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Oil usage in 2011 Subaru Outback 3.6

Dear Community-
We have a 2011 Subaru Outback 3.6 with 57K miles on it. Our car recently seems to be consuming a lot of oil. Three oil changes ago I switched to synthetic and since then the car gets half way through the recommenced time for an oil change and the low oil light comes on. After the first time I took the car back to the dealer for an oil service and added the synthetic again. Same thing happened. Next oil change I switched back to standard oil and problem it is still happening.
There is no oil leak that I can see, meaning it’s not dripping. My nose has not identified it burning oil either. But this excess usage of oil doesn’t seem right to me and the dealer says there is not a problem. We’re quickly coming up to 60K and I wanted to ask if anyone has had this issue as well with their car? Suggestions? Ideas?

Did the dealer suggest testing the PCV valve and hoses? That’s a good place to start. The oil is likely being burned in the catalytic converter which severely limits its life.

If you have sticky oil control rings, this will also result in oil consumption. A compression test is also in order.

In any case don’t keep driving too long with this problem.

You should be checking the engine oil level on a regular basis and not wait for the low oil level light to come on. Because when that light is on, engine damage is occurring.

Here’s something else you should also know. Some vehicle manufacturers consider a quart of oil consumption over 1,000 miles as being normal for their engines.

Tester

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I believe the low oil light in this car comes on when you’re somewhat below the minimum level. If that’s correct, I strongly suggest that you check your oil more often. Running an engine low on oil is very bad for it.

You apparently do not check your oil level periodically, say once a month or once every 1k miles. You should get in the practice of doing this with all your vehicles.

All vehicles start consuming a little oil as they age and rack up the miles. Yours has probably been doing this but until recently, the rate of consumption has not been great enough to trip the light. If you had been checking your oil from time to time, you would have seen this coming.

Now we need a little more information. When you started using a synthetic, did you use the same weight synthetic as the conventional oil? You should have been using 5w30. You should have used a 5w30 synthetic as well. The new Subaru’s use 0w20 synthetic and if you put this in your engine, it was not made for it.

Next, this oil level light, is it an oil level light or just an oil light. Most oil lights are for oil pressure, not oil level. If the oil pressure light comes on, damage is being done to your engine. If it is an oil level light, then you were probably down only one quart and no damage done.

What is your normal oil change interval and at what mileage after the oil change does this light come on? If it is an oil level light and not an oil pressure light, and you change your oil every 5k miles, one quart down in 2500 miles is not a big cause for concern. But if you were on a 3k oil change interval and the oil pressure light comes on at 1500 miles, then you have a serious problem.

It seems that Subaru recommends . . . but doesn’t require . . . synthetic oil. if you look at the way they word it, they STRONGLY recommend it

The way they word it, I’m not sure why they don’t just straight out say the engine needs synthetic

http://techinfo.subaru.com/proxy/69516/pdf/ownerManual/069516_2011_Legacy/MSA5M1104BSTIS_19.pdf

I just thought that was interesting

I happen to own the exact same model as the OP, so I can attest that this rate of consumption is not normal.

With my 2011 3.6R, I did have to add ~1/2 a qt during the first 3,000 miles, but subsequently, it has consumed less than 1/4 of a qt between its 4,000 mile oil changes. We don’t know how much oil the OP’s car is actually consuming, but–then again–neither does the OP, simply because he/she is relying on a warning light, rather than pulling the dipstick every few weeks.

So…my suggestions are as follows:

Check the oil yourself, about every 2 weeks in order to get a sense of how much it is consuming.
Don’t wait for the level to fall below the “add” mark on the dipstick. That would="add 1 qt"
Ideally, you should add oil when it is halfway to that “add” mark on the dipstick.
Have the dealer or your mechanic replace the PCV valve. For the grand total of ~$5.00 that would help to eliminate one possible reason for high oil consumption.

For Keith’s benefit, I will mention that this model has a low oil level light, as well as a low oil pressure light. However, I have to confess that I don’t know how low the level has to fall in order for the low oil level light to show up, simply because I am too proactive for that light to have ever lit up.

One possible bit of good news is that this engine holds 7 qts of oil, so–hopefully–the level was never dangerously low.

Does your car have 70k drive train warranty. You need to monitor the oil consumption and document it. Keep complaining. You will probably have to go to Subaru Headquarters to get it fixed

If it’s not leaking oil then it’s burning it. The only way it can burn oil is past the piston rings, the valve seals, or both. The odds of it being valve seals in either scenario are very, very slim.

Depending upon a number of factors, it could be that the oil control rings are stuck in their grooves. While the test is not 100% definitive a dry and wet compression test could be done as that might show issues with compression rings aong with a leakdown test. Any ring problem is a major problem as that involves internal engine repairs or replacement.

Running the engine chronically low on oil just exacerbates the situation by overheating the remaining engine oil which then cokes (burns like grease in a frying pan), seizes oil control rings, and with oil consumption being the final issue.

I have one more question, if it is just the oil level that is triggering the light, why do you have a complete oil change done? The normal practice is to just add a quart or what ever is necessary to bring the oil level back up to full.

You need to check your oil level right after leaving the oil change shop to see if they are even filling the engine to the proper oil level to begin with. Not saying your mechanic or oil change person is ripping you off, but if they are telling you that you need to change the oil every time that light comes on, they are wrong. Then I might suspect that they leave a quart out when they do the change so that the chances of the light coming on are increased.

BTW, are you using the dealer for this?

Make sure the oil loss is documented into an invoice with Subaru.

Normal consumption by car makers is 1qt in 1000 miles and even 1qt in 800 miles.

I highly recommend you check/top your oil every 2-3 fuel fillups. The low oil light is severe and can cause expensive damage long term way past warranty.

After further research, there is known issue with many of the Subaru models between the years 2011 and 2014 for excessive oil consumption due to faulty piston rings. There are class action lawsuits against Subaru for this issue. Unfortunately our model is not on the list, I am assuming it’s because there are less 3.6’s sold than 2.5’s. This may just end up becoming my new hobby.
In hindsight what seemed like a dumb move may be in our favor. Because I went into the dealer every time the low oil light has come on there is dealer documentation on the miles between services and my comments saying why I was back at the dealer.
I was there this morning to start an oil consumption test, and I have to go in every 1200 miles for them to measure. I was told that even if the light comes on DO NOT add oil, drive it into the dealership so they can measure. That makes me nervous, but they said I still have between 3.5 to 4 qts in the car when the light comes on. The service manager made a comment about being surprised to see the 3.6, it’s not common. So it is common to see the others…
I also plan to have a 3rd party do to a leak down test during this process of identifying if our rings are failing.

Thanks for all your feedback!

Unless I missed something, the OP hasn’t told us about the car’s typical oil change schedule, and also the typical type of use that the car is used for (mostly local, mixed local/highway, mostly highway)

I ask because ok4450 brought up a very good point, namely oil control rings that are coked-up.
That condition would take place as a result of oil change intervals that are too long, and if the OP is using this car for mostly local driving and using 7,500 miles as the oil change interval, then he is actually subjecting the car to what is known as Severe Service–which calls for oil changes much more often.

What can you tell us about oil change intervals and the type of usage for this vehicle?

Ammers, You’re Not Alone.

Does This Vehicle Have A Standard 100,000 Mile Drivetrain Warranty As Most/Many Manufacturers Have Or Is It 60,000 Miles?

Although 60,000 miles is very early, your car possibly needs new oil control piston rings.

http://wot.motortrend.com/1407_subaru_faces_class_action_suit_for_excessive_oil_consumption.

CSA

CSA- It’s 100K and I thought we were crazy when we did it but we bought the “gold” extended warranty. Don’t know if it will help us but the dealer mentioned it to me today, which I thought was odd.
There are also details online where three states have class action lawsuits, and the LemonLaw site seems to also be taking cases.

Is That “Gold” Extended Warranty A Genuine Subaru Warranty And Not An Aftermarket Warranty From Some Other Vendor?

CSA

Sorry, I just can’t buy into the faulty ring theory and a class action suit doesn’t mean squat. There’s more lawyers willing to file suit than there are cars on the road.

What I ask is what type of oil is being used, the predominant type of driving (city, open road), and the oil change interval? (time, miles, etc)

I’m not a gambling man and never have been but I would wager that if the engine was removed and disassembled one would find one or more oil control rings are stuck in their respective ring lands due to oil coking. (All assuming the engine has never been overheated due to a cooling system fault)
I have my reason for that line of thinking.

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OK you used the dealer for your oil changes, right. Now, did the dealer provide the synthetic oil for those changes? This is important because Subaru Synthetic oil is 0-20 and that is too thin for your engine. Your engine calls for 5w30 and you can use a synthetic 5w30 if you want, but not 0w20.

So did this oil problem from post 2/2015 ever get solved?
My 2011Outback (mileage is 71,000) is going through oil also, a new problem in the last 1000 miles.

Your vehicle is 6 years old and you did not say if you bought new or how much oil you just started using. You need to talk to Subaru and see if you have a case. Even if the OP ever returns their problem most likely will be different and it appears they did not maintain the vehicle as they should have.