Hybrid vehicles are now more popular than ever and many new owners of these cars are confused. They wonder if they should adhere to reasonable standards of car care, or if they should treat their new cars with children’s gloves. This has especially become a problem when it comes to simple engine 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.

Under weight

Many mechanics recommend that most hybrid vehicles use lighter weight lubricants. The standard many experts agree on is a weight (W) in the 0W20 range, which means that the fluid should not weigh more than 20W. This is in contrast to the typical weight used in conventional vehicles, which starts at around 30W. Lighter weight lubricants are finer and easier to process with a hybrid than heavier ones.


Hybrid car experts also believe that synthetic motor oil works better in hybrid cars than typical petroleum-based products. This is because it is much thinner than the natural alternative, and many mechanics are even beginning to recommend its use on regular vehicles. The only real downside to using synthetic lubricants is that they can be more expensive than petroleum based ones.

When to change the engine oil

Engine oil changes are not needed as often with hybrid cars, as the engine runs less during city driving with its slow speed and stop-start motion. However, the lubricant still needs to be changed and you should always use premium products. As stated above, be sure to use the correct weight so as not to damage the top end of your engine. Because hybrid cars shut down and restart their engines much more frequently 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 dash of every hybrid car that shows the percentage of oil life currently remaining. The range is from 0 to 100%. Most hybrid service departments will recommend changing the fluid when it reaches the 15% range. Although it will not harm the engine to drive the vehicle beyond the 15% point, it serves as a good benchmark for operating the vehicle safely without damaging the engine.

This is helpful because a hybrid vehicle’s gasoline engine doesn’t run all the time, making it difficult to give a mileage reading that indicates a change is needed. The different types of driving use the engine more than others, and the monitor is conditioned to calculate all the variables to estimate a real life of the lubricant.

There are many general recommendations for hybrid vehicles found on 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.

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