Automotive Fluids: Tesla Versus Conventional ICE Vehicle


We all know that electric cars require less maintenance than conventional internal combustion engine vehicles, but if we look specifically at automotive fluids, what’s the difference between a Tesla Model X and a conventional automobile?



The folks over at “Now You Know” on YouTube have assembled a video showing a fluid comparison between the X and a conventional vehicle.

Video description:

“Join us today as we pin an ICE car up against a Tesla Model X to see which car requires more maintenance and more fluids!”

The video is a bit biased towards electric cars, as they can require more than just washer fluid, but the point is still accurate in that electric cars generally win out in the automotive fluid requirement category of car maintenance.

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49 Comments on "Automotive Fluids: Tesla Versus Conventional ICE Vehicle"

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The are correct when they said “electric cars can require more than just washer fluid”. For instance, my Nissan Leaf also requires water for the 12v battery.

Really? Not a sealed AGW S battery

My Ford Focus Electric seems to require coffee in the drink holder.

To be fair, that’s every vehicle in the civilized world.

My Leaves also require two containers of Tire Wet every 7,500 mi./ tire rotation, to keep them looking at least somewhat factory fresh.

A little biased? It’s trash.

An EV doesn’t have motor oil. That’s the entirety of the difference. It still has coolant. It has brake fluid. It has transmission fluid. It has power steering if it has hydraulic power steering and doesn’t if it has electric, just like an ICE car.It even has battery acid until they finally get the lead-acid batteries out of EVs.

Oh, you say your transmission fluid is good for life? It is so on ICE cars too. It mainly is because the companies bundle maintenance now and so declared it so to reduce costs.

Air filters aren’t fluids, but indeed there is no motor air filter on an EV. But it still has brakes and so needs pads. It still has tires those are consumable too. An EV still has wiper blades too. It still has A/C refrigerant.

This dope thinks his electric car doesn’t have a radiator! Where does he think the coolant loop loops to? Did he notice Tesla recommends coolant replacement at 50,000 miles?

Some EVs use electric motor assist for power steering, so no power steering fluid required for those cars.

Re transmission fluid: I can only assume you’re talking about PHEVs. BEVs have no transmission, only a fixed-ratio gearbox. Does the gearbox need lubrication replacement during the lifetime of the car?

My Tesla requires a repacking of the graphite at 500,000 miles for the motor. Betcha won’t find that at NAPA Auto Parts!

What, they don’t sell this at NAPA stores?

(Just kidding!)

When we say Tesla, we normally mean Tesla Motors from Palo Alto. These cars have induction motors, which means no graphite inside whatsoever. They are brushless.

Yes, I said that. Like an ICE car, if your EV has hydraulic steering you have power steering fluid. If it has electric, you don’t. Many ICE cars have electric steering. Many EVs too. An EV has a transmission, it just doesn’t have variable gear ratios. As to lube replacement for its transmission, I covered that too. Like a recent automatic transmission or a manual gearbox it is not listed as needing fluid changes. But it’s basically equally true and not true in all those cases. The companies are confident that the factory fluid will last the life of the car (200,000 miles?), but you’re actually better off if you replace it once in a while. Here is the maintenance schedule for a 2016 Audi. There is no scheduled transmission fluid replacement for cars with conventional manual or automatic gearboxes except for the Q5. Looks like continuously-variable and dual-clutch transmissions do still require fluid replacement though. I’ve never had either of those types of transmissions. They do want you to replace your brake fluid every two years though, just as Tesla does. Tesla wants to have the coolant replaced every 50,000 miles from the information I see. Although for… Read more »

It also doesn’t list diff fluids or transaxle fluid for the AWD either. *shrug*

unlucky said:

“Yes, I said that. Like an ICE car, if your EV has hydraulic steering you have power steering fluid. If it has electric, you don’t.”

Ack! My apologies; you did indeed spell that out clearly. Mea culpa for not reading your post more carefully. 😳

The Ford Focus has transmission fluid. I know it was leaking on my driveway.

Isn’t that a feature of every Ford?

“Does the gearbox need lubrication replacement during the lifetime of the car”

You have options:

1. No, you can replace gearboxes instead 😉 Because when you put single speed gearbox into electric car, it magically starts emitting pixie dust, and because of that it is not called single speed transmission anymore, and doesn’t need lubrication.
2. Or your can assume they run on unobtatnium oil that is good for lifetime 😉 Some automakers suggest this option, which leads to 1. In case of Tesla it may get ludicrously expensive, so Tesla recommends 12 years, 150k miles replacement using 90W oil.


Okay, but there are things such as sealed bearings which are “lubricated for life”. Hence my question.

YOUR comment is more than a little biased.

“An EV doesn’t have motor oil. That’s the entirety of the difference.”

Everybody admits that this is a biased video. But you must also admit that there are fewer fluids than just motor oil, and longer service lifes for many of those fluids.

I also think you are minimizing the impact of not having to change motor oil and oil filters. That itself is a number of orders of magnitude a bigger deal than the rest of the fluids.

We’re not just talking about fluids, but maintenance fluids. An EV motor has oil in it, you just don’t change it.

Which maintenance fluids did I miss?

My ICE car asks for and gets new oil once a year. It’s not a big deal, no bigger deal than my LEAF required battery inspection interval or Tesla’s 1 year requested maintenance.

“It has transmission fluid.”


Most EVs don’t even have a transmission.

Wrong. All EVs have a transmission — just not a gear-shifting transmission. Most are usually just fixed set of step-down gears.

The gearbox will still has some form of lubrication internally, though possibly so long-lasting that the car effectively doesn’t “need” any transmission (gearbox) maintenance.

In American English, the term “transmission” when applied to an automobile, very specifically means the powertrain has multiple gear ratios which can be changed during driving. The term “gearbox” specifically means a fixed-ratio reduction gear.

I understand the terms are reversed in British English. But in America, it is simply incorrect to talk about either a “single-speed transmission” or a “multi-speed gearbox” in an automobile.

GEARBOX and TRANSMISSION are often used interchangeably in American conversation. However, GEARBOX is often used just to describe the gear-carrying assembly alone, excluding the clutch and differential. TRANSMISSION often is used to describe the entire mechanism that lies between the engine output shaft and the differential or driveshaft.

Thus, it’s perfectly normal to say “6 speed gearbox” or “6 speed transmission”, etc.

Try this search for an example:

Regarding brake pads (and rotors for that matter) that’s true as far as it goes but neglects to consider that on EVs with strong regen the brake parts are expected to last a long time. Considering that pads and rotors were a significant cost in maintaining my old Audi, that ain’t nothin’.

Someone posted something the other day about the Volt needing to have a coolant flush and replacement at about, what was it, 75k or 100k miles? Anyway, probably only once during the average ownership period of a car, or perhaps even less.

For the Model S, I dunno what the official maintenance schedule is, but an unofficial source says:

Brake Fluid – every 2 years or 25,000 miles

Battery Coolant – every 5 years or 62,500 miles

Apparently there is also gear oil in the 1-speed gear reduction box(s) that apparently need changed at 125,000 miles.

To be 100% pedantic, there is lubricant oil mixed into the A/C system, but there is no A/C refrigerant change schedule.

Also from unofficial sources just like yours.

Yes, well. Certainly all the other things they mention make evs better, fewer systems to break down. Though you might only spend $60 a year for fluids not every few months. Plus not all that time consuming to top off a few fluids.
It’s really when the car starts hit the planned obsolescence arena, around 200k that the expensive parts start to go, for an ice, at that point you have probably spend 3x the dollars on maintenance that an ev would require.

Great video! I love it! Right in the kisser!

Never saw that, how they would strap a car and lift it out to tow. Illegally parked. The Tesla guy called the cops and they ticketed and towed the ice that was parked in the space.

I nearly stopped watching as soon as they said EVs have no brake fluid… and then went on to say they have no coolant, radiators, or gear oil, all of which are incorrect. (I don’t know of an EV with power steering fluid, but it’s possible… MiEV maybe?)

I get the gag joke point it’s trying to make, but bad misinformation is bad.

I’m almost certain that our i-MiEV had electrically-assisted steering. It makes no sense for an EV to have hydraulically-assisted steering because that would require a hydraulic pump powered by an electric motor, so why not just power the steering with an electric motor and avoid all of the hydraulic complexity and unreliability?

Many ICE cars also have electric steering since the late 90s.

The point isn’t that an EV has electric steering, it’s that that you don’t have to have an EV to have that. It’s not a material difference.

Sometimes I hear from EV fanboys that EVs do not require to clean carburetor. It must be great!

Yep! No fuel injectors or pumps to worry about either! ?

Don’t forget the oil in the shocks

The Tesla still uses several other fluids such as brake fluid, coolant for the battery system and fluid in the electric drive gearbox. However, at least for the Model S, X — Tesla takes care of those… a bit misleading

What do you mean “take care of it”? During the annual service?
So does a dealer’s service garage for any other car when od you the annual inspection/service.
Do you mean “Tesla doesn’t charge for it”? maybe they don’t charge for it seperately, but IIRC, their annual inspections are $400. My ICE car’s is ~$150, so I don’t mind if they charge for the fluid separately.

Other companies “take care of it” too. You can always pay to get your car serviced, as Tesla charges for it. You never have to actually put fluids in your ICE car other than gas.

It is nice not having to buy gas, I’ll say that.

Thanks to Toyota being buttholes about doing even basic service to my RAV EV, I have a giant vat of the blue cooling fluid I bought at BMW dealership.

The air going in and the exhaust coming out (cough, cough) are the fluids most concerning to me. (Gas is a fluid. Ask any engineer.)

Not sure exactly what the mandatory annual maintenance is on an “S”, except for warranty purposes it is now ‘voluntary’. My roadster was the most expensive to maintain car I’ve ever owned, but not many have had a roadster. Most BEV’s in the future will probably have gearbox oil, and hydraulic brake oil – as was said this is one place the video is dead wrong – its not all done with ‘magnets’. It still must have vacuum pump, diaphram, and master cylinders. The semi-hermetic air conditioning compressors used in hybrids, PHEV’s, and Bevs should be more reliable than the old fashioned way, mainly because there is no shaft seal to leak, and also because the unit, being variable speed, can start out slow. ALso, there are pumps in electric cars – for the charger, inverter, in some cases the drive motor itself, and, of course, battery heating and cooling. So I’d guess you’d say BEV’s might use less fluids than ICE cars, but the difference isn’t as compelling as you’d think – and as far as the power steering goes – for efficiency’s sake even ICE cars are slowly migrating over to 12 volt electric steering as an economy… Read more »

Slightly off topic, but it seems that regenerative braking should extend tire and brake pad life. Skid marks definitely leave rubber on the road. Having that energy absorbed electrically rather than mechanically should extend the life of the mechanical parts. But how much ?

Regenerative braking definitely extends brake pad life. Tires, on the other hand, wear out just like any other car. My Volt needed a new set at 38,000 miles.

Yeah, I try to use regen/(recooperation) as much as I can in the ELR – I’m hoping never to have to replace the brakes since there’d be so little use of them.

Alan Drake said:

“it seems that regenerative braking should extend tire and brake pad life. Skid marks definitely leave rubber on the road.”

Reports certainly seem to confirm the common-sense idea that cars with regenerative braking shouldn’t need replacement of brake pads as often.

Tire wear, on the other hand, is subject to many variables. Since this is a Tesla-specific discussion, it’s appropriate to mention that many have reported what appears to be excessive rear tire wear on the Model S. Some suggest that’s due to the car’s high performance encouraging too many “jack-rabbit” starts, but an old InsideEVs article claims it’s the (supposedly intentional) negative camber of the rear tires which is to blame:

A late night drink and a date will add at least two fluids to the Tesla.


Too much information, and get a room! Please!