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Vital Stats: 2011 Forester 2.5X, FB25, Not PZEV, 5-spd Manual, 64k miles.

Lately I've been getting pretty terrible fuel economy. I'm not sure if its just due to the extreme cold and "winter blend" fuel (For Chicago anyway, -10F to 10F or so) but I've been getting maybe only 23-24mpg highway. In the summer I usually go 28-30mpg under the same driving conditions).

Also at low speed/RPM for the past several months I've noticed an odd clicking noise. Cruising along at 20-30mph in 2-3 gear (RPMs around 2000-2500) after a short delay I start to hear a noticeable clicking noise. Almost like a "woodpecker" in the engine. I think the oil might be getting low...but I'm having trouble reading the stick, it looks like there is oil all up along one side but its not totally covered anywhere. Pic attached for reference. Measurement taken with engine hot but shut off, level ground, etc. Is there enough oil in it?

Typically for the past few oil changes when it got about 4k-5k since the last change it would start making this ticking noise. I'd dump another quart or two in and the ticking would go away. I mention this to the dealer at each oil change and they claim to look into it, but say everything appears in good shape and the oil consumption isn't enough to be indicative serious problem. This has been happening for about the past 15k miles or so, but now I've taken a pretty serious fuel economy hit that I hadn't seen in previous winters (Although previous winters have been 20F warmer on average...so it might just be the unusual cold).

Any ideas what (if anything) might be wrong here?
 

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