By on July 2, 2015


Engines burn oil, but how much oil burn is normal is at the heart of a Consumer Reports study that examined nearly 500,000 new cars for how much oil they have to replace in their new car’s engine.

It’s a dirty, dirty business.

The report defined excessive oil consumption as adding more than one quart between recommended oil changes. The biggest offenders: BMW’s 4.8-liter and 4.4-liter twin turbocharged V8’s, Audi’s 2.0-liter turbo four and 3.0-liter V6. The report also said Subaru’s 2.0- and 2.5-liter fours and 3.6-liter flat six were lesser offenders.

According to Consumer Reports, the engines comprise only 2 percent of vehicles on the road, but that small sliver of the segment accounted for nearly 1.5 million cars. The offenders were particularly heinous in their oil consumption, as well — a new BMW 5-Series was 27 times more likely to need oil than an average new car.

Many new cars shouldn’t need additional oil between oil changes, the consumer group said, and oil consumption on vehicles with fewer than 100,000 miles should be the exception — not the rule.

Nonetheless, representatives from manufacturers such as BMW and Subaru said oil consumption for their engines isn’t out of the ordinary and could be dependent on temperature, driving style and transmission type.

The report highlighted the experience of one New York woman who said Subaru offered her $500 to offset the cost of new oil after she complained that her 2012 Impreza was burning too much.

Subaru’s Director of Communications Michael McHale said in a emailed statement that Subaru “doesn’t have a program in place but we do review each case on an individual basis.”

Out of court, some manufacturers have authorized repairing or even replacing an engine if it’s burning too much oil. In court, both Audi and Subaru are defendants in class-action suits regarding the problem.

Representatives from BMW did not immediately return requests for comment.

In some cases, automakers have settled the suits or extended powertrain warranties to cover any excessive oil consumption. In California, as part of a settlement, Toyota extended its powertrain warranties in some Camrys and Corollas to cover 10 years or 150,000 miles. Honda extended its warranty to 8 years on some of its 6-cylinder cars in 2013, after settling a class-action suit where hundreds complained about oil consumption.

BMW spokesman Hector Arellano-Belloc is quoted in the Consumer Reports story saying:

“BMW vehicles have long intervals between oil changes (10,000 miles). BMW engines (excluding the BMW M) may consume up to one quart of engine oil per 750 miles under certain driving conditions.”

Which sucks for me because my own personal 3 Series’ oil capacity is around 7 quarts — or about bone-dry halfway between regularly scheduled changes.

The report also underscores a small, but not insignificant, problem that manufacturers must do everything they can to combat the perception that cars are inefficient, environmentally irresponsible machines. Constantly pumping a car full of dead dinosaur juice may not help.

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102 Comments on “Consumer Reports Reveals New Cars’ Dirty Secret...”

  • avatar

    So does burning oil instead of petrol improve the fuel economy figures?
    And what about emissions?

    • 0 avatar

      Not directly. This is a result of low tension, low drag rings that are used in a lot of these engines to help with efficiency. Oil consumption is a side effect, not the hoped for result.

      • 0 avatar

        Interesting. Flat engines have always had an issue with oil burning because oil slips past the rings at rest, so that explains Subaru. But it’s impressive in a bad way that VW/Audi cannot manage to make an almost vertical inline-4 that will not burn oil.

        • 0 avatar

          The only hole in your theory is that the previous Subaru motors namely the EJ series have not been known to burn oil. The issue is recent with the new FA and FB motors, which switch to 5W20 synthetic oil among other fuel saving measures which likely play a part here.

          Though this seems to be a specific type of issue due to efficiency and emissions demands on modern engines, i do remeber every single Audi my family had since the 80s has used oil between changes. I theorized there was germanic reason for this, some design philosophy of the engines. They were still spec-ing 10w40 well into the 90s when most mfrs had switched over to 5w30 across the board.

          • 0 avatar

            I agree on the EJ motors. Both of my Imprezas never used a drop of oil in between changes. It was always at the full mark when I checked.

          • 0 avatar

            my EJ255 didn’t use a drop until it rounded 75k miles. Then… duh duh duh! about a quart every 3-4k miles.

  • avatar

    See that, you can get a diesel brown German wagon with a manual. Heck, you don’t even have to pay a diesel premium!


  • avatar

    “BMW vehicles have long intervals between oil changes (10,000 miles). BMW engines (excluding the BMW M) may consume up to one quart of engine oil per 750 miles under certain driving conditions.”

    So in theory it could run dry under certain conditions?…that’s not good.

    • 0 avatar

      It isn’t an issue though, because BMW stopped selling cars with dipsticks years ago.

    • 0 avatar

      It could happen. A coworker’s BMW X5 used to burn about 5 quarts between changes from new. The dealer’s proposed “solution” was that he could bring it in to be topped up whenever the message came on in the dash to add oil. This was supposed to be the very top end of what they called normal, but I’m amazed it can survive without plugged cats, fouled plugs, etc…

    • 0 avatar

      Yes, but do the “certain driving conditions” that result in “up to” 750 miles/qt. meet the 10,000 mile oil change interval? I’d bet that the kind of driving that burns that much oil is very “spirited” driving style, and as such the manufacturer possibly recommends more frequent oil changes, ye-as?

      • 0 avatar

        It’s any driving style that results on that oil consumption. Manufacturers’ oil usage specs are very generous, to get out of buying new engines for people.

      • 0 avatar

        BMWs tell you when you should change the oil. The computer monitors use and driving style and then signals when to get service, which is paid for by BMW during the warranty period. If you don’t want the engine to wear out prematurely from driving with low, burned oil; you will have to pay for it yourself and determine when it is time without seeing the oil, since there is no dipstick. Around 2002 BMWs became silly cars for silly people.

        • 0 avatar

          The way oil looks has nothing to do with how functional it still is. Dark oil is not “burned” – it is suspending a bunch of stuff but is still lubricating well.

          All BMW’s without dipsticks MEASAURE the oil level, not guess at it. My Wife’s 2004 has both dipstick and the computer measures.

          Also, the computer calculating usage based on how you drive is a lot more accurate than “every X miles” which is how we used to do it.

    • 0 avatar

      The oil level sensor checks the oil level a LOT more often than you ever would. Or could.

  • avatar

    Sounds like time for a little Bon Ami down the intake à la the old Chevy 265 ci engine trick to seat some rings. Works on diesels as well.

  • avatar
    Volt 230

    It’s all the force-fed 4 bangers that are responsible for this. 5 series 4 cyl, indeed!

    • 0 avatar
      heavy handle

      The CR article specifically mentions 5 series with V8 engines, not 4 cylinder engines.

      If you look at the whole list, only Audi and Subaru 4s have issues, everything else has 5, 6 or 8 cylinders.

  • avatar
    Volt 230

    So you buy a new car so you don’t have to worry about overheating and breaking down by the side of the road and NOT worrying about running low on oil and killing your engine, oh well! There goes my plans to buy new instead of used.

  • avatar

    There is a list of the 30 top offenders, and much other pertinent info on this CR site:

    The original Saturn dual overhead cam engines had a big problem with oil use–in that case due to rings and valve guides. I got the same kind of crap from the dealer about a quart in 1,000 miles being normal. They also did an oil use test, which my car passed until it had 65k on it. Then, under TSB, they would take the engine apart, check it, and make whatever repairs they found it needed. I bargained with them and ended up paying $700 for a brand new engine. That engine was using a quart in 3000 after, I don’t know, maybe another 60k. Not nearly as bad as the first engine, but not good.

    • 0 avatar

      Thanks for the link. After checking it out, I browsed around their site and stumbled upon a review of the latest Lincoln MKZ.

      They really liked the car, but under “Pros”, the first line read something like: “Fuel efficient engines, both gas and Diesel….”

      I know Lincoln put a few BMW TurboDiesels in the Fox-based Continental, but a Diesel in the MKZ? Lol! They mustve been thinking of the Hybrid but typed Diesel instead.

      Wouldnt it be funny if Lincoln carved out a slice of pie for itself by offering Diesels? Of course, BMW, Audi, etc offer Diesels, but itd be quite a unique proposition in a Lincoln. Perhaps a Diesel Hybrid? 60 mpg luxury car, anyone?

      It would go one of two ways: great success or a repeat of the BMW TD in the Conti/80s GM 350 Diesel (complete failure).

    • 0 avatar

      That list makes you wonder what Mercedes-Benz is doing wrong. They’re either spending too much on piston rings or taking a fuel economy hit from internal engine friction, although obviously their customers are better off than those of their inept German competitors as a result.

  • avatar

    I had a Focus that could go ~9k on Mobile 1 without losing a drop. I also had a Legacy that was the subject of a Piston Slap article. At the recommended interval of 3750 it will be bone dry. Seems to be a quart per thousand miles,* like something from the sixties.

    *Wrote this before I saw Dave’s link to the article, which states: “Subaru considers a quart burned every 1,000 to 1,200 miles to be acceptable.”

  • avatar

    My girlfriend has a manual 2014 Impreza that has mildly deferred maintenance which recently cost her $400 after a low oil incident. What would be the recommended recourse to recouping the cost of the repair? I will check the oil level for her on a going forward basis. Should she be worried about the short & long term reliability of the engine?

    • 0 avatar
      Nicholas Weaver

      Which “low oil” light? The 2014 Impreza boxer has a yellow “low oil” indicator light that goes on at about a quart low (if not sooner).

      We find the GF’s XV needs about 500ml of oil every 2500 miles when the light goes on, which does make it about 1.5 quarts between changes (7500 mile interval), which is mildly annoying but not too bad, and actually understandable given the long interval and lightweight (0W-20) oil.

      If its the red “no oil” light, that is another kettle of fish and if the yellow light didn’t go on, that is a failure with that sensor and Should Not Happen.

    • 0 avatar

      How deferred could the maintenance be on a 2014MY vehicle? I can’t imagine a dealer charging someone $400 on something less than a year old.

      • 0 avatar

        Thanks for the replies. As far as I was able to determine determine, there was no oil light(yellow or red). Just a check engine light. I tried to obtain more details, but the tone of the conversation was shifting from concerned to cross-examination. I decided against further questioning. There is a possibility that the yellow oil light was on.

        The mildly deferred maintenance was a delayed oil change. I am uncertain as to the exact milage beyond the recommended.

        I’ll keep a couple quarts handy for her.

  • avatar

    I must have gotten lucky (and/or carefully followed break-in procedures). I have a turbo Subaru that doesn’t burn a drop, at least not so far through 22,000 miles.

  • avatar
    Firestorm 500

    My wife had an ’01 Cadillac STS with the Northstar that would burn a quart about every 750-1000 miles or so, depending on how and where she drove.

    Cadillac claims that 1000 miles per quart is not excessive usage.

    • 0 avatar
      laguna S-3

      Your Cadi 4.6 NorthStar leaked over half of that oil along with a litre or so anti-freeze every 1000. Poor quality for premium price. Cadillac Mantra.
      BMW lack of engine dipstick as well as the sealed transmission sans dipstick is a pure indication of the dipsticks running the whirling propeller.

    • 0 avatar

      I have an ’05 STS with the 3,6 V6 that doesn’t burn any oil. I have read that there has been oil burning issues with this engine but it seems to affect the SRX. How could that be?

      Here in Europe 10000 miles is not a long interval,20000 is long!

  • avatar

    I had a 2007 Audi A3 wagon with the 2.0T, and I had the low oil light on many times. The dealer actually told me to keep extra oil in the car because they like to burn oil! I’m not sure if that’s true, or just a lousy dealer.

    I didn’t keep that car very long, but not really because of the oil. It was fun to drive, but rode rough and just wasn’t a very comfortable place to be.

    • 0 avatar

      Had the same car, I started to use oil at about 60,000. When I sold it with 100,000 miles it used half a quart every 7500 miles which is when I changed the oil. Factory interval was 15000.

    • 0 avatar

      The oil is less costly than replacing the rings in your BPY code engine. I maintain one of those in a passat for a friend of mine. Nothing I’ve done (updated breather components and change to Rotella T6 group IV base stock synthetic oil) has helped reduce the oil consumption. My friend keeps some T6 in the trunk and tops the oil off periodically. It will cost a couple thousand dollars to replace the rings for the possibility of reducing oil consumption is far more costly than buying a quart of synthetic oil a few times a year.

  • avatar
    Volt 230

    Corolla 1.8 alum motors burn oil like crazy, due to its design. I have had 2 of them and both had the same issue.

  • avatar

    BMW spokesman Hector Arellano-Belloc is quoted in the Consumer Reports story saying:

    “BMW vehicles have long intervals between oil changes (10,000 miles). BMW engines (excluding the BMW M) may consume up to one quart of engine oil per 750 miles under certain driving conditions.”

    Which sucks for me because my own personal 3 Series’ oil capacity is around 7 quarts — or about bone-dry halfway between regularly scheduled changes.

    Not sure I understand, please clarify. The 3 series wasn’t way up there on the list? How much oil does yours burn, and is it a 335i?

  • avatar

    One quart in 750 miles?

    That’s NUTS!

    As far as I am concerned, a car that uses a quart of oil every 750 miles needs new rings and a cylinder honing, or new valve seals.

    I have never owned a car in reasonable condition that used more than 1/4 quart in a 2000 or 3000 mile oil change interval:

    – Small block Chevies (3)
    – Big block Pontiac
    – Iron Duke
    – 3800 V6 Buick
    – Multiple Corvairs including a turbocharged Spyder
    – 2 liter Mazda
    – 2-ish liter Toyotas (2)
    – Volvo 240
    – Volvo S60

    And all of these I was driving after 50,000 miles; a number of them went over 100,000 miles, and a few more than 150,000 miles, still with low oil consumption.

  • avatar

    Our 2011 535i would require a quart of oil every 3,000-4,000 miles like clockwork. That was in beginning. Once it reached 30K miles or so, it stopped burning oil like that.

    Our 2014 X5 with the same motor hasn’t required a drop of oil (outside of an oil change) and it is now approaching it’s second oil service with approx. 13,000 miles on the odo.

    The N20 in my 428 hasn’t required additional oil either and I’m just shy of 10K.

  • avatar

    I wonder if the reduction in friction and increase in fuel efficiency of these engines can make up for the need for a $9 quart of oil every 1000 miles? I also wonder how this oil affects emissions and the longevity of the catalytic converter. It will be interesting in a few years’ time as these mostly leased vehicles change hands and have to pass an emissions test.

  • avatar

    1995 Ford Taurus 3.0L Vulcan V-6, aprox. 195K miles: 1/4 quart lost after 5,000 miles.

    2012 Ford Taurus 3.5L non-EcoBoost V-6, aprox. 65K miles: No oil whatsoever lost between recomended changes.

    I use Motorcraft Synthetic Blend in the recomended weight for both cars (5W30 for the 95, 5W20 in the 2012) and Motorcraft filters.

    My previous Hondas (Civic, CRXs, I-4 Accords) always used oil at what I considered an excessive rate. One CRX had less than 140K, but its rear bumper would turn black on the exhaust side. Burned about 3-4 quarts in 3,000 miles (I checked and refilled it weekly).

    My 99 Saturn SL (SOHC 1.9L) used about two quarts between changes. It seemed to get better mileage and not use as much oil after I changed it for the first time after buying it. I used Motorcraft oil, AC Delco filter. Have no clue what oil was in it, but it had a cheap ass filter when I bought it.

    It really burned my hide when I found out that Honda (at least at that time) filters were just Frams painted blue. I wasted money driving to the dealer to buy filters not knowing they were junk. I have several Motorcraft FL 810 filters leftover from when I had my Isuzu Trooper. Theyll be going on the next Honda I get (they fit most Hondas through the 90s I believe).

    My Trooper was a 1986 with the one-year-only 2.3L (gas) I-4, used about a quart to a quart and a half between changes. Not sure of its mileage, the odometer didnt work and besides, the engine had been replaced before, so no way to tell. I just changed it every 3 months when it was my daily driver.

    I recently had a 1991 Ford Tempo GLS 2.3L H.O. I-4 with around 190k when I sold it. No appreciable oil loss between changes. Same with my 92 Tempo LX at around 170k (3.0L Vulcan).

    • 0 avatar

      I’ve had four Hondas in 20 years, three of which never used a drop! My 2013 Accord V6 (in the avatar) used a little bit over a 1,500-mile period starting at roughly 2,000 miles or so, likely due to the VCM bits breaking in. Since then, it hasn’t used a drop!

      • 0 avatar

        Your experience is not typical. Honda has been named in class-action lawsuits over excessive oil consumption, prompting them to extend powertrain waranties on some models. Im not the only one who had/has a Honda that drinks oil a lot more than it should.

        Just for the record, I wasnt driving the CRX (or any of the Hondas) hard. Im not a ricer/boy racer type. I give my 95 Taurus a lot more abuse (as in WOT) than I did my 95 Accord LX (with the exception of keeping the Accord floored when driving up mountain passes, that thing was utterly gutless at higher elevations, I had to wring the life out of it just to try to keep pace with traffic. Never had that issue with a Ford), yet the fact remains that the Accord used a decent amount of oil, and the Taurus uses very little (not enough to bother topping off).

        The Taurus now has more miles than the Accord did when I sold it. Both were/are adult-owned, un-modified (powertrain wise, I have customized the Taurus’ interior and put 16″ alloys from a 2006 on it, the Accord was bone stock down to the factory wheel covers) cars that so far as I could tell, were reasonably well cared for prior to my ownership. Mine was probably the last 1990s Accord with a stock intake/air filter owned by someone under 35.

    • 0 avatar

      Motorcraft filters are just rebadged purolators.

      If you really want a good filter, I think K and N or Bosch are the two good ones that are most commonly available. If you want better, start looking at dual pore filter media filters or external filtration add ons such as a 30 micron strainer basket with a magnet so you double filter the oil. If you go that route, you’d need an oil pressure gage before the engine inlet.

  • avatar

    Judging by the data table from the article it looks like this was really mainly an issue of 2010-11 cars, particularly for the Audi 2.0T. It seems like most of the manufacturers fix the problem after one or two model years for the most part. For most it was presumably a design flaw when including the low drag rings for the first time in these engines that was subsequently improved.

  • avatar

    Soon people will be complaining that their vehicle needs fuel.

  • avatar

    The engines with cylinder deactivation seem especially prone to this issue. Honda Odyssey V6s, for example.

  • avatar

    Back in the day, new motors came with breakin oil and after that 1,000 or 2,000 mile oil changes with no oil loss until 50K or so. Most new car manuals have a note saying oil burning is normal. Dealers will always say the same thing. Baloney! Unless subject to merciless hooning, a modern engine should never use a drop. End of story.

  • avatar

    Hard to believe an engine can use 1 quart every 1,000 Miles and still pass emissions.

    It would be interesting to see CR test regularly test for emissions compliance with these leaky motors.

    That would be one hell of a fine if the Feds found systematic emissions failures too.

    • 0 avatar

      Well, four quarts in a gallon, that’s 4,000 miles per gallon of oil, a lot of which will be burned up in the cat = not much additional emissions (not that burning a quart of oil in 1,000 miles is a good thing).

  • avatar

    This report comes like manna from heaven for the legions of VWAG-bashers here, I’m sure. Even those who wouldn’t trust a limp-wristed liberal mag like Consumer Reports on anything else.

    It so happens that my household has put about 200,000 miles on the engines mentioned, so I feel qualified to comment. My Subaru’s engine was guilty as charged. It used oil, needing a quart or so between changes. But the two 2.0 TSI VW engines I’m running now, with 30K and 80K respectively, have no appetite for the stuff. In five years use, the both of them haven’t needed more than a stray half-quart, if that.

    But what’s my experience worth, vs. a media report that confirms a preconceived bias? Not much, I know.

    • 0 avatar

      +1 – 2012 GTI, no oil use between 5000 km changes, 2009 911 C4S, no oil use unless pushed hard on a mountain road trip, in which case maybe 250ml or 500ml (no dipstick – electronic check with five segments before “low oil” light goes on).

    • 0 avatar

      Audi extended the warranty on oil consumption related repairs for vehicles with the 2.0T built between 2009 and 2011 to 8 years/80,000 miles after a class-action lawsuit. This is not some sort of anti-VAG conspiracy.

    • 0 avatar

      My 2001 Jetta TDI didn’t burn oil, except the stuff you put in the gas tank.

      It made its 10k oil change interval, unlike a fraction of the expensive BMWs sold.

      Now, getting a gearbox to last the oil change interval was the real problem. Curse you, VAG and ZF!

    • 0 avatar

      Yeah, Tesla, Leaf and Volt were not on the list. Liberal “greenie” bias at its worst. :-)

  • avatar

    Did Ford ever fix whatever design flaw that causes higher mileage Modular V8s to just constantly burn oil?

    Because I’d certainly like my current experience with that to be my last…

    • 0 avatar
      bumpy ii

      That’s a retro feature: it emulates the traditional high-mileage Ford Smoke.

      • 0 avatar

        It’s typically due to worn valve seals, but I myself have never experienced it, and I currently have a 98 Grand Marquis with 180,000. Previous to that a 99 Continental I ran to 190,000 (4.6 intech) that I got rid of when the AX4N transmission crapped out. Anecdotally I believe that LOF every 5,000 miles is the best way to prevent the issue. My stepkids have a Crown Vic (03) and Grand Marquis (97) each, about 80k to 90k on them, neither use, leak, or burn oil. Also have an 08 Taurus X with 165,000 on it, has had nothing but maintenance (tires, fluids, brakes) except for 1 rear bearing assy. Doesn’t leak, burn or use a drop. Highest mileage vehicle I ever had was a 90 Escort 5 speed wagon, got it for $150 at an auction with 125,000 on it. Ran it to 330,000 (had a 110 mile round trip commute at the time). Put a clutch in it,timing belt, tie rod ends, brakes, tires, and fluids over that span. Only got rid of it when the rear strut towers rotted out. Still was getting 40 mpg and it too didn’t leak or burn oil. On the whole I guess I’ve been fortunate with my Fords. Step daughters 01 Beetle (2.0l) enjoyed oil and coolant regularly; as well as window regulators, moon roof regulator, spark plugs, cats, drivers mirror assy fell off, plastic thermostat housing rotted, AC leaks (all before 90,000), fuel pump and other things I’ve likely forgotten. Other than how well it drives and handles, it is an utter steaming pile of crap. Boneyard motors are in the $800 range last time I checked, and are just as likely to use oil like the one in it now. That’s why she’s in the Crown Vic. It was bought when I met my wife, so I wasn’t able to provide any input to the decision. I can’t see myself rebuilding it but it’s a shame. She could have bought 2 Foci for what she paid for that car. Yes I like my Fords, but I also know which ones to avoid (Common/Mistake/Cougar, 3.8l engines prior to split port induction and MLS head gaskets, CD4E transmission, 6.0 diesels). Can’t speak about Eco-Boost, I left the business as they were arriving.

        • 0 avatar

          My T-Bird needs a complete refill (I get a dry dipstick) every couple months, even if I’ve only driven a few hundred miles.

          It’s really worrying, and the only indication is a check engine light when the oil’s run dry.

    • 0 avatar
      01 ZX3

      That was fixed with the intro of the PI version of the 4.6 in 1999 or 2001 depending on the application.

  • avatar
    johnny ro

    So lets say BMW waives changing, under warranty, remaining oil at any interval whatsoever given you burn, what, 14 quarts in 10k miles. Under certain conditions. Just change filter at 10k.

    This was a valid strategy in pre-no-leak engine days. I remember 1970s Ford Pintos using a quart or two per fill up and leaving a wet spot afterwards in the fuel bay.

    • 0 avatar

      Those were low end cars from before I was born.

      The commodity car brands sorted out oil usage in the 1990s.

      Heck, even Harley Davidsons no longer use all that much oil anymore.

      And now BMW and Audi will be catching up to my 1998 Ranger on parameters I care about, any day now.

      I can afford a BMW these day, but I’m skeptical of the value proposition and the prognosis for long term ownership. Even more so, now.

      Those decade old Toyotas in my driveway are looking pretty good right about now.

  • avatar

    Here is what I consider to be “normal”: 1 Qt/ltr per 5000mi/8000km (maximum)

    I am not in the habit of checking my oil on any of my cars present or past for the last 15 years. I keep them going to well over 300,000 km (say 200,000 mi) plus with “full synthetic” oil changed at that interval. I have not detected more than that amount of consumption, so I don’t bother to look any more. This 1 ltr per 1000 km bullshit is only espoused by certain German (VW/Audi)and Japanese automakers as an excuse for inferior engines. The engines I have been running are GM 3.3 l V6, GM L61 2.2 l I4, Saab B231 I4 turbo. The L61 did use a little bit of oil but that went out through the front crankshaft oil seal, still well within my limit. I haven’t seen any sludge either.

  • avatar

    I’ve really noticed this on high-end, V8 BMWs. I drive in the Los Angeles area, and from Malibu to Hollywood, there’s nothing stranger than seeing a 550, 650, or 750 car spew out a smokescreen that would obscure it from any Bond villain. The smoke isn’t necessarily correlated with engine stress, as I’ve seen 1-2 second billows from cars under very little apparent acceleration.

    I thought you’d have to overheat a modern engine to the verge of seizure to make that much smoke. My image of BMW was created by the M30, and to a lesser degree, M20 sixes. I realize I should be more open minded, but this just seems like an unbelievable failure and decline. Is oil burning the engine equivalent of strikeouts, something that’s not as bad as everyone always thought it was?

  • avatar

    A Mystery.

    My M54 engine, when new, took a quart every 2500. Eventually, at about 80k, it took a quart every 1500. It has done so now for the next 225k-toss in a quart every 1500. I change every 7500. (Mobil 1 0-40 euro car formula, but German Castrol is quieter in the valves) Meanwhile, my Acura v6, with 120k, uses a half quart between 7500 k oil changes. (Honda approved 0-20)

    The TDi motor is super tight…10k intervals, no perceptible use at all. (Special German Castrol Diesel oil from the dealer)

    All the cars are driven pretty much the same way.

    • 0 avatar

      Interesting, I previously owned both M50 & M52 powered BMWs and neither consumed any discernable amount of oil. The later was approaching the 300k mile marker. The CCV system on this era of BMW engines, in my unprofessional opinion, is largely to blame.

      This is one of my main arguments used when I deter friends, family and even strangers from purchasing Subarus. Glass transmissions, leaky headgaskets and oil burning power plants.

  • avatar

    1999 Honda Accord 2.3 – zero oil usage over the 287k miles I owned it
    2006 Toyota Tundra 4.0 – zero oil usage over the 64k miles I’ve had it
    2015 Honda CR-V – zero oil usage through one oil change
    2009 Kawasaki Ninja 650R – zero oil usage through 34k miles I’ve had it

    The Accord was changed on 3k mile intervals until 220k or so, then 5k intervals, all traditional dino juice. The other two are on 5k intervals and use full synthetic.

    The Ninja is changed on a 4k mile interval with full synthetic.

    Move along. Nothing to see here.

    • 0 avatar

      Well, its great that your experience trumps all other’s experiences. You shoud probably call Honda to tell them that the class-action lawsuits theyve been hit with over this very issue never existed. Im sure theyd be pleased to hear it.

      • 0 avatar

        Not all Hondas are recalled JohnTaurus. I’ve had:
        1. 1989 Honda Civic. Sold with with 156K miles. Never had any oil consumption
        2. 1988 Honda Acord. Sold it when it had 148K. No consumption at all.
        3. 1993 Honda Civic Del Sol. Sold it when it had 75K. Small oil leak/no consumption
        4. 2001 Honda CRV bought new. Sold it with 123K. Never used a drop of oil.
        5. 2006 Honda Pilot with 108K. Bought new, still own it. Uses 1 quart every 7000 miles. It worried me in the beginning. Has VTM cylinder deactivation.
        6. 2007 Honda Ridgeline. Has 98K miles. No oil consumption at all.

        I would like to mention that I mostly use Mobil 1 Syn Oil and change it at anywhere between 7-10K miles.

  • avatar

    Aaron: welcome to TTAC. Maybe it is coincidence… but since yous tarted the news articles on TTAC were really good, also your iM review. This gives me hope TTAC can go back to the old high quality days.

    Keep up the good work (I guess actually driving cars helps writing about them:)

    On-topic: in my opinion this is shady practice of bad manufacturer. I know VW in Germany claimed 1l/1000km (maybe 1 qt/750 miles is normal. that way they can avoid any warranty and recall work. Just declare your deficiency normal and you don’t have to fix it….

    I’ve never owned a car that needed any oil between oil changes. Even in Germany the 20,000 km between oil changes for Seat Tdi, the 15,000 km for an opel corsa, my US Mazdas and CRV… all probably use more oil from wiping the dipstick than from actual use.

  • avatar

    Subaru issued a TSB for the FB25 engine 2011 to 2014 a year ago, which Consumer Reports failed to mention:

    And this time last year, Subaru claimed the FB25 for 2015 was redesigned and had 70% new parts!

    Of course those stuck with the FB20 in the Impreza and Crosstrek are out of luck.

    My older Subarus with EJ engines did and do not burn any oil, even my turbo. But one was a 2.2, the other is a DOHC turbo. Never let synthetic oil in either of them. The SOHC EJ25 used to suffer stuck piston rings – saw literally dozens of blocks and pistons on the shop floor and benches ten years ago, with scuffed cylinders. A separate problem from the head gasket fiasco.

    2008 Accord 2.4l fours have the stuck piston-ring scenario in many cases, which leads to oil-burning.

    Apparently, a few moments warming up from cold may keep that villain at bay.

    A lot of engines suffered with the banning of lead flashing on the main and connecting-rod bearings starting in 2007/8 model years, to save a few grams of lead from the environment when the engines were finally scrapped. Nobody seems too worried about old batteries, though.

    Now that engines run on water-like 0-20 weight synthetic, along with low-tension piston-rings and not great bearings, they are the very definition of “light” duty. Good for 50 to 70 hp around town and cruising, with the occasional blast to two or three hundred now and then. Add in chain-drives to the cams chewing up the viscosity modifiers, and it almost seems luck of the draw whether that new engine of yours will burn oil or not.

    • 0 avatar

      Nobody worries about old batteries? Then why are you charged a core cost if you dont bring in one when buying a new one? Why do scrap/recycling centers pay for old batteries?

      The lead from the old batteries is reused, that’s why. If you think they all just end up in a landfill somewhere, Im sorry but youre wrong.

  • avatar

    The other possibility is that even with tight tolerances, you might get a few in the wrong direction, leaving inadequate ring pressure, or too much space in the valve guides. The Factory knows that these engines are good as far as running the design lifespan if maintained-save the oil, it is a good engine.

    “sorry sir, they all do that. just check the oil occasionally”

    I remember reading somewhere that in certain spec race classes, the advantage the factory had is that they could weigh and check every part and select perfect ones….this is the other side of that idea.

  • avatar

    I’m not sure I would define 1 quart every 6 to 10k miles as excessive.

    My RX-8 can go through 1.5 quarts in 80 miles on a race track. The worrying part is a quart seems to last over 1000 miles of street driving.

    Our civic si goes from Max on the dipstick to min in about 10k miles.

    • 0 avatar

      My 6 port manual trans RX-8 burns about 1.5 to 2 quarts of oil every 3,000 miles in spirited, but non-track type, daily driving.

      This is considered normal, and is still less consumption than our 1 quart (of synthetic) per 800 to 1,000 miles 2006 VW Passat (the one that’s now the CC) 2.0T suffered, which VW at the dealer and North American HQ level insisted was “within normal spec” (even though a very experienced VW tech at the dealership admitted on the QT to me was not).

    • 0 avatar

      A Rotory engine that burns oil? Ha! The list of things I have heard now contains everything.

  • avatar
    Big Al from Oz

    One should look at the vehicle types listed in this article. They are all more than likely driven in a spirited fashion. Before anyone comments I am in no way suggesting the oil burning issue only pertains to sporty types of vehicles.

    There are some simple measures that can be taken to reduce overall oil consumption and more importantly reduce wear on all mechanical componenets of your vehicle.

    Drive very sedately until not only your engine, but your drivetrain has warmed up. Just having warm oil is not the only issue you must consider.

    You must consider the tolerances between the working parts. Just because your water temp indicates normal does not indicate the engine has reached its optimum working temp. The engine is a large chunk of metal, different metals at that which expand and contract at differing rates.

    Also reducing rpms will significantly reduce oil pressure. This will also reduce oil bypassing the parts prior to reaching working temps.

    Look the viscosity of the oil you are using. Use the heaviest oil you can.

    Another issue affecting engines that burn oil is the quality of the machining. The cost of retooling and refitting new machines is prohibitive. Machinery can limit what is and is not possible for engine design. No engineer would purposely design and engine to be an oil burner.

    I would bet many of the engines that do burn oil are machined using older machines.

    Engine design is not the only consideration.

  • avatar
    SCE to AUX

    The last straw for my former 02 Passat V6 30-valve engine was when the oil light came on at 30k miles. I found it needed 3 quarts of oil after only 3000 miles.

    The dealer tried to tell me it needed cam seals, but it never leaked a drop and the motor was clean. You could hear crickets in the showroom, so I think they were just looking for some warranty revenue from VW. I blame the 5-valve design.

    Since the car already had been to them 11 times prior for other problems, I immediately traded it since the warranty was almost up.

    FWIW, my Leaf has never burned any oil.

  • avatar

    Aaron, welcome and good topic.

    Reason for mucho burno is CAFE. IMO.

    • 0 avatar

      LOL, no.

      As long as we’re guessing without making a case, my guess is that it’s poor manufacturing tolerances and using their valuable brand as a crutch.

      AFIAK, the thinking is that buyers of high end cars are “less price sensitive”, so a lower quality car which requires more expensive maintenance than a Camry is more acceptable.

      But, if you’re trying to convince someone that the 5-Series V8 is an upgrade from their decade-old Toyota (which doesn’t use any oil at all and “just works”), this makes it a rather hard for the BMW to meet expectations.

  • avatar

    Sigh…. all the cars on the list of worst offenders, are some of the best looking cars that I would like to have owned at some point in the future…. I guess i’ll stick to Hondas or perhaps a used Volvo V70 R that i have my eye on.

  • avatar

    I have a bicycle and I oil the chain once a week. More if its been raining. It goes straight out in the environment. I switched to linseed oil 3 years ago.

  • avatar

    Crying about using a quart in 4K miles? My Altima is down just about a quart in that distance. Time to change at that time. Car now at 108K. I don’t see a problem. If you burn a quart in 3000 miles or so for a new car, I would be concerned. That amount of oil use has to shorten the life of the converter which will naturally fail outside of warranty. My C7 ate a quarter quart during break in, and has used nothing else since then. Though at 3200 total miles, who knows. And the Vulcan in my station car does not burn anything even at 23 years of age, though some leaks out of the rear valve cover and burns off on the exhaust manifold…

    • 0 avatar

      Except for the Subaru’s, the top 29 entries on the list are all expensive cars whose manufacturers ask us to believe are superior vehicles which command superior prices.

      Bt then article raises the following question:
      Is it really the Ultimate Driving Machine if 43% of the vehicles built in 2011 with a particular power train are burning oil in 2015v

      For me, that’s a big fat negatory, good buddy. I may be in the BWV demographic now, but I want born in to it, and a four your old car is barely past the break-in period by the standards of the cars I’ve owed up to this point. I can’t imagine paying new car money (much less premium new car money) for a car that isn’t supposed to last for decades. When I have to start figuring these kind of tradeoffs, cheaper cars look competitivets real fast.

  • avatar

    New cars spewing blue/black smoke and high oil comsumption are not good for engine longevity or good for the environment. In California the Air Quality Management has cut the every two year emissions inspection to only when 6 years old. This was supposedly due to the high quality of the computerized emissions systems. Seems like the crappy job on oil manangement has negated that. The AQMD should order the random testing of a statistically valiid number of these oil burners and see if they still meet emissions standards as they age, but are still warrantied.

  • avatar

    Many cars end up burning oil after 50K-60K miles because of the location of the cats. Manufacturers are placing cats closer to the exhaust manifolds in an effort to reduce emissions….the closer the cat, the quicker the cat heats up. Most catalytics use a ceramic honeycomb type structure. This ceramic breaks down over time releasing bits of very abrasive ceramic dust. When an engine is first started, there is a bit of vacuum generated on the exhaust side. With the cats so close, it is enough to draw that abrasive ceramic dust back through the exhaust port, and into the cylinder where it does its magic in wearing out the piston rings.

  • avatar

    They need to do more break in procedure at the factory instead of relying on people who buy the car.They may have poor designs for crankcase ventilation. Could it also be that buyers of German cars baby their vehicles when new? There are a lot of wrong ways to break in an engine and this also effects power output for the rest of its life.

  • avatar

    I think some of us may be thinking too much into the break-in process of a modern passenger car engine…

  • avatar

    There is no more traditional ‘break-in’ periods for any modern car engine.This was a function of the variability of both machining and materials wear properties back in the day.

    Oil consumption rates, as some have mentioned, are the result of a design decision that balances frictional losses (tighter) with efficiency and response (looser).

    Piston manufacturers will offer a range in available ring tension values apart from the multitude of material and coating options. The engine manufactuere will already have a good idea what an engine’s normal use oil consumption rate will be even before it turns a crank.

    There is no mystery here that some engines consume more oil than others. High-end cars all have engine oil monitoring sensors that tell you when it’s time to change. Most lower end engines go tight (with the glaring exception of the Toyota 4AGE series – wholly molly – ‘fill up the oil and top-up the gas please’)

    So go back to grilling some wieners and drinking some beer!

  • avatar

    A few things: First, using a quart/1,000 miles isn’t enough to harm the emissions systems or to fail smog. Second, I can’t speak for every manufacturer, but GM used to laser measure rings and cylinder bores and match them up for a better, tighter fit, they cancelled that program around 2008, I’m sure other manfacturers did the same. Third, thinner oils are going to slip past the rings easier, the best oil out there is what the OEM recommends in a grouop IV base stock, but that won’t solve burning issues, if you’re not sure what to go for in an oil, for most vehicles the weight of 5W40 from a brand like Shell Rotella will provide excellent cold start-up protection and be thicker at operating temperatures helping to burn less oil.

    Lastly, and this is a big one, engines need to be properly broken in, that is what prevents oil burning. I feel that most modern vehicles make outrageous claims such as they don’t have a break in period, or they don’t need to be warmed up, or they don’t need a cool down period for the turbo, etc. but trust none of them. The physical characteristics of modern engines related to thermal expansion, viscosity, friction, and heat transfer haven’t changed significantly enough to ignore what should still be common knowledge.

  • avatar

    The dealer told me some oil consumption in my Abarth is normal (I hadn’t noticed any, this was just conversation with the mechanics in the service department). I think it was a rate of around 1 qt per either 7500 or 10k miles (the car has a sensor for alerting me to the need for an oil change but I generally do it around 7500 miles even if the light hasn’t come on yet).

  • avatar

    My 2011 Audi Q5 2 L. turbo engine used less than one half quart of synthetic oil in 5000 miles. I take a lot of what I read about automobiles in “Cumbersome” Reports as BS.

  • avatar

    Does your BMW or Subaru or (insert oddball or high-po car name here) burn too much oil? Hmmm… just suck it up and buy the oil, or just buy an off-the-shelf Chevy or other average car. After all, you’re just going to use the car 90% of the time sitting in traffic anyway.

    Or, don’t complain and pay to play.

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