Oil Life Monitoring Systems

Oil life monitor systems are changing the way vehicle owners decide when to take their car in for service, some of the changes are good, and some have the potential for serious trouble. The first thing that needs to be taken into consideration is whether the oil change service was performed with a fluid that meets the manufacturers specifications, and we are not just talking the SAE viscosity, there is a lot more to it than that. For the GM vehicles mentioned above, the bottle must display the dexos1 lable to be a licensed GM product and it doesn’t matter what else someone might write on the outside of the bottle. Some companies will write statements like “Meets the engine protection requirements of dexos” but the dexos label is missing from the front of the bottle, which means the oil does not meet all of the requirements and should not be used. Dexos also does not require a “full synthetic”, a group III base stock is capable of meeting the dexos requirements, however a group IV / groupV blend that meet dexos requirements would offer advantages and a greater margin of protection.

Nearly every manufacturer today has vehicles that require oils that meet their proprietary specifications, when you check your owner’s manual you will see the API and ILSAC ratings such as 5W20, 5W30, 0W30 etc. GM’s requirement normally looks like “Look for the API symbol and ILSAC starburst. Use an oil meeting SAE 5W30 and GM specification GM6094M”. Now that is paraphrased here, but when you look in your manual it is usually in bold print immediately below the API donut, and ILSAC starburst. Today if your manual shows GM6094M, or GM4718M, they are both obsolete specifications and are replaced by dexos. The one video linked here shows the manual in the background and the GM4718M specification is clearly visible, that car today to be serviced correctly should get a dexos licensed product.

Another common trap is the accidental resetting of the monitor system. GM publications specifically instruct owners to change their oil at 3000 miles if the system is accidently reset and no longer accurate. Some recommendations associated with this topic suggest sending an oil sample out for lab testing and yes you can definitely do that. Fleets do it all of the time in order to try and control expenses. But is that additional $25-$30 expense per test really justifiable for the average consumer? If you own and are maintaining one of the more expensive European models, and your oil changes cost around $100-$120 then maybe so. But if your vehicle can be serviced correctly for $29.00 you may not want to nearly double your expense.

One of the biggest issues with the extended service intervals has to do with getting a technician to take a look at all of the other things that also need checked periodically. Many issues develop slowly over a period of time so the normal driver simply doesn’t notice them until they finally create a situation that gets the drivers attention. The tendency for many owners to take their vehicles to quick lubes causes them to lose the chance for the kind of attention to detail and disciplined approach to properly inspecting their car that only a true master technician can deliver. Now with the fact that cars can go a year or more between even one of the most basic services has many vehicles being neglected. This is resulting in breakdowns, and greater failures than the owners would otherwise have had to deal with. It’s also contributing to a situation where there are fewer places that can handle the larger problems that can occur which means sudden breakdowns can lead to a longer period of time without your car.