Question posted by Lynn K. regarding her Toyota Prius
"I am writing into your mechanics blog for an answer on how frequently I should change my motor oil in my vehicle?"
How often should I change my engine oil?
Lynn, thank you for the question! On average the vehicles we work on at A+ Japanese Auto Repair are due for an engine oil and oil filter change every 5,000 miles or 6 months (whichever comes first). As a rule of thumb… If you are an extremely low-mileage driver you should change your engine oil and oil filter at least once a year.
Every Car's Oil Change Interval is Different
When you read the fine print about engine oil change intervals, you will discover that the factory recommended service interval will range from 3,500 to over 10,000 miles for an oil change. How often you should change you engine oil and oil filter depends on the driving condition and the type of oil that you use.
Most of us think we drive under as "normal" driving conditions but we are actually "severe" driving conditions.
The definition of “ Severe” Driving Conditions taken from one owners manual:“Frequent short trips (less than 10 miles, especially during cold weather), stop-and-go city traffic driving, driving in dusty conditions (gravel roads, etc.), and driving at sustained highway speeds during hot weather."
Does this sound like your commute? If so, you might need to follow instructions for "Severe Service” in your owner’s manual. Your engine oil and filter changes should be performed every 5,000 miles or six months if you live and commute in California like the customers and mechanics at A+ Japanese Auto Repair.
This is the oil change interval A + Japanese Auto Repair Inc. recommends to our clients living in San Carlos, Belmont, San Mateo, Redwood City, Foster City, Redwood Shores, Woodside and surrounding areas.
How does my cars computer know when an oil change is needed?
If you drive a newer model, such as your Toyota Prius, the car may display when you need to change your oil and oil filter on the instrument cluster or dash display. This system is typically referred to as the Oil Life Monitoring System. If you are lucky enough to have this reminder system built into the vehicle it sure makes life easy! If not, the best advice I can give you is to check with your owner’s manual.
The Oil Life Monitoring system is actually more complex then the vehicle turning a light on at a specified mileage. Oil Life Monitoring Systems tell drivers when their car actually needs its engine oil change, based on the following criteria and driving conditions:
- Driving habits
- Cold starts
- Extensive idling and/or stop and go driving
- Short distance trips
- The climate in which the vehicle is operated
A+ Japanese Auto Repair currently see these engine oil change warning systems in Honda, Acura, Lexus, Toyotas, Nissan, Infiniti, Mazda, Subaru, and many other vehicles coming out this model year.
What Happens if you Don't Change Oil in Your Car?
If you do not change your engine oil. You will have serious issues! As Alina Tugend of the New York Times says, "It just gets dirtier and dirtier. It’s like mopping the floor with a bucket of water and detergent. The water starts out clean, but the more you use it, the filthier it gets. Eventually, you’re making the floor dirtier if you don’t change the water."
Here is a great visual comparison of dirty engine oil vs. clean engine oil:
This is what happens when you don't change your engine oil and oil filter:
- Reduced engine life
- Lack of performance
- Contamination (dirt/water/other fluids etc.. causing internal engine wear due to lack of lubrication)
- Reduced detection of issues (If your vehicle is not being seen regularly issues cannot be caught before they turn into major issues
To sum it up:
A+ Japanese Auto Repair recommends you follow your owners manual for the best recommendations on your specific oil change intervals and fluid types that should be used.
If you have any questions feel free to contact us! Thank you Lynn for the great question! If you would like to dive a little further into our engine oil change information please visit our engine oil change information page on our website: Engine Oil & Filter Service Page
Written by Eric Sevim - ASE Master Certified Auto Repair Technician
A+ Japanese Auto Repair, Inc.
780 Industrial Road
San Carlos CA 94070
Disclaimer: This article is provided for general informational purposes only. It is not intended as advice for your particular vehicle, and should not be relied upon for that purpose. Please consult a qualified automotive maintenance professional to determine the maintenance and repair needs for your vehicle.