful way to express his passion.

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