Thursday, January 12, 2012

I feel so ...used

(Or: Wow, I'm Dumb.)

My new 2012 Civic takes 21st century motor oil.
OK, it IS the 21st century, I can adjust my thinking to this.

Nowhere in the owner's manual does it talk about a change interval.
But the car gives you a dashboard meter that tells you "Percentage of oil life left".

OK, "Everything's up to date in Kansas City" -
maybe there's some modern trick at work here.
Maybe they measure the viscosity, and the car calculates the oil life remaining.
Maybe they optically sense the opacity of the oil and calculate how dirty it is.
Maybe there's some modern ยต-proc trick I'm not even thinking of.
Who knows where they get this "percentage life" number from?
We're living in the 21st century.

OK, I decide to TRUST the dashboard meter. Extrapolating,
it's telling me that the break-in oil is good for 10,000 miles.
Wow. It's great, living in the future.

So, the car rolls over 7000 miles, and soon after,
the dashboard meter decrements and says I've got 20%-of-oil-life left.

But I absolutely can't stand it, and go get an oil change.
Afterward, the kid tells me that he reset the meter for me:
which implies that it's simply odometer-driven.
The "Oil Life" meter may not actually be "measuring" ANYTHING.
Maybe it's just a reminder of your mileage since the last oil change.

*So maybe there's NO high-tech real-time measurement of the state of the oil, no, nothing at all.* [Whoops - see UPDATE, below]

Wow, am I an idiot.
[This remains a distinct possibility, however.]

On the other hand: the car specifies snythetic 0w-20 oil:
which IS better than dead-dinosaur oil,
and which does have nominally twice the lifespan.
(And: which costs fully twice as much.)

Even if they tell you there's no break-in required, and even if it's
not actually overdue for an oil change - the interval still FEELS over-long.

UPDATE: Hey, I was right the first time. Looking into the question, it seems that the car's CPU really DOES monitor some combination of oil temp, engine revs, time, mileage, etc. - - and really DOES calculate "oil life remaining". What it can't do is know that you've changed the oil - thus the need for the manual reset.

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