Sep 2004 - Jan 2017
The updated version of our hints for choosing motor oil, taking into account the trends of lubricant industry and appearance of new Toyota engines.
Note - even modern Toyota engines, not to mention the bulletproof classics of the 1990s, have a good margin of safety, a modest uprating, low operating temperatures - and make it possible to choose the motor oil not so responsibly as for engines of European car makers.
"You should follow the manufacturer's recommendations" - but above all it is necessary to follow the common sense. And relate the manufacturer's opinion with the actual environment and condition of the particular vehicle.
In addition, you must be able to find the proper manufacturer's recommendations - every Toyota engine is attended by at least five prescriptions not coincided with each other - three in the owner manuals (for Japan, USA, Europe markets), two in the workshop manual (for domestic and overseas markets). And it changes over time, so it is better to read the early documents near the engine first appearance time - when the instructions more or less reflected the real technical requirements rather than later - were revised in favor of a new environmental regulations.
Historically, that the most elementary recommendations are provided for the US market. As a rule, it contains single viscosity value - the lowest of all possible (0W-20 and 0W-16 for now) - only for the sake of economy/ecology and to the detriment of all the rest. However experience has shown that the possibility of too free choice enables the average Americans to make a great mistakes with serious consequences.
This is followed by Japanese market recommendations. To the good, it still contain one or two alternative viscosities. And it is also noticeable attraction to low visc oils (even in the 1990s 10W-30 was the most dense here).
The most appropriate recommendations Toyota make for the European market. Although there are a preferred energy-saving low-viscosity oil too, but officially allowed upper limit of the viscosity is marked also. This allows to dispel the myth "new engines designed for 0W-20 and more dense oil will cause breakage immediately" - in fact, the viscosity xxW-40 and -50 is not a taboo, even for the most recent series of engines.
1st wave (1970 - early 1980s) - "archaic" (R, V, M, T, Y, K)
For today these are the antique, so the recommendation is interesting only as reminder of the ancient oil types.
2nd wave (end of 1980s - end of 1990s) - "classic" (A, S, E, G, JZ)
The literal adherence to the instructions make to fill these well-deserved engines with conditionally "winter" and "summer" oil - in fact it is just a consequence of the complex relationship of Japanese with semi-synthetic and synthetic oils. And to this day the best choice for classical engines - all-season 5W-40. In a mild climate cheaper 10W-40 is suitable. And, well, in those scary places where 5W-xx fluidity is not enough, inhabitants know better what to do without our advices.
3rd wave (late 1990s) - the revolution (ZZ, AZ, NZ)
With the exception of NZ, this generation engines can hardly be called "successful". Series ZZ has a "special relationship" with the motor oil exactly. For all modern engines (not just Toyota's) for many years as the golden mean remains 5W-30. In the absence of high oil consumption it makes no sense to increase the viscosity (also remember that thicken xxW-50+ was originally designed for particularly tough use and high loads, not to reduce the oil burn). Moreover, it makes no sense to engage with "energy saving" low-viscosity oils if this does not cause by climatic conditions.
4th wave (mid-2000s) - Evolution (ZR, GR, AR, NR)
Typically, these motors are filled and re-filled by dealers with 0W-20. However, if there are any adverse symptoms, some doubts or discomfort - at any time you can go to 5W-30. And once again - "summer" oils with normal and high viscosity are officially allowed.
There are not questions to quality - even for the most modern engines all API classes from SL to SN are fit. European ACEA classification and domestic JASO Toyota applies only for diesel engines.
Well, in the good old days the oil served for a longer time without any damage to the motors. Over time, the fuel quality is getting better, the average age of cars was reduced, but in the pursuit of "energy efficiency" and "environmental friendliness" modern oil lost a lot of useful features and the usual "safety margin".
For today the optimal replacement intervals are (on average): 5000 km for the simplest mineral and various lo-end oils; 7000-8000 km for the bulk of HC and semi-synthetic oils, 10000 km for good synthetic and some hi-end oils.
"On average" - because in addition to the mileage it is necessary to take into account the operational conditions. If you spend below 20 hours for every 1000 km of mileage, in such ideal driving conditions the oil can live a very long life. The opposite - a heavy city cycle where you spend 50-60 hours for 1000 km, and in addition to the hours of service the oil is deteriorated with often warm-ups, unsteady regimes, idling, ingress of gasoline and condensate...
No. But if the desire to flush is irresistible, it is better to use conventional motor oil with good detergent ability, and change it every few thousand of mileage if darkened.
"Which brand is better?"
We excluded mention of specific brands on principle. Generally (as 10-15 years ago) it is preferable to use - a) North American brands for the North American market, b) well-known international brands of Top-5.
At the domestic aftermarket Toyota for a long time recommended one famous worldwide brand products and one more specific products of one Japanese brand (historically "court" manufacturer of Toyota genuine lubricants).
"All brand oils here - are a counterfeit"
Counterfeiting problem exists. But must understand this theme in Russia is artificially fueled - creating the atmosphere of distrust around top oil brands is a vital interest of the lo-end brand dealers and merchants of third-rate chemistry.
In conclusion - a few words about unattractive features exactly of the Russian market of lubricants and hydraulic fluids. It is no secret here that the words "pure Japanese quality" destroy the rationality of many rus-consumers. And in the field of lubricants main sign of "special quality", "true origin", "imperial control" etc is considered the packaging in metal containers (tins), furthermore - decorated with hieroglyphics. For every demand there is the offer so gradually the market was flooded with "japanese-look" crafts.
1) "License". Imitations with a certain attitude to the country of the rising sun, appeared in the Russian market in the first half of the 2000s. As might guess, these schemes were initiated by rus-businessmen from Vladivostok. Their oil (with seemingly official license) is produced in third countries under the brands known and popular in the domestic Japanese market. Of course, these oils in no way correspond to the genuine product under the same brand for the after-market of Japan or USA. There is usually not a bad "asian" type oil inside the tins (it is entirely merit of decent Korean contractors), but initially built on deception and juggling business does not cause any respect.
2) "Camouflage". The next way looks legally slippery, but works in Russia - original design of tins of Japanese car brands is copied "confusingly" (or "likelihood of confusion"), with similar title and even similar original part-number (which is very uncomfortable when on-line ordering), with randomly drawn any modern approvals at tins. Inside - the average product of some European brand.
3) "Fraud". Over time, it turned out that legal trade under real Japanese brands imposes some restrictions and obligations. Therefore in 2010-2011, Russian businessmen (including the authors of the first method) created few brands with sounding as "japanese" names. To make the likelihood, "headquarters" were registered in Japan slum areas, figurehead assigned, "career milestones" invented for these pseudo-companies. Then the sacred tins produced and stylized for "real Japanese product", covered with hieroglyphics, many pseudo-scientific terms and abbreviations, and the most modern approvals ("japanese" inscription on the goods only supplied to the Russian market - the old way to zombify Russian citizen). It filled with average quality products of known manufacturer from Southeast Asia. Russian and pseudo-"Japanese" internet sites were built. A lot of distributors were motivated, campaign in the social media was paid, the lawyers to eliminate serious negative responses were recruited... The operation result was "excellent". It is amazing how many real people (not advertising internet bots) of all ages, classes and social groups with access to the information space, successfully enough to buy modern cars, likely to understand in which country live - do not recognize seemingly obvious fraud. We can only congratulate the Russian Far East traders - they are "true professionals" and experts on Russian souls.