Cars

My SUV is losing motor oil in between changes

John Paul, AAA Northeast's Car Doctor, answers a question from a reader who noticed his SUV is losing oil in between oil changes.

AP Photo/David Zalubowski

Q. I have a 2014 Honda CR-V LX with 173,000 miles. I have always used full synthetic oil for the car and have it changed every 5,000 miles or so. For the last two changes I noticed it’s losing about a quart of oil between changes. I notice no leaking on the driveway. Is this normal? Should I be switching to a non-synthetic high-mileage oil? Should I do anything else? 

A. Burning a quart of oil every 2,500 miles is more than acceptable. You might want to consider a high-mileage synthetic oil that could help restore the valve seals and other gaskets that tend to dry out a bit with time. If this was my car, I would keep doing whatever you are doing. It sounds like you take great care of your vehicle.

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Q. In your column there was discussion of a 2009 Volkswagen CC Sport with a persistent check engine light. The owner said he was a senior facing an excessive repair bill in order to pass state inspection. In your reply, I was surprised you didn’t mention the Massachusetts Economic Hardship Failure Repair Extension program. It’s specifically designed for this situation, giving the car owner an extra year to get the repairs done. I used the program this year and can confirm that it works as advertised.

A. Thanks for the reminder. There are both hardship exemptions and waivers available under certain circumstances. These exemptions typically require the car to be evaluated by a state certified repair shop. This is the case in many states that have vehicle emissions inspection programs. Safety issues on the other hand need to be addressed immediately.

Q. How many miles do you recommend for a timing belt change on a 2002 Honda Accord?

A. Honda suggests replacing the timing belt at 105,000 miles. There is no time listed, but if this was my 20-year-old Honda and the timing belt was not replaced, I would replace it. The rubber timing belts dry out, crack, and can fail. If the belt fails, it can cause catastrophic engine damage.

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Q. My 2010 Mazda Miata is a manual shift vehicle. While I’m driving, my parking brake light periodically comes on even though the brake is disengaged. For a while I could move the parking brake handle and the light would go out. More recently that’s not working. Instead, the light goes on and off sporadically. I’m wondering if you’ve seen this problem before and if you have any sense for what the repair might be.

A. The red brake light will illuminate for two reasons: a brake fluid issue or the parking brake engaged. From your description it seems as if the parking brake warning switch is faulty. I would test both the parking brake switch but also the brake fluid level sensor. If it is the parking brake switch, it takes a little over 30 minutes to replace it and the cost of the part is under $20.

Q. My 2009 Honda Accord is stalling when starting. Is this a spark plug issue? What else should I check?

A. Spark plugs can cause stalling when first starting and that’s certainly worth looking into. I would also check and clean the engine throttle body. If the throttle body is dirty, it will cause stalling when first starting.

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Q. My 2014 BMW X5 with 95,000 miles keeps having trouble starting. The first time it happened, I couldn’t get it started and had to have it towed home. My mechanic checked it over three times already but can’t figure out how to fix the problem. Any ideas? 

A. There are dozens of technical service bulletins for this model. Everything from dead batteries to poor running and starting issues. The possibilities range from issues with the immobilizer key to electronics issues. Unfortunately, your mechanic needs to go through them and check to see what applies, based on what they can read on their scan tool. Unfortunately, there is no simple answer for this one.

Q. Is it worthwhile to reapply undercarriage protection? Some people advise doing it after five years, others say annually. What do you think? I never rustproofed a vehicle, but I really like my new Ford Maverick truck and want to keep it as long as possible.

A. I was never a big believer in undercoating until I learned about Waxoyl. Waxoyl is a single application product that I have seen applied on new vehicles, construction equipment, and high-end restorations. 

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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