Do Electric Cars Use Oil? Examining EV Maintenance

Mechanic examines an electric car

If you’re like most drivers, you’re not exactly an expert with everything that goes on mechanically in your car or truck. The new prominence of electric vehicles has led drivers to ask a whole new set of questions regarding vehicle servicing, particularly when compared to the traditional car maintenance tasks they are familiar with, particularly oil changes. Do electric cars use oil?

The short answer is: no. EVs are designed and engineered differently from traditional internal combustion engine vehicles, so it’s no surprise that the regular maintenance they require differs too.

Just as EVs are changing how we drive by eliminating fossil fuel use and lowering automotive emissions, they’ll also forever alter the steps we take to maintain our cars.

Maintaining an EV requires more than simply powering up at a charging station.

While “no maintenance” cars have yet to be invented, EV drivers can take comfort in the fact that electric vehicles do require far less maintenance when compared to their gas-powered predecessors.

Here we’ll explore the regular maintenance required of EVs, and how that compares to your conventional car.

Do Electric Cars Need Oil Changes?

Every vehicle owner’s manual is packed with checklists of suggested maintenance for your gas-powered car, truck, or SUV as you reach certain mileage points, the most common one being oil changes.

Drivers tired of having to set themselves a reminder to change their oil once every 5,000 to 10,000 miles rejoice: Once you become an EV owner, you can say goodbye to oil changes forever.

Regular oil changes are not required of electric cars because they do not use oil. In a gas-powered internal combustion engine, motor oil is utilized to lubricate the dozens of constantly moving valves and pistons, to both reduce friction and prevent the numerous moving parts of the drivetrain from overheating.

Electric motors are supplied with enough non-motor oil lubricants to last the lifespan of their battery pack upon their initial construction.

And while that isn’t a 100% guarantee that you’ll never have to have them topped off, they only need to be evaluated during an annual maintenance checkup as opposed to certain mileage points.

This chart illustrates regular maintenance tasks, and which types of vehicles require them:

Maintenance Task Gas-Powered Vehicles Electric Vehicles
Air conditioner/cabin air filter replacement
Drive belt replacement
Engine coolant flush
Fuel filter change
Head gasket repair
Hydraulic (brake) fluid replacement
Muffler/exhaust repair
Oil filter replacement
Ring, cylinder and hose wear
Spark plug replacement
Steering fluid replacement
Tire rotation
Transmission fluid flush
Water pump replacement
Wiper blade replacement

Not surprisingly, many of the lubricants that are necessary for internal combustion engines to run aren’t needed in battery-powered all-electric vehicles. This goes a long way in making EV maintenance far more affordable compared to that of gas-powered cars.

Do Electric Cars Use Brake Fluid?

Another major way gas-powered vehicles and electric vehicles differ is in their braking systems. Electric cars do use brake fluid (also referred to as hydraulic fluid). That said, EVs require this fluid to be replaced far less frequently.

EVs utilize regenerative braking systems that send power back into their battery packs as the car slows.

In gas-powered cars, the kinetic energy created by stopping is distributed to the brake rotors on each wheel, which results in massive amounts of heat and wear on the brake pads. In a regenerative braking system, however, this energy is captured and returned to the car battery. As such, wear on brake pads is far less significant.

Maintenance Similarities Between EVs and Gas-Powered Cars

Despite their vast differences in design and function, there are a handful of routine maintenance tasks that both EVs and gas cars share.

Both EVs and gas-powered vehicles have cabin air filters that block harmful particulates from getting into the interior. Filters in both types of vehicles need to be replaced on a regular basis to both maintain a healthy air quality and prevent odors from accumulating inside the cabin.

Do Electric Cars Use Oil or Any Other Automotive Fluids?

EVs and gas-powered cars also both need many common automotive lubricants to maintain proper function. And while internal-combustion engines require many, many more fluids than EVs, both of them need these:

  • Air conditioning gasses: Both ICEs and EVs utilize various types of refrigerant gases for their air conditioning systems to function.
  • Common automotive grease: Automotive grease, used in both ICEs and EVs, is a material used inside locks, door hinges, and door handles to help their continued function.
  • Coolant: Coolant in gas-powered vehicles, also known as antifreeze, both lubricates moving parts including cylinders and pistons while protecting the engine from overheating. In some EVs, coolant fluid (but not the same as antifreeze) is utilized to regulate the temperature of the battery pack.
  • Windshield washer fluid: Windshield washer fluid helps to both melt ice in cold temperatures and keep the windshield free of dirt, pollen, and other residue.

Other Electric Car Maintenance

Mechanic works on electric vehicle

The majority of electric car maintenance tasks can be tended to with an annual trip to your car dealership. A typical annual EV maintenance schedule includes:

  • Battery testing to ensure proper charging throughout the life of the vehicle
  • Standard tire rotations and/or replacements
  • Wheel alignments to maintain safe and functional steering
  • Routine air conditioner service

It’s also important to note that short of accidents and misuse, Level 1 home EV chargers require no maintenance or upkeep during their lifespan.

Keep Your EV Running Strong

In addition to its required regular maintenance, there’s also a number of steps EV drivers can take to ensure their vehicle keeps running well. They include:

  • Avoiding frequent use of fast charging stations — long term use can deplete an EV battery’s charging capabilities
  • Keeping your EV moving and avoiding going long periods without a charge
  • Charging your EV to 80% instead of 100% to prolong battery life
  • Avoiding driving in both extreme heat and extreme cold, both of which can damage EV batteries.

Hitting the Open Road

If you’re shopping for a new EV and have asked yourself if electric cars use oil, you now know that while their upkeep and use of traditional automotive fluids is minimal, EVs do in fact require some routine maintenance.

It’s important to keep in mind that not all EV models are designed, engineered, or respond to frequent driving exactly the same way. These vehicles also tend to have much lengthier warranties that can protect owners from many unanticipated maintenance problems.

Take some time to familiarize yourself with the exact maintenance specifications for the brand and model of EV you’re considering, and read up on the EV maintenance tasks that are most commonly needed.

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