10th Jun 2011, 10:38

In my opinion, synthetic oil is a waste of money. We own 4 Toyotas in our family. All have fairly high mileage - one with close to 300,000 miles at this point (thus I'm not sure what the "low quality imports" means, since they're obviously very high quality), but nevertheless we have never used anything other than the lowest cost, generic oil and oil filters in these vehicles. We simply change the oil every 3,000 miles and call it a day.

I changed the timing belt on my Brother's Avalon last year. This is the car that has close to 300,000 miles. This requires removing the valve covers. There was absolutely zero sludge, let alone any discoloration of the components. My brother probably abuses his car more than we do, and often forgets to change the oil. Even so, the car doesn't leak, burn, or use any oil. The engine might as well still be brand-new, because we did a compression check and it was still within factory spec compression ratings. Amazing. My Tacoma with 245,000 is exactly the same: No engine wear, and all I've ever used is plain oil and cheap oil filters.

There are factors that determine how well an engine wears in addition to what oil is used. For example, both my truck and my brother's Avalon have unusually large oil pans. The truck is a 4 cylinder, yet it holds 5.5 quarts of oil. The same is true for the Avalon. With that amount of oil circulating through the engine, it has more time to cool, plus there's more oil thus less chance for particulate matter to build up in it. Other factors include engine metallurgy, crank case breathing, coolant flow, and machining quality.

Like I said - all 4 of our Toyotas are in nearly perfect condition despite using cheap oil. The cars were designed to run on regular oil. As long as an effort is made into doing ordinary maintenance, sludging shouldn't be an issue.

10th Jun 2011, 13:20

And someone in the snow belt and short trips could have opposite Toyota luck. Consumeraffairs.com is a good read. Someone also running too cool of a thermostat. Someone driving little, not daily trips. Someone with unpaved dusty roads they commute on daily. Oil is cheap, why be cheap. Motors can fail. I have had 10 quart pans in my German import. I still change it often. No one can overchange their oil and filter. It's so cheap, why risk it?

10th Jun 2011, 18:35

Certain Toyota engines do have a sludging issue, even when they are maintained.

11th Jun 2011, 14:38

No car is specially "designed" to run on "cheap oil". Oil is used to prevent excessive heat, wear and friction between moving parts. The higher the degree of lubricating ability the oil has, the longer the engine will last. There is also a very tiny increase in fuel efficiency with less friction. It is also true, generally, that in colder climates with short trips, there is a greater possibility of sludge formation in some car engines (Toyota for one example). Sludging is virtually non-existent with full synthetic oil, which is why Toyota owners especially would be advised to use it.

The thermostat on my car has been stuck in the full open position for over a year. This would concern me if I lived in a colder climate, but here in 100-degree temperatures there is more advantage to allowing the engine to run cooler. Since I use full synthetic and carefully inspect the oil at each change for any trace of moisture or contamination, I probably will not replace my thermostat. Most of my driving is highway, and my car is equipped with a heat gauge. The car is only running 5 to 10 degrees cooler with the stuck-open thermostat, and that is incapable of making any difference in performance or oil contamination.

Many car owners are victims of less-than-honest dealers and shops who tell them scare stories in order to make money on unnecessary repairs. That is why as a mechanic and car enthusiast I strongly urge car owners to learn at least a few basics about car repairs. It can save you a ton of money. If I paid my dealer to change my thermostat, it would cost me $400-500. When (and if) I decide to replace it I can do it myself for $12 in half an hour. A perfect example of easy money for car dealers is the case of the Ford dealer who urged me to pay $500 to have my cabin air filter changed. My car doesn't HAVE a cabin air filter!!

13th Jun 2011, 11:04

I actually race as a hobby, and honestly, about the only real advantage to synthetic is that it is less prone to breaking down under extreme heat and pressure. This isn't a concern for the everyday driver out there, who will hardly ever come close to reaching the type of RPMs we on the track reach.

Just about any carmaker out there will have their recommended oil in their owner's manuals. I've yet to see one that specifically calls for synthetic oil.

The issue with Toyota V6 engines being prone to sludge is well-documented, but in almost all cases the cause was from extreme neglect - as in letting the engine run 1000's of miles beyond recommended oil changes. Do this to any engine and you're asking for trouble, regardless of brand.

As long as you change your oil every 3,000 miles, you're good to go. Just about any and all oil I've seen has a rating that exceeds manufacture's warranty requirements. As long as you see this, the oil should be fine.

13th Jun 2011, 14:18

The Toyota sludging issue is caused by an engineering flaw in the PCV system, the results are that the engine and crankcase can't breathe, causing sludge build-up. This affected many 4 cyl. and V6 engines from 1996 through 2004. I have seen this happen too many times on Toyotas that were maintained to say that the cause is not lack of maintenance.

13th Jun 2011, 15:34

Clogging the fine oil passages in your Toyota is a concern as well. Gelling the engine can cost thousands. I buy good oil and better filters. Sometimes spending 3 bucks more for a better filter seems a bargain to me. I also bought electric oil pressure gauges vs the idiot lights in the dash.

14th Jun 2011, 10:52

Your thermostat may be stuck open, but it may still be serving as a restrictor plate. Remove it entirely, and you drop the pressure, and never give the radiator time to properly cool down the fluid. Build up some hot spots in your block, and you may need a engine.

I don't pull my thermostats. I have drilled in the right place one of my earlier Vette's thermostats. I just run 180 degree ones. If you have a cool day and can't run your heater, that may be another issue for not removing the thermostat.

I would rather put good filters on my cars; that means oil filters, gas filters, air filters like K&N instead of inhaling dust contaminants circulating around my engine. Start pulling thermostats and ruining a block or running cheap filters and damaging it as well is not economy.

Everyone drives a bit different, but I have stop start driving, heavy traffic every day. Others may cruise on the open interstate. Some people have dust, crush and run driveways or unpaved. Either way, I change my filters often and with good quality filtration filters. My dad used to say oil is the blood in an engine, why clog it up? Cars are not cheap new to buy, why cut corners?

14th Jun 2011, 15:00

Out of all of the people I know who own Toyota, which includes most people in my family, a good percentage of my friends and neighbors as well as co-workers, only one has had an issue. This was for a 1996 Sienna V6. They had failed to change the oil in over 10,000 miles. My brother's 98 Avalon with a V6 has almost 300,000 miles, and it's still just fine.

Either way, to each his own. If buying synthetic makes someone feel good - let em'. It's the same deal with car wax: You can spend $20 on a bottle or $5 on a bottle. It's likely nobody will know the difference, and a car that is waxed regularly - regardless of brand or price - will still look just as shiny.

14th Jun 2011, 19:36

People that show their cars can tell. Some waxes and cleaners I would never ever use. There's also a drying cloth that will harm your finish; I will not mention its name. Unless you also have x ray vision to see inside your block, I still feel it's far better to err on the side of caution.

On my son's Civic even we make sure the oil and filter are changed every 3000 miles without fail. It's a hard revving little engine running A/C in high summer temps. Encouraging others to neglect a product to me is irresponsible.