In the distant past, Subaru stood out consisting 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 have 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.
Subaru Oil Burning
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.
Why Is Engine Oil Important
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 any motor 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.
How Does Engine Oil Work
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.
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 Excessive Oil Consumption
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)
Class Action Lawsuit Subaru
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 which 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 Causes A Car To Burn Oil
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.
Subaru Oil Consumption, Possible Causes #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 a 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, 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.
Subaru Oil Consumption, Possible Causes #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 this 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.
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 the Subaru oil consumption problems can be costly.
Subaru Oil Consumption, Possible Causes #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.
Subaru Oil Consumption, Possible Causes #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.
Subaru Oil Consumption, Possible Causes #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 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.
Problems With Subarus
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 head 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.
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 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.
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 its sales figures in the 2010s, as it solidified its 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 A Subaru Worth It
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 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.
FAQs On Subaru Oil Consumption
If you’re still curious to learn more about Subaru oil consumption, our FAQs here might help…
How Long Do Subarus Last
With good care and regular maintenance, a typical Subaru should handily last at least 150,000 miles. On average, it’s certainly more common to see a Subaru running for at least 200,000 miles or more. Given that the average American drives around 15,000 miles per year, this equates to about 13+ years of ownership. Once you’ve passed that, you’ll need a thorough restoration and rebuild of your Subaru to keep it going for much longer. In addition to their relatively solid reputation for reliability, it’s among the reasons why a Subaru usually commands very strong brand loyalty and a lot of love from Subaru owners.
How To Stop Engine From Burning Oil
If your Subaru is burning too much oil, there are ways to slow down excessive oil consumption. One of those fixes would be adding some oil additives that might prevent the oils from burning too easily. However, these products can sometimes be hit or miss, depending on where you get them from. Otherwise, a more permanent solution would be finding the underlying cause of the oil burning and fixing it for good. For example, you could replace the head gaskets, prevent overheating, replace bad spark plugs, replace piston rings, patch up a leaking oil pan, or change the type of oil that you’re using.
Why Does My Car Burn Oil
Excessive oil consumption and burning might be caused by numerous factors. A blown head gasket, for example, would cause oil to leak into the cylinders, where it’s then burned alongside the fuel and air inside the combustion chamber. Otherwise, a damaged oil pan might allow for engine oil to leak out of your car entirely. Bad piston rings too, would permit oil to leak past the gaps between the cylinder walls and pistons, leading them into the combustion chamber. In addition, a clogged or faulty PCV valve might induce more pressure within the crankcase, forcing oil through and into the cylinders.
Does Synthetic Oil Burn
Just like conventional motor oil, synthetic engine oils will still burn. However, the rate at which it burns is significantly slower than traditional oils. This is because most synthetic oils are designed and formulated with special additives that not only ensure that they last for a long time between oil changes. But also, making sure that it’s more resistant to excessive oil consumption and burning. Beyond that, synthetic oils offer better lubrication qualities and maintain reliable lubrication even after long hours of engine operation. Still, it’s worth checking every once in a while to make sure that it’s not burning too much.
How Much Oil Should A Car Burn Between Oil Changes
It’s normal for an engine to burn oil. However, the rate at which motor oil burns will vary from one car to another, and it may seem unacceptable for some. Usually, a new and fresh engine that’s accrued less than 50,000 miles shouldn’t burn more than a quart of oil between its expected oil change intervals. Meanwhile, experts agree that burning an entire quart of oil every 3,000 or so miles is a good benchmark for acceptable oil burning. Although, some automakers claim that it’s normal for their engines to burn a quart of oil every 1,000 to 1,500 miles. And that’s especially so for higher-performance vehicles.
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