My Car Uses Too Much Oil - What Should I Do?


I hear the Volkswagen Amarok uses a lot of oil. What gives?


I get this question a lot. Commonly about Volkswagens, Audis (same thing) and Subarus. Here's the answer.

There are two types of oil consumption: Consumption deemed 'normal' by the manufacturer, and excessive consumption resulting from a defect in the engine.

'Normal' Oil Consumption

Everything in engineering is a compromise, and this kind of oil consumption in a modern engine is definitely that. Car companies are motivated to reduce internal friction in engines because that cuts fuel consumption (improves fuel efficiency), but if they go too far in pursuit of low internal friction, the engine will start drinking oil.

Carmakers are all very seriously in a race to deliver better economy - and some cut harder than they should into things like the tension on the piston rings and the clearances in the valve guides. When that happens - you see it as oil consumption in service.

See Also: My 'Drinking Problem' Report

Back to oil: There’s some variation here, but there’s no way any engine should lose oil below the minimum level permitted, between standard services. If that happens, that’s a joke. Some car companies - especially the crack-smoking emissions cheaters in the Volkswagen Group, oddly enough - are specialists at saying excessive oil consumption is completely normal, way beyond the degree to which a reasonable consumer would consider acceptable. They’re busily bullshitting you on this, and binning their reputation at the same time.

So, if the low-oil light comes on between services, or the level drops appreciably, put your concerns to the dealership and the manufacturer, and demand they do an oil consumption test. Do this in writing in case you subsequently end up in a dispute. A small amount of oil consumption between services is both trivial and normal in some engines.

Keep records of any correspondence about this, in case a dispute arises after the warranty period expires.

Defects Causing Excessive Oil Consumption

Serious mechanical defects can cause excessive oil consumption. Cracked heads, blown head gaskets, defective crankshaft engine oil seals, general wear and tear (age) can all cause an increase in oil consumption. You need to get this investigated - because it's not going to fix itself. And it's a serious problem. (Oil is all that separates the precisely machined mechanical components in your engine - and if the flow is restricted or shut off, the repair bill will be too big to jump over.

See Also: 'Warranty & Service' Report

Regular servicing reduces wear in the engine - so don't scrimp on oil changes throughout the vehicle's life. However, no engines escape the slings and arrows of time, no matter how well maintained. So if yours is an age-related oil consumption issue, it might be worthwhile talking to you mechanic about moving up to a slightly thicker oil, which will better accommodate the worn clearances inside your ageing engine.

I had a guy ring up once, live on air on Radio 2UE, and allege his Kia, which was not that old - a couple of years, maybe three - was drinking oil badly. He further alleged Kia wasn't supporting him. I took his case up with Kia, and it transpired that he had never had the vehicle serviced - not once. The engine had worn out because the oil had lost its capacity to lubricate. He was indignant, but the Kia had a rock-solid reason to deny any warranty claim: not getting a car serviced for several years constitutes abuse ... and abuse is not covered by warranty.