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Excessive Oil Use On Certain Late-Model Cars

Advances in engine designs and lubricant technology have allowed automakers to extend oil change intervals on new cars to at least 5,000 miles, with many going 7,500 to 10,000 miles or even longer between services. With these extended change intervals it is more important than ever that the engine oil level be checked periodically and topped up as needed.
While most modern engines burn little or no oil between changes, some need a quart added from time to time, usually after at least a couple thousand miles of driving. It is also common for engine oil consumption to gradually increase over time, particularly once a vehicle passes the 100,000-mile mark.

However, Consumer Reports 2014 Annual Auto Survey has identified several newer models with what could be considered excessive oil consumption. Looking at almost half a million 2010-2014 model year vehicles, many still under warranty, the report found 98 percent did not need any additional oil between changes. However, the other two percent (approximately 1.5 million cars) primarily involved these vehicle makes and powerplants:
• Audi 2.0-liter turbocharged I4 and 3.0-liter V6 engines
• BMW 4.8-liter V8 and twin-turbocharged 4.4-liter V8 engines
• Subaru 2.0- and 2.5-liter H4 and 3.6-liter H6 engines
These engines are used in a wide variety of models from the three automakers, and many owners report having to add oil, often several times, between changes. All three automakers claim some oil consumption is normal. Subaru says using a quart every 1,000 to 1,200 miles is acceptable, while Audi and BMW state some models may burn a quart every 600 to 700 miles.
While the Consumer Reports study did not determine a correlation between increased oil consumption and other engine problems, the data did show that cars that burn oil when new burn even more oil as mileage increases. Higher oil consumption means that owners of the above-listed cars need to be extra diligent in maintaining proper oil levels, and may want to carry a spare quart that meets the automaker's specifications in their vehicle. Most affected models require full-synthetic oils, and use of a non-compliant product could void the warranty.
The automakers say factors such as transmission type, driving style, temperature and terrain can all contribute to increased oil usage. However, Subaru reportedly began making changes to its engine designs in 2010, although some were not modified until 2014. BMW and Subaru have also reduced oil change intervals on some newer models, and BMW now specifies that an additional quart of oil should be added to certain problematic models when refilling the crankcase after an oil change. These are all steps that would reduce the need for owners to add oil as often between scheduled changes.
Owners are understandably upset with the inconvenience of more frequent oil level checks, and the added expense of having to add multiple quarts of costly synthetic oil (typically $7 to $10 per quart) between scheduled changes. In some cases, dealers have repaired engines or offered cash settlements as compensation for the added oil costs. However, in other cases the manufacturers are standing by their claims that the oil consumption is normal for these engines. Audi and Subaru are now dealing with class action lawsuits regarding the problem.

Sources and Resources:
Consumer Reports
Autoweek
AutoBlog

Written on Monday, August 3, 2015 by
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