Does Toyota's Statement on Syn Have Merit?

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Mar 15, 2005
NE Pennsylvania
On a Toyota forum, I found what is supposedly an official response from Toyota Corporate to an owner who questioned them about using synthetic oil. Their response, which is basically a canned company-policy reply, did not surprise me. However, they do make a statement about once you begin using a syn oil, you should not switch back and forth with dino. Is there any merit at all to this view? Here is the reply: Thank you for contacting Toyota Motor Sales, U.S.A., Inc. We appreciate your inquiry regarding the us of synthetic oil in your 4Runner. All Toyota vehicles come from the factory with natural petroleum-based engine oil. Toyota is currently recommending American Petroleum Institute (API) grade SJ petroleum-based engine oil. In moderate climates, this oil should have a Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) viscosity rating of 5W-30. In our high mileage tests with preventative maintenance performed at the recommended intervals, the recommended natural petroleum-based oil has provided excellent service. If you decide to use synthetic oil for the engine, it would be best not to switch until the first scheduled oil change. Synthetic oil should meet or exceed the above specifications. Even if synthetic oil is used, we do not recommend a longer oil change interval. Also, once synthetic oil is used, you should keep using it and not switch back and forth with natural petroleum-based oil. If the engine oil that you use, whether natural or synthetic, does not meet the above specifications or is defective, any resulting damage to the engine will not be covered by the Toyota New Vehicle Limited Warranty. You can protect yourself against this possibility by having your maintenance services performed by a factory-authorized Toyota dealer. The Scheduled Maintenance Guide cites the minimum recommended services under what is assumed to be a standard, or typical set of driving conditions. In terms of maintaining the integrity of your warranty, our recommendation is adherence to the Scheduled Maintenance guide, which recommends service intervals of every 5000 miles, or 6 months, whichever comes first. According to our records, the 4Runner we have on file for your is V8 4.7 4WD . The oil capacity for that engine, with a filter, is 6.5 quarts. Your email has been documented at our National Headquarters under file #200412021090. If we can be of further assistance, please feel free to contact us. National Customer Relations
Yeah, that's what I thought too. But the only thing that caught my attention was their statement that once you begin to use syn, you should not switch back to dino. I don't know why they would say that, even in a standard CYA, company policy letter.
Toyota is currently recommending American Petroleum Institute (API) grade SJ petroleum-based engine oil.
Hi, welcome to 1997.
"You can protect yourself against this possibility by having your maintenance services performed by a factory-authorized Toyota dealer." I think that the sentence I quoted is the key message. One, to intill fear in you so that you take the car to the dealership for service. Two, recommending conventional oil with 6 month service requirements to have more service visits. If they recommended a synthetic oil and made their engines with a slightly larger sump, then the dealerships would not be happy about having less revenue because of fewer visits. I bet that Toyota recommends a different service schedule for the cars they sell in Europe. I bet that Toyota recommends synthetic oils and a once a year OCI in Europe. To be on the safe side, I would stick with their recommended 6 month OCI during the factory warranty and the longer powertrain warranty. Keep all your receipts. If you are not good about keeping receipts, then it is advisable to have the car serviced at the dealership for the first 70,000 miles because then you will have proof of proper servicing.
X72: for the Toyota we had, it was indeed an annual change/10,000 miles regime, but on semi-synthetic oil, 10w/40 viscosity for the first service onwards.
I think the statement about switching back and forth is probably a mute point in this day and age of group III, IV-V mixtures. they all have to meet certain seal compatibility requirements. I have a study that shows the seal variations between napthenics and parafinics in ammonia compressors and the wide differences with each and/or recovery when switching, but i have never seen one done on engine oils. My 4Runners get group II CI-4/SL SAE 15W-40 every 6,000 km, operate in the worst dust possible, and has a diet of lousy diesel (but with an additive). The 3.0 turbo diesel has 82,000 km, the 2.8 standard diesel has 300,000 km. My gasoline Toyota pickup gets 80 octane gas, drives the same dust, also gets group II SAE 15W-40 CI-4/SL every 6,000 km. Only has 65,000 km to date, and last UOA showe 1 ppm of iron in 6200 km.
My oweners manual for my 2005 Altima says in the capacities and recommended lubricants that you can use SG/SH or SJ/SL its says nothing about SM.
I bought my Toyota due to its reputation and also my experience with a 91 Celica I had for 10 years. I'm bad with receipts but I'm also done with dealer oil changes..I probably have a bunch of receipts laying around the house I could use but whatever..if I get an inclination that this engine is in trouble I'll drop the car like a hot potatoe...hello trade in... Been thinking about getting a Corolla anyways to get the extra 10 mpg Goose [Patriot]
Originally posted by steveh: My oweners [sic] manual for my 2005 Altima says in the capacities and recommended lubricants that you can use SG/SH or SJ/SL its says nothing about SM.
Owners manual content is approved for publication usually by the middle or later of the prior model year. (in the case of your 2005 Altima, probably around June-September, 2004) There's absolutely NO reason not to use an "SM" motor oil in your 2005 Altima. Backward compatibility with ALL prior model year service designations is a requirement for API licensing approval.
Regardless of the other noise (SJ, CYA, fear mongering) I cannot think of Toyota Motor Co. as experts on the subject of motor oil. Fine/great cars. I would own one in a heartbeat. But they have done nothing in history, including this letter, to prove to me they know oil and can speak oil.
International sales drive many makers of cars, trucks, and industrial equipment to spec to the lowest possible side. I had a manufacturer once tell me that if their requirements are too stiff it hurts sales. A factory tech from the US was once installing some equipment in a plant and after seeing the big bronze gears I recommended a Borate gear oil. He said it wasn't in the book but called Kansas City for approval. They told him if he could find it, by all means use it.
Toyota Motor Sales (and any other decent marketing organization) knows their CYA/void warranty replies turn up in the strangest places, so the content is mostly as expected. But it is also an odd recommendation in this context to mention not switching back and forth between synth and dino. I wonder what their underlying reason is, if any. Somebody with some technical knowledge probably approved this statement? Or maybe they're unintentionally perpetuating another oil myth?
Interesting. I own a 2003 4 runner with a 4.7 V8. The owners manual states that under normal conditions the OCI is 7,500 miles. The 5,000 mile interval is for severe conditions. I guess I am in trouble since I swithched from sythetic back to dino. I hope it doesn't get sick and puke all over my garage floor. [Big Grin]
Ray I know SM is ok to use but I thought it was strange that the owners manual for a 2005 says you can use SG/SH.
About the "don't switch back and forth" part: 1. Probably they just composed that policy in the '70s, before synthetics were universally compatiable with both seals and with conventional oils. 2. Or... they're trying to keep you running one formula all the time to avoid additive clash? Not bloody likely. I'm going with 1.
"In terms of maintaining the integrity of your warranty," Complete B.S. there. They can't refuse warranty service unless they can prove the problem was your fault.
also about the dont switch back and forth part. they may have had one person have a problem with there car after switching back even though the problem may not have been caused by that it was just coincidence that it happened at the same time. then they had to fix something under warrenty so now they have this little statement.
Quaker State states on their synthetic oil myths page: Myth #4 You can't switch from synthetic oil to conventional oil or vice versa. You need to start with a synthetic blend for a few oil changes before moving to full synthetic oil. Once you start using synthetic motor oil you cannot go back to conventional oil. Synthetic and conventional engine oils can't be mixed, or else they react and cause engine problems. Fact As long as the synthetic motor oil product and conventional motor oil product meet the viscosity and performance requirements outlined in the vehicle’s owner’s manual, you may interchange them with each other. Taken from here:
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