Rick's Free Auto Repair Advice

Oil change interval for synthetic oil

What’s the right oil change interval for synthetic oil?

Everyone seems to think that using synthetic oil automatically means you can extend your oil change interval. Not so fast, bud. As I’ve said over and over in all my blog posts, the length of your oil change interval is dictated by the car maker AND your driving habits. Here’s a case in point. This Toyota technical service bulletin warns about oil change intervals.

Toyota Technical Service bulletin #T-TT-0262-13 titled


Here’s the gist of what the bulletin says; starting in 2010 Toyota started using synthetic 0W-20 oil in many of their car models and certain engines and upped the oil change interval recommendation to 10,000 miles for most vehicles (except the 2TR-FE engine which had to stay at 5,000 mile intervals).

HOWEVER, if you read the new recommendations, you’ll see there are LOTS of caveats. For example, Toyota states that:

• For engines where Toyota specifies 0W-20 synthetic, using that oil viscosity is MANDATORY. These engines have variable valve timing and using a different viscosity oil can mess up the VVT and set a check engine light.

BUT even if you use 0W-20 synthetic, the bulletin goes on to qualify the 10,000 mile oil change interval. For example, you must drop down to the 5,000 mile oil change interval if you:

• drive the vehicle off-road

whent to change oil

Off-roading reduces oil life

• drive on dirt roads

when to change oil

Driving on dirt roads decreases oil life








• tow a trailer

oil change interval

Towing a trailer reduces oil life.

• drive short trips when outside temps are below 32°F

when to change oil

Cold starts reduce oil life







•idle the engine

when to change oil

Stop and go city driving reduces oil life

All these recommendations follow this post on my blog that talks about HOW you drive as an important factor in when to change your oil.

Important note when switching to synthetic oil

The Toyota bulletin also makes this point; if you own a Toyota vehicle where 5W-20 or 5W-30 oil was the recommended oil and 0W-20 was optional, the oil change interval is 5,000 EVEN IF YOU SWITCH TO 0W-20. That pretty much destroys the conventional wisdom that you can automatically extend oil change intervals simply by switching to synthetic oil.

Oil Change intervals and oil viscosity are dictated by engine design and your driving habits as defined in your owner’s manual. If you drive short trips, in stop and go traffic, or long trips at highway speeds in hot weather, you MUST follow the car maker’s SEVERE service recommendations for oil change intervals.

©, 2016 Rick Muscoplat



Posted on by Rick Muscoplat

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