7 year old car "eating" far too much oil, been told likely a write-off. Help!

(33 Posts)
CrispyFB Tue 22-Sep-15 13:14:24

We have a Mazda 5 Sport with an 08 plate which we've owned for four years and has 60,000 on the clock, one previous owner to us. I've only driven 25K in that time and I'm not an aggressive driver by any means (especially not with four DC usually in with me!) It's sailed through every MOT since we had it and we've had the bare minimum of repairs really. We always take it to a Mazda garage and have it serviced every year and taken good care of it. It's been a great car.

So imagine our surprise when I was told yesterday by the garage that it was most likely going to be a write-off as it had burned through a litre of oil in a week. We'd taken it in to get the aircon fixed last week, they topped up the oil. I drove 250 miles since then, brought it back to have more investigations done and there was barely any oil left. This, apparently, is a Very Bad Thing and means the piston rings are probably failing. Which seemed to surprise them just as much as me as it's such a young car with a low mileage.

They checked all over for leaks but it's apparently dry as a bone which means it has to be the engine burning it. I've been given instructions to check the oil once a week and see if it is going down. They said there is no point fixing the aircon (£700) if it's probably going to be a write-off. Sigh.

I couldn't see particularly blue smoke coming out the exhaust when I started it but what do I know? I never look at the exhaust. And clearly it had enough oil from March (when it was serviced) until last week when they topped it up or the engine would have seized or at least the oil light would have come on, right?

We've just moved house and mortgaged to the hilt and are still paying off costs related to moving so this could not have come at a worse time.

Anyway, I'm a software engineer not a car engineer so this is all new to me. Any thoughts or advice to what to do at this point very welcome. Are there things I can ask the garage to do? I'd have hoped they would have suggested stuff if there was, but still.

JontyDoggle37 Tue 22-Sep-15 13:29:05

First, try ringing Mazda themselves. You might be able to speak to someone in technical who could give you some ideas. Second, go to another garage, and get a second opinion. And if it was fine before they touched it and now it's not, odds are they didn't put the sump plug back in properly when they changed the oil the week before, but aren't admitting it. I can guarantee that as yours is a 'write off' they will offer you a 'really good deal' on a new car....had this happen to me at a main dealers, I got the actual problem fixed elsewhere for £200, they told me it would cost £5k!!!

TiggeryBear Tue 22-Sep-15 13:41:11

Sounds to me like it's the head gasket, check the bottom of the oil filler cap, if it's got a white film on it, it's most likely the head gasket. But I'm not a mechanic, just had several cars (not just mine, family members too.) with similar symptoms. May be worth taking the car to an independent garage for a bit of advise / second opinion.

CrispyFB Tue 22-Sep-15 13:49:22

Thanks, both of you!

Definitely going to get a second opinion before making any big decisions, that's for sure! It does seem very odd to me that there wasn't a problem with the oil until we brought it in the previous week.. a bit too coincidental for my liking especially when it's apparently very rare in a car of this mileage. If it was in good working order we could still sell it for £4-5K so that is a huge amount of money to lose just like that on sheer bad luck.

I'll take a look at the oil filler cap shortly and see if there is anything.

I didn't know you could ring Mazda direct either - definitely worth a try!

PotOfYoghurt Tue 22-Sep-15 13:58:49

Good lord, my brain missed out the word 'car' and replaced it with child.

I was ever so alarmed.

CrispyFB Tue 22-Sep-15 14:04:46

You say that, but two of the DC don't ever seem to stop eating so nothing would surprise me any more..

NicoleWatterson Tue 22-Sep-15 14:20:14

Is it the 2.2 Diesel engine?

CrispyFB Tue 22-Sep-15 14:30:45

It's the petrol 1.8, which apparently (according to the garage) makes it even more unusual as it's normally the diesels that go.

NicoleWatterson Tue 22-Sep-15 14:36:48

That wasn't the answer I was expecting! its normally the diesels!

Try Mazda customer care. At only 60k there's some serious good will owed.

The other options are eBay it as it is (with fault listed) you'll probably get &750-£1100. This one you obviously need to replace your car.

Buy a rebuilt engine - you know the car, if your happy with it other than that you'd be silly to buy another car which could need a new clutch, new gearbox etc as you don't know how it's been looked after.
The way I look at it what would you get for £1200? Not a seven year old car with all the gadgets and gizmos that you know has been looked after.
You could risk a second hand one off eBay, but it's a risk.

chootalkinboutWillis Tue 22-Sep-15 14:40:37

I know it's a total stereotype, but I don't trust garages. They will tell you it's a write off, and generously offer to take it off your hands for a bit more than it would cost to scrap it. They will then fix it and sell it on for a big profit.

Get a second opinion.

NicoleWatterson Tue 22-Sep-15 14:52:06

of course with any industry there are people that can rip you off. But do remember they can do that as the labour cost is their own so quite often it doesn't mean the garage is ripping you off, they can just lose the labour cost you would have had to pay fixing it. So instead of costing £1200 it costs them £750 in parts and sundries.
Your garage sound trust worthy as they haven't got you to pay to have the air con fixed first before telling you it's terminal.

chootalkinboutWillis Tue 22-Sep-15 14:55:53

Your garage sound trust worthy as they haven't got you to pay to have the air con fixed first before telling you it's terminal. Yeah but they could've been fixing the aircon for their own benefit, knowing that they will need to do that anyway if they want to sell the car on... I know I sound like a complete cynic but the very thing happened to my brother - someone ran into his car, the garage told him it was a write off and was about to sell it to the garage for scrap when (on my very cynical dad's advice) he decided to get a second opinion. Car was fixed in no time.

Getting a second opinion never hurts.

CrispyFB Tue 22-Sep-15 15:01:44

Thank you! Yes, the garage people - who seem trustworthy enough given we've not had much done in the three years we've used them - seemed genuinely surprised as well. That's not to say they haven't screwed up with something, but I've no reason not to trust them. They said they could probably put me in touch with somebody to buy it for parts for around £1000-£1500 so that ties in with what you said. They also don't treat me like I'm stupid because I'm female unlike most other garages I've been to so they get points for that as well smile

The only other issue with it (aside from the sodding aircon!) is the starter motor is on the way out, so that's probably £1K of work right there. If it is the engine then it probably is going to be a write-off even if we managed to source another engine (and pay for it to be fitted)

It's so frustrating. I'm a safe (and lucky!) driver, no claims in twenty years, yet we can lose all this money on something that isn't our fault and is ultimately uninsurable against. Our previous cars were much much older and we never got them serviced - this was our first newish car and we did all the right things and then get this!!

I'll see what the oil looks like in a week, ring Mazda if it looks bad, and get a second opinion from another garage as well. If it really is doomed we have been thinking of upgrading to a bigger vehicle anyway (van or 4x4) but we hadn't planned it for a few years yet due to finances as we'd rather buy outright. It might be time to see if the bank still likes us hmm

CrispyFB Tue 22-Sep-15 15:03:05

I mean to say £1K of work including the aircon and starter motor, not just the starter motor! That would be a rip off!

WMittens Tue 22-Sep-15 18:59:00

... and there was barely any oil left. This, apparently, is a Very Bad Thing ...

I'm surprised this isn't common knowledge.

... or at least the oil light would have come on, right?

The oil level will often be well below the 'minimum' mark on the dipstick before the oil pressure light comes on - it's not a reliable monitor of oil level.

One of my cars uses about a litre of oil every 6-700 miles, it's just one of those things. It doesn't smoke very much at all either (not visibly to me). I just check every few hundred miles, or before long journeys.

If it is the engine then it probably is going to be a write-off even if we managed to source another engine (and pay for it to be fitted)

Why would it be a write off if you've got a reconditioned engine fitted? It would be fixed.

imjustahead Tue 22-Sep-15 19:12:09

find a good mobile mechanic op, can come to you, can diagnose. Charge less in labour.

There are some out there and i Have saved a fortune on garage costs.

CrispyFB Tue 22-Sep-15 20:14:24

Thanks both!

I knew having no oil would be bad (obviously!) but I didn't know that burning through high levels of oil meant that the engine was terminal. I don't think that's particularly common knowledge as everyone I've spoken to about it besides the garage is as surprised as me.

It's reassuring that the oil light doesn't come on until it's below the minimum mark. Interesting that one of your cars uses so much but is otherwise okay! Can you reassure me that if it was, say, the piston rings, that it wouldn't just suddenly "go" with no warning? That's the thing that bothers me. I had a cambelt go on a car many years ago and it just stopped and I was very lucky there was a layby to pull into right there. Interestingly I did get that engine rebuilt because the cost was the same as the car and I trusted the car. We had many more years out of it afterwards. I also learned a valuable lesson about cambelts grin

It would be fixed if there was a new engine, but it depends on the cost of a reconditioned engine and fitting. I have no idea how much that would be but the garage basically suggested it wouldn't be worthwhile especially with the air con and starter motor costs too.

I might ask around locally for a mobile mechanic recommendation - that sounds good, thank you!

CaptainCarsnip Tue 22-Sep-15 22:35:47

Ask for a compression test at the garage. This will tell you if the piston rings or valve seats are done for.

They can also put a borescope down the spark plug holes and check the cylinder walls.

As long as you keep an eye on the oil level I wouldn't expect the car to suddenly seize on you without some warning.

I've driven worn engines that use oil for many thousand miles because a litre of oil every 1000 miles is more economical than a rebuild.

All this said, the filter in a typical car contains a litre.

It's not unheard of for new mechanics to top the car up, check the level and not check it again after the cars been run.

When the car is started, the filter fills up and the level drops off the stick.

CrispyFB Wed 23-Sep-15 16:42:38

Thank you, that's very helpful. I'm surprised they didn't test for it when it was in, but they could well have been out of time as presumably the oil check was something they did after they'd finished everything else.

Good to know we won't have a disaster at 70mph at least!

If it is a case of topping it up frequently we can live with that for a while at least - I guess it depends how bad it is, or, if the garage have made a mistake (which we are clinging onto right now!) That said, the mechanic in question was apparently one of their more experienced ones which doesn't bode well.

I guess we will see! Time will tell..

WMittens Wed 23-Sep-15 19:48:01

It's reassuring that the oil light doesn't come on until it's below the minimum mark.

It isn't! Quite the opposite! It means the engine is running dangerously low on oil well before the driver gets a visual warning that there's a problem - possibly after damage has been caused. The best prevention is checking the level using the dipstick every couple of weeks and topping up as necessary.

bimandbam Wed 23-Sep-15 19:57:56

I just knew it would be a Mazda.

I had one a couple of years ago on a 2005 plate I think. Same thing happened. Some cocky young mechanic my brother recommend could mend it apparently. After 6 weeks he sent it back. He had replaced the pistons, the head gasket and something else that I can't remember. It cost us nearly £1000 and the car was still knackered when it came back.

Took it to my regular garage and he told me it was leaking like a sieve from every seal. I am not a mechanic so he explained to me that when the pistons blew which is a common fault with them it caused a back up of pressure throughout the engine and blew every seal and every weak spot in the engine. To repair it would have been a reconditioned engine and there would have been no guarantee that it wouldn't happen again.

Sell it for what you can get if mazda won't help. Do some research first ans maybe get your mechanic to call if you will get flustered.

CrispyFB Wed 23-Sep-15 21:21:59

Thanks both!

VMittens - Hmm, wish they'd set the oil light minimum a little higher then! I'm going to check it weekly anyway, if not more so if I'm doing/just done a long journey.

bimandbam - Was yours a petrol as well? When you say every seal, do you mean internal to the engine? I was told there was no sign of any leaks external to the engine at least. I'm just hoping a mistake has been made somewhere but until I've driven another few hundred miles, I won't be able to tell.

bimandbam Thu 24-Sep-15 07:11:51

Mine was a diesel. I am not sure if it was in the engine or everywhere to be honest. My mechanic is an older bloke and does tend to patronise me a little plus I was so furious that we had spent all the money and it was still knackered I didn't ask.

If your seals are ok then that's one thing. Mine actually went bang on the motorway when it blew but prior to that had been using a lot of oil. Dp had borrowed it for work and I was 8 and a half months pg 3 weeks before Christmas and with 2 weeks to my c section date. I was not amused.

CrispyFB Thu 24-Sep-15 08:15:05

How incredibly frustrating for you (to put it mildly!) These things always seem to happen at the worst time, but I guess realistically there's probably rarely a good time!

I think that's what I'm most afraid of - throwing money at the problem (assuming there is one) only to not have it fixed after all that.

I was beginning to think it was too good to be true we've had such minimal maintenance costs on the car over the last four years - it was all saving up for this. Unfair!

bimandbam Thu 24-Sep-15 13:14:46

Just proceed with caution would be my advice. According to dr google it is a common problem and not one with an easy mend. Given the other issues you have mentioned I would consider selling it and getting back what you can and putting the £1000 it will cost in repairs towards something else. I like a good ford focus personally. Or an astra. Have had a few over the years and always done well for us. Dp travels a lot for work as he is a builder so is hard on cars. Neither the astra he had or a focus ever let him down. And he put 100,000 miles on the older (think is was a 51 plate) astra which had 120k on it when he got it! And then sold it for £500!

And bought that bastard mazda. Fool!

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