We have two cars in our household, a 2008 Honda Accord, and a 2007 Toyota Camry, both purchased used. I typically drive the Camry, since it has more miles on it (158,000), and I tend to stick closer to home than my husband, who regularly travels for work. It’s also completely paid-off, while we still owe some money on the Accord.
About 18 months ago, the oil level warning light kept coming on when I was driving the Camry. I took it to the dealership, where we usually have it serviced, and after doing an oil consumption test, they determined that it’s burning oil. (For those lucky enough to be unfamiliar with an oil consumption test, here’s how it works: the mechanic fills the oil, and after the car has been driven 1,100 – 1,300 miles, he or she measures how much oil is left. If the level is down by a quart or more, the car has failed the test.) Our Camry easily failed this oil consumption test, and the dealership told us our options: get a new engine for a couple of thousand dollars, or keep topping off the oil level ourselves. We took it to an independent mechanic we’ve used in the past and really liked, and they confirmed the diagnose and the options. As you can probably guess, we decided to top off the oil ourselves. (Okay, my husband tops off the oil.)
We’d been doing this for a while, when a letter arrived from Toyota. I briefly scanned it, didn’t see anything noteworthy, and set it aside for my husband, who never noticed or read it. I forgot all about it, until I was checking the Camry in for it’s oil change at the dealership last month, and the service manager asked me if I’d received a letter from Toyota in the last couple of months. I sheepishly admitted that I had, but that I had no idea what it was about. He informed me that quite a few 2007-2011 Camrys had the same problem ours does, and that the letter had explained that Toyota will be rebuilding the engines of the impacted cars for free!! To qualify for the free work, the car has to first fail an oil consumption test. Since the oil level was topped off at that oil change, the test could begin right away.
My husband and I drove the car to 1,110 miles, and I brought it in for the results last Friday. As I dropped it off, the service manager and I chuckled about how I was there to fail, and I even asked him if anyone with this problem ever passed the oil consumption test. Well guess who did?!? Yep, my oil-burning, already-failed-an-oil-consumption-test Camry burned only half a quart of oil when it really counted! Toyota will pay for one more test, after six months or 5,000 miles.
The good news is that we’re no worse off than we were before the letter from Toyota arrived, but we were pretty excited about the prospect of a rebuilt engine, which would easily get the car past the 200,000-mile mark. I’m hopeful that it won’t let us down again, though!