Time For New Oil? - 2012 Chevrolet Sonic Long-Term Road Test

2012 Chevrolet Sonic Long Term Road Test

2012 Chevrolet Sonic LTZ: Time For New Oil?

November 22, 2012

2012_Chevy_Sonic_1600_oil_chnge_schedule.jpg Our 2012 Chevrolet Sonic LTZ Turbo passed the 15,000-mile mark sometime in the last couple of weeks.  A quick glance at the maintenance schedule indicates it's time for our second oil change.

Or does it?

Read carefully and you see this is not necessarily the case. The schedule does not require an oil change at this point, it merely reminds us to check the oil level and oil life percentage and make the change if the oil life monitor so indicates.

This, of course, is the normal service schedule, but a quick look at the severe service schedule reveals the exact same language and interval. In other words, if your driving amounts to severe service, the oil life monitor reading will read low, accordingly.

With that in mind, I performed the checks indicated by the check mark.

2012_Chevy_Sonic_1600_oil_chnge_oil_life_58.jpg A few presses and tweaks at the end of the turn signal stalk are all that's required to conjure up the relevant screen. The display is somewhat bifurcated top to bottom, but the bottom line is this: our Sonic's oil retains 58-percent of its life. 

With 7,500 miles on this oil so far, the oil life monitor's reading suggests we can go another 5,000 miles or so before we need to make a change. Clearly, our driving is nothing like severe service, which makes sense if you consider our temperate climate, lack of steep grades and our propensity to choose another vehicle when we need to tow something.

As for L.A.'s notorious traffic, the reality is you're more likely to creep along at 25 mph in a slow-and-go fashion, grumbling and frustrated because this freeway has a speed limit of 65 mph and at this rate I'll never get home! Drivers accrue more stress than their cars, which are not, in fact, idling for hours like a taxi or police car or making a career out of stops and starts like a UPS truck.

So, yeah, it looks like this oil could last 12,500 miles. If so, why did we make the first change at 8,000 miles? One of us probably glanced at the maintenance schedule too quickly and assumed a 7,500 mile fixed interval, and the dealer we visited didn't correct us. In reality a tire rotation was the only thing our Sonic really needed.

What's more, the "next service" reminder they stuck to the windshield called for the next change at 3,000 miles or 3 months. This contrasts sharply with the Sonic's owner's manual, which says to go by the gauge on the dash, the single caveat being we should never stretch it longer than a year no matter what the oil life monitor says at that point.

Whether you are comfortable with the oil life monitor approach or not, the stark difference between the factory and dealer positions on the issue is yet another reason why I don't trust dealers. And if you decide to play it safe and split the difference, perhaps 7,500 miles is where you'd land after all.

Dan Edmunds, Director of Vehicle Testing @ 15,671 miles  

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