New, Lighter Oil Mysteriously Vanishing in New Cars

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In the quest to achieve better fuel economy, many automakers are using lighter weight oil. However, is this oil mysteriously vanishing from new cars. Will we all have to go back to carrying extra oil all the time?

New Oil Weight Mysteriously Vanishes in New Cars

New 0 weight engine oil has been mysteriously vanishing in new cars. Is the oil to blame?

A report from Consumer Reports says that they are coming across an oil vanishing issue. Specifically, in the newer cars they are testing, the oil is simply vanishing. Many of these test cars are needing oil to be added on a consistent basis.

Consumer reports talk about one car specifically, a 2012 Porsche Panamera. Here is what they said.

Our latest car drinking oil is our $105,000 2012 Porsche Panamera, which is consuming a quart of 0W-40 motor oil about every 2,000 miles. With a 10,000 mile oil change interval, that’s five quarts of synthetic oil (at about $8 per) in between oil changes. Several of our drivers got caught out by low oil warning lights and went searching for this obscure lubricant at night while out on the town. And trust us, not every corner convenience store carries 0W-40-weight motor oil. When we talked to Porsche about this, they said this usage was within spec. But we think somebody who bought a $100,000 car probably expects better.

We agree. There is no reason for a consumer to be constantly on guard to add oil to a new $100k+ car. CR says that the Porsche is just one example. A 2008 Volkswagen EOS that was bought by a staffer used a quart of expensive OW-20 every 1,200 miles. Then, there is the case of Mercedes replacing an engine in 2006 due to “excessive consumption” of the new OW-40 oil.

The new, lighter weight oils promise to reduce friction and thus increase fuel economy. Yet, if you are replacing quarts of oil on a consistent basis – how is that saying you money?

Another issue CR says it these new oils aren’t always easy to find.

What do the engineers say?

Auto engineers have told me they see no correlation between today’s lightweight “0W-” motor oils, designed to reduce friction and save gas, and excessive oil consumption. But in our admittedly anecdotal experience, both the prevalence of such lightweight oils and the propensity of more engines to consume oil seem to be moving in tandem. And our test cars that have had this problem have all used such lightweight synthetic oils.

Well of course they would say that. They have to defend their products.

What have you heard? Is anybody experiencing these same problems?

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  1. LJC says:

    Nope, haven’t experienced it with my 2011 Tundra. I use Toyota’s Synthetic 0w20. I’ve added 1/2 quart over the past 7600 miles–will be changing the oil soon along with an analysis of it.

    The oil is thinner and thus seeping by the rings and being burnt. This strongly suggests that some internal engine parts have not changed in dimension, i.e. they’re the same size, with the use of thinner oil. I would think with thinner oil the tolerance for these parts could be tighter and thus not allow oil to seep by.

    I wonder how this will affect the emissions system, exhaust values, spark plugs, etc.?

    New meaning for oil burner!
    Hey, you got a two stroke in ya Porsche?
    Hey, do you know how to add oil to that Porsche of yours?

    • Tim Esterdahl says:


      LOL! Yeah, I wonder how many Porsche owners know where the dip stick is.


  2. Brian J says:

    Over the past 15 years I’ve had both Fords and Toyotas. I always use what the mfr recommends in the engine with OCI every 5-6000 miles. Never had any noticeable drop in oil level of any vehicle I have owned. I check the oil every 1000 miles or so just to be sure, but its never been an issue. Might explain why some cars have more soot on the tailpipe, though.

  3. ricqik says:

    My ’00 used to burn a qt every 5k during oil change in the first 8yrs. now it doesn’t or barely that i noticed.

  4. MPToy07 says:

    Not only are the companies using lighter weight oils to improve fuel economy, but they are also changing the design of engine components as well. Toyota’s 0w-20 Synthetic is recommended for most models 2010+, but if an older engine is run with it, premature engine wear can result, due to the piston rings scraping ALL the oil from the cylinder wall, and causing metal-on-metal contact. Therefore; newer models (Tundra included) are now using a lower tensile strength piston ring. This is great for fuel economy due to less resistance to movement, but not as good at sealing, especially under heavy load. One quart of oil every 1000 miles will have a hard time showing up on a spark plug check also. Toyota’s “normal specification” for oil consumption is 1 quart every 1200 miles, which could lead to disaster if any of their newer engines with a 10K mile oil change interval start having consumption issues. They’ve been lucky so far.

    As a side note, if these newer engines have their oil changed by the “die-hard 10w-30 guy” (there’s a LOT of them around yet), there is also potential for oil consumption, due to the low tensile strength piston rings not being strong enough to scrape enough oil out of the cylinders.

  5. mk says:

    agree with all postings and was going to comment like LJC did. I have heard of toyota corolla’s using oil when they went to ow vs. 5w oil so I just used 5w all the time no issues. I really don’t see the need nor benefits of 0w oil at all and think 5w is the way to go vs. 10+ years ago almost everything was 10w-30 oil use.

    I really can see this 0w cars using more oil but hopefully not like it was back when I had my first used car, a 1978 buick skylark 3.8L V6 back in the late 80’s at around 80K ran until 175K it burned about 1/2 qt. every 400-500 miles which at the time was about every 2 weeks driving for me. So, basically had to add a qt. every month. At that rate, I always wondered if I ever really needed to change the oil since fresh oil was being run thru the engine almost constantly but still changed the oil every 3-4K miles which was the norm back then every 3,000 miles. Sure went thru a lot of oil back then.

  6. Mickey says:

    Agree mk. I use 5w synthetics in both my 07 Tundra and 07 Prius. Being at 160,978 in Tundra and 130,001 miles in the Prius and neither uses/burns oil up. In fact tomorrow is oil change for Prius with a rotation of tires. We the people asked for these more efficient engines and our beloved govt responded in enforcing higher mpgs, so now we have to deal with the missing oil. Most of the oil lost will be when the engine stops and it leaks through. Also when you first start the engine isn’t warm and oil seepage happens. Especially if you run an engine hard right after starting. Toyota recommends not waiting just drive after starting.

  7. mk says:

    I use to do my own oil changes regular 5w-20 oil on my 2007 and 2010 tundra 5.7L V7 DC and don’t believe all the hype of increase mpg even if it is .3-.5 mpg better vs. using full synthetic oil. Now I have a 2012 tundra 5.7L V8 DC and since have the 2/25K maintenance package, I have been getting free full synthetic oil changes thru the dealer for now. I do not notice any increase in mpg, but do notice ONLY when colder outside below say 30 degrees in WI winters the engine starts better and not as rough idling at initial overnight cold startup when using synthetic 0w-20 which is what the dealers are putting in my tundra. So far, NO oil loss but I wouldn’t be surprised if by using 0w-20 vs. 5w-20 some oil is being lost, sure hope not since synthetic oil isn’t cheap.

  8. RIck says:

    My ’06 Trailblazer SS drank oil too. I was also told this was “within spec.” I had to add two quarts per 5k miles. There were lots of problems with that truck in what should have been a great experience. If I owned a $100k Porche that drank oil, they would be hearing from me!

  9. Thomas says:

    News flash; 0W oils aren’t “light weight oils” The article is about oil disappearing and the first example is a Porsche running 40 weight. 0W-20 in an EOS? Never heard of that; that is THE WRONG viscosity for an EOS.

    Oil thins out as it heats up; a 0W-40 is a 40 weight oil at full temp that is pumpable at low temperatures; it is THICKER at low temps, not thinner. the 0W is a totally different scale measuring cold pumpability.

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