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Oil changes for hybrid cars

I am a proud owner of a Civic hybrid. This is my first hybrid and I have been told that my oil doesn’t need changed every 5000 miles. There is an oil life indicator that displays the percent of oil life left (from 100% - 0%). The service department tells me I should change the oil when the display reads 15%. I am very accustom to the 5000 mile intervals. My question, is the dealer giving me the straight story. I don’t want to damage this wonderful vehicle because I haven’t maintained the proper oil change intervals.


A confused driver.


I suspect the dealer is providing you with the straight story. Read your owner’s manual to confirm. Several cars today (none of mine) have oil life monitors which should be accurate enough to judge when the oil needs changed. If you don’t like the answer the OLM provides then, go back to your old ways, after giving it a chance.

The Owner’s Manual for a hybrid, just as with other cars, is the best source of accurate information on your car. If the dealer is not pushing oil changes sooner than the manual and/or the oil life indicator recommend, that is a good sign that the dealership is fairly honest. Go with the information in the manual, from the oil life indicator, and from the dealership.

Changing the oil at or before what is recommended is NOT going to hurt the vehicle. Personally I don’t trust the oil indicators. If you change your oil ever 5k miles it’ll be fine.

Your wonderful new car has a fancy new feature that will save you money. Why get an oil change more often than it is necessary? Read your owner’s manual and follow its recommendations. If you happen to have money laying around and you are looking for a way to squander it, get you oil changed whenever you feel like it, whether or not the car needs it.

Keep in mind that on your hybrid, your gas engine isn’t running all the time, so it’s hard to put a definite mileage number on when you need the change the oil since different types of driving use the gas engine more than others. The oil life monitor does a very good job of figuring out the variables and working out a realistic oil life. I’ll also mention that the 0% point on the OLM is when the manufacturer thinks you ought to change the oil and it won’t wreck your engine if you accidentally go a little past it, so doing it at 15% is playing it safe.

ABSOLUTE STEP #1 - read the owner’s manual ! My hybrid Escape has variable oil change intervals; Highway driving with the engine running most of the time, 5,000 m., city driving with the engine asleep much of the time, 10,000 m. I chose 7,000m for my interval and it seems to fit my driving style well and the warning message is changable if needed.

For most or all Hondas, the owners manual says not to change the oil early. If I remember correctly, the break-in oil is different because it has extra molybdenum.

The engineers who designed your car put an oil life monitor into it. Why do you think they are trying to trick you into ruining your car? Any company that deliberately shortened their engine life would lose face, big time, and in Japan that’s major no-no.

As it happens, my Honda’s oil life monitor has me changing my oil in the 5000 to 7000 mile range, depending on the type of driving I’ve been doing with it. It does take into account things like longer run times vs. short trips.

You might be thinking about the Prius. The Civic Hybrid runs on the gasoline engine and only uses the electric motor for extra power. The Prius does it the other way around. With a Civic Hybrid, if the car is moving, the gas engine is running. Use of the electric motor will fluctuate.

Actually someone did some testing and found the changing oil too often can cause increase wear. However the difference was far too small to worry about.

Actually someone did some testing and found the changing oil too often can cause increase wear.

I’d like to see that test. I have a very hard time believing that one bit. Basically what you’re saying is NEW oil is worse then slightly dirty oil. Doesn’t pass the smell test to me.

I think he is suggesting most people don’t circulate the oil through the engine before starting it up after an oil change. If you simply fill the crank case with oil and start up the engine, the oil light will illuminate for 3-6 seconds before the oil gets circulated thoughout the engine. If you change your oil every 3,000 miles instead of 5,000 miles, you will perform 13 extra oil changes over 100,000 miles. That means your engine would be started an extra 13 times with all the oil in the crank case. This is worse than regular start-up since many newer engines prevent all the oil from draining into the crank case. If you take the time to circulate the oil before starting-up the engine, this is a moot point. Most of us don’t do that though.