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Guide to Motor Oil and Your Hybrid Vehicle

This has especially become an issue when it comes to simple motor oil changes. Many are not sure when to change the fluid, or if a special type is required. Here are some answers to these questions.

Low Weight

Many mechanics recommend that the majority of hybrid vehicles use lower weight lubricants. The standard that many experts agree on is a weight (W) in the 0W20 range, which means the fluid should not have a weight over 20W. This contrasts with the typical weight used in conventional vehicles, which starts around 30W. The lighter weight lubricant is finer and processed easier by a hybrid than the heavier weights.


Hybrid automotive experts also feel that synthetic motor oil works better in hybrid autos than typical petroleum-based products. This is because it is much thinner than the natural alternative, and many mechanics are even starting to recommend its use in regular vehicles. The only real downside to using synthetic lubricant is that it can be more expensive than petroleum-based.

When the Motor Oil Should Be Changed

Motor oil changes are not needed as frequently with hybrid cars since the engine runs less during city driving with its low speed and stop-and-go movement. However, the lubricant does still require changing, and you should always use premium products. As stated previously, be sure to use the correct weight so you will not damage the top-end of your engine. Because hybrid autos shut down and restart their engines much more often than other vehicles, choosing the right lubricant is even more important to the long-term health of the engine.

There is an oil life indicator on the dashboard of each hybrid car that displays the percentage of oil life currently left. The range runs from 0 to 100%. Most hybrid service departments will recommend that the fluid be changed when it reaches the 15% range. Though it will not harm the engine to drive the vehicle past the 15% point, it serves as a good benchmark for operating the vehicle safely without damaging the engine.

This comes in handy because the gas engine in a hybrid vehicle doesn’t run at all times, so it is hard to give a mileage reading that indicates a change is needed. Different types of driving use the engine more than others, and the monitor is conditioned to figure out all the variables to estimate a realistic life for the lubricant.

There are many general recommendations for hybrid vehicles found all over the Internet, but if you have specific maintenance questions, you should always consult your service department or read the manual that came with your vehicle. All hybrid vehicles are different, and these are general tips that only apply to simple motor oil changes.