Why Do Acura Engines Use an Excessive Amount of Oil?

Key Points

  • The V6 J37 engine consumes as much as 1 quart of oil for every 1,000 miles driven.
  • Acura previously defined that consumption as normal and blamed owners for poor driving and maintenance habits.
  • Without admitting fault, Acura settled a lawsuit in 2020 that extended the powertrain warranty and may provide reimbursement options for owners.
A gauge cluster with an orange wrench warning light labeled 'Service Due Now'
Posted on
Author
Scott McCracken
Tagged
#engine #tsb #lawsuit #settlement

Acura's J-Series V6 engines have a reputation for using more oil than advertised. The automaker defines "normal" consumption as 1 quart of oil for every 1,000 to 1,500 miles driven. That feels like a lot, which makes it even more surprising that some owners say they need to top off their oil in between changes or risk doing damage to their engine.

Consumption is a particular concern in the following vehicles with a J37 engine:

Acura's "shift the blame" strategy

The automaker has generally been quick to dismiss complaints about oil consumption as the result of poor maintenance and driving habits.

Dealerships will often tell owners that they should be checking their oil levels as often as they fill up their gas tanks. Now, truth be told we probably all could do a better job monitoring our oil levels – but at every fill up?

Series of TSBs highlight underlying issues

Things started to shift in April of 2018 when Acura released TSB #18-009 which is now superceded by TSB B19-006. The documents describe how carbon deposits can cause clogs that lead to consumption issues. If oil levels are lower than they should be and a clog develops, the engine can become significantly damaged.

The TSB applies to the 2010-2013 MDX, 2011-2012 RL, 2009-2014 TL, and 2010-2013 ZDX.

Acura starts recommending consumption tests

Service departments are now being advised to perform an oil consumption test if an owner complains, because low oil level mixed with a clog in the system can result in significant risk to the engine.

If the test shows excessive consumption, the engine needs to be disassembled so the cylinder heads, spark plugs, and valve seats can be visually inspected for damage. If damage exists, the corrective action is to replace the pistons, piston rings, and spark plugs.

Oil Consumption Lawsuit Reaches Settlement

In May 2020, Acura agreed to settle an oil consumption lawsuit for owners with J37 engines, covering the same vehicles listed in TSB #18-009.

The plaintiffs said the "maintenance minder" displays inaccurate information about the life of the engine oil and that Acura's recommendation to check the engine oil at each gas fill-up is "unconscionable."

Settlement details

Honda reluctantly agreed to settle to "avoid the time and expense of ongoing litigation" and says only a small number of customers have filed complaints.

What a rousing show of support for your customers.

Anyway, if your vehicle has an “excessive” oil consumption rate (according to the settlement that is 1 quart or more every 1,000 miles) and your vehicle is within the Powertrain Warranty Extension Period (8 year/125,000 miles, whichever occurs first), you will be provided an oil consumption warranty repair.

What the settlement will cover

  1. Out-of-pocket expenses incurred before the class-action notice date if the customer submits a valid claim with supporting documents.
  2. The cost of repairing any damaged pistons after the settlement agreement if the repair is done within the powertrain warranty or a "gap period" equal to six months from the effective date of the settlement.

What the settlement will not cover

  1. Replacement engines
  2. Out-of-pocket expenses without supporting documents

Extended powertrain warranty

The settlement also mentions that Honda will provide an updated powertrain warranty period once the settlement is official.

Quick Notes

  • Acura revised their initial oil consumption TSB to update some part numbers. The revised #TSB B18-009 was released on June 2nd, 2018.
  • There's a thread on Acurazine.com discussing Acura's (and service department's) response to oil consumption complaints. One of the most common themes is "you should be checking your oil more often."
  • Maybe this is the new normal, because similar consumption complaints have been made about Honda (no surprise there), Acura / VW, and Subaru.

Lawsuits Regarding This Problem

Lawsuits about this problem have already been filed in court. Many times these are class-action suits that look to cover a group of owners in a particular area. Click on the lawsuit for more information and to see if you're eligible to receive any potential settlements.

  • Settled

    Kojikian et al. v. American Honda Motor Co., Inc.

    Case Number
    BC606392
    Case Filed
    1. Settled

      An Acura oil consumption settlement has been reached after vehicle owners alleged some Acura models are equipped with defective 3.7-liter J37 engines.

    Class Vehicles
    • 2010-2013 MDX (J37)
    • 2011-2012 RL (J37)
    • 2009-2014 TL (J37)
    • 2010-2013 ZDX (J37)
    Location
    California

Generations Where This Problem Has Been Reported

This problem has popped up in the following Acura generations.

Most years within a generation share the same parts and manufacturing process. You can also expect them to share the same problems. So while it may not be a problem in every year yet, it's worth looking out for.

  1. 2nd Generation MDX

    Years
    2007–2013
    Reliability
    25th of 30
    PainRank
    5.18
    Complaints
    101
    Continue Front 3/4 view of a MDX
  2. 2nd Generation RL

    Years
    2005–2012
    Reliability
    7th of 30
    PainRank
    0.35
    Complaints
    12
    Continue Front 3/4 view of a RL
  3. 4th Generation TL

    Years
    2009–2014
    Reliability
    23rd of 30
    PainRank
    4.9
    Complaints
    68
    Continue Front 3/4 view of a TL
  4. 2nd Generation TSX

    Years
    2009–2014
    Reliability
    20th of 30
    PainRank
    3.94
    Complaints
    91
    Continue Front 3/4 view of a TSX

Further Reading

A timeline of stories related to this problem. We try to boil these stories down to the most important bits so you can quickly see where things stand. Interested in getting these stories in an email? Signup for free email alerts for your vehicle over at CarComplaints.com.

  1. Acura's parent company, Honda, has reluctantly agreed to settle an oil consumption lawsuit for vehicles with 3.7-liter J37 engines.

    I emphasize reluctant because the automaker says they're closing the book on this case to "avoid the time and expense of ongoing litigation" and says only a small number of customers have filed complaints.

    Despite that rousing show of support for its customers, the settlement will provide relief for out-of-pocket expenses related to consumption issues if the owner can show documentation like oil change receipts. Honda has also agreed to extend its powertrain warranty. CarComplaints.com has a great breakdown of the settlement details in further detail.

    keep reading

What Owners Say About This Problem

One day when I checked it with about 40% oil life remaining, the oil level on the dip stick barely registered. I topped it off, and just made a mental note to keep an eye on it. From that day forward, I was having to add oil every 2 - 3 weeks, just to keep it in the proper range. This was ridiculous in my opinion because the vehicle only had 30,XXX miles on it at the time, and the car was not hammered on every take-off.

I have a 2010 Acura TL and it consumes oil like a thirsty camel. In between oil changes, I'm constantly filling the oil back up with 2-3 quarts of oil. To add to the oil consumption issue, when I accelerate, my car makes a rattling noise. Took to dealership, got a valve adjustment, got the car back, same issue.

OK, Now What?

Maybe you've experienced this problem. Maybe you're concerned you will soon. Whatever the reason, here's a handful of things you can do to make sure it gets the attention it deserves.

  1. File Your Complaint

    CarComplaints.com is a free site dedicated to uncovering problem trends and informing owners about potential issues with their cars. Major class action law firms use this data when researching cases.

    Add a Complaint
  2. Notify CAS

    The Center for Auto Safety (CAS) is a pro-consumer organization that researches auto safety issues & often compels the US government to do the right thing through lobbying & lawsuits.

    Notify The CAS
  3. Report a Safety Concern

    The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) is the US agency with the authority to conduct vehicle defect investigations & force recalls. Their focus is on safety-related issues.

    Report to NHTSA