An increasing number of Toyotas are experiencing excessive oil consumption which may be the result of defective piston rings. Toyota, in all their 'deny-til-we-die' splendor, is reportedly denying warranty coverage on many oil consumption related problems and telling owners that burning through oil is normal. Burning the midnight oil in college? That's normal. Burning through a quart of oil in 1,200 miles? Not so much, at least in our book.
On August 11, 2011, Toyota issued a technical service bulletin (TSB) to dealerships which says:
"Some 2006 – 2011 model year vehicles equipped with the 2AZ-FE engine may exhibit engine oil consumption. The piston assembly has been changed to minimize oil consumption." And that "P030# (cylinder # misfire detected) DTC may also be set as a result of oil consumption."
Unlike a recall, a TSB is basically a set of instructions given to dealership mechanics on repair procedures and warranty information. In this case Toyota says repairs should be covered under the standard Toyota Powertrain Warranty (60 months / 60k miles), but only after a test. The dealer is told to confirm the engine's oil level, mark the dipstick and then advise the customer to drive for 1,200 miles before returning for an inspection. At that time, only engines that are more than 1 quart low will have their warranties honored.
So what about those that are outside the standard powertrain warranty or fail the test? They're left to pickup the bill which can be thousands of dollars. Take it from these folks on CarComplaints.com:
"So after loving my Toyota for many happy years imagine my heartache when it began using oil to the tune of visible loss on dipstick at <100 miles. Having always prided myself on taking car maintenance very seriously and never owning a vehicle less than a decade this one is a total disappointment" -scaredgrammy in Dry Ridge, KY
"At some point around 100,000 miles I was shocked to find little or no oil on the dip stick so I started watching it closely. The car no has 149,000 miles on it and burns a bit more then 1 quart every 1200 miles. This just happens to be the amount that Toyota calls a problem and excessive, BUT our car is out of warranty. Amazing two weeks ago I ask the Toyota service manager about it and he said he never has heard of this ... That is a totally false statement since there is a TS bulletin about this problem! Toyota's engineers made an error with the design of the pistons." -pstef in Newton Falls, OH
Take a moment to browse through the Toyota section of CarComplaints.com and you'll see just how many people have reported problems with the oil consumption in their engines, including Camry, Corolla, Matrix, RAV4 and Solara owners. This problem also extends to some Scion vehicles, which is one of Toyota's brands.
This problem has popped up in the following Toyota 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.