Consumer Reports Warns of Oil-burning Engines, Many Cars Affected

Consumer Reports has looked back at some of its surveys on reliability and oil burning, so it decided to update their story on the topic. It all started with an editor of the American publication who noticed his 2015 Subaru Forester was burning oil despite its low mileage.
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With oil burning in mind, the said editor contacted several automakers that were revealed to have issues with oil consumption a few years ago. The editor went even further and discovered that there are still modern cars that can burn enough oil to deplete their engines between manufacturer-recommended oil changes.

Yes, you read that right, there are modern cars that can suffer from oil consumption issues so severe that they may run out of oil before they drive enough miles to reach their next service interval. Fortunately, this does not happen to all the cars in a particular model series, and there are things that owners can do to prevent the expensive event of an engine failure due to low oil pressure.

Eight manufacturers were identified in CR's study, and most of them have provided the publication with a list of oil-burning engines, while several have already taken action to correct the situation in their cars. Each owner and prospective owner of said models should be aware of the risk and monitor the oil level of those cars.

Burning oil was a problem that was almost eradicated at the turn of this Millenium, but ever-increasing fuel economy standards have led to trade-offs in engine design that had an unfortunate effect on durability, as Consumer Reports notes. It is also important to point out that there is no standard on how much oil an engine can burn between service intervals, and each manufacturer has its own guidelines on the matter.

In other words, if an engine burns no oil or given quantity of oil between service intervals, it may be in line with manufacturer specification. The situation turns into a problem only if the engine burns more oil than what the automaker considers to be normal. However, it is still the owner's responsibility to frequently check the oil level so that the engine does not run out of it between service intervals.

Things go weary in the case of long service intervals, abusive driving styles, extreme wear conditions, and ignoring oil change intervals. With more than two of the above in play, all bets are off when oil consumption is involved. So, if you do not know when was the last time your car got an oil change, or when it is due for the next one, get it done sooner than later, and monitor the oil level to be sure you are not going to face an expensive repair.

Oil-burning is not considered to be a safety concern, which means that automakers do not have to issue recalls to get it done. Cars of the last decade are equipped with catalytic converters that are so advanced that they mask oil burning through their effective operation. The only way to be sure that a car does not burn too much of its oil is to frequently monitor its level with a dipstick, a tool that is becoming rare in new cars.

In alphabetical order, these are the engines that Consumer Reports' study have shown to be prone to burning oil. Acura's 3.7-liter V6, used from 2010 to 2013. That engine was used in the Acura RL, TL SH-AWD, MDX, and ZDX. American Honda Motor Company has issued a voluntary warranty extension to cover issues related to oil consumption.

Audi's turbocharged 2.0-liter inline-four engines built between 2010 and 2018, as well as Audi's supercharged 3.0-liter V6 mill built between 2011 and 2019. Affected models include the A6, A7, Q7, A4, S4, A5, A5 Cabriolet, and Q5. The German brand has a Technical Service Bulletin on the matter, which solves the issue, but owners are requested to contact an authorized dealer regarding their concerns.

BMW's turbocharged 4.4-liter V8 built from 2012 to 2019 has also been prone to burning oil. Affected models include the V8 versions of the 5 Series, 6 Series, 7 Series, X5, X6, and M-badged versions of those cars. The automaker declined to comment at CR's request.

General Motors' inline-four 2.4-liter engine used from 2011 to 2015, used on the Chevy Equinox and GMC Terrain, is also subject to the issue. GM issued a special coverage warranty for the affected cars, and owners are requested to go to a certified dealer to receive a diagnosis.

MINI's turbocharged 1.6-liter inline-four engine, employed from 2010 to 2015, should also have its oil checked frequently. The brand's representatives requested their customers to contact the customer care team to discuss any issues.

Subaru has three engines that should be monitored for excessive oil consumption, as CR notes. The 2.0-liter boxer-four used from 2012 to 2018, the 2.5-liter boxer-four used from 2010 to 2018, and the 3.6-liter boxer-six used from 2010 to 2018. Affected models include the Impreza, Crosstrek, BRZ, Forester, Outback, and Legacy. The Japanese brand also requests owners to contact the dealer if any problems arise, and the matter will be handled on a case-by-case basis. The Consumer Reports editor had to pay to have his engine's oil replaced to get an oil consumption test, but the automaker replaced his engine at the company's expense.

Volkswagen was not exempt from the problem, and owners of cars with its turbocharged 1.4-liter inline-four engine employed from 2016 to 2019 should check their oil level frequently. VW replied that they had not seen a significant issue with oil consumption in the field with that engine and recommended that owners check the manual for usage and maintenance guidelines. Owners are instructed to regularly check their oil, along with all engine fluids, and to contact an authorized dealer if they have any concerns with their vehicle.

Volvo has two engines that require closer attention, the 3.0-liter inline-six engine used from 2011 to 2015, as well as a 3.2-liter inline-six unit placed in cars built between 2010 and 2014. Affected models include the S80, V60, V70, XC70, XC60, and SC90. Volvo requests its customers to contact an authorized retailer for proper fault tracing, diagnostics, and service operations. The Swedish company explained that all engines consume oil, however there is no specific mileage at which a high consumption rate could be considered normal.

Editor's note: Various engines shown in the photo gallery for illustration purposes.
Only certain units and of certain model years of the described models could be affected by the oil-burning issues.


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