Honda Oil Life Percentage: What is it? Is it Accurate? How do I Reset it?

June 29th, 2021 by

oil indicator on honda car

Engine oil may wear out before it runs out.  This fact alone explains why the Oil Life Indicator is such a vital readout on your Honda’s dashboard.

What it is:

Unlike the car’s gasoline gauge, the oil life indicator should never be interpreted as simply a measurement of the amount of oil in the tank.  Instead, it is an indicator of the oil’s ability to properly lubricate the engine, which it can’t do effectively once it becomes overloaded with dirt and other contaminants.

When engine oil is fresh—as it is when your car is brand new or after every oil change—the oil life indicator will read 100%.  From this point on, as dirt begins to accumulate during normal daily driving, the percentage begins to decline.


How it works:

If your oil life indicator has a readout of 15%, for example, it does not mean that you are 15% away from running out of oil.  Instead, it means you are rapidly approaching the time when an oil change will be necessary.  As an added reminder, your Honda Maintenance Minder System will display a yellow wrench icon once the 15% threshold is reached.  This does not mean the car is unsafe to drive.  It simply means that the oil has degraded to such an extent that a change will be needed soon to keep the engine running properly. As a general rule of thumb, this is the ideal time to schedule a service visit.

If the readout drops to 5% it means that the oil has become so dirty that it needs to be changed immediately before it drops even lower.  Indeed, once it reaches 0%, you have not only reached the point where service is past due, but also the point where the remaining oil is probably doing more harm than good.

How does the oil life indicator work?   Simply put, as part of your Honda’s Maintenance Minder System, your Honda’s onboard computer system continuously tracks such daily driving conditions as speed, engine and ambient outdoor temperatures, number of starts and stops, engine load, number of miles driven, and operating time.   Based on these and other performance factors, the system factors down the vehicle’s oil life, starting from 100%, to determine when an oil change will be necessary.


How to Reset:

Authorized Honda dealers will automatically reset your Maintenance Minder System as part of the service.   However, if you change the oil yourself—or have the service performed somewhere else—you must manually reset the oil life indicator.

Following are the steps for resetting the indicator on a 2007 or newer Honda:

  1. Turn the ignition to “Run” (one click before starting the engine).
  2. Press the “Select/Reset” button located on either your steering wheel or as a knob on your dashboard. Depending on your model, either scroll through or press the knob repeatedly until “Engine Oil Life” or “Engine Oil Indicator %” is displayed.
  3. Press and hold the “Select/Reset” button for 10 seconds. The Engine Oil Indicator light will begin to blink.
  4. If your display reads “Engine Oil Life,” select the Reset mode by pressing the Info button on the steering wheel. Then press the “Select/Reset” button to return your oil life to 100%.

What it is not:

The Oil Life Indicator should not be confused with the Oil Pressure Indicator, the little red icon on your dashboard that looks something like a genie’s lamp with a drop of oil coming out the spout.

This Oil Pressure Indicator will light-up briefly when the ignition switch is ON, then should go out immediately once the engine starts. It should never come on while the engine is running.  If the Oil Pressure light starts flashing while the engine is running, it means that the oil pressure dropped very low for a moment, then recovered.  If the indicator light stays on while the engine is running, it means that the engine has lost oil pressure and serious engine damage is possible. In either case, you should take immediate action.

Running the engine with low oil pressure can cause serious mechanical damage almost immediately.   Instead, you should:

  1. Safely pull off the road and shut off the engine. Turn on the hazard warning indicators.
  2. Let the car sit for a few minutes. Then open the hood, pull the dipstick, and check the oil level. (Although oil level and oil pressure are not directly connected, an engine that is very low on oil can lose pressure during sharp turns and other driving maneuvers)
  3. If necessary, add oil to bring the level back to the full mark as shown on the dipstick.
  4. Start the engine again and watch the oil pressure indicator. If the light does not go out within ten seconds, turn off the engine. There is a mechanical problem that needs to be repaired before you should continue driving.
Posted in Honda Cars