My new VW Beetle is "supposed" to burn a quart of oil every 1k miles. Does this seem excessive?

Dear Car Talk

Dear Car Talk | Jul 01, 2003

Dear Tom and Ray:

I have a '99 VW New Beetle that I've recently learned from Volkswagen is SUPPOSED to use a quart of oil every 1,000 miles. That seems excessive to me. I was never informed of this by the dealership -- until last month, when I reported it as a problem. My car has only 28,000 miles on it, has received all scheduled maintenance services and has never indicated a problem (via the warning lights). Now I have to check the oil every time I fill up, as VW has suggested. Does this amount of oil burning seem excessive to you? -- Cindie

TOM: To me, yes, it seems excessive. But not to VW of America.

RAY: If you said you had 78,000 miles on the car instead of 28,000, we'd say, "Well, a quart every 1,000 miles is not that big a deal for a car that age -- just keep an eye on it." But you don't expect this on a practically new car. And, like you, I would be bent if my new car did that.

TOM: My guess is that it's a manufacturing quality issue. Lots of Beetles and Jettas that we see in the shop burn oil like this. And we've gotten many letters from owners with the same complaint. It's just my opinion, but I suspect that VW is well aware of the problem but can't replace tens of thousands of engines without going bankrupt. So it tells owners: "It's normal. They're supposed to do that." I say, "Supposed to do that, my foot."

RAY: The good news is that this condition won't necessarily hurt your engine, as long as you DO check the oil regularly and don't let the oil level run low. And that's a pain in the butt.

TOM: But unfortunately, there's not much else you can do, Cindie. It doesn't really affect the safety or performance of the car, so as long as it passes its emissions tests, there are no federal regulations that prevent VW from declaring the situation "normal." It's just a real disappointment for people like you, who discover that their new car is burning oil -- just like the old heap they traded in!

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