Should Lars Take the Free Engine?

Dear Car Talk

Dear Car Talk | Sep 30, 2014

Dear Tom and Ray:

I am the owner of a 2012 Acura TL with the tech package (AWD, etc.). It has a six-speed manual transmission. It was purchased new in the spring of 2011. It is my fourth Acura ... all of the previous Acuras went well over 250,000 miles without any major repairs, and no engine repairs of any type. They were all very reliable. My newest Acura is a wonderful car -- handles great, rides beautifully, the most powerful one yet. However, it is using oil excessively. Specifically, it is using a little more than a quart every 1,000 miles, and this problem existed right from the start (warning lights went off at 3,500 miles ... "return to dealer"). Since then, the oil level has been monitored continuously, and I'm adding 2-3 quarts between oil changes (Acura is giving me the oil for free). They have looked into the engine with fiber-optic cameras, they have installed a mini-computer under my dash to monitor engine performance (and probably to check whether I was driving the car like a nut), and have found nothing.

We've tried using different-weight motor oil, we tried synthetic oil, all with no change. The car currently has 52,000 miles on it, and it is still running beautifully. Although no problem has been found with the engine, Acura is offering to replace the engine with a new one (not a factory-rebuilt one, either). They're not sure it will stop the oil-use problem, but it is the only option they feel they have left. The amount of oil use has increased only slightly: It started at about one quart every 1,000 miles, to now slightly over 1 quart. Also, the dealer had me bring the car in every 1,000 miles to check the dipstick (perhaps they thought I didn't know how to read a dipstick). So, that's the story. Now the question: Do I take Acura up on the offer to replace the engine with a new one (free -- it is under warranty)?

-- Lars

TOM: Duh! Are they open now?

RAY: Sure. You definitely should accept the offer. Then you'll have a brand-new engine in a car with 50,000 miles on it. So you'll get 300,000 out of this one.

TOM: And good for Acura for doing right by you and replacing your engine under warranty.

RAY: If you had a Volkswagen, for instance, and your engine burned a quart of every 1,000 miles, they'd tell you that's "acceptable oil loss" and tell you to get lost.

TOM: Acura is acknowledging that your engine must have been mis-manufactured somehow -- which happens, unfortunately -- and they're taking it upon themselves to make sure you get a car that works as it's supposed to.

RAY: We've noticed a fair number of engines these days will burn oil like that from the very beginning. We don't know why that happens. Most manufacturers, since they can't afford to keep giving away engines, tell customers that a certain amount of oil burning --a quart every 1,000 or even 500 miles -- is "normal," or "acceptable."

TOM: And while it probably won't hurt the engine to burn a small amount of oil over time, as long as you keep a close eye on it and never let the oil level get low, it really ticks you off, doesn't it? I mean, you spend a large chunk of a year's salary on a brand-new car, and it's an oil-burner right out of the showroom.

RAY: If you wanted an oil-burner, you could have bought one of my brother's cars for $400.

TOM: And it's likely that those oil-burning engines will only burn more oil as they get older. So I don't think a quart every 500 or 1,000 miles on a brand-new car should be acceptable.

RAY: I actually had a knock-down, drag-out with my local Volvo dealer about my wife's new car a few years back over this very issue.

strong>TOM: He eventually got his new engine, but I think every Volvo dealer in the region now has Not Wanted posters of his face near all the doors.

RAY: So some manufacturers will try to stonewall you, but good for you, Lars, for going through all the tests and being polite and persistent. And good for Acura for doing the right thing and giving you a properly functioning engine for you car. Drop us a note if you get to 300,000.

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