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My '02 Beetle 2.0 has been burning oil since I got it which has never really been a problem. It will "choke" a little to let me know its low if I don't catch it! In October, I got an oil change before taking a trip across country and had no issues at all except when I got home she was quite low, filled her up with 5/40W. The other day my husband was driving behind me and said he saw "grey" smoke coming from my tailpipe. I stopped driving it immediately cuz I don't want to blow her up. I checked the forum and it seems like smoke could be nothing or could be rings or worse. Any suggestions for diagnosing her?
 

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One of the easy things to check is the crankcase ventilation system. If it is plugged it could contribute to your problem. See this for how to check it:

http://newbeetle.org/forums/2-0-liter-gas/59278-yellow-goo-what-do.html

I have had to replace the seal between the oil cooler and the block as well as the valve cover gasket. Both are fairly common contributors to oil loss.

A compression test would tell you the condition of the piston rings and cylinder walls and give some feel for the wear on the engine.
 
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