Oil Guzzler - What Do You Reckon? 435

By: Glenn Torrens

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oil check oil check

Keeping an eye on your oil level makes sense

Recently I found a Facebook page about a ‘lemon’ vehicle that reveals the ‘journey’ of its owner ‘battling’ a car dealer about the ‘ordeal’ with his ‘nightmare’ vehicle that was ‘guzzling’ oil.

Shock! Horror! Quick! Help! Someone must do something!

The owner’s claim for oil use was: "in the first 10 or 15,000 kays it used three litres of oil," which is a set of numbers that would have a school kid fail maths. And reading a little further, it seems to me the situation is a plain case of struth over truth and we can look to our classic car hobby for the reasons why.

Fifty years ago, the HK Holden owner manual advised the oil filter to be changed every six months and the oil every 60 days or 6000 miles (10,000km). If you were to drive these mighty first Monaros and Kingswoods in conditions such as cold weather, on dusty roads, or as a taxi, the oil was to be changed at 2000 miles (3200km) or 30 days.

Yes… once a month!

Holden’s advice for its also red-motored VB Commodore owners a decade later was similar. I don’t own a 1980s VL Commodore so don’t have a book, but I recall the Nissan-built, EFI 3.0-litre OHC six’s service interval was also 10,000km – and half that for the optional Turbo engine.

The VN Commodore’s intervals are also 10,000km with mention of "weekly checks" of the oil and that customers should expect stop-start driving, towing (which apparently this ‘lemon’ vehicle was used for) and high speeds to result in higher oil consumption.

My 2002 VX2 Berlina LS1 V8 wagon… Guess what?! "Weekly Checks: The engine oil is to be checked…" and "Oil change interval maximum is 10,000km or six months." And, again, a mention of the possibility of oil consumption.

Sorry for the Holden focus… it’s what I have the books for. I’m sure Ford and other brands would advise similarly. My mate Tony has a turbo Porsche daily-driver and this respected German manufacturer instructs its owners to "check the oil level regularly and, if required, top-up engine oil immediately." Porsche also mentions engine oil consumption: "…up to 0.8L per 1000km". Yes, a Porsche might use a couple of beer’s worth of oil between Sydney and Melbourne.

That’s five decades of owner books that tell us to check and top-up the oil regularly; each week or when a car is juiced. Every book I’ve ever read includes these types of instructions and just as importantly, no book I’ve ever read claims or implies that a car will travel between services without inspection or topping-up.

So, I really struggle to understand how a 60-something bloke got the idea that his new turbo-charged off-road rig could travel 15,000km (apparently towing a caravan!) without him lifting the bonnet to check the oil, or without it burning several litres of oil.

Surely he must’ve owned or driven other cars and been at least vaguely aware of servicing, under some circumstances, as often as a full moon? Maybe he’d driven company cars all his life where the servicing and maintenance was someone else’s job. But surely, he would have learned from a chat in a pub or somewhere that engines burn a quantity of oil?

I feel sorry for him. It seems a lack knowledge and unrealistic expectations make this bloke a puppet for someone else who is using him to whip-up some controversy on a FB page.

But if engines didn’t burn oil, need regular checking, topping-up (and extra servicing under severe conditions) why is it mentioned in every owner’s manual, ever?

And why does an engine have a dipstick? 

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