In the distant past, Subaru has stood out to consist of highly reliable cars. But in the 2000s, quite a few controversies started to pop up – with thirsty Subaru oil consumption being just one of them. It started to dull down until only recently when they started to resurface again in 2016. Excessive Subaru oil consumption was just one of the foremost issues that owners and drivers had to face.
But is there any merit to this story, or was it just a gross exaggeration? Indeed, there has been quite a lot of cases where motor oil was being consumed by certain Subaru models like a mad drunkard. So, let’s try to break this down one-by-one, and see if we find a solution to it. On top of that, we’ll look at what you should be looking out for if you’re thinking of getting a Subaru.
Are These Accusations Of Subaru Oil Consumption True?
Ever since the 2010s, Subaru has constantly had complaints regarding the fact that their cars burned too much oil. Often, it would drink through motor oil faster than any other vehicle, leading to more publicity around Subaru oil consumption being an issue. Are these allegations filed by owners and diehard fans of Subaru true?
In fact, there’s certainly truth behind these complaints. Subaru and their 1.5-liter engine have long been rather consistent regarding oil consumption. But the same can’t be said for its larger 2.0-liter, 2.5-litre, 3.0-litre, and 3.6-litre engines. Most cars from the time period, in general, required regular oil changes every 3,000 or so miles.
Meanwhile, later automobiles of today could run upwards of 10,000 miles before needing an oil change. This is all thanks to present-day advancements in sciences and automotive technology, thus enabling motor oil to last longer. On average, 5,000 or 7,500 miles is the median interval when you should be expecting an oil change.
But with Subaru, that threshold is significantly lower. Certain Subaru engines, like the ones we’ve mentioned earlier, often needed an oil change every 1,000 to 1,200 miles. This isn’t normal, as it clearly proved that there were some design flaws made by Subaru. As a consequence, Subaru faced a lawsuit on this outrageous Subaru oil consumption problem back in 2014.
What Is The Importance Of Engine Oil In Your Car?
Since we’re looking at motor oil, we may as well iterate its importance for any vehicle. With that in mind, we can get behind understanding why so many Subaru owners are understandably quite upset about this. The primary use of engine oil is to prevent friction between the many parts inside the engine. Thus, it aids in lubrication, as well as a bit of cooling.
Without oil, just imagine the grinding of all those metal parts every time your engine starts working. To avoid this metal-on-metal contact – which can lead to engine damage and failure – the motor oil plays a crucial role. It can monumentally reduce friction within the engine, thus enabling it to run smoothly and without grinding itself to oblivion in the process.
As a natural side effect of reducing friction, the motor oil also cools down the build-up of heat within the engine. Since motor oil is an insulator, it can control the heat transfer through conduction inside the engine. Therefore, motor oil doubles somewhat as a pseudo-coolant for your car’s motor. But there’s even more to this story.
It Also Works To Clean Your Engine
On top of all this, the engine also leaves a ton of residue in its inner workings. Here, the viscosity of the engine oil comes into play, as it drags away all the dirt and debris along with it as it circulates the engine. Motor oil hence acts as a sort of cleaner for the engine, washing away debris so it could maintain the engine’s overall wellbeing.
As a result, this helps to improve the engine’s performance, fuel efficiency, and longevity. For all the combustion that occurs inside the engine, it continues to suck up a lot of air. This means there’s a strong presence of oxygen as a requirement for combustion. By design, motor oil prevents this mix of oxygen and moisture from oxidizing – or rusting away – the iron compound of metal in the engine.
All things said it’s obvious that engine oil is vital for the operations, performance, and health of any motor. It can’t be ignored, and it’s a must to maintain and change it regularly. However, it’s incredibly inconvenient if you have to change the oil frequently. This is mostly a problem with some Subaru models, which have a strong thirst for motor oil. Every 1,000 miles, remember.
Which Subaru Models Are Known For Their Excessive Subaru Oil Consumption Problems?
Here are some of the models that are most impacted by this high Subaru oil consumption issue. If you’ve owned any of these cars, then chances are, you’ve had to chew through a surreal amount of engine oil in your ownership period.
- Forester 2nd Generation (2003-2008)
- Forester 4th Generation (2014-2018)
- Legacy 5th Generation (2010-2014)
- XV Crosstrek 1st Gen (2013-2015)
- 6.82 4th Generation (2014-2018)
What’s The Outcome From That 2014 Lawsuit Against Subaru Oil Consumption Issues?
So, since we’ve mentioned that lawsuit from earlier, what came of it? Initially, Subaru didn’t accept the allegations made against them. They claimed that a lot of cars required an oil change every 1,000 to 1,200 miles and that Subaru isn’t an exception. Well, we’ve already proven that this is false, as most cars could at least go through 3,000 or more miles before needing an oil change.
Owners of Subaru cars at the time also didn’t buy this argument either and led to a date in court for Subaru. An appointment of which… They lost. The court concluded that owing to some Subaru cars burning through more oil than most ordinary vehicles at the time, they had defective engines. This is an issue that could lead to an affected Subaru’s engine stalling, and suffering poor gas mileage.
So, what’s the solution that Subaru offered as an outcome of this court edict? Well, they offered the owners of some models that were affected an extended warranty. This program increased the period of warranty coverage from 5 years or 60,000 miles, up to 8 years or 100,000 miles. While it didn’t solve the heavy oil consumption issue, it at least made the bitter pill easier to swallow.
What Caused The Increased Subaru Oil Consumption In The First Place?
There could be numerous causes for why the Subaru oil consumption problem appeared in the first place. Here are just a few of the most common ones.
1. Oil Leaks
If you notice an oil stain under your parked car when you pull it out of the driveway in the morning, it could be the sign of an oil leak. Of course, this puddle dribbling away could be any one of the other many fluids that your car has. However, and if the engine is truly the cause of the leak, there are some signs that you could look out for.
For the most part, and if the engine is leaking motor oil, the shade of the fluid should be of a black or dark brown color. You could also check the engine oil reservoir to determine the fluid levels, as well. Most engine oil leaks are caused by a faulty gasket or loosened seal. The engine block is rarely the main source of the issue unless the car’s been wrecked in the past.
More often than not, the problem is the gasket and seals inside of the engine that is worn out. Over time, they can harden and crack, owing to how much heat these rubber pieces are exposed to sitting inside of the engine. The best solution for this is to have it looked into by a professional. It will cost you a few hundred bucks to replace the gaskets.
2. Increased Oil Pressure
The primary cause for oil pressure increase can be attributed to the engine temperature. The heat in the engine gets more intense upon ignition, or while left idling. However, it could also be caused by a blockage in the channels through which motor oil flows. In this case, you’d have to disassemble the hoses, cooling jets, plugs, and more to remove the debris from them.
Another culprit would be the oil filter. The purpose of which is to remove impurities from the oil before it flows into the engine block. Over time, the filter might clog due to dirt and contaminants that may have been building up. When this happens, it reduces the oil flow to the engine, which increases engine temperature. In turn, this increases the oil pressure.
Commonly, you have to swap out the oil filter after every oil change for this very reason. The oil can pick up contaminants or debris, before thickening into a viscous sludge. These could easily block the oil flow, as well as wear out any seals or gaskets along the way, as the oil pressure rises. Combined with the cost of a new oil filter, it’s no wonder why Subaru oil consumption problems can be costly.
3. Piston Damage
Damage in the piston rings is another cause of excessive oil consumption. Piston rings are supposed to seal the gap between the piston and cylinder. However, these rings can wear out and fail after a while, leading oil to seep through. If not replaced promptly, the gaps that have been worn down may get big enough for motor oil to start flooding the cylinders.
One side effect of this is an increasing amount of oil being burnt. To detect any damage in the piston rings, you can use a leak-down test. This measures the amount of air leaking into the crankcase from the area above the piston. Such problems are primarily caused by oil flooding into the cylinders, incomplete combustion, impure oil, or debris lodged between the piston rings.
4. Type Of Oil Used
A lot of debate can be stirred when looking at what type of oil should be used in your car. Might it be synthetic, or conventional motor oil? There are pros and cons to each, but in the case of Subaru oil consumption woes, synthetic engine oil is a big no-no. Using synthetic oils to lubricate a Subaru-made engine may result in oil leakage. But, how could this be?
Both kinds of oil – synthetic and conventional – are formulated to lubricate the engine, which ensures that the motor runs smoothly and avoids wear. Synthetic oil is made from chemical compounds and can include power additives, as well as base oil. It may contain some petroleum, but it’s not whole crude oil.
Though synthetic oils have more upsides to their chemistry, they can bring about trouble with some Subaru models. The finer particles of the synthetic oil can escape through tiny gaps and leak within the engine of these Subaru cars. If you use synthetic oil and experience heavy oil consumption, you should think about switching to a more conventional oil mixture.
5. Quality Of Oil
Most engine oils are made to meet a set of quality standards. That said, their qualities can still vary wildly. While there are plenty of high-quality motor oils out there, poor ones can be found on store shelves, too. The reason for their existence is tied to reducing production costs, while also catering to a market of consumers that just want any kind of oil in their vehicles.
It can be inoffensive in some instances, but you’re better off spending more on higher-quality motor oil. But how can you tell the difference between low-quality oil and the good ones? It’s not an easy task, and for most people, you might think they’re all the same. There are, however, a few things that customers can look out for while shopping for motor oil.
First, check the label for the API (American Petroleum Institute) standard. You can find that circular certificate of approval from the API on the side of the container. Secondly, look at the properties of the engine oil that you’re thinking of buying. Depending on the climate that you drive in, and the mileage of the car, the make-up of the motor oil can make a huge difference.
If your car’s mileage is 100,000 miles or more, it’s better to opt for oils with higher viscosity. Some examples include 10w40 or 20w50. Also, if you live in colder climates, you should choose an oil with a lower viscosity. Vice versa, you should choose more viscous oils if you’re driving in hotter weather. Lastly, make sure that the oil meets the recommendations set by Subaru.
What Should You Look Out For When Buying A Used Subaru?
If you’re unfazed by the wave of complaints about thirsty Subaru oil consumption, then you might still want to get that dream Subaru of yours. So, is there anything else, aside from oil use, that you want to be looking out for? Well, if you were to purchase a used Impreza, Forester, Legacy, Outback, or the Baja, they are known for their gasket problems.
These issues began when Subaru started using composite gaskets back in the late 90s. Even until the early 2010s, it still had numerous reliability issues. Hence, the aforementioned Subaru models should be inspected carefully before you pull the trigger on that purchase. Thankfully, there are some signs that you could notice.
Firstly, check and see if there’s any trickling in between the engine block. The leak could eventually get even bigger, which may lead to a coolant leak, and possibly even engine failure. A smell akin to sulfur is also another red alert, accompanied by higher readings in the temperature gauge. Last but not least, you can take it for a drive to see if it’s overheating.
Recurring engine heating could point out to a faulty gasket. This can be somewhat prevented if you regularly change the oil. You ought to have the battery terminals and the surrounding areas cleaned now and then to prevent an accumulation of corrosion. Oh, and make sure the coolant is fresh and clean, with it changed up when it’s dirty.
Here are a few other things to look out for…
Check the rear struts, as they can suffer issues as the damper rod seals dry out and lose lubrication. In addition, check all the other suspension components, and enquire as to when was the last time they’ve been replaced or serviced.
Inspect to make sure that there’s still some life in the brake pads left, as well as the calipers and brake rotors. If the brake pads are worn, you need to have them replaced as soon as possible.
Along the outer bodywork, you need to gaze at whether there’s any rust. Corrosion is a big problem, as it can easily travel and bring rust to other parts of the body. If it’s rusted through, you’ll have to replace an entire section of the body panels. Most especially, you should look around for any rust near the wheel arches, front, and rear.
The front radiator support panels are another place where rust could form easily, following a build-up of moisture. Apart from this, you can look at the rest of the bodywork, as it could tell you if it’s been in an accident. Unaligned panels, large panel gaps, or color variations may be a sign that the vehicle has been involved in a collision, and was repaired.
While you’re inside of your dream Subaru, you should also check out for any damage in there. For example, damaged trim pieces or panels can be costly to replace.
6. Service History
Perhaps the most important aspect of buying any car is reading through its service history. This can tell us if the previous owner has – or hasn’t – been diligent about maintaining their car. You can ask the seller for receipts, invoices, as well as records of any past servicing done on that car. It’ll give you a good idea of how it’s been treated over the years.
Are Subaru’s Cars Reliable?
Given that we’ve spent all this time looking at how excessive Subaru oil consumption is, are they as unreliable as it seems? Historically, Subaru was well-known for its focus on performance, off-road capabilities, unique boxer engines, and also their reliability. But since the early 2000s, it’s been plagued by bad engineering and constant issues, which have tarnished this reputation.
In the 1990s, Subaru was known to be extremely dependable and over-engineered. Proof of this is its World Rally Championship wins with Colin McCrae behind the wheel, having only further boosted the popularity of Subaru in the general public. However, then came the blown head gaskets, which were prevalent in the 2000s. It’s worryingly common with Subaru engines with over 75,000 miles on them.
Subaru managed to up their sales figures in the 2010s, as they solidified their line-up. Just as they were rebuilding their image for reliability, they took another huge blow in 2016. This coincided with cases around the 4th-generation Forester suffering from axle and suspension problems. That includes a few other woes such as engine problems, turbo failure, and a defective starter motor.
In the reliability rankings, Subaru dropped to 18th place out of 36 manufacturers in 2015, as more and more angry customers started piling up. But what about the Subaru of today? Well in 2019, they were ranked as one of the best brands for performance and value. But they also ranked 7th when looking at repairs and reliability. Overall, it’s a few steps in the right direction, at least.
Is Buying A Subaru A Good Idea?
If you were to buy a Subaru, it means you should be willing to spend on it, as well. After all, all this talk of Subaru oil consumption concerns isn’t cheap. On average, $1,000 worth of repairs and other maintenance work should be done each year. For most people, it might not be considered a good choice for a car. That’s especially so if you lack knowledge and preparedness in automotive care.
You’d have to visit the mechanic frequently unless you know what to look out for when your car is acting up. High oil consumption is just one of many other problems that Subaru is known to face. For example, cars like Audi’s A3, A4, A5, A6, and Q5 models as well as BMW’s 5, 6, 7 Series, and X5 models are also known to burn through more engine oil than other similar vehicles in its class.
Yet, the only reason why we’re not treating these cars with the same amount of scrutiny as Subaru is that they don’t exhibit too many worries besides that. If you own a Subaru Forester, Impreza, Legacy, or an Outback, you can take steps to reduce that heavy Subaru oil consumption. One of them is making sure your car is following its routine servicing.
If you take good care of it, your Subaru could easily last upwards of 200,000 miles with ease. But if you don’t have a Subaru yet, then it might be safer for you to stay away from the 2.5-liter engines, which can be problematic. As a whole though, and while we do love our Subarus, these are cars that you need to be very wary of before you go ahead and let them accompany you for life.
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