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I purchased a new Chevrolet Silverado in 2017. After five years and 101,000 kilometres, I’m being told that I need an engine replacement. When I spoke with the service department, they said they have had a few people with the same model and year needing a new engine. The cause of the mechanical defect is usually from poor maintenance, which is not the case as I have been religious about scheduled maintenance. The service department also stated that they didn’t believe my mechanical failure was caused by poor maintenance. I spoke with someone from General Motors Canada by e-mail and was informed that the cost would have to be covered by me. Anywhere you look and inquire you will not find a truck needing an engine replacement at just 101k.

Regards – Sid W.

A friend called a while back saying his leased 2019 Kia Telluride just experienced an engine failure at 40,000 kilometres and he was being presented with a $16,000 repair estimate. He was asking if I could find him a used engine. Needing to know more, I immediately went on the offensive. How could Kia be saddling him with a repair bill of such magnitude when this should be a warranty repair? He sheepishly side stepped my questioning but when I pressed, he admitted he and his wife thought the other had taken the vehicle in for service when in fact, neither had. They just learned an engine can’t go 40,000 kilometres on the factory oil. They were in for an expensive lesson on maintenance and while this is an opposite end of the normal spectrum story, I do feel for your ugly situation which is far more common.

I also wrote a piece last year on how often I change the oil and filter on my own personal Volkswagen. I was criticized for stating that I service earlier than required by the maintenance guidelines. In addition to hearing my customers horror stories like the one above, I also have dozens of examples here from Globe and Mail readers like you to refer to. And I continually hear about engine failure of well-maintained vehicles, owing to supposed unknown reasons. More often than not, they say dealer service staff suggest the issue is connected to lack of proper vehicle maintenance. Being told that it’s their own fault because they didn’t service properly personally stings, especially when they have all the supporting invoices showing they followed their maintenance guidelines exactly.

While I generally believe both engine oil and filter products are far better than they were even a decade ago, I question intervals when considering the relationship to engine oil consumption, also referred to as oil burning, oil burner or using oil.

A quick internet search shows many fellow Silverado owners complaining about their engines with disappearing oil. This is not necessarily an issue exclusive to GM as almost every manufacturer is dealing with engines that require continual top up in between oil changes. So, while your oil and filter itself may be capable of going the distance, these high-quality products are diminished when the engine is being operated on less-than-optimal oil quantity. I’m not sure which model Silverado you have Sid, but your engine oil capacity is likely eight litres, and if it is similar to so many other engines, it was also probably consuming oil. There is also speculation that GM engineers changed the oil capacity in 2014 onward trucks, increasing to an eight-litre sump capacity from six to combat oil consumption. With that in mind, I am confident that somewhere in your owner’s manual it states to check your engine oil at every fuel fill up. Checking one’s oil level seems to have been discarded to the-rarely-if-ever pile of tasks unless the low-oil light comes on.

The Oil Life Monitor system, which is a separate system from the low-oil system, determines oil change intervals based on engine revolutions per minute, loading, kilometres driven, engine heat and other factors. Drivers may assume that when they see a 70-per-cent oil life remaining sign on their dash that everything is fine. This is where things can go wrong. Just because your system is indicating that you have 70-per-cent oil life remaining does not mean that you are not low on oil. The low oil light only comes on when the system is alarmingly low. This means that an engine that is designed to operate on eight litres is almost always being operated with insufficient oil. Not a big deal when the engine is only down half of a litre, but this becomes a bigger deal when the engine is lacking two or three litres of vital oil. The engine’s oil cooler system is not capable of transferring or removing heat sufficiently from the oil when the levels are this low. Oil temperatures rise and consequently longevity of the oil decreases as we all know heat breaks down engine oil at a greater rate. If a driver is operating their vehicle in a constant state of elevated oil temperature because of low oil, they should in the very least shorten the oil change interval. Most people don’t realize their vehicle is consuming oil when it’s new because like I said earlier, drivers rarely check oil levels unless warning lights come on.

Low compression engine piston rings, ultra-light engine components and thin weight oils are required to help manufactures meet fuel economy ratings. They are not going away and they have little forgiveness when even the slightest issue arises. Be for-warned, all contemporary engines have many weaker, lightweight components. When your oil is low and overheated these weak spots become an issue.

Unless drivers check and top up their oil at every fuel stop an unexplained engine failure may happen, even if it is maintained according to the manufacturer’s guidelines.

Lou Trottier is owner-operator of All About Imports in Mississauga. Have a question about maintenance and repair? E-mail, placing “Lou’s Garage” in the subject line.

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