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Chrysler quietly added oil change computer

by David Zatz on


Starting in 2008, Chrysler quietly added an oil change indicator to some of its vehicles. The system looks at driving patterns, and modifies the schedule for lighting the “Change Oil” message depending on ambient and coolant temperature, speed, run time, trailer towing, trip patterns (e.g. frequent short trips), and E85 fuel usage; the light may come on anywhere from 3,500 miles to 7,500 miles after the last reset. When the light comes on, owners are advised to change their oil within 500 miles.

The light does not monitor time intervals; owners are advised to change the oil at least every six months, more frequently if they drive off-road frequently.

While dealers are supposed to reset the indicator after changing the oil, customers can do it themselves following instructions in the owner’s manual, in the “Understanding Your Instrument Panel” section. The process on the LX cars and Grand Cherokee is to (without one’s foot on the pedal) push the start button and cycle the ignition to ON/RUN; then fully push down the gas pedal three times, within ten seconds; then, again without pressing the brakes, push the start button to return the ignition to OFF/LOCK.

General Motors had already set up oil change indicators, based on similar principles, in its own line when Chrysler started to add the feature; their version, used by Chevrolet, Buick, Cadillac, and GMC, also provides an estimate of how much life is left to the oil change, and allows for twice the time between changes as the Chrysler warranty. While the system would originally allow some customers to go 10,000 miles between changes, GM spokesman Pam Flores wrote:

GM’s oil life intervals are still guided by the monitoring system, and intervals will vary based on customer driving regimens.   We have made some changes to the intervals to better align with our overall maintenance schedules to make it convenient for our customers to have all of their service maintenance needs completed at one time.  So, we are more in the 7,500 mile range on the high end, or recommending an oil change once per year.

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