Do Electric Cars Need Oil Changes?

So you’ve checked your tires and polished up the paintwork on your electric car but what about the engine and its maintenance? Do electric cars need oil changes and if so how do you go about it? 

Do Electric Cars Need Oil Changes

Do Electric Cars Use Motor Oil?

The short answer is no, electric cars do not use motor oil. This is because motor oil is a lubricant used in an internal combustion engine to keep moving parts, well… moving! A regular car engine has pistons, valves, and other mechanical parts that need oil. 

An electric car is powered by an electric motor and a battery. So there is no need to add engine oil as there are no metal moving parts in the engine that need to be protected in this way.

However, if you have a hybrid car then this will still have a conventional gasoline-powered engine that will use motor oil as a lubricant. The moving metal components in the engine use oil to ensure smooth interaction between them and this prevents them from seizing. 

If you have bought an electric car you may be wondering what kind of maintenance routine you need to have. Perhaps you are used to regularly checking your internal combustion engine car and wonder if the same applies to your new electric car. 

A fully electric car will not require the use of oil as it is powered by an electric traction engine and a traction battery pack that drive the wheels via the transmission. This is done without any moving metal parts. 

Are There Other Lubricants That Electric Cars Need?

Your electric vehicle will have a transmission and brakes and both of those functions require a type of lubricant to function properly. It will also need a coolant. While this is not strictly a lubricant it is nevertheless essential for keeping the battery cool in the car. 

Transmission lubricant is also called reduction gear oil and is used to lubricate the gearbox but also serves to cool the transmission. Many electric car transmission fluids are designed for thermal management of the electric motors integrated in the same gearbox. 

Brake fluid is essential for maintaining the proper functioning of the brakes in your electric car. Electric vehicles use regenerative braking and this relies on the brake fluid to keep it working smoothly and efficiently. 

The brake fluid is hygroscopic which means it can absorb water over time from the air, for this reason, it does need to be changed to stop the brake system from corroding. However regenerative brakes do tend to last a lot longer than conventional brake systems.

Do Electric Cars Need Oil Changes?

How Often Does The Lubricant Need To Be Changed?

The lubrication systems in an electric car may vary from make and model, so it is difficult to generalize. However, a good rule of thumb is to check the level of your lubricants at least once a year. Again it will depend on how heavily you use the car. 

Some manufacturers will indicate in the owner’s manual when you should have your lubrication levels checked or changed. Transmission oil or gear reduction oil will probably be sealed and not accessible although the Tesla Model S does require transmission oil change.

The brake fluid in electric vehicles should be changed regularly, again it can depend on the make and model of the car regarding how often this should be done. The Nissan Leaf should have a brake fluid change every one to two years depending on the model. 

Some electric vehicles recommend brake fluid changes after a set number of miles such as at 25,000 miles but check your owner’s manual or ask your electric car dealer if you are unsure. 

How Long Does The Lubricant Last?

Brake fluid can last between one and five years depending on the make and model of your electric car. You can check the levels from outside the brake fluid reservoir. The level should be kept between the maximum and minimum levels. 

Coolant in an electric car with a thermal management system will need to be checked according to your vehicle’s maintenance schedule. This is used by the drive motor and battery for temperature control.

Some manufacturers such as Chevy recommend that you drain and replace the coolant in your electric vehicle every five years. However, Tesla claims that you will not need to replace the coolant in your vehicle for the duration of its lifetime under most circumstances. 

Transmission fluid should be scheduled for change by your electric car dealer and this will vary with different makes and models. Advice for the Tesla S model states that the transmission oil should only be changed after the 150K mile mark. 

However, it is important to check with your electric vehicle dealer as there is so much variation in the make and models of electric cars now available. It is also still a very new industry and is changing all the time. 

Can You Change An Electric Car’s Lubricant Yourself?

You should never open the cover of the brake fluid reservoir on your electric car. This is because the brake fluid absorbs water from the air, and this  will reduce its effectiveness. 

Only check the level from outside the reservoir and ensure that the level is between the maximum and minimum lines indicated. 

The transmission fluid in your electric car, if you have a transmission, should be dealt with by an authorized dealer, and it is not a good idea to try and change it yourself. 

It is not advisable to change any of the lubricants in your electric car if you have not been specifically advised to do so and especially if you are unsure how to go about it. 

In Conclusion

While your electric car does not require an oil change some lubricants are essential for the safe and efficient operation of your vehicle. 

Always consult an approved dealer or garage if you need lubricants changed on your electric vehicle or consult your owner’s manual. 

Jonathan Rice