Canadian Manufacturing

Report finds many newer cars burn excessive amounts of oil

Consumer Reports says engines in newer cars, mainly from Audi, BMW and Subaru, require an oil top-up far too often

DETROIT—Newer cars aren’t supposed to need more oil between oil changes, but Consumer Reports found that some engines—mainly from Audi, BMW and Subaru—require an extra quart as often as once a month.

In an annual survey of car owners, significant numbers reported what the magazine considered to be excessive oil consumption. Consumer Reports focused on 2010 to 2014 models and called on automakers to make repairs under the powertrain warranty or to extend warranties.

“The companies should be willing to step up and take responsibility for their products,” said Mark Rechtin, the magazine’s cars content team leader.

Owners of newer cars, he said, shouldn’t have to carry oil around and worry about adding it. Most cars, he said, have dashboard lights warning drivers if their oil gets too low. But failing to pay attention to that light eventually can cause engine damage. The magazine’s survey didn’t find any link between oil consumption and other engine problems, but it found that cars that burn oil early consume more as they age.

It’s normal for cars to burn a little oil as they age toward 100,000 miles, the magazine said in its August issue. But for a late-model car to burn a quart or more between changes is not acceptable, Rechtin said.

The magazine focused on survey data from 498,000 owners of 2010 to 2014 models, finding that 98 per cent did not have to add oil between changes. But even if the problem happens to only 2 per cent of owners, that equals 1.5 million cars from the five model years, Rechtin said.

Several engines from three manufacturers were the main offenders, according to the magazine. Those include Audi’s 2.0-litre turbocharged four cylinder and 3.0-litre V6; BMW’s 4.8 litre V8 and 4.4 litre twin-turbo V8; and Subaru’s 3.6 litre six-cylinder and 2.0- and 2.5-litre four-cylinder engines. The Subarus burned less oil than the others.

Affected models include Audi’s A3, A4, A5, A6 and Q5; BMW’s 5, 6, and 7 Series and X5; and the Subaru Outback, Legacy, Forester and Impreza.

The magazine says that standards for certain Audi and BMW cars say that it’s reasonable to burn a quart of oil every 600 to 700 miles. Subaru considers one quart burned for every 1,000 to 1,200 miles to be acceptable, Consumer Reports said.

Audi spokesman Bradley Stertz said a class action lawsuit against Audi over oil consumption by the 2.0-litre turbocharged four-cylinder engines is close to being settled without the company admitting liability or wrongdoing. The settlement affects 2009 A4, 2010 A4 and A5, and 2011 A4, A5 and Q5 models. With the other models, Audi hasn’t been able to identify an abnormal number of oil consumption complaints, he said.

BMW said oil consumption is normal on all engines, and consumption within specifications doesn’t mean there’s excessive engine wear. The company said some regular BMW motors can consume up to a quart every 750 miles, and M series performance engines can use up to 2.5 quarts per 1,000 miles under certain conditions. The company says it has a service campaign to check and possibly replace some parts in the 4.4 litre V8.

Subaru spokesman Michael McHale said oil consumption can vary depending on how a vehicle is used. The vast majority of Subarus, he said, performed within specifications, and the company’s vehicles have improved from 2010 through the current models.

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