We find that the newest cars we work on are some of the most at risk of engine failure due to low oil volume. Are you checking your oil, even on your 2013 model?
The 3rd Generation Prius (2010-2011+) is sold with ToyotaCare, a “complimentary maintenance plan” that is intended to ensure your 3rd generation Prius has “worry-free” maintenance for 2 years or 25,000 miles (whichever comes first).
Here’s why you should be worried about this maintenance plan:
It includes only 2 oil changes, each at 10k mile intervals, and 4 tire rotations — a $200 value! The primary “worry eliminator” during these services is the utmost important, #1 item on the maintenance checklist: “Check Installation of driver’s floor mat.” At least your floor mat will be installed properly when your engine potentially runs out of oil.
Whatever happened to the 3000 mile interval oil change? Clearly the manufacturers know best, they make the cars! It is true, changing the oil every 3000 may be excessive in terms of the functional life of the oil. However, our main consideration is the loss of oil due to natural consumption. Just to remind everyone: the Toyota Prius still uses an internal combustion engine, which operates under the same assumptions that the Model T did, and therefore is subject to the same mechanical wear-and-tear that all other vehicles suffer from. If you reference your 2010 Prius Owner’s Manual, you will find an interesting tidbit on acceptable oil consumption:
Section 4-3 (p428)Engine oil consumption
- The amount of engine oil consumed depends on the oil viscosity, the quality of the oil and the way the vehicle is driven.
- More oil is consumed under driving conditions such as high speeds, frequent acceleration and deceleration.
- A new engine consumes more oil
- When judging the amount of oil consumption, keep in mind that the oil may have become diluted, making it difficult to judge the true level accurately.
- Oil consumption: Max = 1.1qt / 600miles
- If the vehicle consumes more than 1.1qt every 600 miles, contact your Toyota dealer [so they can sell you a new motor]
The bolded section above means that Toyota considers anything less than 1.1qt of oil burned up within the engine for every 600 miles driven is acceptable. Think of it this way: for every 1000 miles driven, Toyota allows 1.83qt of oil to be consumed and the vehicle to be considered operating normally. Surely this must be a rare occurrence? Yes, it is extremely unlikely that every 3rd generation Prius consumes nearly 2 quarts of oil every 1000 miles right off the factory floor. Considering that the vehicle would be completely out of oil in approximately 2400 miles at that rate, I think floor mats would be the last thing on Toyota’s mind!
At 50% of Toyota’s maximum acceptable rate of consumption, your Prius will be out of oil after 5301 miles.
At 15% of Toyota’s maximum acceptable rate of consumption, your Prius will be out of oil after 16000 miles exactly.
If your engine consumes more than 44% of Toyota’s maximum acceptable rate of consumption, your Prius will be out of oil before your first oil change (10000 miles).
ToyotaCare also comes with roadside assistance, who is capable of providing “Fluid delivery” service. Which, I can only assume, is to provide synthetic 0w20 oil to customers’ thirsty Priuses!
“Why, Art’s Automotive — you must be trying to scrounge up business by trying to make me scared! Pshaw! I shall continue to believe that less is more, especially when it comes to sophisticated machinery under high usage. Maintenance is for fools, my Prius shall live forever on a 10k oil change interval!”
Actually, for us, an abusive maintenance schedule is great for qualified Hybrid experts. By the time your Prius starts showing signs of exacerbated, accelerated engine wear, your car will be out of warranty from the dealership. I dare say that they even count on this! So, by all means, allow Toyota to woo you into believing that your car is maintenance free, because when it breaks (and ALL cars break down), the less maintenance done, the larger the ramifications of the malfunction. This is true of all vehicles, and we are equipped to handle diagnosis and repair of hybrid machines. We will be there for you and your Prius, and we don’t ever say “I told you so”!
Furthermore, let me pose this question: “How often do you take your vehicle for service on or before the Maintenance Required indicator or the window sticker says it’s due?” My guess is that the overwhelming majority of people are late for their vehicles’ service intervals. When you are stretching an already ludicrous oil change interval (10,000 miles) into something realistically like 12 or 15,000 miles, you are approaching guaranteed failure. In fact, I might even say your engine is going to fail if you never check and top the fluid level between changes. We have had at least 2 customers in recent memory whose brand-new vehicles’ engines were destroyed due to running out of oil. A 2007 Honda Accord went 16000 miles without changing her oil, causing $7000+ or more of out-of-warranty repair cost. A 2009 Nissan Sentra drove 18,000 miles (all highway) without changing the oil and caused about $5700 worth of damage (quite a reasonably priced repair, I thought).
“Those are not Toyota Priuses — your straw man argument does not consider my advanced Hybrid drive-train! Ha!”
True. They are actually using a heavier weight, non-synthetic oil (5w30) which actually retains its lubricating properties longer. The Prius’s 0w20 synthetic is indeed better at sinking heat, causes less friction, and is therefore more fuel-efficient. It is also a smaller molecule, operating in an engine with smaller clearances. As a result, due to unavoidable piston-ring blow-by (where molecules of combustion chamber gasses “blow by” the compression and oil control rings on an engine’s piston, thus entering the crank case and oil reservoir), the 0w20 becomes contaminated and loses, over time, the aforementioned benefits.
So what is it exactly that we’re saying? By all means, get your free service from ToyotaCare. After that, we strongly recommend a reasonable 5000 mile interval for your oil changes, or whenever the maintenance required light comes on.