Why Do Acura Engines Use an Excessive Amount of Oil?

TL;DR

Changed your oil recently? I'm guessing you think you’re good to go for another 3,000 to 5,000 miles depending on the oil you’re using. Acura owners with V6 J-Series engines better think again.

A gauge cluster with an orange wrench warning light labeled 'Service Due Now'
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#engine #tsb

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Things started to shift in April of 2018 when Acura released TSB #18-009 which is now superceded by TSB B19-006.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.

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."

The suit covered the same vehicles listed in TSB #18-009.

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.

Affected Models

Acura MDX

PainRank
7.37
Complaints
314
Reliability
15th out of 17

Acura RL

PainRank
0.83
Complaints
28
Reliability
7th out of 17

Acura TL

PainRank
10.01
Complaints
354
Reliability
16th out of 17

Acura TSX

PainRank
5.5
Complaints
148
Reliability
14th out of 17

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