Cars

Why is my 7-year-old vehicle using so much oil?

John Paul, AAA Northeast's Car Doctor, answers a question from a reader who’s adding oil at an alarming rate.

The 2015 Volvo V60 Cross Country. Volvo

Q. I am hoping you can shed some light on a problem I am having with my 2015 Volvo S60 T5 with 67,500 miles. The car is using approximately one to one-and-a-half quarts of oil every 1,000 to 1,500 miles. I have read some horror stories about having to replace the entire engine or pistons and rings, etc. I love the car and have had all maintenance done as suggested by Volvo. 

A. There have been many reports of oil consumption on this model Volvo. Volvo did update the oil dipstick and revised the software for the low oil message. At this point you could perform an oil consumption test. This test is normally performed after an oil change, and the oil cap and drain plug are marked with anti-tamper tape. If the engine is determined to use oil outside of what Volvo considers normal, the repair is typically to replace the pistons and piston rings. If the engine block is scored, then the engine is replaced. To my knowledge Volvo has not extended the drivetrain warranty of these vehicles past the standard four year/50,000-mile warranty. If Volvo determines the oil consumption is excessive, I would not be shy about asking for some customer goodwill in getting the car repaired.  If Volvo doesn’t provide any assistance, and considering that the car is almost eight years old, I would just check the oil every 500 miles and add oil as necessary to keep the level full. 

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Q. For purchasing  automobiles, much has changed since I first started researching 10 to 12 years ago. If I try Edmunds or Kelly Blue Book, I can’t  get results without disclosing contact information – which produces a flood of emails and/or calls from dealers. I have heard about Insurance Institute, but I don’t know how up-to-date or reliable they are. Any advice for this car shopper? 

A. First off, if you haven’t been car shopping in a dozen years, prepare for a little sticker shock. In addition to higher prices, the lack of inventory due to supply chain issues has added a premium to many popular vehicles. Regarding where to research, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS.org) and SaferCar.gov provide safety and crash data. You can also look at www.fueleconomy.gov to find out about miles per gallon and other environmental numbers. Yes, car buying sites will definitely be annoying, but you can learn plenty without divulging too much information. Sites like Truecar, which powers AAA car buying service, iseecars.com, and Cargurus have both car buying and editorial content that can help with your search. Also, AAA’s gas watchers guide will give you some repair cost history on used cars.  Then of course always feel free to reach out to me. [email protected] 

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Q. I’m looking for an economy car and found what seems like a good condition 2015 Ford Focus with relatively low miles. What do you think of these cars, and do you think I can get 10 more years out of it? 

A. The late-model Ford Focus transmissions have been extremely problematic. Ford has replaced clutches as well as reprogrammed the car’s computer system. This has been enough of a problem that there is at least one class-action lawsuit over the  issue. Although it is a decent enough car to drive, considering the Focus track record, I would keep looking. 

Q. This spring I replaced the tires on my 2018 Camaro with a set of high-performance Kumho tires. Before I replaced the tires, the car was averaging 24 miles per gallon. In the winter the mileage was four miles per gallon less, but I assumed that was from the heavier snow tires, winter gas, and more warm up time. So far this summer the car is averaging about 26-27 miles per gallon. Is it possible that a different tire can have such an impact on mileage?

A. I don’t often get questions about fuel economy going up. Tires can have an effect on overall fuel economy, but if the tires are the same size and design, the mileage should be about the same. Although the tires may be the same size designation, they could have a slightly different overall dimension. If the replacement tires are larger or smaller, it will affect the speedometer/odometer reading and change the miles-per-gallon calculation. As an example slightly larger tires will have a lower indicated speed than the stock tires and change the odometer reading. Using a GPS or smartphone app you can measure the vehicle speed more accurately than the speedometer. Having new tires with proper inflation and being a bit more careful how you drive may be the real reasons why your car’s fuel economy improved. 

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John Paul is AAA Northeast’s Car Doctor. He has over 40 years of experience in the automotive business and is an ASE-certified master technician. E-mail your car question to [email protected] Listen to the Car Doctor podcast at johnfpaul.podbean.com.

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