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post #1 of 16 (permalink) Old 08-14-2015, 09:47 AM Thread Starter
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FB Series Engine, Oil Burning, Subaru, and You

Note: This was originally written to cover the Outback / Legacys with FB25 engines... However, it seems that you folks have been having an awesome time with oil consumption too, so I've posted this here as well. -GB



How to handle a Subaru FB Series Engine and Excessive Oil Consumption?

The first thing you should be aware of is that this is supposed to be only 2013-2014 Legacy and Outbacks (FB25), 2011-2014 Foresters (FB25), 2012-2013 Imprezas (FB20), and the 2013MY XV Crosstreks (FB20)

The TSB and Oil Test Procedure of interest are:

Service Bulletin (TSB) 02-1157-14R (Previously there was one TSB for each model)

FB Engine Oil Control Ring TSB Oil Consumption Test Procedure

Oil consumption and the FB25 Experience

If your Subaru with an FB20 / FB25 4-cylinder engine is burning oil, you need to know a few things before taking it to a dealer or calling Subaru of America.

Subaru claims that any of these conditions will / can cause the car to burn lots of oil:

Quote:

• When the incorrect oil viscosity is used (viscosity other than 0W-20 in the case of these specific vehicles)

• When engine braking is employed (use of the transmission’s gear ranges to decelerate while using the engine to apply resistance)

• When the engine is operated at high engine speeds (continually or under frequent, hard acceleration)

• When the engine is operated under heavy loads (frequent carrying of heavy cargo, passengers or trailer towing)

• When the engine idles for long periods of time (may be related to frequent use of a remote engine start system)

• When the vehicle is operated in stop and go and/or heavy traffic situations

• When the vehicle is used under severe temperature conditions (cold or hot)

• When the vehicle accelerates and decelerates frequently
So, I read the conditions above as “If you drive your car, you’ll have excessive oil consumption.” Look at the conditions: If you carry passengers you’ll have excessive oil consumption? My Outback is a family car…

Subaru goes on to say:

Quote:

Concerns related to a possible oil consumption condition are generally initiated when the customer believes the engine oil level on the dipstick has dropped since the last time it was checked or when the low oil lamp illuminates. These types of complaints by themselves do not directly indicate a concern with the vehicle exists.
Well, that’s not exactly accurate… if the oil light is coming on, then you probably have an issue, provided that the oil light is coming on before 3600 miles.

The burn rate is 1/3 of a QT of oil every 1200 miles which equals the car hitting the service limit, which requires repair (a new engine or engine block).

So, if your engine burns 2 quarts of oil in 7200 miles (for the 2013/2014 Outbacks), then you are burning enough oil to have your short block replaced. (Not to mention the fact that the oil light would probably come on two times, which may be why Subaru lowered the oil change interval on the 2014 to 6000 miles.)

Burning oil in the 4th Gen Outbacks / Legacys (2013s) with the FB25 engine is usually accompanied by several symptoms:

1) The low oil warning light will turn on, indicating you are typically a QT or so low (lower than 1 Liter). This will happen at least once during the Subaru prescribed oil change interval of 7500 miles (2013 models) or 6000 miles (2014 models);

2) When you check the oil, after having been previously noted the oil level was at the full mark on the dipstick, the oil level will be somewhere below the full line of the dipstick;

3a) In rare circumstances, you are burning so much oil that smoke is coming from your tail pipes, or your car fails emission inspection for your State;

3b) The check engine light turns on, indicating that your car is failing emissions or has an oxygen sensor issue.

In the last two cases you need to get the car to the dealer after going to a third part to pull the codes from your engine. DO NOT HAVE THEM CLEARED. This way, when you walk into the dealer, you can speak with authority. Also, have the third party write down a repair estimate that lists the codes. You want a paper trail.

Checking the Oil

Now, you're going to assume the checking the oil is as simple as pulling out the dipstick. That's PART of the process, but, unfortunately, the design of the FB25 engine doesn't make it that simple.

The best way to check the oil is to let the car sit on a flat level surface for at least 2 hours. Then, grab a white paper towel (maybe 4 sheets layered), and pull the dipstick out while holding it vertically. You want to check each side of the dipstick in a well-lit area! If you notice consumption, you'll want to take pictures with your phone, and the white towels help you not only keep the engine from having oil dripped on it, but gives you contrast. (If the oil isn't dirty, you need to turn the dipstick until the oil reflects light and the camera can see it well.)

I typically let the car sit overnight, so that all of the oil that is going to return to the crank case has done so. This gives you the most exact data, and it makes it MUCH easier to read the dipstick; the oil that has bubbled up into the dipstick tube during the operation of the engine will have all returned to the bottom of the dipstick tube.

Documenting the Issue

We'll get to the dealer aspect of things later, what you want to do is start by documenting your issues.

You always want to know when the last time you changed the oil in the car was, what the level the oil was at that time (with picture of the dipstick after sitting on a level surface overnight), and a picture of the odometer with the current mileage. Send the pictures to yourself in email to establish the date and time for the record.

1) If the low oil warning light turns on, take pictures of warning light / symbol WITH THE CURRENT MILEAGE shown on the odometer

2) If you get a warning light, make sure you pull the car off to a flat level surface, and get a picture of the dipstick / oil level as best as you can. (It will be very hard to read, but take pictures of both sides.). SEND THE PICTURES TO YOURSELF IN EMAIL TO ESTABLISH AN EXACT (LEGAL) TIMESTAMP FOR THE EVENT. It would be best if you can let the car sit for 15-30 minutes so that most of the oil returns to the crank case, but that's not always possible on the side of the road. It would also be useful of your camera to be enabled for metadata tagging (GPS coordinates, data/time stamps, etc. within the pictures); though in most cases you’ll want to turn those features off for your own privacy. If you are on a highway, please be careful and safe, while it’s good to get the pictures, your safety is more important.

3) If you need to add oil to the engine, try to find either 0w20 or 5w20, otherwise you'll need to use 5w30. It has to be synthetic unless you are absolutely unable to find it. You can use 5w30 in a bind, or 5w40 (and one would assume 0w30/0w40 should be fine as well, but the manual only lists 5w30/40 when 0W20 is not available). The oil has to be SM or SN "energy conserving" labeled as well. If you use anything heavier than 0w20, you should consider having the oil changed as soon as convenient. (We're attempting to establish the rate of consumption while documenting the issue, and oils with a higher viscosity index will not burn at the same rate; most 5w20 oils do not have as high viscosity indexes at 100C as their 0w20 counter parts! [I pulled all of the data sheets.] Obviously, keep any receipts if this happened unexpectedly and you need to purchase oil to top off with, otherwise keep 2 QTs of 0w20 API SM/SN oil in your trunk if you are having a problem.

4) If you are checking the oil level regularly, and notice the level going down, keep taking pictures and sending them to yourself in email. Do not top the oil off; drive the unit until at least 6000 miles. Take a picture of the oil level before the change. All of the excessive oil burners I've been alerted to will eventually have the low oil warning turn on within 6000 miles.

When you get a low level warning light, it's time to take the car to the dealer, so long as it's under 7500 (2013) or 6000 (2014) miles on that oil change.

Subaru of America vs their Franchise Holders (aka Subaru Dealerships)

The first thing you want to know is the SOA is empowered to pretty much do anything, including replacing the car.

However, they rely exclusively on the dealer and what the dealer tells them. Neither organization is inclined to do anything above and beyond the call of duty unless you are really on top of your game, AND have the moral / legal / ethical high ground with lots of documentation.

Of course, the dealer will perform something called an Oil Consumption Test.

The primary issue that is being seen is that SOA has a very specific Technical Service Bulletin that tells the dealers to fill the oil to the full mark on the dipstick.

However, as you can probably tell from what I posted about it previously, you have to take your time to do this procedure; dealers are not about taking time.

Currently, one of the biggest issues is that the dipstick in the FB25 engine used in the Outback / Legacy has questionable accuracy. I’ve personally been involved in three separate Oil Consumption Tests where the dealer has overfilled the car according to the dipstick. However, according to the Subaru Field Representative involved in the case, what’s important is that the start point can be clearly read, and that the level is MARKED ON THE COPY OF THE TSB FORM THE DEALER IS REQUIRED TO SEND TO SUBARU OF AMERICA. (I got a new short block because, as far as we can tell, we’re burning exactly 1/3 of a QT of oil every ~1012 miles. This happened because, among other things, I had pictures and the dealership did not mark the forms.)

Let's talk about mechanics, and how dealer mechanics historically make money.

Subaru has a list of how much time any given service will take to perform, from oil changes to engine block replacements. So, let's say Subaru dictates that an engine block should only take 19 hours of labor to complete, but the mechanic knows they can do it in 15 hours. The dealer will charge Subaru for 19 hours of labor, and the mechanic gets 4 extra hours of pay for the work. However, this is also true in the reverse: if it took the mechanic 24 hours to do the engine, Subaru will only pay for 19 hours. This means the dealer has to suck up the extra 5 hours, or the mechanic has to lose 5 hours of pay.

What are the potential issues?

- In certain circumstances the dealer might avoid certain jobs because they don't make financial sense for them. Jobs where high failure rates / complications would fall in this category. For example, there are a lot of possible complications when replacing an engine block - all of which are the mechanics fault, but the dealer is on the line for fixing; it is unlikely that Subaru will pay a dealer for not doing the job right the first time.

- A mechanic might rush jobs. Imagine if you are on the books for 4 jobs that should take 4 hours each (16 hours), but you finish them in 8-12 hours. There is lots of incentive to not follow factory procedures if you cut time off the job (this is not specific to Subaru).

- Some dealers actually pay a base salary, and then use an incentive program to reward mechanics if they are on time or under time. This still fosters rushing jobs, but might allow for slack in the operation for difficult / complex work.

A common argument by SOA is that it is in the dealer’s interest to replace engines under warranty, as well as all other warranty work. However, that argument is partially flawed. The reality is that it's within their interest so long as it doesn't cost them money in the long run. Complications cost the dealer…

What I've witnessed is either total incompetence at not being able change oil properly (which is trivial), a willful and systematic attempt to skew the oil consumption tests, or just not caring about doing the job right to the point that it looks like the aforementioned.

Let's be honest, it is a little weird that dealers are overfilling engines with oil with such regularity.

However, it is possible that they are also just rushing the job.

In the case of Fitzgerld’s, I don’t know what’s going on:

- They know about the dipstick reading incorrectly
- They know about the engines burning oil (they’ve replaced “5 or 6 of them so far”)
- They know what the TSB procedure is
- They have actively refused to follow the instructions given them by the SoA Field Rep
- It’s odd…

Why take pictures and send them to yourself?

Well, this depends on your point of view.

In my world, I know that a judge can issue warrants. So, if you send yourself the pictures, it's a lot like sending them to yourself via the U.S. Postal service... You have a time/date stamped communication that an ISP with a court order can provide to the court.

Additionally, if you seek help with media outlets or publications, this goes a long way to establishing credibility.

If, as in my case, you approach a TV station with all of the pictures and the back story, then, say, Consumer Reports and JD Power are indicating that Subaru has issues… well, the TV station in question takes note.

(In my case they offered to do the oil consumption test per Subaru’s TSB, and give us a car while they drove ours to record everything.)

As we used to say in the USAF, be PERSISTENT (like nerve gas)

- CALL SoA, tell them your issue, open a case, tell them the dealer you want to use
- Take the car to the dealer
- If your car is a borderline oil burner (1/3 per 1200 miles), know that it will not grossly burn as much oil in the first 1200 miles, but will likely show it at the 2400 read, and certainly by 3000 miles.
- If your car is a bad oil burner (>1/2QT per 1200 miles), the readings will be obvious.
- Take pictures of the dipstick – when you get the car home at the test’s start, and before you bring it back
- If the dealer puts a wax seal on the dipstick, check the oil anyway. According to the Subaru Field Rep “It’s your car and you can check the oil.” In fact, you should be checking the oil according to Subaru’s Oil Consumption TSB. Just do not tamper with the seals on the oil cap or filter (I never checked to see if there was anything on the oil pan.)
- If you are getting a line from either the dealer or SoA, get a supervisor at SoA involved
- If you are not getting satisfaction from the dealer or SoA, get a Subaru Field Rep involved by requesting one be present to meet you at the dealer when the final read is done for the oil level. (Print all of your pictures, and take them with you. Make sure you’ve labeled them [oil level at start, oil level at X miles, oil level just before taking the car in at 1200 / 2400 miles, and have dates / times, etc.)

Why go through all of this?

There are a few reasons and justifications depending on who you are and your morals.

1) If you know the car is burning oil, you can’t trade it in or sell it without telling the party you are selling it to. It’s a crime, and possibly a felony, to fail to disclose it. Are you going to let Subaru make you into a criminal?
2) Subaru failed to engineer the engine well, why shouldn’t they make it right?
3) Money. You have a vested interest in having the car repaired, as: oil burner = loss of value

Realistically, we’re all getting screwed anyway because it’s starting to become common knowledge that various Subaru models burn oil excessively.

The next message in the thread will include pictures any other examples.

To be continued….

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post #2 of 16 (permalink) Old 08-14-2015, 09:52 AM Thread Starter
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post #3 of 16 (permalink) Old 08-14-2015, 01:32 PM
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Wow, well written, you put some time into that. There is a sticky about this issue you might find of interest: https://www.subaruforester.org/vbulle...thread-375081/
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post #4 of 16 (permalink) Old 08-14-2015, 01:44 PM
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All this just to argue adding one to two quarts between 7K changes which would cost $10 - $20 and is no different than most other brand cars using 0w-20?

Alrighty then, carry on.

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post #5 of 16 (permalink) Old 08-14-2015, 02:34 PM Thread Starter
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Well, I don't know about anyone else, but our FB25 base Subaru was burning that from the beginning.

IMO no modern car should be burning 2.5QTs between oil changes with 18,000 miles on the unit.

It was burning that at 28,000 miles when they replaced the short block as well.

EDIT:

I think the issue is that there is no way to know that the issue will not get worse over time. If you fail to take care of the issue while the car is under warranty, you put yourself under the possibily of an enormous out of pocket expense later.

Additionally, burning significant amounts of oil is hugely bad for the catalytic converters, so you are also at risk of having to replace those.

I'm wondering why we should be left with that bill?

Last edited by gbmaryland; 08-14-2015 at 03:10 PM.
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post #6 of 16 (permalink) Old 08-14-2015, 05:32 PM
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Your issue appears to be with the design of the modern engines that use 0w-20 rather than a specific car which burns considerably more than what is accelted to be normal. One obvious solution would be to not buy such a car. Just pointing that out.

Your argument is based on hypothetical guesses rather than actual facts and alludes to pressuring dealer into replacing engine before warranty is up based on your guesses.

You are clearly on here just to spread your mantra. Carry on.

Stan

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post #7 of 16 (permalink) Old 08-14-2015, 06:04 PM
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To the op while I applaud your thorough write up I am afraid I must agree with stan_t, your argument not withstanding about cars burning oil I have seen the debate
stretch on about why no car should consume oil and that car X never consumed oil and this is the modern era........ Your issue as pointed out is therefore with modern engines,
the differencial between old car X and new car Y is huge, from design to metallurgy the list goes on. Then when you someone references this modern car to the other one
that "burns oil" and one that doesn't they do not account for the owners of those vehicles and how often they are tracking how much oil is being used up. Then we could debate
the noack value of various 0w20 and keep going. bottom line is that there are many variables in a modern engine which will result in oil being burnt off. I keep up with most vehicles
and a grand number of those with 0w20 do burn oil off, my 09 honda did, my two 13 imps do, and my future car will probably burn up some of the oil. This may seem perplexing or
a great concern but it isn't. While I understand the frustrations of having to be aware of what your vehicle is doing and how it performs I would simple point out that as we advance
the end user or consumer is expected to increase their knowledge and interactions with whatever machines they have be it settings, interfaces, etc. The oil cosumption debate is more
one of perception, engines will consume oil at various rates some more discernable than others, so the argument is really about information overload, the subaru oil warning light is very sensitive
aka driving on inclines will trigger it amongst other things, the honda oil change interval system for example simply does a calculation on how long your oil should go before that 15%
time to change oil warning flashes. You are unaware of how much oil is burnt or what the capacity is in the engine unless its out of oil which would trigger a sensor, I'm sure someone
will correct me if the new hondas now have a notification for 1qt of oil low. Now I do disagree with stan_t on one thing at 10 to 20 per qt for oil I would say you need to shop better.
In these parts a qt of 0w20 lets take napa branded 0w20 which is just valvoline goes for 3.45 on sale and is on sale every 3 to 4 weeks. That means it would cost you more $8 in 7k.
I know autozone, advance, oreilly and even pepboys holds sales often enougn and you can get oil for cheap, advance is very generous with their coupons so really a qt of 0w20 can
be had for pretty cheap.
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post #8 of 16 (permalink) Old 08-14-2015, 06:13 PM
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I said $10 - $20 for all the oil it takes to top off between 7K changes.

I have a 2012 Acura TSX with 52K on the odometer, burns up to a quart in 3,500 miles, has done it from the beginning. I have never babied it and it returns 29MPG averages, tank after tank.

I buy 5 quart jugs of Castrol for $27 at Walmart.

I didn't buy an early FB car partially because of reports of high consumption, like a quart in 1,000 miles. Later FBs seem to not do that.

Stan

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post #9 of 16 (permalink) Old 08-14-2015, 06:19 PM
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I saw the 10 to 20 but figured I would just post some places where ppl could buy a qt of 0w20 for cheap
either way you look at it, perception will be very difficult to overcome when it comes to the oil topic and engines
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post #10 of 16 (permalink) Old 08-15-2015, 03:41 AM
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For me as an European this point is the most laughable one of the TSB:

Quote:
• When the incorrect oil viscosity is used (viscosity other than 0W-20 in the case of these specific vehicles)
With other words: If one uses thicker oil than 0W-20 there's the danger of high oil consumption.
My only reaction to such nonsense:

Written by me already "countless times" Subaru allows for all European Subarus besides the 0W-20 all oils with 5W-30, 5W-40, 10W-30 and 10W-40.
If your read the German Subaru forums, you will not find any member, who uses 0W-20 oil.
Even the German Subaru service shops advise against 0W-20 and they fill it in only by explicit request of the driver.

Since the release of the SJ some very, very few drivers maybe used 0W-20 while the time of running in the engine, but at the latest while the first oil change they use 5W-XX or even 10W-XX.

Result: In the EU isn't known any oil consumption issue of any Subaru model.

By these facts I only can come as a clearheaded driver to the conclusion:
It's just the opposite, 0W-20 is most probably the main reason for high oil consumption of Subarus in the US.


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post #11 of 16 (permalink) Old 08-15-2015, 04:05 AM
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My FB25 doesn't burn any noticeable amount of oil between changes, but so far I haven't let it go the full 6000 miles. I changed it the first time at about 4000, the second time at about 8500, and the third at just under 14000 ... so I'm creeping up on the 6K interval. I don't really think it would use it with the full 6K, but circumstances of having the time to go to the dealer to get it done really dictated that I do it a bit sooner. Once my warranty expires, and I no longer have "free" oil changes, I'll do it myself and probably change it every 4-5000. That might be overkill, but I'll feel better about it.

Unless I'm mistaken, Subaru uses 0W20 oil to maximize the gas mileage to meet federal requirements. And it works pretty well for relatively low speed driving. The Forester is highly sensitive to speed (aerodynamic influences). At highway speeds, meaning 70-75 mph, I get better gas mileage with my Caddy ATS (3.6 liter, 324 HP) and my Corvette (6.2 liter V8, 436 HP) than I do my Forester. That's not the case "around town", meaning suburban driving.

I would think that instead of going to such a low viscosity oil that Subaru might could have done better by improving the aerodynamics of the vehicle, a lower drag coefficient, and stick with a 5W30 or 10W30 that provides better protection for the engine. But they most likely did extensive economy studies and what they did must have come out as best.
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In our case the car was burning oil at a higher than normal rate from what appears to be the very beginning. So the first few oil changes were done at around 5000 miles, and the next oil changes were done related to the oil light turning on.

At that point we started tracking the oil ourselves in order determine what the burn rate seem to be.

Around that time Subaru indicated they had a problem with the oil control rings on a variety of 2012 production for 2013 model year outbacks and legacys.

I can tell you that the car was burning at least one quart every 3000 miles. The big issue is there's no empirical way to know unless you can drain all of the remaining oil out of the engine; The dipstick on the FB series engine not being altogether accurate or easy to read.

Of course, this was with no heavy driving on the vehicle whatsoever.

Had it been my 3.6R I would have assumed it was just the way I drive, which is really hard.

The crux of this post is that the dealer absolutely did not want to do the oil consumption test for the book, and SoA didn't want to hold their feet to the flames.

However, once we got a field rep involved and showed him all of the pictures, he replaced the engine on the spot.

There are probably a bunch of people out there who have borderline oil consumption; Oil consumption literally at the service limit that are getting the runaround from their dealers.

In our case we are burning oil at 3000 miles per quart versus the service limit of 3600 miles per quart. So by Subaru own definition the engine need to be replaced...

Frankly I do wonder whether or not the car should be using heavier weight oil, but that's another thread.
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post #13 of 16 (permalink) Old 08-16-2015, 06:23 AM
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Low on oil? Just add some to the motor....
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Quote:
Originally Posted by gbmaryland View Post
Frankly I do wonder whether or not the car should be using heavier weight oil, but that's another thread.
You may be interested in this thread for some discussion on the usage of 30 weight oil: https://www.subaruforester.org/vbulle...thread-206465/

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Quote:
Originally Posted by gbmaryland View Post

A common argument by SOA is that it is in the dealer’s interest to replace engines under warranty, as well as all other warranty work. However, that argument is partially flawed. The reality is that it's within their interest so long as it doesn't cost them money in the long run. Complications cost the dealer…

Why take pictures
1. That is what I heard from Heuberger Subaru today... that mother Subaru is their best customer. That they are more than happy to charge the parent ~$7K in repairs but they have to play by the rules. I thought it was odd the manager was telling me about this -- I don't care. I'm a customer not an employee. Exposing your business practices to me means nothing. I want the car fixed not excuses.

I don't know what "the rules" means.

2. I took pictures, I have video... I'm going through 1 full quart every 800-900 miles. Heuberger discounts the visual evidence because I was doing it wrong, it wasn't on a level service, etc. The manager actually went through great pains to explain how they redid the concrete floors in the shop to make sure they were completely level.
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