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Do Teslas Need Oil Changes? Which Parts Do Need Lubricants?

One of the most attractive features of a Tesla is the fact that it doesn’t emit any pollutants into the air. Therefore Teslas obviously do not combust oils and fuels like regular gas cars. However, the car does still need some oils and lubricants to function. If that is the case, will you need to do an oil change on a Tesla?

Teslas do not need any oil changes, transmission fluid replacements, or coolant flushes. However, Tesla’s gearboxes do need synthetic oil to facilitate smooth transmissions, but you will never have to change these oils at any point during ownership.

As per usual I took the liberty to do some proper research and provide you a detailed answer to this topic. So check out the rest of this article.

Reasons Teslas Don’t Need the Traditional Oil Change

To understand why Teslas don’t need to change their oil as other vehicles do, you need to understand why fuel-powered cars need an oil change. Also, you need to understand how Teslas operate differently from combustion cars.

How Fuel-Powered Engines Work

Engine oil is a blend of base oils and additives. Base oils are extracted from crude oil or natural gas, which make up about 80% of motor or engine oil. Additives — including antioxidants, detergents, and friction retarders — make up about 20%.

Do-Teslas-Need-Oil-Changes
Engine oil lubricates and cleans the internal combustion engine’s parts. Gas-powered vehicles have pistons, cylinder walls, bearings, and moving parts that require lubrication. The oil stops these moving parts from coming into contact with each other and serves to cool them down as well.

As the oil ages from regular use and grinding of the engine parts, it loses viscosity and must be changed. Fumes from fuel combustion contaminate the oil, and it also collects debris as it travels through the engine.

This debris is trapped by the oil filter, keeping the engine clean. That’s why you change the oil filter regularly as well.

How Teslas Work

Teslas don’t work as fuel-powered cars do. Electric cars don’t have engines, clutches, and exhaust tailpipes typical of regular gas vehicles. They don’t have internal combustion engines; instead, they’re powered by induction motors. These motors, in turn, are powered by battery packs.

Because they don’t have fuel-powered engines, Teslas don’t emit exhaust fumes. They also don’t feature conventional fuel pumps, fuel tanks, and fuel lines.

Watch this YouTube video on how Teslas (Model S) work

Before anything else, let me give you a quick rundown on how an induction motor works. An induction motor runs on an alternating current (AC). The current’s frequency dictates its rotation speed, meaning you can alter the wheels’ turning speed by altering the frequency of the current.

However, Tesla’s battery packs generate direct current, meaning an inverter is necessary to convert it to AC. The inverter also tunes the AC’s frequency, varying the motor speed. It also tunes the current’s aptitude, varying the motor’s power output.

Fun Fact:

Tesla’s motor RPM range is from 0 to 18,000.

Why Teslas Don’t Need Heavy Lubrication

Teslas don’t have too many moving parts or extreme movements in the motor. Therefore, there’s no need for heavy lubrication as in combustion engines besides light greasing to the motor to maintain a smooth operation.

Unlike the usual engines, you don’t have to replace the grease regularly since it doesn’t break down quickly.

Other Oils/Lubrication That Teslas Need

Although EVs don’t require much maintenance, they do have other moving parts that still need some form of lubrication.

Single-Speed Gearbox Fluid

Teslas don’t have the traditional gearboxes with multiple ratios for gear shifts. Instead, the high-revving induction motor delivers drive through a reduction gear that converts the high rotational speed to proportionate wheel speeds. Tesla motors provide enough torque at varying revs, so they spin more at higher speeds than combustion engines. 

In other words, Teslas don’t have multi-speed transmission. Instead, they have a single-speed gearbox. The single-speed gearbox translates the motor rotation to a more usable motion for the wheels.

But it also needs lubricating oil and an oil filter to ensure friction-free operation. The oil is a synthetic type called the Pentosin ATF 9, and the oil filter is 1095038-00-A.

This oil doesn’t degrade or become contaminated by engine fumes like engine oils, so you don’t need to replace it.

Fun Fact:

CNET used a dipstick to check gearbox oil levels on Tesla’s Model 3.

Windscreen Washer Liquid

Teslas have a windshield washer fluid reservoir behind the front trunk. You can use any brand of windscreen washer fluid; however, it has to provide anti-freeze protection.

Also, be aware that Tesla doesn’t recommend using washers laced with water repellents and bug wash additives, as they can leave residues and marks on the windscreen that cause the wiper to become noisy.

Battery Coolant

Tesla has been making headlines in the automotive world, and for good reasons. Tesla builds electric cars with in-built battery cooling systems, making them one the most manageable and most cost-efficient cooling systems to maintain.

Electric vehicle batteries, including Tesla’s, are susceptible to overheating, causing fire. When you rapidly charge a lithium-ion battery, it tends to overheat. The same happens when it discharges quickly.

Raping discharge occurs when there’s a huge power demand from the battery, like using car accessories and charging your laptop simultaneously. The battery will overheat to convert more chemical energy into electrical energy.

Tesla batteries can overheat, reaching up to 40°C (104°F) if not cooled sufficiently. As you can imagine, this can be bad for you and your vehicle. Tesla lithium-ion batteries are highly efficient and have a great storage capacity, making them even more susceptible to overheating.

I wrote a related article where I uncovered which kind of coolant Teslas use and how it works exactly. Also find out how often you will need to change the coolant in your Tesla. Check it out!

Chances of a Tesla Catching Fire Because of Battery Overheating

You’ve probably heard about the burning Tesla with over 20 fire engines trying to extinguish the flames. 

Here’s a YouTube video of the incident:

Then again, if Teslas were so good at catching fires, why have they dominated the US EV sales in the last three years?

This table shows electric vehicle sales according to model in the US in the three years before May 2021:

EV carsSales
Tesla Model 3296,392
Tesla Model S67,335
Tesla Model X67,225
Chevy Bolt57,629
BMW i317,247
VW e-Golf9,751
This table shows EV car sales in the US before May 2021. Source: Statista

Fortunately, Tesla has designed an efficient fluid glycol coolant and thermal management system to cool the battery packs and prevent overheating.

Statistic:

One Tesla fire occurs for every 50,000 gas-powered car fires. Tesla estimates that between 2012 and 2020, there has only been one Tesla fire for every 205 million miles (329,915,520 kilometers).

The coolant is a G-48 ethylene-glycol (HOAT) mixture designed to improve performance and extend the battery’s life. Therefore, the chances of your Tesla battery overheating are low. 

Checking Your Tesla Battery Coolant

Although you should keep an eye on your car systems, Tesla doesn’t recommend removing the filler cap or topping up the battery coolant as this may result in damage not covered by your warranty.

Brake Fluid

Some Tesla cars use hydraulic brakes. Automakers have recently introduced Brembo fully-electric brakes in self-driving cars. These braking systems rely on electric actuators rather than hydraulic pressure for actuation.

Most Teslas use the DOT 3 Brake fluid, which Tesla recommends checking every two years. Fortunately, an alert shows up on the touchscreen if the brake fluid falls below the minimum. So, you should contact Tesla if a red brake indicator shows up on the screen.

Here’s how to top up the brake fluid in your Tesla:

  1. Don’t go straight to opening the filler cap. Clean it first to prevent dirt from getting into the brake fluid reservoir.
  2. Carefully unscrew the filler cap.
  3. Top up your car’s reservoir to the recommended level with approved brake fluid.
  4. Screw the filler cap to securely and firmly cover the reservoir.

You can try this Ford High-Performance DOT-3 Motor Vehicle Brake Fluid (available on Amazon.com). It’s suitable for vehicles with ABS, Disk, or drum and has a wet boiling point of 284°F (140°C) and a dry boiling point of 500°F (260°C).

Items That Require Constant Change on a Regular Car

Automotive technology has improved significantly in the last 50 years, so cars don’t require as much attention as they did before. However, this doesn’t mean they’re completely maintenance-free.

Car maintenance begins at 5,000 miles (8,046 kilometers) and goes on every 5,000-10,000 miles (8,046-16,093 kilometers) depending on your usage. It’s best to check your car’s condition often to ensure your vehicle runs smoothly and safely. Don’t wait until your car breaks down to have it checked by a mechanic: Routine checkups are necessary to avoid more serious issues.

These are some items that require constant change on a regular car.

Engine Oil

The oil keeps your car engine running smoothly. However, the heat breaks it down over time, causing it to lose viscosity. Also, fumes and tiny metal fragments from engine operation contaminate the oil. Less viscous and contaminated oil is less effective and causes your engine to wear out quickly.

Therefore, modern vehicles require oil changes at 5,000-10,000 mile (8,046-16,093 kilometers) intervals. Fortunately, the old oil change rule every three months or 3,000 miles no longer applies.

Use the dipstick to inspect your car’s engine oil level, color, and viscosity. This will help you understand how your car behaves and make informed decisions on how to maintain it. You can also consult your car’s manual to see what the manufacturer recommends.

Air Filter

Engines require fresh and dirt-free air to run smoothly. An air filter clogged with dust and debris can cause your engine to run rough, reduce gas mileage and horsepower, or stall out.

Manufacturers recommend changing the air filter every 5,000 miles (8,046 kilometers). But the idea of changing your car’s air filter largely depends on the environmental conditions during these miles. If you frequently drive on dirt roads, you’ll probably need to replace the air filter sooner.

You can also clean your air filter between replacements to keep it in pristine working condition. Use an air blower to blow dust and dirt off the air filter and put it back in the column. 

I’m not a big fan of the idea of cleaning your air filter using water. It takes up to 24 hours to dry, and even then, you can’t be sure it dried properly. You don’t want to deal with the issue of water droplets getting into the engine. If it’s too old and inefficient, replace it ASAP.

Air Filters for Your Car

Of course, you should always check your specific vehicle for the most appropriate air filter for it. That said, here are a couple of recommendations to help you get started:

Brake Pads

Brake failure accounts for about 5% of the 5.6 million car crashes in the US each year. As you can imagine, brake failure is terrifying. If you want to know if brake failure is an issue with your vehicle, check to see if you cover a longer braking distance or if your brakes make strange noises. If it takes much effort to achieve enough braking, it’s time to have your brakes checked.

There are no hard rules on when you should change the brake pads. How they wear out largely depends on your driving style, your car’s weight, the pad’s quality, and the condition of the rotors. Your brake pads will likely wear out quickly if you drive too aggressively, drive in traffic, or drive in a hilly area.

Remember to ask your mechanic to bleed the brake fluid every time you change the brake pads or take your car for a brake inspection. Air bubbles in the fluid can significantly reduce the effectiveness of the brakes. With increased braking distance, you’d notice this and depress the pedal even further to achieve sufficient braking.

Frequently Asked Questions

Why don’t Teslas need oil changes?

Teslas use Pentosin ATF 9, a synthetic oil type that doesn’t degrade over time. Also, Teslas don’t have combustion engines, so there are no fumes to contaminate the oil to necessitate oil changes.

How often should Teslas be serviced?

Tesla recommends servicing Tesla Models X and S every 12,500 miles (20,117 kilometers) and Model 3 every 25,000 miles (40,234 kilometers).


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Erwin Meyer
Erwin Meyer

Thanks for visiting evspeedy.com. The goal of this site is to be a helpful resource for Tesla and EV owners as this is where my passion lies. I was a TSLA shareholder before the hype and still am. I also believe in Tesla’s speedy mission to accelerate the world to a sustainable future.