Burning Oil in a Brand New Car


Burning oil in a 1973 Cadillac seems legit.

Drive an old boat like that around for long and you’ll stop at every gas station and put in a quart of oil. Worn engines simply burn and leak oil, often causing heavy smoke and the putrid odor of crusty black tar.

Drivers of those old cars don’t get too angry at the oil consumption because they know it just comes with the territory of having the pleasure of driving a Nixon-era automobile.

A 2013 car should never burn a quart of oil between oil changes.


I’m not a car mechanic. While I’ve written about cars for much of the last eight years, I’m not one of those mechanically inclined guys who can jump into an engine rebuild and put all the pieces together. I am, however, familiar enough with the mechanical systems of a car to know when there’s a problem and determine the possible source.

While driving a 2013 Subaru Legacy, the oil light came on followed by a low level alert. That’s not a common occurrence on a new car, especially one that gets synthetic oil every 5,000 miles. The light and alert came on with about 500 miles left until the next scheduled change.

There’s no way the oil level was low.

I assumed the alert was a pre-programmed reminder to get the oil changed, and scheduled an appointment at the dealer. While there I told the lady at the counter that the low oil level light was on, and her response blew my mind.  She said that the car, along with most new cars, burn about a quart of oil between oil changes.

I reminded her that mine was a 2013 model, not a 1973 Cadillac. She stood by her claim. Incredulous, I tried to argue that modern cars using synthetic oil don’t just go through quarts like gasoline. In fact, they can go up to a year without a change and still not use oil. A quart after 5,000 miles just doesn’t make sense. She remained adamant, though, and I gave up the fight while mumbling something about 1973 as I left the building.

Researching at home, I found that Subarus indeed have a penchant for burning oil and other owners have the same problem. Subaru’s rationale is that the boxer engines tend to run hot and the thin 0W-20 synthetic oil burns quickly. That’s not cool, Subaru. Not cool.

In my opinion, new cars shouldn’t burn oil between regular oil changes, at least not at the rate of a quart every 5,000 miles.

Does your car, new or not, burn a quart of oil or more between oil changes?


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Used Subaru Legacy


  1. Using that thin EPA oil is what causes oil burning.
    You should be using a heavier oil than what is stamed on the cap or you will need to use Lucas oil treatment with every change.

  2. Not that Subaru is the only car maker with this issue, but in 2016 there was a class action lawsuit with Subaru concerning this, and the settlement extends the warranty, and covers *repair* of this problem.

    If this really just “happens” due to the boxer engine design, how could they possibly “fix” it?

    It seems plausible that the ultra thin oil could burn more easily, but one would think that would mean different viscosity oil would solve the issue, so why wouldn’t they just go back to the oil used in previous year models that did not exhibit this issue?

    Would that be reducing the gas mileage slightly and putting those car makers in a situation similar to VW where their vehicles do not get the mileage claimed?

    I have a friend with a Subaru exactly like mine but 2 years older with the same engine (before Subaru started using synthetic oil as the standard) and his car hasn’t had this issue even though it has many more miles.

  3. I have a 74 F350 and just got the a remanufactured motor and its burning 5 quarts every 1000 miles. It was installed by a mechanic and I already went through the break in phase with break in oil and had the oil changed after 800 miles with the break in oil. MPG is also worse than it should be. Whats wrong?

  4. the reason new cars are burning oil is the fact you are putting synthetic oil in a new engine from the beginning and the rings are never getting a chance to break in. new engines should not use synthetic until the are broken in, this is done for the moron factor.

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