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Consumer Report Calls Out Oil Burners

Magazine notes Audi, BMW and Subaru biggest offenders.

by on Jun.30, 2015

The BMW 5 Series is 27 times more likely to need oil between service intervals than other vehicles.

If you’re adding oil to your car’s engine between oil changes, something may be askew, according to Consumer Reports.

The advocacy magazine found that some cars built between 2010 and 2014 are not just needing a little top off between service intervals, but burning through as much as a quart a month.

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Taking Audi, BMW and Subaru to task for the issue, it notes that Audi’s 2.0-liter turbocharged four cylinder and 3.0-liter V6; BMW’s 4.8-liter V8 and 4.4-liter twin-turbo V8; and Subaru’s 3.6-liter six-cylinder and 2.0- and 2.5-liter four-cylinder engines all burned oil at a higher than normal rate, although 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. Not surprisingly, Audi, BMW and Subaru claim that needing to add oil from time to time is normal operating procedure. The magazine contends otherwise.

The Audi A3 is one of the vehicles that is likely to require owners to top off the oil between oil changes, Consumer Reports claims.

Certain BMW 5 Series models with V8 engines were 27 times more likely to need more oil between service intervals than average vehicles. The oil-change industry has maintained for decades that cars need oil changes every 3,000 miles; however, manufacturers – on average – are bit more generous, recommending vehicles can go 7,500 and, in some cases, even 10,000 miles between changes.

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According to Audi and BMW, it’s reasonable to burn a quart of oil every 600 to 700 miles while Subaru considers one quart burned for every 1,000 to 1,200 miles to be acceptable, Consumer Reports said.

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

Subaru was one of three automakers criticized by Consumer Reports for excessive oil use.

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Typically, as cars age they may require added oil, but generally that doesn’t occur until they near the 100,000-mile mark on the odometer. However, it’s not so easy for at least one maker to be dismissive of the findings.

Audi has been the subject of a class-action lawsuit related to the problem. Audi spokesman Bradley Stertz said the suit over oil consumption by the 2.0-Liter turbocharged four-cylinder engines is close to being settled without the company admitting liability or wrongdoing, Consumer Reports reported.

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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.

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4 Responses to “Consumer Report Calls Out Oil Burners”

  1. DWH says:

    Burning oil has many variables such as usage,rpm, load on engine, ambient temperature, engine cofiguration ,etc. Not to mention oil vicosity introduction of
    0-30 wt. Which was introduced to avoid contamination of pollution control devices
    such as catalytic convertors and sensors
    that have mandated emission warranties. Instead of worrying about mechanical parts the worry is about warranties and the service life of pollution control devices and supposed service life of the vehicle which is the the responsiblity of the ownerm. Espicially in europe.

  2. Al says:

    This level of oil consumption is completely unacceptable and I can assure you, far worse than those automakers own internal targets. I developed engines for one of the major U.S. Automakers for many years and our target oil consumption was 1 quart/10,000 miles, which was routinely met by every engine which I worked on (all 4 cylinder and a couple of 6 cylinder). You should never have to add a full quart of oil between changes until the engine gets to 100,000+ miles. The decrease in oil viscosities used in today’s engines has nothing to do with emissions components, it was 100% done for friction reduction and reduced fuel consumption.

  3. PapiM says:

    Folks must compare apples to apples. Oil consumed per miles, not per calendar weeks. I’ve owned cars that burned three quarts a week when I drove 4400 miles a month. Other cars burned nearly nothing at the same 4400/month. Engine technology and manuf tolerances play a big role. Current Toyota uses about 1 quart per 10K oil drain. This terrific car with original engine has 235K miles.

  4. Jorge says:

    How soon people forget…

    It was not that many years ago when using a qt. of oil per 1000-2000 miles was the industry norm for most cars with sportscars typically using even more. VW/Porsche/Audi still consider a qt. in 600 miles to be acceptable for modern engines but it is not with the engine tech that exists today. If your engine is using a qt. in 600-700 miles there is something wrong. On turbo cars it could be as simple as a bad turbo seal allowing oil to be sucked into the turbo and burned by the engine.

    As noted there are MANY factors that impact the quantity of engine oil consumed. Newer engines all have low tension oil rings and lighter viscosity oil to improve mpg. In most cases newer naturally aspirated engines will go ~5,000 miles before needing to add a qt. of oil. It’s very rare for a modern automotive engine IME to go 10,000 miles before needing a qt. of oil. Most people change their oil by 10,000 miles except in Europe where BMW and perhaps other car makers allow up to 30,000 Km, (18,600 miles). FYI, many quick change oil shops do NOT use the proper oil for newer Euro cars which have very specific oil requirements different from typical U.S. sold oils.

    That being said as the power output increases there is a tendency for oil consumption to increase as higher engine speeds and temps are experienced. With light viscosity oils the oil vapor is drawn into the engine to be burned as required under emissions laws. It’s also worth noting that oil becomes thinner in use and any excess fuel can accumulate, both of which increase oil consumption. Turbo engines virtually always consume more oil than naturally aspirated engines of equal design and construction due to the increased combustion temps and lubrication requirements.

    Even though most car makers don’t place any emphasis on it now days, engine break-in can also have a significant impact on oil consumption. There are constant opinionated arguments in car forums on this but in fact scientific testing has shown that abusive break-in procedures or so called “babying” of a new engine can result in poor piston ring seal which can increase oil consumption significantly over the life of the engine.

    One other aspect which is often overlooked is that many DIY’ers use the incorrect specification oil for the application which can not only increase consumption, it can literally destroy the engine. Many Euro engines have very specific oil chemistry requirements that are NOT met by traditional, popular brand U.S. available oils. Failure to use the proper specification and viscosity oil has been documented to cause severe engine wear and even complete engine failure for which the customer is responsible because they used an improper spec oil. It’s unfortunate that many people never read their new car Owner’s Manual (OM) which tells exactly what oil is required. There is a belief that changing the oil more frequently will compensate for using an oil without the correct chemistry for the application. This unfortunately is documented in actual scientific engine tests to be incorrect.

    It’s also worth noting that many car enthusiasts get sucked into the boutique oil scams which can cost you an engine if you’re not careful. Most of the boutique oil brands have little actual oil specification certification. These companies dupe naïve consumers by stating that their oil “is recommended for xyz use” or specifications. In fact many new car warranties are VOIDED by use of a non-certified spec oil as required by the new vehicle warranty.

    There is also a tremendous amount of mis-information regarding engine oil warranty requirements. The unscrupulous purveyors of boutique oils will make baseless claims using the Magnuson-Moss Act as a means to rationalize the use of “any oil” implying that the non-certified boutique oils will meet the warranty requirements which unfortunately is untrue if you read the new vehicle warranty carefully as many warranties require oil that is actually certified to specific chemistry specifications. Oil that “might meet” or even oils that “can meet” the chemistry but have not been certified to meet the oil specifications for both chemistry and performance, will not meet most new vehicle warranties – even though these oils might be perfectly fine for more general engine oil requirements. It’s not that these boutique oils are “bad” per se, it’s that most of these oils do not have the correct chemistry and they have not been certified to meet your new vehicle engine oil requirements. Without certification the oil purveyor can change the chemistry without notice and they do. I have confirmed this in actual oil testing.