Chevy's 2.4L Ecotec Engine Uses an Excessive Amount of Oil

Key Points

  • Design defects in GM's 2.4L Ecotec engine allow excess oil to sneak into the combustion chamber.
  • The oil is burned off, meaning owners need to top off their oil between changes or risk permanent engine damage.
  • A special coverage adjustment has been offered for 2011-2012 Equinox owners.
An illustrated oil bottle pouring out a yellow-green oil.
Posted on
Author
Scott McCracken
Tagged
#engine #lawsuit

GM made updates to its 2.4L Ecotec engine for the 2010 model year[1] that opened multiple ways for oil to get sucked into the combustion chamber where it's burned into oblivion. As the crankcase's oil level drops owners experience bucking at low speeds, engine knocks and ticks, fouled-up spark plugs, and irreversible damage to critical components like the timing chain.

And it's all made worse by an oil level monitoring system that doesn't do a darn thing until it's too late.

There is good news, however, as multiple settlements have extended protections to certain owners. Let's take a look back at how we got here.

Design Changes Lead to Oil Leaks

GM switched to direct-injection for the 2.4L Ecotec engine in some 2010 models[1:1]. The new design relied heavily on low-tension oil control rings, spray jets, and a positive crankcase ventilation system to lower fricition, increase efficiency, and boost performance.

It didn't exactly go as planed.

Oil control rings that are too thin

Each piston has multiple control rings to maintain compression, transfer heat, and keep oil out of the combustion chamber. That last responsibility falls on the oil control ring which is found at the bottom of the control ring stack. As the piston moves up and down, the oil control ring scrapes oil off the cylinder walls and prevents it from exiting the crankcase.

GM opted to go with a thinner, low-tension oil ring for the 2.4L Ecotec engine.

But the oil control rings GM chose are way too thin and wear down quickly allowing gaps to form in the ring's coating. Those gaps allow oil to sneak past and burn up in the combustion chamber.

Spray jets overload the already weak rings

To make matters worse, the Ecotec engine uses oil cooling jets to reduce piston temperatures. Lower temeratures means less fricition. Less fricition means longer durability and increased performance.

A woman fails miserably at stopping a spray leak from a torn hose
Ecotec oil control rings when the jets start spraying

But the jets spray pressurized oil directly into the cylinders where frail oil rings are already struggling to keep oil in the crankcase. This allows even more oil than normal to sneak past and faulty or worn rings into the combustion chamber.

Faulty positive crankcase ventilation (PCV) system

And because that's not enough, it's widely believed that the Ecotec has a defect in its PCV system. PCV plays an important role in engine efficiency, as it draws gas out of the crankcase, sending it through the intake manifold and back into the combustion chamber where it can be used.

But the Ecotec's PCV may be vacuuming more than just gas vapors as it also allegedly pulls oil off the valve trains and into the intake systems where it gets burned off.

Service Bulletin #15285C

TSB 15285C was released in March of 2016 and offered a real breakthrough towards addressing this problem.

While previous bulletins only offered software updates to reduce the recommended oil change intervals, TSB 15285C acknowledged oil consumption as an issue for the 2.4L Ecotec LAF engine due to worn out piston rings.

"Some 2011 model year Chevrolet Equinox and GMC Terrain vehicles, equipped with a 2.4L engine, may exhibit excessive engine oil consumption (less than 2,000 miles per quart of engine oil), due to piston ring wear."

Special coverage adjustment increases protections for 2011-2012 Equinox owners

As complaints continued to pour in, GM offered a special coverage adjustment in May of 2016.

Originally for 2011 Equinox owners, the coverage eventually extended the warranty to 7.5 years / 120,000 miles for 2010-2012 owners. The coverage included any costs needed to replace the engine's 4 piston assemblues which is a time-consuming and expensive job.

A Series of Lawsuits

As you might imagine owners of all other model years with the same exact problem were less than thrilled.

In the 2018 calendar year, GM faced three class-action lawsuits that all essentially followed the same pattern.

Those suits were consolidated and settled in May of 2019. Although the settlement hit a snag before finally being approved by a judge in late 2019.

Learn more about the settlement details on CarComplaints.com.


  1. The LAF and LAE variants run from 2010 to 2017 and appear to have oil consumption problems. ↩︎ ↩︎

Lawsuits Regarding This Problem

Lawsuits about this problem have already been filed in court. Many times these are class-action suits that look to cover a group of owners in a particular area. Click on the lawsuit for more information and to see if you're eligible to receive any potential settlements.

Generations Where This Problem Has Been Reported

This problem has popped up in the following Chevrolet 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.

  1. 2nd Generation Equinox

    Years
    2010–2017
    Reliability
    78th of 80
    PainRank
    40.41
    Complaints
    1254
    Continue Front 3/4 view of a Equinox

Further Reading

A timeline of stories related to this problem. We try to boil these stories down to the most important bits so you can quickly see where things stand. Interested in getting these stories in an email? Signup for free email alerts for your vehicle over at CarComplaints.com.

  1. A lawsuit says the 2.4L Ecotec engine in the 2010-2017 Equinox burns too much oil, knocks incessantly, has defective spark plugs, and is pre-disposed to timing chain issues that can lead to complete engine failure

    . But wait, there’s more…

    All of these problems are allegedly masked by an inadequate warning system that gives owners a false sense of security as their engine rips itself apart from the inside.

    Should I go on?…

    keep reading
  2. It's no secret that the Equinox's 2.4-liter EcoTech engine has problems with excessive oil consumption.

    Now there's a lawsuit that wants Chevy to do something about it.

    In the end, the plaintiffs claim the EcoTec 2.4-liter piston rings can't maintain a sufficient seal within the crankcase. The engines also contribute to the oil consumption due to spray jets that spray oil onto the piston skirts and cylinder walls.

    keep reading
  3. Equinox owners, put down those quarts of oil. General Motors' Technical Service Bulletin (TSB 15285C) could be the answer you've been looking for regarding excessive oil consumption.

    Chevy and GMC dealers were told in previous technical service bulletins to install updated engine control module calibration and perform an oil consumption test. This time dealers are told to diagnose the problem and replace the pistons.

    GM says repairs will be made for free (based on warranty coverage) and that the warranty will be extended to 7.5 years or 120,000 miles, whichever comes first.

    keep reading

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