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Subaru Maintenance: Check your Oil!

Subaru Service Seattle

Subaru Repair Seattle: Check Your Oil!

There is a video at the end of this post describing how to check your oil.

The average driver is keeping their car longer than they used too this is evident in the sales numbers from the automakers and by data compiled by AAA.

The troubling thing is that we as a society really don’t know how to own an older car, its not the same as “buy one every 5 years” As the car ages the maintenance aspects are increased just like you, when you age. Things like fluid levels of the engine & transmission can change in an older car with a leak or with consumption over a period of time there are no waring lights for this on most makes and models just like there isn’t an oil level light on your lawnmower, its up to you to check the oil level before you start it.

Full Service Vs Self Service.

Its difficult to pin point when it happened but not hard to understand why it happened, but somehow something as basic as periodically checking the oil level in your cars engine has become as foreign to the average driver as the rotary phone.

Its nothing new, that engines use oil to lubricate internal parts and this same oil must be changed periodically and more importantly checked according to the owners manual every time you refuel it. But who does that?

It used to be that you pulled up to the gas pump and an attendant pumped your gas, cleaned your windshield and checked your engines’ oil along with other fluids. The basic premise has not changed, checking your oil is still a very crucial part of vehicle ownership, it hasn’t changed, just the “market place” has. What I mean by this is that the American consumer does not want to pay a premium at the pump to reflect the wages of someone pumping your fuel and checking your oil. In some states such as Oregon there are still gas station attendants, some gas Stations still have “full service” with a higher price for the fuel, many stations had full and self service stations for years, but now most just have pay stations where you swipe a card, pump your fuel and leave.

But you need to check your oil, no one is doing it for you, how will you know if there is a problem if you don’t pop the hood and check your fluid levels, it is your responsibility, its not difficult or even all that time consuming but to many it just never happens, because its no longer ingrained into us that its important.

Its like flossing, we have been told its important, most Dentists do it but I know I do not as much as I should, and I have a few fillings but not flossing will never leave me stranded will never prevent me from getting to work or picking my kids up from soccer practice, you never truly realize just how important your car is until you are forced to go with out it for a while especially with no warning.

Don’t check your oil and sooner or later it will matter in a big unfortunate way.

The higher the mileage on your vehicle the more likely it is that the engine may start to consume some of the oil used in the lubrication process during the combustion cycle. As the internal parts of an engine wear the oil meant to lubricate can be burnt as part of the combustion process and exit out the tail pipe with the rest of the by products of combustion. The older the oil in the engine the more likely the flash temperature has been lowered due to dilution of fuel compounding the problem. Its really not that big of a deal if an engine starts using oil in between engines in fact many do but what is important is understanding that this can happen and if it does and you don’t stay up on your engines oil level bad things can and will happen, costing you thousands over a couple quarts of oil.

Once an engine component has been starved for lubrication and has failed there is no taking that back, its all over but the screaming and shouting.

On a Subaru there is NOT an oil level light only an oil pressure light or really it should be called a lack of oil pressure light. When the red oil light comes on it means there is no oil pressure. The problem is that you may have just enough pressure to satisfy the sending unit but in fact starve a rod bearing for oil. I am still amazed that so many think the oil light means its the waring that the oil level is low, it means there is no oil pressure and the damage has been done.

There is NO coolant level light only a temperature gauge, which if it reaches the red zone means its overheating and the damage has been done already typically the kiss of death for your Head Gaskets.

Checking the oil level and finding its low is an indication you have a problem, its like going to the doctor at the first sign of symptoms instead of waiting until your symptoms are so bad its to late to do anything about it. If you never check your oil how will you ever now you have an issue until the engine blows up, and this is the point that its to late to do anything about it.

I recently watched a quick sound bite on tv and read a couple of news articles about the “change your oil every 3,000 miles myth” All I could think about is that no one in the media, and no “expert” bothered to follow this up with “make sure you check your oil in between oil changes” The advice is very irresponsible when not explained properly.

I have been witness to so many vehicles cause so much financial devastation all because the oil was run low. Repairs that could have been avoided if the driver just took 60 seconds to check the oil level and add when needed.

You need to check your oil, your coolant level, your tire pressure as often as you can, you should also know how to add air to your tire, change a flat tire, and add oil to your car, but the importance of this has been lost and with it our basic understanding of our responsibilities as the operator of a vehicle.

If you dont know how to check your oil here is a video explaining how.

As always, thanks for reading!

Justin

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10 Responses

  1. Justin,
    Good video and comments about the importance of checking the oil. Just wanted to expand on that and say that it’s also important to make sure you check your oil on a flat, level surface (like at most gas pumps), AND to let the oil level stabilize after the engine has been running. One of my rules is to check it AFTER I’m done pumping my fuel. Even better? Check it at home before you start the car!
    John

  2. Hi Justin..
    I just purchased a “2000” Outback Wagon.. Super nice.. 77K miles.. I was told by the Seller with invoice confirmation, that the timing belt, serpentine belt, valve cover gaskets, head gaskets, thermostat, and water pump were replaced … I went to the shop where the work was done because I know them there.. They did work on my Forester 1999… and I trust the work..

    Here’s the question…
    I discovered in the first 100 miles that the “check engine” light went on.. took it to Autozone and put it on the computer.. they said.. Cat Converter..

    Then I noticed that on a 500 mile trip… I could not FIND oil on the stick when stopped for refueling.. Engine not running hot.. smooth as can be… I put in ½ a quart and then it read “full”.. this went on for 2 or 3 times.. going between fueling and adding more oil.. NO SYMPTOMS of burning oil, no odor, no smoke NADA… finally I just had the oil changed to make sure I had enough in the system..

    Suddenly.. the “check engine” light is now off..

    Am I really burning oil? Or is this normal for this engine? I thought that perhaps this car being so low mileage and yet so old, that maybe it sat a long time and seals have dried out… so I just added a little Marvel Mystery Oil to the fuel and oil..

    I’d appreciate your input on this if you have a few minutes..

    Thanks,

    John

    1. Hello John,

      So the catalyst code will come and go based on the parameters in which the ECM tests the system for proper function. The check engine light has nothing to do with your oil level, and you can read about this in your owners manual. The Check engine light is mostly about the emissions control systems and engine management systems aka spark, fuel, timing etc.

      As far as burning oil, that is sometimes an undesired after affect of a head gasket failure and subsequent repair you wont see it out of the tailpipe until it is much worse than 1 qt every 500 miles. The cause for this can be over heated oil control rings on the pistons, egg shaped cylinder walls, worn valve guides and or seals. there is no way diagnose or correct this without dissembling the engine and checking the components for wear, and to answer your question before yo ask it that is NOT part of a head gasket repair its gong much further.

      Hope that helps

      Justin

      1. Justin… thank you… Can you tell me what amount of oil consumption I should be experiencing in this 80K mile vehicle? Also, you said this “The cause for this can be over heated oil control rings on the pistons, egg shaped cylinder walls, worn valve guides and or seals. there is no way diagnose or correct this without dissembling the engine and checking the components for wear. What would cause a relatively “young” engine to have these type “wear” problems?

        Thanks,

        John

        1. Hello John,

          So even a young engine, if it belongs to a driver that changes the oil every 7k or uses cheap oil and filters, or if as a results of the head gasket failure the rings were compromised that can happen to a new engine just as easily as one with 200k.

          Anything that affects the combustion chamber temperature can damage the rings, valve stem seals and guides.

          I suspect the rings, based on the amount of oil.

          Justin

  3. Hi Justin, I have a 2001 Subaru Outback. 150k miles. When I make a left turn I hear a pop, pop, poppety, pop. Any thoughts? And also there is a high pitched rubbing sound coming from the front left wheel as well while driving. If you have time could you give me your best guesses? Thanks so much , Dawn Lexington Park, MD

    1. Hello Dawn,

      The popping noise is probably the Cv joint or a wheel bearing and or hub hat has to much movement. The screech is most likely related to the same hub situation or a front brake wear indicator that it making contact with a rotor telling you its time for brakes.

      Both are obviously guesses at this stage not seeing the car for my self but the most likely scenario.

      Hope that helps

      Justin

  4. Hi. I have a 2008 Impreza 2.5i. The oil cap states that 5w-30 oil be used. Is it harmful to use 5w-20? Our winters in Canada can be harsh. I was considering the change, but only if it was safe to do so.

    I use Mobil 1 synthetic.

    Thank you.

  5. Hello,

    I’ve got a 2008 outback 2.5I 5 speed manual that is starting to use about a quart of oil every 1000 miles or so. I just got the car about 4 months ago, and changed out the PCV valve thinking that was the problem. I can still see oil in the pcv valve tube when I pull it off, and was thinking of installing a air/oil separator with the drain line routed back to the oil pan. I’ve been running mobil-1 5w-30 in the car for the last 5000 miles, but was thinking of trying a 0w-40, or 5w-40. The original owner had been running Valvoline 5w-30 high mileage in it, but I can believe switching oil would cause it to use that much oil. The car has 160,000 on it right now, it doesn’t smoke, the engine has plenty of power, and make no noises at all. I’m thinking if the engine had been run low on oil I’d have some sort of valve train noise, or something. I bought the car from the original owner, and he had both head gaskets done about 30,000 miles ago. I read something about rings could have been damaged due to the head gaskets failing, but wouldn’t I see smoke out the exhaust? Any info, or suggestions would be much appreciated.

    Thank you for your time,
    Justin S.

    1. Hi Justin,

      So Im confused by this “I’ve been running mobil-1 5w-30 in the car for the last 5000 miles”

      How often are you changing the oil? Is the oil use every 1000 miles or does it start after 5000 miles for example?

      The 2008 Outback needs 5w30 and I suggest Castrol Synthetic Blend and performing oil changes every 3 months or 3000 miles.

      There is no modification to the crankcase breather system that is going to help oil use.

      As far as the piston rings, you have oil control rings and compression rings, if the oil control rings have been overheated and are allowing for the increased oil use, the oil is being burnt as part of the combustion process, if you are using synthetic oil and also allowing that oil to stay in the engine for to long further becoming diluted with gasoline and thus lowering it’s flash point that will only increase the oil use.

      I would suggest you dump the mobil one, switch to Castrol and see how that goes.

      -Justin

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