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Subaru Oil Consumption Problems and Other Issues

Subaru Oil Consumption

It is no secret that Subaru has or had oil consumption issues that ultimately led to the company to agree to settle in the oil consumption lawsuit filed against them in 2014. Owners of Subaru Crosstrek, Forester, Impreza, Legacy and Outback who filed the class action lawsuit got compensation from Subaru. The carmaker agreed to reimburse drivers for out-of-pocket expenses from the alleged defect which caused excessive Subaru oil consumption. Subaru also agreed to extend warranties.

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The Subaru models that were affected most by this oil consumption problem are: 2011-2014 Forester with 2.5-L engine, 2012-2013 Impreza with 2.0-L engine, 2013 XV Crosstrek with 2.0-L engine, 2013 Outback with 2.5-L engine and 2013 Legacy with 2.5-L engine. 


Subaru is not the only one that has this problem. There are also several engines found in other automakers that suffer from the same excessive oil consumption problem such as the following: BMW’s 4.8-L V8 and twin-turbocharged 4.4-L V8, and Audi’s 2.0-L turbocharged four-cylinder and 3.0-L V6. Those engines are found in BMW 5, BMW 6 and BMW 7 series and BMW X5, and Audi A3, Audi A4, Audi A5, Audi A6, and Audi Q5. The worst case was with BMW 5 Series vehicles with V8 engines, having 27 times more likely to suffer excessive oil consumption than an average vehicle. 


Yet despite the evidence, Subaru, Audi and BMW are firmly sticking with their statement that oil consumption is a normal part in the operation of a vehicle. Subaru has stated that a quart burned every 1,000 to 1,200 miles is acceptable. 


The fact is cars under warranty should not burn oil, and most don’t. Unfortunately, some Subaru vehicles and vehicles from other car makers need frequent topping off the oil reservoir between recommended oil changes. That is a source of concern since a new car owner should not have to do that. It's long been prescribed by the oil change industry that oil change should be done every 3,000 miles. In fact, recently most car manufacturers have stretched that to 7,500 or even 10,000 miles, thanks to engine manufacturing refinements and oil technology allowing engine oil to last longer. 


It is normal for vehicles to burn a small amount of oil as they get older, like 100,000 miles and beyond. But when your car is new it is not acceptable for it to burn excessive amounts of oil.

Does Subaru have an oil consumption problem?

It seems that the auto world is never going to be free from scandal. As mentioned previously, Subaru and other automakers have been involved in controversies regarding the manufacture of engines that burn excessive amounts of engine oil. Let’s delve deeper into the issue and tackle some helpful tips to resolve this problem.


Debate on Specification

When the first accusation of the excessive Subaru oil consumption (1 quart for every 1,000 to 1,200 miles) emerged, Subaro’s director of communications stated that this was within the normal specification for vehicles. But the drivers did not buy it. As a matter of fact, according to the survey conducted by Consumer Reports, 4 of Subarus vehicles ended in the top 30 for oil consumption, with plenty more not far behind. The worst Subaru vehicles in terms of oil consumptions by far are those with 3.6-L 6-cylinder and 2.0-L and 2.5-L four-cylinder engines. 


Models Affected by Excessive Oil Consumption

It is difficult to say which vehicles are really affected by high oil consumption until the issue is officially resolved, but the following are the most likely affected models:

  • Subaru Forester 2nd Generation (2003-2008)
  • Subaru Forester 4th Generation (2014-2018)
  • Subaru Legacy 5th Generation (2010-2014)
  • Subaru XV Crosstrek 1st Gen (2013-15)
  • Subaru 6.82 4th Generation (2014-2018)


Subaru oil consumption problem fixed

Subaru was resistant at the beginning but it finally has taken action to resolve the issue and released a Technical Service Bulletin which indicated a course action for affected models. Subaru’s official advice is to seek replacement of the piston rings which would be covered under the warranty of the vehicle. This means owners do not have to get money out of their pockets to get this work done which is great. Of course, it would have been so much better if the owners do not have to experience this problem in the first place but this showed Subaru’s goodwill gesture and may save the reputation of the brand. 


According to Michael McHale, a Subaru Spokesman, more than 98 percent of the settlement class vehicles (Crosstrek, Forester, Impreza, Legacy and Outback models) had not experienced and would not experience any oil consumption issues, But those who belonged to the 2 percent were told to contact their Subaru dealer and go in to have an oil consumption test. The dealer would replace the shortblock assembly if the dealer finds the oil consumption exceeds normal levels. 


Repairs would be made under the new vehicle warranty or powertrain warranty, depending on what applies. If your Subaru is out of the new vehicle warranty coverage and you have an extended warranty, there is still a chance your repairs would be covered, but the Subaru dealer would need to confirm this with the extended warranty company. 


What causes excessive engine oil consumption?


There are 6 main reasons that can cause a Subaru vehicle to consumer oil faster including:

  1. Gasket wear or seals wear which will result in oil leaks.
  2. The quality of the oil is poor so it would burn up more quickly than oil with high quality.
  3. Piston rings that are worn is another factor contributing to excessive oil consumption because they allow oil to escape and be burned inside the combustion chamber.
  4. The oil can also flood the engine in excess and burn up when there is high oil pressure.
  5. Oil leaks can also be caused by an aged engine which can have tiny spots of natural wear and tear.
  6. If you are using synthetic oil, it can also be the reason as its formulation is different from a normal oil and can often escape through much tinier holes.


How to Resolve High Oil Consumption


Other than the costly replacement of the piston rings, which Subaru has committed to cover on qualifying cars, there are only a few basic things you can do to keep oil consumption down as much as possible. Here are three things you can do:


  1. Invest in good quality engine oil. You may think this is counterintuitive as you may feel that your engine will only burn it through but with high quality oil can last longer than cheaper oil. Another purpose it can serve is to keep your engine in much better condition which means you are less likely to need to worry about oil leaks due to wear and tear.
  2. Make sure you are up to date with routine maintenance. Scheduling maintenance regularly will help ensure your Subaru is free from oil leaks and will give it the best chance of having oil last longer than if it isn’t properly maintained.
  3. Take action immediately to any and all oil leaks. We have the tendency to put off a job when we do not like doing it, but a car oil leak should be dealt with right away. An oil leak combined with an increased oil consumption will cause your Subaru to run out of oil completely, which will then cause more serious issues in your car other than oil consumption.

How do you check the oil on a Subaru?

Here is a quick guide to checking your Subaru engine oil level and adding engine oil if the level is low. But first you must have the following: clean cloth and engine oil (if the level is low) 

Note: Make sure to check the recommended grade of the engine oil printed on the oil and owner’s manual.


  1. Under your dashboard, pull the hood release and open the hood.
  2. Find the oil dipstick.
  3. Get the dipstick, wipe it clean and reinsert it completely.
  4. Prior to reinserting the dipstick make sure you note the Max and Minimum levels.
  5. If the level is below the Minimum mark, add oil.

How to Add Oil

  1. Find the engine oil cap. To remove the cap, turn it counterclockwise.
  2. Add 1 quart or about 1 liter. Wait for 5 minutes.
  3. Check the engine oil level again using the instructions above. Add oil until it is on the level between the Minimum and Maximum mark

Note: Make sure you do not go above the Maximum mark. There is a possibility of burning because of the engine parts being hot.


Add engine oil right away if your engine oil level is below the Minimum mark. Never drive or keep the engine running if the oil light is on or the oil pressure light of your Subaru is on. You can use these instructions to check the oil level on a Subaru Crosstrek, Impreza, Forester, Legacy and WRX. You can only continue driving when the oil light is off. 

Which Subaru engines to avoid?

Subaru owners are an avid loyal bunch, however,it is definitely a challenge to stay devoted to something you know may destroy itself and would be in need of engine replacement that can cost between $8,000 and $12,000. Find out which Subaru engines caused headaches.


Those who owned 2009-2014 Subaru Impreza WRX and WRX STI models have started a class-action lawsuit. According to plaintiffs, their Subaru vehicles’ pistons and positive crankcase ventilation (PCV) systems in the high-performance 2.5-liter turbocharged engines may malfunction or overheat and would need a huge amount of money for repairs. 


Subaru were allegedly using a casting process that caused the piston ringlands (which separate the piston rings) to weaken, while crankcase oil vapors get into the combustion chamber due to the PCV system. This then allegedly results in a reduction of the fuel/air octane mixture and adds more burden on the pistons that can cause fracture and have the engine destroyed. 


Owners of Impreza WRX and WRX STI claim their vehicles suddenly lose power, stall or suffer engine failure as internal components overheat and seize. There is also a second lawsuit that claims oil lubrication issues to the bearings and crankshafts which cause similar 2.5-L engine failures.

Why are Subarus so unreliable?

Subaru cars have stayed popular with a core set of consumers, with their marketing targeted particularly to their niche in the car market. Loyal Subaru owners tend to stick with the brand because of its off-road capabilities, drivetrain engine or that they are budget-friendly in the sports car market.


Although Subaru targets a niche market, it is still able to have a strong presence in the entire auto industry for some time now. But the question is how reliable are Subarus?

Subaru has gone through a rollercoaster ride over the last few years, and in 2016 it suffered a huge drop in their reliability, landing on the 18th spot out of 36 in terms of dependability as awarded by ReliabilityIndex. But things have been better for them since that year. 


In 2020 J.D. Power Vehicle Dependability Study, Subaru rated poorly again, and its Crosstrek, Outback, and Forester do not get any individual awards. But that is not something surprising as the Japanese carmaker has not scored well the past 4 years and now this makes 5 years in a row. The question is, how come Subaru always fails to score above industry average in the study? The study measures the number of issues per 100 cars experienced during the past one year by original owners of their 3 year-old cars. The 2020 study measures issues in 2017 model-year Subarus. 


But despite the low score on dependability, Consumer Reports ranked Subaru number 1 in overall performance and value in 2019. But Consumer Reports also ranked vehicles based on reliability in terms of annual maintenance cost and repair issues. Subaru dropped five spots in the rankings from the prior year and ended up placing number 7 in overall reliability for the year 2019. 


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