Switching 2012 Toyota RAV4 from regular to synthetic

Is it okay to switch a cat from regular oil to full synthetic oil? I recently bought a low mileage used cat and was surprised to find it had regular oil in it!

I don’t think the cat is going to like it. Oh, maybe you meant car. The manual will have oil specifications in it. But it won’t harm anything except cost you a little more. What is really important is regular oil changes and maintaining the proper level.

Your 2012 probably uses variable valve timing which is very unforgiving of incorrect oil specs. There’s no reason to avoid synthetic oils, they might indeed be an improvement, but make sure whatever oil you choose meets Toyota’s oil specs for your car. If in question, take a bottle of the proposed oil to a Toyota dealership parts department and ask. I think the current oil spec is “SN” for most cars, but there may be something add’l beyond that for your car. (SN doesn’t mean synthetic, it is a progression of grades that started as SA, SB, SC … and is now at SN.) And of course you have to use the correct viscosity , 5-20 or whatever the spec calls for. You’ll run less risk of an additive incompatibility if you continue to use the same brand of oil you’ve been using, even if you switch from dinosaur to synthetic. I’ve heard say that recently the oil manufactures are saying all their oils are “synthetic” if the meet the synthetic oil spec, whether they are actually made synthetically, or not.

2013 was the first year synthetic motor oil was required in the Rav4 when it switched to 10,000 mile oil changes.

The 2012 Rav4 uses 5W30 conventional motor oil with 5,000 mile oil changes however Toyota has approved the use of 0W20 and 5W20 in 2010 to 2012 4 cylinder Rav4s.

You can switch from conventional to synthetic motor oil as often as you wish and don’t be concerned about the variable valve timing, changing the oil viscosity or oil type will have no adverse affects.

Oil specification for the 2012 Toyota RAV4

4 cylinder: 5W20 or 0W20(synthetic) You can switch to synthetic 0W20 anytime.
6 cylinder: 5W30 : Toyota does not mentioned if you could switch to synthetic