By on October 9, 2014

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Justin writes:

Sajeev,

First I wanted to let you know that nearly everyday on my lunch break I check TTAC and each time I see a Piston Slap article I always make sure to read through it.  I admire your knowledge and have learned quite a bit from your articles. I guess that I have a two part question.

The first part being since when has it become “acceptable” that a modern (low mileage) engine can consume a quart of oil in less than 5K miles.  Audi and VW jump the front on my mind with their 2.0T mills, but I hear more and more through the woodwork about engines drinking oil.  The second part of my question probably has more to do with correlation than causation but it seems like direct injection plays a role in this IMO unacceptable oil consumption.

Thanks!

Sajeev answers:

Why thank you for your kind words! This series is a shared duty between you the reader, me the writer and The Best and Brightest’s comments. We got a sweet little gig here, ya know?  On to your queries…

I think one could write a PhD thesis on acceptable oil consumption, as it affects damn near every manufacturer these days. Yeah, blaming Audi and VW for that is a bit disingenuous. The V-10 powered BMW M-series burned rotary Mazda-levels of oil from day one.  And cheaper, mainstream Japanese and American brands are far from exempt.

Like this thread suggests,  I reckon acceptable oil consumption stems from two things: piston ring design (low tension?) and lightweight (like 5w-20) oils. Think about how many modern mills effortlessly zing the rev counter well past 6000 RPM and last for years with great horsepower figures AND fantastic fuel economy.  Perhaps the downside to living in this new Golden Age of Automotive Engineering is a fraction of a quart of oil burning between service intervals.

I’m not saying its right or wrong, as I don’t know the right engine design and oil weight to end acceptable oil consumption while keeping today’s level of performance and long-term durability. And that’s where the B&B comes in. Off to you!

Send your queries to [email protected]com. Spare no details and ask for a speedy resolution if you’re in a hurry…but be realistic, and use your make/model specific forums instead of TTAC for more timely advice.

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120 Comments on “Piston Slap: Acceptable Oil Consumption?...”


  • avatar
    mechimike

    The problem comes when clueless consumers of transportation fail to check their oil. A friend of mine recently gave me her Toyota Matrix. 1ZZ engine, supposedly a tough, reliable little powerplant. 160,000 miles should be nothing for this engine. Yet it knocks and ticks and won’t rev over 3000 RPM.

    Why?

    She ran it low on oil. Repeatedly. And then did it some more.

    The oil cap recommends 5W-30 oil, and since she always had the car serviced, I’m certain that’s what the car was always fed. But, somewhere between “extended service intervals” and general apathy, things went south, quickly. Not even a full load of 20W-50 would quell the thrashed bearings. The engine’s hosed.

    My own daily driver, a 1967 Volvo station wagon, consumes a quart of oil every other tank of fuel. I buy 15W-40 diesel oil by the 2.5 gallon jug, and simply top it off. The old Swede runs great, gets 25 mpg, and doesn’t smoke visibly. It’s chilling to think that in the hands of this woman the car would have been dead years ago.

    My takeaway: Practical electric cars can’t come soon enough.

    • 0 avatar

      How long have you owned that Volvo? How many miles are on it?

      • 0 avatar
        mechimike

        I’ve had it about 8 or 9 years now, and put over 25,000 miles on it myself. When I got it it was showing about 24,000, and was assured it had rolled over “at least twice”

        • 0 avatar
          Sjalabais

          My first car was a ’77 242. Pretty green behind my ears, I checked the oil stick without cleaning it or whatever, confirmed: “Yes, there’s oil”, before a 1000km trip. Turns out, these were oil fumes. 800km later I stopped at a small shop with a smoking car. Long row of four letter words from the head mechanic. The car had done 300000km by then and I had burned the head gasket badly. But…I had to move on. Never fixed it, drove 20000km before I sold it (full disclosure). Used 20W50 tractor oil, about 1l/700km.

        • 0 avatar
          Volt 230

          These Corolla 1.8 aluminum engines are infamous for burning oil like crazy, I’m on my second one and same thing happened to both. Gotta add half a quart every week, and forget about the light stuff, it’ll go thru it like water.

          • 0 avatar
            Sigivald

            Huh.

            Mine never seems to.

            I wonder what the actual observed rate is?

            (Pity I doubt Toyota will ever say.)

          • 0 avatar
            gtemnykh

            Apparently the failure mode is stuck oil rings on the pistons. Irregular oil changes cause the oil passages in the piston to clog up, from there the rings get stuck. Isuzu V6 engines had a similar problems on the 98-01 engines.

    • 0 avatar
      krhodes1

      It baffles me how few manufacturers put oil level sensors in their cars. And coolant level sensors for that matter. How much can it possibly cost?

      • 0 avatar
        PRNDLOL

        I completely agree, some cars even have washer fluid level sensors but not oil level.

        • 0 avatar
          wsn

          It’s the driver’s responsibility to make sure that windshield fluid is full.

          It’s the mechanic’s responsibility to make sure oil is full. (Of course, it’s the driver’s responsibility to bring the car in for service at specified interval.)

          So, yeah, it does make sense.

          • 0 avatar
            danio3834

            “It’s the mechanic’s responsibility to make sure oil is full.”

            Most owner’s guides specify for the driver to check the oil level at refueling intervals. Of course next to nobody does, but they can’t say the manufacturer never told them to when they run it down to a half quart of tar.

      • 0 avatar
        Sigivald

        How do you sense oil level, reliably and *usefully*?

        While it’s running you’re screwed – it moves around way too much and too much of it is, hopefully, actually up IN the engine.

        So we’re left at “at start” … and, well, the consumer complaints of “the oil warning light came on when I started it, but it had plenty of oil!” – because of a *hot start* when the oil hadn’t drained back down enough to be “full”?

        And how do you do it? A float valve? Some other sensor? And if some other, how do you keep residual oil coating from being detected as “enough oil”?

        At first glance, the problem is *very hard*, if soluble at all.

        I read it as a nightmare to try and implement, and then everyone would end up complaining that “it’s a useless thing that costs a lot to fix when it inevitably breaks”.

        [See the inflation sensor on any number of vehicles.]

        Lose/Lose. Would not try to implement.

      • 0 avatar
        MBella

        I think it’s ironic that Mercedes has both of those, but nothing to tell you if oil pressure is low.

  • avatar
    Carrera

    Well, it all depends on the engine. I had Hondas all my life. The first one was a 1988 Civic with 154k miles when I bought it. I switched to synthetic oil as soon as I bought it. Did oil changes every 10k..10w30 I think. Same quantity I put in would come out. Zero consumption. Engine was tight as tight can be. Same with my next Hondas…Del Sol, Accord and a 2001 made in Japan CrV. Currently the wife drives a 2006 Pilot with VCM ( cylinder deactivation). It uses a quart of 5-20 synthetic every 8000 miles. Of course Honda says it is perfectly acceptable. So I guess my previous ones were freaks. My Ridgeline with same engine but without VCM doesn’t use any oil. Oil use is the ” new normal”. Just keep an eye on it.

    • 0 avatar
      S2k Chris

      My S2000, which I beat the snot out of, burns through +/- 1 qt of Valvoline Syntec every 1k miles. It was even worse with Mobil 1, which doesn’t play nicely with the F20C for whatever reason. I check and fill every Saturday as needed.

      • 0 avatar
        Carrera

        Wow S2k…I don’t know but that sounds a little excessive. If you drive it easier does it still take 1 qt every 1000 miles? My 1984 Carrera takes about 1qt of 20w50 every 5-6k miles or so and it has 110k miles on the odometer. No, I don’t race mine, but a lot of those old air cooled Porsches are well known for their appetite for oil.

        • 0 avatar
          bumpy ii

          Mine was pretty easy on oil, even with the famously-gulpy Mobil 1 in it, but some AP1s do smoke off idle after a few years. I think it depends on how the car was treated when it was new: lots of VTEC on the way home from the dealer = higher oil consumption later.

      • 0 avatar
        zamoti

        So it sometimes burns a negative quart of oil? I guess if you’re subtracting -1 from your crankcase, that means it is somehow MAKING a quart of oil every 1k miles.
        I knew Honda engineers were clever, but this is pretty impressive!

        • 0 avatar
          heavy handle

          I know you’re teasing, zamoti, but there are cases where oil levels go up instead of down. The cause is usually either a blown head gasket routing coolant into oil, or lots of blow-by (fuel contamination in oil). Some late 90s cars had bad PCV systems that kept water condensation in the oil as well.

    • 0 avatar
      SC5door

      I’ve seen a few Odyssey’s on the highway that will give a puff or two of blue smoke every so often. I couldn’t figure it out until I read about the cylinder deactivation on the engine. No thanks to that.

    • 0 avatar
      Sjalabais

      My 2002 Stream uses some oil, too. Not much, but with the synthetic oil not smoking, it is hard to remember checking it regularly.

    • 0 avatar
      sproc

      Just something about Honda engines (until recently?). I’ve had a ’91 Accord EX, ’93 Integra LS and ’02 RSX Type S that simply never moved the line on the dipstick no matter how many miles or style of driving. The RSX is still on the road, driven like I stole it for 13 years, and consumes no oil. Our ’08 A3 2.0T is another story altogether, but at least there’s a low oil sensor and warning long before the dipstick is dry.

      • 0 avatar
        George B

        I have a 15 year old Accord with the 3L V6 and it still doesn’t use much oil late in life. I’ve become lazy about checking the oil because it never uses more that a small fraction of a quart between oil changes. Used to get Mobil 1 5w30 synthetic, but now it gets Walmart Supertech 5w30 synthetic. However, this lack of oil consumption seems to be the norm for normally aspirated port fuel injected engines in the cars of friends and family. For 20 years, oil consumption between oil changes has become unusual for mass-market cars.

    • 0 avatar
      Sigivald

      A quart an oil change is no big deal, no. (I’m saying “per oil change” since that’s a nice conservative interval for synthetic.)

      The owner’s manual for my 300D said that acceptable was a quart per *750 miles*, if I recall.

      A matter of perspective, I suppose.

  • avatar
    toplessFC3Sman

    I’d say it has more to do with more engines becoming turbocharged than DI, since that presents another path for oil consumption. If the PCV system gets clogged, oil tends to push past the seals in the turbo more readily than the piston rings, ending up in the intake where it gets consumed (or pools in the intercooler or other bit of piping) or in the exhaust, where it can bake & smolder & smoke. This, plus the more highly-stressed nature of the engine itself and how that affects the range of operating temperatures of the piston, bore walls etc, and thus the range of loads & clearances that the rings need to deal with will lead to greater oil consumption even without the change to lighter weight oils.

    That being said, the roughly 2500 – 3000 miles I can go before needing to add a quart of oil in a 150k mile turbo Saab is in line with what I’d expect, and definitely better than the 800 miles or so I get out of a quart in the ’88 RX-7.

    • 0 avatar
      bunkie

      One should never include an RX-7 in any comparison of oil consumption with piston-engine cars. Mazda Rotaries in RX-7s *intentionally* burn oil (to keep the apex seals alive), the only internal combustion engine (that I know of) that does. My ’80 RX went through a quart every 600 miles.

  • avatar
    cbrworm

    I think, and I’m not expert, that the low tension rings, which help fuel efficiency and power are part of the problem. I have two cars with low tension rings, and each needs a quart or more between 5K oil changes, and have since new. We have one car with standard rings that also rev’s happily to 7K, and needs no oil between it’s 7K changes.

    It also seems that in some cases PCV designs and driving style play a large part in oil consumption. Cars which are driven hard and have low tension rings and/or marginal PCV systems are more likely to burn oil than the same cars driven at a moderate pace.

    Cars that are in freezing areas tend to use oil once the water evaporates and carries with it some oil bits.

    Cars that are driven like grandma stole them are likely to use very little oil until the rings coke up, then they will use some too.

    I also think the expectation has changed. When I was a kid, you had to top off your oil all the time. Then there was a period where you didn’t – this was on 80’s and 90’s Japanese cars in particular. Then in 2000+, when everyone was complacent, brand new cars were consuming up to a quart every 1K (except for the BMW V10 which needed a quart every fill-up if driven hard) and causing inattentive maintainers to run out of oil.

  • avatar
    7402

    I dunno. We got over 150,000 miles out of a Honda V6 and it never needed a drop of oil between oil changes. Never. Not. One. Drop. We ran this on 5W-20 dino juice.

    Supercharged MINI Cooper needs about half a quart of 5W-30 synthetic every 3,000 miles or so and has since day one. I change it after 12 months if it hasn’t reached the computer-suggested interval.

    Brand new Subaru Forester (not turbo) needs a half quart about every 1,500 miles, but I have to believe this is partly because it takes synthetic 0W-20 oil which has about the same viscosity as milk–it probably seeps past the rings even when the engine isn’t running.

    • 0 avatar
      Xafen

      Yep, the new Subaru 2.0 plant has been having a good number of problems reported on enthusiast forums. Subaru blames it on rings, and sometimes replaces those, and shortblocks, but some still have consumption.

      It’s not insignificant consumption either, some people see 1 qt / 3k miles or more. It takes at least 1qt/1200 for Subaru to do anything.

      This is on brand new Subarus…

      Details on NASIOC and other places.

    • 0 avatar
      srogers

      I wouldn’t get too twisted up over 1 quart of oil every 3000 miles. My Impreza used 1.5 quarts in 6000 miles and I just figure that it’s due to low friction rings and 0-20 oil.

  • avatar
    Lie2me

    The best longest lasting cars I ever had burnt a quart of oil every 5K miles… just sayin’

    • 0 avatar
      frozenman

      Lie2me I really hope this is the case, the 2011 Forester is sipping a liter +/- of synthetic between 8,000km oil swaps, freaks me out a little. The fact it’s a manual with resulting higher revs on the highway and “save the brakes” down shifting around town may be the culprit?

      • 0 avatar
        Lie2me

        I would check with your service guy and other owners of similar Foresters to be sure, but yeah, that is my personal experience with two V6 Fords I had that were up near the 200K mile range

        • 0 avatar
          frozenman

          Actually there is a class action lawsuit in the works against Subaru for this issue, I’m just not burning enough to get in on it( one liter/1000km).

          • 0 avatar
            Lie2me

            I’d be concerned, because I’m beginning to see it’s a known issue. If you can, get in on any class-action litigation it’ll be your hedge against future problems

  • avatar
    DeadWeight

    I went through this with VW on a 2006 VW Passat 2.0T (essentially, the current VW CC).

    It consistently burned 1 to 1.2 quarts of synthetic oil every 5 thousand miles (severe service OCI per manual; or as I like to call it – standard OCI).

    The head of the VW stealership service department and VAG N.A. Corporate absolutely insisted this was within allowable spec (despite such a claim being ridiculous, and two VW techs quietly confirming that a) I was correct, and b) it was a common issue stemming from a design flaw across the board).

    I was happy to dump that POS and barring a true miracle, will not own another VW (and in no way just because of the excessive oil consumption; one day maybe we’ll hear from VW/Audi techs about the hilarity and profound sadness of servicing VAG vehicles and their myriad of bizarre problems and byzantine maintenance rituals).

    • 0 avatar
      vtecJustKickedInYo

      Haha I believe they wont do an oil consumption study unless it is something ridiculous like 2 quarts per 5k. What brand and weight oil were you using along with service interval? Had any crankshaft ventilation hoses/check valves been replaced?

      • 0 avatar
        DeadWeight

        No, they tested for leaks, MAF sensor issues, etc., as it was under full warranty at time.

        It wasn’t my vehicle, but I was on top of maintaining it, and was using the proper spec oil, which IIRC was either 5W30 or 5W40 Castrol Full Synthetic meeting European Standard 502 00.

        I literally checked the oil level weekly and added oil as necessary, but sometimes it would go from seemingly normal levels to 1 quart down in the blink of an eye (and there was no visible leakage nor visible oil being burned from the tailpipe).

        It’s a very common issue with that make/model/motor.

        • 0 avatar
          Wayne

          “but sometimes it would go from seemingly normal levels to 1 quart down in the blink of an eye (and there was no visible leakage nor visible oil being burned from the tailpipe).”

          I had same issue with 2012 TL SH-AWD 6MT that I bought brand new. I loved that car and would had kept it for many years had not the oil burning issue. 3.5 months into ownership the low oil light came on. It was about 2 quarts low by then and 5k miles in. I went to dealership and they performed oil consumption test. First 1k miles it appeared to be not consuming oil then second 1k miles it was about 1/2 quart low. Dealership ended test saying it was normal. For next couple of months I drove and went on with my life and one morning the low oil light came on and it’s about 2 quart low. I went to a second dealership they performed oil change and start a new oil consumption test with same result.

          To make the long story short after 2 years of dealing with issue going back and forth with Acura I traded in the car. Since then I bought two new vehicles and not is a Honda / Acura.

          • 0 avatar
            DeadWeight

            That’s running really low and I would have done the same as you (dumped it ASAP).

            Were you using conventional or synthetic oil out of curiosity?

          • 0 avatar
            Wayne

            All oil change was done at dealership. They used blended synthetic oil.

    • 0 avatar
      bball40dtw

      Was this the stealership on Maplelawn in Troy? Even though they are owned by the same company, I always found the former Bill Cook store in Farmington Hills to be much better.

      Either way, there is nothing better than not having to go to a VW dealership anymore. I don’t miss sitting a service lobby full of people suffering from Stockholm Syndrome.

      • 0 avatar
        vtecJustKickedInYo

        ^ That was the beauty about working at an Independent Audi and Porsche shop, good clients with Stockholm Syndrome would usually come to lunch with us instead of waiting, paid on the house (most likely with their money they just spent on repairs).

      • 0 avatar
        DeadWeight

        A certain VW Dealer in a Macomb County city with the initials of SH.

        Believe it or not, I am really easy to get along with in real life, as I’ve learned one is far better to get good service that way (who wants to deal with pricks all day), and to be fair, the service manager was polite and doing/saying what corporate said (since it was “escalated”), but neither he nor the dealership exactly went to bat for me when VW’s field tech came to dealership per appointment.

        The techs there were very cool, however, and absolutely honest with me (I just never wanted to repeat what they confided in me b/c it might have caused them workplace grief).

    • 0 avatar
      Zackman

      “…one day maybe we’ll hear from VW/Audi techs about the hilarity and profound sadness of servicing VAG vehicles and their myriad of bizarre problems and byzantine maintenance rituals).”

      I’m sure the poor guys who had to maintain Tiger tanks felt the same way!

    • 0 avatar
      Don Mynack

      I once read that synthetic oil is often so “clean” – meaning full of additives to prevent and clean sludge – that it has the unintended effect of enhancing small wear-related engine leaks, leaks that would otherwise have been clogged with small amounts of dino-oil sludge. I once had a mechanic tell me to never switch to full synth on an old car, or one that has been run for a long time on traditional oil – you are likely to see a few leaks spring up, or some of that expensive Royal Purple running out of an old gasket that sludge was holding together that you never knew about.

      • 0 avatar
        vtecJustKickedInYo

        Usually it is the conventional oil keeps old gaskets plump and synthetic tends to shrink the gaskets a little resulting in leaks. Those leaky seals are usually still pretty crusty with sludge

    • 0 avatar
      bryanska

      Same with my wife’s 2002 ancient 2.0L design. The oil clogged up two O2 sensors and coated one catalytic converter. All before 70k.

      I switched to a 3K oil change interval just because it was a PITA to keep adding oil.

  • avatar
    Fordson

    Wow – I feel fortunate, but I also change at correct intervals and use the right oil and filter.

    1979 Ford Fiesta S – 3k mile change interval. Dino juice back then. Junked with 182,500 miles on it, due to rust. Engine and tranny went to friend’s project car. Zero consumption.

    1987 GTI 8V – 3k mile change interval. Dino juice. Sold with 212,000 miles on it. Zero consumption.

    2000 Passat GL Wagon – 1.8T. 5k mile change interval, larger oil filter and 0W-40 full synthetic per recommendation from VW…162,500 miles when sold. Zero consumption.

    2003 SVT Focus – 5k mile change interval, 5W-30 full synthetic…114,500 miles. Zero consumption.

    2011 GTI – chipped, so I use a 5k mile change interval rather than 10k, 5W-40 Castrol Edge…38,000 miles. Zero consumption.

    And zero means zero…I check level every 2 weeks.

    That said, a half-quart consumption over 5k miles in a modern car would not faze me.

    DeadWeight, you were apparently scarred for life on VW and Audi vehicles. Mind telling us what you drive now?

    • 0 avatar
      DeadWeight

      I am being slightly drama king, as I do like the new GTI.

      However, I was previously burned by the 1.8T VW/Audi coil packs burning out every few thousand miles issue in 2001 that DID literally leave people stranded by the side of the road, but at least VW stepped up to the plate on that, acknowledging it was a design defect, and covered everything (towing, loaner car if needed, too), even extending warranties.

      If I do ever get another VW/Audi, I’m as screwed up as people allege.

      My current ride has a Renesis rotary 13B, and in just a hair under 100k miles I have not had a non-maintenance repair with it other than Mazda replacing a factory weak starter motor with a stronger unit (along with a free battery) at the 39,000 mile mark under a TSB, for free (truth be told, the battery alone probably would have resolved the slow crank issue).

      Ironically, the designed-to-burn oil Renesis consumes maybe 1/2 to 3/4 of a quart of oil, on average, every 3,000 miles, and runs like brand new (I have a theory that most rotary issues relate to the 4 port that’s coupled with the slushbox – not the 6 port coupled with the manual – and those that are run very hard in very hot climates with poor cooling system maintenance).

    • 0 avatar
      DeadWeight

      Fordson –

      I am being slightly drama king, as I do like the new GTI.

      However, I was previously burned by the 1.8T VW/Audi coil packs burning out every few thousand miles issue in 2001 that DID literally leave people stranded by the side of the road, but at least VW stepped up to the plate on that, acknowledging it was a design defect, and covered everything (towing, loaner car if needed, too), even extending warranties.

      If I do ever get another VW/Audi, I’m as screwed up as people allege.

      My current ride has a Renesis rotary 13B, and in just a hair under 100k miles I have not had a non-maintenance repair with it other than Mazda replacing a factory weak starter motor with a stronger unit (along with a free battery) at the 39,000 mile mark under a TSB, for free (truth be told, the battery alone probably would have resolved the slow crank issue).

      Ironically, the designed-to-burn oil Renesis consumes maybe 1/2 to 3/4 of a quart of oil, on average, every 3,000 miles, and runs like brand new (I have a theory that most rotary issues relate to the 4 port that’s coupled with the slushbox – not the 6 port coupled with the manual – and those that are run Vernon hard in very hot climates with poor cooling system maintenance).

      • 0 avatar
        vtecJustKickedInYo

        A true Audi enthuast always has a spare coil, icm, and vacuum hoses in their trunk. Ref. my 160k B5 S4.

        A spare turbo, gaskets, and chain tensioner wouldnt hurt either :D.

        • 0 avatar
          DeadWeight

          The company I was working at in ’99 to 2004 was huge, and many people there had either VW or Audi vehicles with the 1.8T, and the coil pack failure issue was MASSIVE.

          It was so bad, that many females were literally afraid to drive their cars, swapping vehicles with spouses, boyfriends, other family or friends, because the company was located in Downtown Detroit, and these suburbanites were petrified they’d be suddenly stranded on the side of I-75 or I-94 by a sudden coil pack failure.

          • 0 avatar
            vtecJustKickedInYo

            If it makes you feel better Audi still hasnt figured out the ICM on Coil (coil on your 1.8t) yet. Newer MK6 GTIs are on their second revision.

            Older Audi Coils were better where they separated the icm from the coil (on 2.7t and early gen 1.8t). The coil was much more expensive but more robust.

            But that 5 valve per cylinder though, its 1/2 of a Ferrari V8! Add the turbo and you are basically driving a mini AWD F40. How lucky.

      • 0 avatar
        Fordson

        That is good consumption for the rotary. If you know it’s going to use some oil by design, I think it’s easier to deal with.

        You know, I realize I’m the flyer here…but I never had a minute’s trouble with the coil packs on that 2000 Passat (AGW engine), and we owned it from 37,000 miles until 162,000, when we traded it in…nothing wrong with it at that time, just wanted a minivan. We DID get the bulletin from VW early on, saying to run the larger oil filter to increase filter area and oil capacity and use 0W-40 only, and observe a 5k mile change interval, so I’m sure that helped.

        The new Mk VII GTI is nice…saw one identical to my 2011 Mk VI in color, trim level, etc. at the vintage race weekend at the Glen last month – and it’s pretty sweet. Mine has had the driver’s door keyless mechanism replaced under warranty, but other than that, nothing wrong in 38,000 miles. I bought it pretty much knowing it would take more care than a Toyonda (Toyonda makes nothing that interests me), but really it’s been bulletproof…and it’s chipped.

        Now I’m probably jinxing myself, but VW may have turned the corner in the past couple of years…Edmunds has had a 2010 GTI, 2011 Jetta TDI, 2012 Beetle Turbo, 2013 Passat TDI and 2014 Passat TSI, and they were all trouble-free (through 20k-25k miles). Better than average for all Edmunds’ LT cars, in fact. So who knows.

  • avatar
    vtecJustKickedInYo

    I have noticed that Audi’s burn much more oil when using a lower grade synthetic oil. Using 5w-40 Motul in Audi engines has usually been the enthusiast recommendation for lubrication with noted lower consumption. Blame crankcase ventilation and current low friction piston rings.

  • avatar
    paanta

    Put my vote under “who cares?”. I’ve had new cars that burned a quart every 1500-2000 miles (’02 Civic SI, Mk2 GTI 16v with a new factory crate motor) and cars with 250K on them that never burned a drop (both my E28 and E34 with BMW M30s had well over 200K on em). My E36 M3 burns a quart every 1200-1500 miles but makes power and has perfect leakdown numbers at 165K. My wife’s ’05 Accord burns a quart every 2000-2500 miles and always has.

    I’m not sure how opening the hood once a month to add $5 in oil matters, except that it’s the last piece of basic maintenance that doesn’t (typically) come with some kind of idiot light on the dash to remind you of. All these engines will go 200K miles consuming this level of oil just fine, and it takes a LOT of oil consumption to worry about borking up emissions equipment and the like.

    • 0 avatar
      mechimike

      They really need to add an “ADD OIL” idiot light when the oil gets below the ADD mark on the stick. I’ve known plenty of people who think the “OIL” light means just that, and don’t realize that means the engine is starved of oil and has low pressure.

      • 0 avatar
        danio3834

        Some cars have low oil level sensors. I had a Trans Am with one, but I never was so neglectful to find out if it worked.

        • 0 avatar
          DenverMike

          Seems like all cars had a “low oil” light, years ago. Now almost none have one. OEMs realized it was not their problem if owners ran them dry and killed the engine. Pure profits when they do.

      • 0 avatar
        vtecJustKickedInYo

        Almost all Audi’s 95 MY+ have a low oil sensor, especially the new ones where they removed the dipstick but left the dipstick tube on U.S. Models. It is sometimes on VW’s too but usually you see the blank in the oil pan where the oil sensor goes on the Audi Model.

        • 0 avatar
          Carrera

          My friend’s 2011 Audi A4 with 46k easy driven miles takes about 1 qt of 15-40 synthetic Castrol every 5000 miles. His does not have a dipstick but an electronic sensor which in turn displays oil level on his MMI. Of course, one qt low doesn’t make a difference with the sensor. He had to buy a dipstick.

          • 0 avatar
            vtecJustKickedInYo

            Even worse for the 991 Carrera. iirc I think you need to use a factory scan tool to recalibrate the oil sensor after each change, and no dipstick tube to go aftermarket.

            But in Audi’s defense it is much easier to design and implement an oil pressure sensor than a dipstic because it is three sensor wires, calibration software, and has multiple positions to place the sensor along the oil pan. When I worked at Cummins as a Mech Dev Engineer, I took a stint in dipstick engineering for the Nissan Titan 5.0. It is much more difficult than it seems because oil levels are constantly changing in the engine pan per engine angle and the exposed dipstick cannot get over 230F resulting in it being problematic to route and implement an accurate and precise dipstick.

        • 0 avatar
          danio3834

          True dat about many German marques. Some have oil level PIDs that must be read with a scan tool instead of having a dipstick to check at oil change intervals.

          • 0 avatar
            krhodes1

            Please name names on this. I have yet to see a car sans dipstick that did not have an easily accessibly dash display of oil oil level. But I admit I have almost zero personal experience with recent Audis or Porsches.

          • 0 avatar
            Sigivald

            Makes me wonder how the system works.

            All the sensors I found in a quick search were simply reed-switch “is there oil right now where I’m installed?” sensors.

            (Useful at, say, a cold start, or for an “oh CRAP!” sensor for “there must be oil at THIS place at all times, and suddenly there isn’t” in other contexts.)

            But how you electrically determine a measured level of oil in an operating gasoline engine?

            I got *no idea* what you’d even use to measure that…

            (That said, relevant to comments above, you can probably detect “low, add more now” oil level by proxying pressure.

            I know my old 300D would get lower pressure as it got low on oil*.

            * Right before I sold it for just above scrap price to a friend, a failure in the vacuum pump mount had it leaking a quart every few days, which was the catalyst for “I am done with this damned car”. And made me VERY aware of the relation between oil level and pressure.

            Thankfully the OM617 is the most tolerant engine you could ask for.)

          • 0 avatar
            vtecJustKickedInYo

            Actually that is a good question on how the sensor works because I never looked into it.

            Most likely it is a resistance conductive sensor for basic sensors, where there are three read points high low and fill immeditately. If the base of the sensor and the top of the sensor complete a circuit (insultators can conduct) then it would read it as full, if the top circuit disconnected then the middle sensor would complete a circuit and display low etc.

            I was thinking a piezo sensor could be used because it is cheap and accurate, but it would require calibration, is affected by heat, and most importantly needs a change in force to create a signal.

            I did a quick google search and found this artical, it is very informative.
            http://www.machinerylubrication.com/Read/23921/oil-level-sensors-automotive-industrial

          • 0 avatar
            krhodes1

            Here is a good writeup of what BMW does these days, poached from BimmerForums:

            Oil condition sensor
            The oil condition sensor increases the function range of the thermal oil level sensor. The oil condition sensor measures the following variables:

            ! Engine oil temperature
            ! Oil level
            ! Engine oil quality

            The engine management system evaluates these measurements. With the oil condition sensor, the electrical properties of the engine oil are also determined. These properties alter when the engine oil shows signs of degradation and aging.

            Measuring method
            The oil condition sensor consists of 2 cylindrical condensers. The condensers are mounted above one another. 2 metal tubes are inserted one into the other to serve as electrodes. The engine oil is used as a dielectric medium between the electrodes.

            Note! Explanation of the terms ‘dielectric’ and ‘permittivity’.
            A dielectric is defined as a non-conductive material in an electrical field. The electrical field is split by an insulator.
            The permittivity (Latin: permittere = permit, let through) is also referred to as the dielectric conductance. The permittivity specifies the degree to which materials allow electrical fields to pass. The factor indicates by how
            much the voltage at a capacitor drops when a dielectric, non-conducting material is arranged between the capacitor plates.

            The temperature sensor is seated on the housing of the oil condition sensor. The housing of the oil condition sensor contains an electronic evaluation unit. The electronic evaluation unit has self-diagnosis. A fault in the oil condition sensor is entered in the fault memory of the engine management system.

            The oil condition sensor sends its measured values to the engine management system:

            ! Engine oil temperature
            ! Oil level
            ! Engine oil quality

            The electrical material properties of the engine oil change as the engine oil wears and ages. The changed electrical properties of the engine oil (dielectrics) cause the capacity of the capacitor to change.
            The electronic evaluation unit converts the measured capacity into a digital signal. The digital sensor signal is sent to the engine management system. The engine management system uses the signal for internal calculations
            (e.g. condensate in the engine oil).

            Note – this is a synopsis of a multi-page BMW technical whitepaper on the system, which was also attached to the forum post. I assume this is a generic Bosch or Valeo sensor that is probably the same as the other German makes are using.

          • 0 avatar
            vtecJustKickedInYo

            Thanks for clearing that up, because that was where I was trying to go. It is way easier to know about the design then try and figure it out on the spot

  • avatar
    Zackman

    I haven’t had any problems with oil consumption on any recent cars; 2004 Impala, current 2002 CR-V, current 2012 Impala LTZ.

    One thing I DO have a problem with is that artwork above. If that is Matt Groening’s work, I hate it, severe over-bite and all. It all looks the same, totally uninspired. Would be nice having his resources, however! Obviously works well for him.

    I also HATE the Simpsons, too, FWIW…

  • avatar
    vtecJustKickedInYo

    Even worse for the 991 Carrera. iirc I think you need to use a factory scan tool to recalibrate the oil sensor after each change, and no dipstick tube to go aftermarket.

    But in Audi’s defense it is much easier to design and implement an oil pressure sensor than a dipstick, because it is three sensor wires, calibration software, and multiple positions to place the sensor along the oil pan. When I worked at Cummins as a Mech Dev Engineer, I took a stint in dipstick engineering for the Nissan Titan 5.0 and it is much more difficult than it seems. This is because oil levels are constantly changing in the engine pan per engine angle and the exposed dipstick cannot get over 230F resulting in it being problematic to implement an accurate and precise dipstick.

    • 0 avatar
      NeilM

      I’m just fascinated to learn that there’s such a thing as “dipstick engineering.” Don’t think I’d want it on my business card though, much less my résumé.

      • 0 avatar
        vtecJustKickedInYo

        It is just one task integrated into a Customer Engineering department. I was doing oil changes on engines for oil calibration my first week in a suit vest because I always like dress fancy for coorperate engineering positions (haters always hated). Luckly I was able to not get any oil on my clothes so I didnt look like a moron.

  • avatar
    bills79jeep

    When my old Cherokee got over the 200k mark it started drinking a quart between changes. It was actually very convenient. 5 qts into the drain pan, 1 5qt jug and a qt bottle into the motor, then fill the empty jug with the contents of the drain pan. Before it started burning oil I always had to have an extra jug for the last qt.

    Back to the topic, my GF’s ’12 Cruze doesn’t lose any oil between 10k mile changes. I already don’t like the interval length, but it’s what they recommend so it’s what she does. If it was low on oil at the change I’d be worried.

  • avatar
    Beerboy12

    The lead in gasoline not only boosts octane ratings but it is also a lubricant. Since lead usage was discontinued one of the methods used to help lubricate the piston & cylinder above the rings is to design a small gap in the oil seal on the valve stem. This allows oil from the head to “leak” into the top of the cylinder.
    My understanding is that it is then normal for any lead free motor to burn oil. A quart over 5K miles is OK, so long as it stays the same.
    Evidently some makes, like Honda, have fine tuned this to were the oil usage is undetectable to the naked eye, but I will bet they do use oil to.
    There might also be lead replacement additives used in gas in the US that is not used in Europe but I don’t know enough about that.

    • 0 avatar
      FormerFF

      I don’t think that is the case. When cars first started using unleaded gasoline, which was in the mid 70’s, typical oil burn was a quart every 1000 – 1500 miles. As time went on, average oil consumption slowly dropped. The two cars we now own have the lowest oil consumption of any we’re ever had, we’re at the point where there’s virtually no oil consumption in 10,000 miles.

  • avatar
    davefromcalgary

    My experience has been that out of the 8 ECOTEC/quad4 GM 4 bangers that I have either owned or helped with regular maintenance on, only one consumed any oil, and that one was an overall POS from day one. The other 87.5% were golden in terms of reliability (the engines, the cars themselves hit and miss).

    My 3.0 Duratec Mazda 6 guzzled oil like a drunken sailor.

  • avatar
    PrincipalDan

    Oil change place tried to say the 4.6 in my F150 was drinking a quart every 5,000 miles or so (yes I went over the recommended 3,000 miles – sue me). The problem was it was inconsistent from one oil change to the next.

    I started checking the oil levels after changes. Idiots were underfilling it about 60% of the time.

    • 0 avatar
      DeadWeight

      I overfill the oil on cars (almost all, but not quite -‘it can cause issues on some vehicles) on most family members vehicles for this reason.

      • 0 avatar
        bumpy ii

        Overfilling can cause problems, too. Oil pan needs some airspace up top for the PCV system to work properly.

        • 0 avatar
          DeadWeight

          True, some vehicles have far less tolerance to oil overfill than others.

          • 0 avatar
            vtecJustKickedInYo

            Usually causes rod dipping where the part of the crankshaft/connecting rod hits the oil in the pan while moving. It is not a concern usually because the oil is circulating through the engine after startup so there isnt as much oil in the pan. Most car engines have a tolerance for rod dip, but it is not that high.

  • avatar
    gtemnykh

    My 2012 Civic consumes about 1/2 a quart of 0w20 synthetic over 8500 miles. My understanding is that for the 9th gen cars, Honda did a lot of work to reduce friction in the R18 engine. I’m sure low tension oil rings were part of it. The incredibly thin oil itself is also part of the issue I think. On old air cooled motorcycles, if we ran too light of an oil it’d all end up going out the crankcase ventilation tube in vapor form. Switching to a solid 20w50 solved the issue.

    My 112k mile 1996 4Runner with the 3.4L 5vzfe V6 uses absolutely zero oil between 5-6k oil changes, I run a high mileage 5w30 (mostly conventional with some synthetic additives).

  • avatar
    jacob_coulter

    Some cars are worse than others, it’s good to experiment. I had a Subaru 2.0 turbo engine that absolutely drank the factory issued Mobil 1, I changed it to synthetic Rotella and it basically cured the issue.

    Also, anytime I have a car with 5w-20 as the factory recommended oil, I automatically put 5w-30 in it. The 5w-20 is more CAFE nonsense to eek out a fraction of an mpg, never mind that it’s too thin, can cause increased oil consumption and decrease engine life. It’s all about hitting arbitrary government numbers crafted by bureaucrats. The consumer gets to save a nickel a month on gas at the expense of wiping out his engine.

    • 0 avatar
      revjasper

      On the 5W-20 vs 5W-30: my 4.6 Mod motor with 170K on it loses almost 2 quarts of the thin stuff in 1500 miles, vs 1 quart of the thicker oil. Ford did a TSB saying that 5W-20 is okay, but I specify 5W-30 at each change. If the tech doesn’t listen, the manager gets told and I don’t come back.

    • 0 avatar
      danio3834

      Not exactly. While the fuel economy has something to do with it, you have to watch out when playing around with oil viscosity other than what the factory recommends on engines with variable valve timing, variable valve lift and cylinder deactivation systems. Some of these systems will not function correctly on oil of incorrect viscosity and can cause problems.

      Second guessing the factory based on a hunch that they specify their oil viscosity purely based on fuel economy figures is asking for trouble. While 5W-30 isn’t going to hurt a 2V modular engine, there are plenty of taxicabs, limos and delivery vans running many hundreds of thousands of miles on the recommended 5W-20.

  • avatar
    Sjalabais

    In Norwegian standard car selling contracts, you are obliged to notify the new owner of your car of oil consumption if this exceeds 1litre/1000km (some american please translate this into quarts/stones/spider’s legs).

    If you fail to do so, the new owner has an opening to revoke the sales contract. From what I hear from friends, especially neglected Japanese cars (“It’s a reliable Toyota, so why service it?”) will pretty easily fall into that category of supposed noteworthy oil consumption.

    • 0 avatar
      krhodes1

      That is just about 1qt in 500 miles. Which is excessive by any rational standard. The only car I have ever had that used that much was a heap of crap Volvo 245T with 225K on it. And it still ran fine, you just had to add a quart every other fillup.

  • avatar
    krhodes1

    I just can’t get excited about a little oil use, as long as it is consistent. Even a quart in 5000 miles is only adding oil twice a year or so. Being a single quart low is not going to hurt anything assuming you are not racing the car.

    Hilarity is all the BMW forum guys who freak out about not being exactly to the max line on the oil level display in the car. BMW 6’s hold *8* quarts of oil, with about 7 being the typical change amount.

    FWIW, my 328! uses just about 1/2 liter between oil changes, which for me are annual, ~8000 miles. I don’t top it up, no need unless the car tells you to, per BMW. The FIAT seems to use none at all between its also annual change, ~5000 or so. Which is impressive being a tiny turbo 4 that I wind the snot out of every time I drive it. The Rover uses a couple quarts between annual changes (4-5K), but it leaks some of it, and it has 140K on it. And those engines are kind of crap anyway. The Spitfire? Not measurable between my every other year changes, but that is usually only 1500 miles or so these days. And Spitfires always burn some oil, as they have no valve stem seals. And no cranks seals, so they leak a little by design too.

    I’d say that on average, most cars I have owned have used a quart between changes, and I typically used 5000 mile intervals on most of them. A few have used none at all, a few were a little worse, the one terrible junker Volvo was a quart in 500 miles. Leaking and burning.

    Reminds me, both the FIAT and Rover are due for their annual change.

  • avatar
    HerrKaLeun

    None of the cars I ever owned after 1995 ever used oil. Seat TDI, Opel Corsa, Hyundai Getz, Mazda 3 and 6 and Honda CRV. Whiping off the dipstick consumed more oil than the motor did. All with 7500 – 15000 mile intervals and oil recommended by OEM. I really don’t know if you all got lemons or drive like crazy :-)

  • avatar
    indi500fan

    The old Saturn S series was a serious oil burner…they had cost reduced the pistons and left out the drainback holes on the backside of the oil ring groove, substituting some cast-in slots between the ring groove and the side cutout above the piston pins, which didn’t work too well. Of course the upside was no need for regular oil changes, just pop on a new filter now and then.

    Many S-Sats died a premature death due to low oil.

  • avatar
    JD321

    It is all due to low tension piston rings. It is even more important to do the “load up your engine” break in procedure before the first 50 miles to seat the piston rings against the cylinder walls. If you don’t seat the rings early you may have an oil burner for life.

  • avatar
    zach

    My longtime mechanic told me cars that burn a bit of oil actually tend to last longer because a little oil gets past the rings, these are Internal combustion engines, they’re gonna burn some oil.

  • avatar
    zach

    My 1992 Honda Accord burned oil from mile ONE through 300,000 miles. Never seemed to hurt it, my mechanic’s theory is that the oil burning actually lubes the upper cylinder land/ring area.

  • avatar
    Cabriolet

    I have 2 x 2011 VW GTI with approx 40,000 / 50,000 each and a 1991 Mazda Miata with approx 80,000 miles and none of them use oil. I change the GTI’s every 10,000 miles and the Miata every 3,000 miles. I always check the oil every month. The oil in the GTI’s always looks dark on the dip stick but the Miata oil always looks very clear on the dip stick. I have to think that the turbo’s put the oil under a lot of pressure. I always go by the manufacturers directions. They designed the car so they know best.

  • avatar

    A quart every 5000 doesn’t seem bad at all to me. I used to own a 1984 Shelby Charger 2.2l and at 405,000 mi. it only used a quart every 2,000 which I thought was quite good. I used Castrol 5-20 in it at the suggestion of 2 mechanics I respect. I also used Tuf-oil, which, along with regular oil/filter changes contributed to the longevity I’m sure. Did pretty much the same with the 72 Charger I owned, although I only drove it to 286,000 miles (318 V8).

    As mentioned by others, most folks don’t check their oil level when they fuel – I’m no exception. What I HAVE always done with any vehicle is I watch the oil closely for the first miles of ownership until I reach the quart down point. I watch closely for the same interval to see if there is consistency with the first. If there is from then on that’s the mileage at which I change my oil if it’s 2000 or over. If it’s less than 2000 I suspect stuff like blow-by and take the car in for service.

    I do realize with the new tech I can go longer between changes, but putting in a quart or less seems like a waste as what is already in the crankcase is starting to wear out (I’m talking conventional oils here – AND I’m talking old vehicles – my current is a 98). Anytime I had service done where they needed to go inside the engine I always got the same comment – “Your engine is VERY clean inside!”.

  • avatar
    daniel g.

    Hello guys, a question: numbers from experience of oil comsuption in motorbikes, maybe someone?

    you can´t buy 2 stroke engines for the burned oil, but what if modern 4 stroke engine burned like the “old” 2 stroke? completly useless restriction…(or honda ideological cruzade to killed)

    • 0 avatar
      Lack Thereof

      The burned oil is not the emissions issue with 2-stroke engines. It’s that the combined intake/exhaust event tends to sweep raw unburned fuel/air mix out with the exhaust. This makes it hard for them to meet HC emissions limits.

      You CAN actually buy plenty of emissions-legal (even CARB-certified) two-stroke engines, they’re just less common than they used to be, less cheap then they used to be, and less powerful than they used to be. Most manufacturers can now build cheap SOHC 4-stroke engines just as small and powerful as the emissions-legal 2-stroke engines, because the design changes that have been made to prevent the incoming mixture from going straight across and out the exhaust port, have hurt both overall exhaust scavenging and intake flow.

  • avatar
    Lack Thereof

    I have a 2004 Chevy Cavalier with 120k miles on the original Ecotec 2.2

    I follow the factory service intervals, changing the 5w30 every 7500 miles.
    I have never seen the oil level move on the dipstick. I check the level every time before I change it, and it’s still right where it was when I filled it.

    My wife had a 2000 Volkswagen New Beetle, with the 2.0. It would almost always be down a quart by the time it got an oil change, for as long as we owned it. It never got worse or better, so we lived with it.

  • avatar
    Joe K

    I am not sure if the oil consumption is a real issue or not, or has always been there all along.

    As oil change intervals have gone from 3000 miles, to 5000, to 7500, to when the computer says to oil consumption is now noticeable enough to notice. When the interval was 3000 miles, it could possibly be down a little, but who would notice it (even if the driver was checking it constantly). Also a part quart down on a dipstick of yore with a larger oil capacity may not seem as dramatic on a car that holds 4qts or less without the filter.

    If I Check my Subaru at 3000 miles, it just down a hair, at 5000 miles its down 1/2. If I changed it at the 3000 mark that oil change shops seem so pushy to sell, I would never notice the consumption (I never change at 7500 miles as 5000 is just easier to remember). My Justy has a tiny oil sump of only 3.9 qts yet in its day Subaru recommended 7500 mile oil changes. Loose 1qt in that sump and your screwed.

    Today’s engines also run hotter internally then older engines. Look at the HP we can get out of a NA 2.5 as opposed to a 2.5 of the 80’s. Oil is used more for cooling piston skirts then in the past, so it is exposed to more heat and evaporation.

    I sort of expect an engine to use 1 qt of oil between changes, and always have since Fuel Injection (just a foot note to use in history, no specific reason). The cars I have owned in the past which were less powerful for their size never really used oil.

  • avatar
    -Nate

    Pretty good thread here ;

    I had no idea modern engines used so little oil .

    -Nate

  • avatar
    chaparral

    A car that gets 40 MPG equipped with a two-stroke engine that burns gasoline and oil at a ratio of 50:1, will burn a gallon of oil every 2000 miles. That’s 500 miles/quart. If you’re doing worse than this with a four-stroke, I think you’ve got a problem.

    • 0 avatar
      -Nate

      So then ;

      You think maybe it’s time to look at the piston rings in my old ’69 C/10 shop truck ? .

      It _used_to oil foul the spark plugs every 150 ~ 200 miles but I up graded it to GM DELCO HEI ignition and opened the plug gaps to .075″ and it now runs great and only has a *tiny* haze behind it although you can smell burned oil several miles behind it……

      Is this not an O.K. situation ? .

      It hardly leaks a drop .

      -Nate

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