The GM 2.4L Ecotec engine is interesting in the fact that is a good engine with a bad reputation. Released in 2006 and discontinued in 2019, the 2.4L I4 Ecotec lived a relatively long life under the hood of some of GM’s best-selling models. With modern engine technology such as direct injection, variable valve timing, and FlexFuel compatibility, the GM 2.4L LEA showed immense promise out of the gate. Unfortunately, a few significant issues tarnished the reputation of the GM I4, one of those being excessive oil consumption.
2.4L Ecotec oil consumption is an issue for multiple reasons. Ultimately, if your engine is down a significant amount of oil, there isn’t enough to lubricate the engine properly. This can lead to timing chain problems, rough performance, and even complete engine seizure. Since there are so many problems associated with low oil level and excessive 2.4L Ecotec oil consumption, it is important to address the issue promptly and take the proper steps to minimize additional problems in the meantime.
In this guide, we’ll cover some of the most common symptoms, problems, and solutions to GM 2.4L Ecotec excessive oil consumption.
Check out our full 2.4L Ecotec Common Problem guides for more information.
2.4L Ecotec Applications and Affected Vehicles
Piston Ring Blowby Affected Models
- 2010-2017 Chevrolet Equinox
- 2011-2014 Chevy Orlando
- 2011 Chevy Captiva
- 2010-2011 GMC Terrain
- 2010-2011 Buick Lacrosse
- 2011 Buick Regal
PCV System Pressure Buildup Affected Models
- 2010-2016 Buick Lacrosse (including Hybrid/eAssist models)
- 2011-2017 Buick Regal
- 2012-2017 Buick Verano
- 2010-2015 Chevrolet Captiva
- 2010-2017 Chevrolet Equinox
- 2013-2014 Chevrolet Malibu
- 2010-2017 GMC Terrain
2.4L Ecotec Excessive Oil Consumption Symptoms
When it comes to engine issues caused by low oil, by the time the engine is displaying physical symptoms, damage has already likely occurred. There are some early indicators that your 2.4L Ecotec might be low on oil. For instance, a low oil pressure indication light will often illuminate immediately before you notice any performance dropoff. This light, which is present on most Chevy Malibu and GMC Terrain vehicles affected by excessive oil consumption, is generally caused by low oil levels. If this light does come on, stop your vehicle immediately and let the vehicle cool down before checking your oil.
It is important to note that GM 2.4L Ecotec oil-level sensors have been known to be unreliable and there are instances where a 2.4L Ecotec owner has received no advanced warning that their car was running dangerously low on oil. For that reason, it is extremely important to check your 2.4L Ecotec’s oil level frequently. Some suggest checking every 1,000 miles or every third refill at the gas station as a rough benchmark. Regardless, as low engine oil levels are the most common symptom of excessive oil consumption, it is vital to know how much oil is in your engine at all times.
Other than low engine oil, blue smoke from the tailpipe, low engine performance, fouled spark plugs, and poor acceleration are all signs that excessive oil blowby is occurring on your GM Ecotec I4. Rough performance is likely what you’ll notice first, which is an indication that your Ecotec is dangerously low on oil.
GM 2.4L Ecotec Excessive Oil Consumption Cause
Over the years, the exact causes of excessive 2.4L Ecotec oil consumption have been discovered. While a faulty piston ring design is to blame for a lot of the 2.4L LEA I4’s consumption problems, there are also some additional design issues that contribute as well. A couple of these issues can be pinned on the redesigned 2.4L Ecotec PCV system for 2010. In combination, the faulty Chevy 2.4L piston rings, PCV malfunctions, and cooling jet intensity compound to make oil consumption very prominent.
2.4L Ecotec Faulty Piston Rings
GM’s poor piston ring design on the 2.4L Ecotec is unquestionably the largest contributor to excessive oil consumption. Piston rings serve as one of the most critical components in preventing oil from leaking into the combustion chamber. The issue stems mainly from the fact that the 2.4L piston rings themselves are too thin.
Piston rings fit around the piston and slide against the cylinder wall. They serve to seal the combustion chamber and control the flow of oil around the piston. Piston rings also transfer heat from the piston to the cylinder wall and help to maintain proper engine compression. In the case of the 2.4L Ecotec, GM’s thin, low-tension, piston rings do not provide a good enough seal within the crankcase. As a result, oil is allowed to leak into the combustion chamber, burning off and creating carbon deposits inside the chamber, fouling the spark plugs, and creating excess smoke from the exhaust.
2.4L Ecotec Oil Cooling Jet Intensity
To further compound the issue with the piston rings, the 2.4L Ecotec is equipped with oil cooling jets to help lower internal temperatures. Oil cooling jets spray pressurized oil into the cylinders to keep the pistons cool. In theory, this is a good idea, as lower temperatures reduce friction and extend the life of the engine. However, the GM Ecotec’s oil jets add additional oil to the area where the piston rings already struggle to retain oil, causing even more issues. Since the oil from the jets comes out in a pressurized stream, they can cause even more piston ring damage. While the thought was certainly there, GM’s execution of cooling jets is more detrimental than beneficial.
Faulty 2.4L Ecotec Crankcase Ventilation System
While this problem would technically be classified as an oil leak issue rather than an oil consumption issue, it is still important to mention here, as it has affected numerous 2.4L Ecotec vehicles. An engine’s PCV system is crucial in preventing harmful vapors from building up in the engine by recycling them back into the combustion process. The PCV system uses a valve to draw air from the engine’s crankcase and into the intake manifold.
In addition, the PCV system also helps to maintain proper engine oil levels. It does this by reducing the pressure inside the engine, preventing oil leaks and consumption. However, 2.4L Ecotec I4 engines are known to develop PCV blockages from moisture, sludge buildup, and even ice. This can cause excess pressure to build up in the crankcase, eventually blowing out the rear main seal. This will allow oil to escape, eventually leading to extremely low engine oil. Outside of the class action lawsuit for faulty 2.4 Ecotec piston rings, 2.4L Ecotec PCV problems also have their own lawsuit.
Funny enough, the opposite issue has been known to occur on the 2.4 Ecotec. The PCV system can also extract more than just harmful gasses from the crankcase and strip oil off of the valvetrain, sending it through the intake and into the combustion chamber. This can lead to even more oil consumption. All-in-all, the GM Ecotec’s PCV system is less than perfect.
2.4L Ecotec Oil Consumption Fixes
Due to the fact that the 2.4L Ecotec oil consumption issue is caused by a problem with the piston rings, there isn’t an immediate or easy solution to the problem. The problem is easier to solve if the oil consumption issue is caused by a clogged PCV system. Unfortunately, if your GM 2.4L I4 has excessive oil blow-by from damage piston rings, the only solution is to replace them. This can be a timely and expensive job that can be straining on the wallet.
Even more unfortunate is GM’s lack of recognition or sympathy for the clear design flaw. Despite piston ring failure and massive oil consumption on thousands of vehicles, mainly the Chevy Malibu and GMC Terrain, GM has not issued any recalls or free repairs for affected vehicles. Some GM dealers would even refuse to over the issue under warranty. This has led to a large 2.4L Ecotec oil consumption lawsuit that continues to this day. If you have been affected by this issue, it is a good idea to get on board the class action lawsuit. GM was recently sued over a nearly identical issue with the Vortec 5300 V8 engine. The class members received a $102.6 million payout.
Cleaning 2.4L Ecotec PCV Breather Hole
If you discover that your 2.4L Ecotec’s oil consumption isn’t caused by worn piston rings, you’re in luck. While there are other reasons for the engine to be losing coolant, a clogged PCV breather hole is the next most common cause. Luckily, this one is relatively easy and inexpensive to solve. Ultimately, you’ll need to remove the 2.4L I4’s intake manifold which will give you access to the PCV breather orifice. This is generally where the PCV system gets clogged, causing issues down the line.
Cleaning out the 2.4L Ecotec PCV breather orifice is pretty straightforward. You’ll simply need a pick, flathead screwdriver, or similar utensil to scrape any debris out of the orifice. Once the hole is free of debris, you can use throttle body cleaner to spray it clean. Then wipe down the hole and intake manifold mating surface to ensure everything is free of debris. Dielectric grease can also be applied to the gaskets to increase their longevity.
If you are interested in cleaning your 2.4L Ecotec’s PCV breather yourself, check out this video that walks you through the entire process.
GM 2.4L Ecotec Oil Consumption Summary
While the GM 2.4L Ecotec LEA is a stout and solid engine overall, it has multiple Achilles heels. One of the biggest problems with the engine is its tendency to consume massive amounts of oil. The primary cause of 2.4L Ecotec oil consumption is failing piston rings. Since GM opted to use thin and flimsy piston rings, oil blowby is very common as they are known to wear and fail prematurely. This problem is exacerbated by the engine’s oil sprayer system, which can damage the rings further. The Ecotec is also known to have a PCV system that clogs easily, leading to more oil loss issues.
There aren’t many preemptive symptoms to warn you that the issue is occurring. While the 2.4L Ecotec has oil-level sensors, they are known to be unreliable. If engine symptoms begin to manifest, chances are that damage has already been done. That is why it is extremely critical to check your oil frequently and make sure that your oil level isn’t dangerously low.
Unfortunately, GM has been extremely unresponsive about the 2.4L Ecotec’s oil consumption issue. While it is a clear design fault, they haven’t directly addressed the issue or issued any support for affected vehicles. That has led to an ongoing class action lawsuit about the problem. If your vehicle has been affected by excessive oil consumption, you can join the class action lawsuit here.