A Driving Instructor's Blog

Ford Focus oil change messageThis article was originally written a few years ago, but it has become extremely popular, and gets hundreds of hits a week.

It all began when, back in 2016, I got a message on my Ford Focus TDCi Titanium centre console telling me that it was due for an oil change. I wouldn’t have minded, except that it was only on 5,500 miles and my official service points (set by my lease agent) are every 12,500 miles.

I spoke with the local dealer and they said just to bring it in so they could reset it. I wasn’t too pleased with that since visits to the dealer inevitably mean at least half a day in lost lesson time. Since 2016, and across at least three other vehicles, I’ve had it come on at as low as around 1,000 miles, and at other points shortly after a service.

At this point, let me make it absolutely clear that I did not for a moment think it was anything other than an error. There is an oil warning lamp on the dash which I would never ignore, but centre console messages are a different matter entirely. I mean, how many of us have been driving up a 40% slope only to be advised to change the gear to 4th, 5th, or even 6th? The car just won’t do it. Therefore, my first action was to buy an OBD II monitor tool so I could check/reset it myself. However, no faults were found, so there was nothing to reset – and the oil change warning remained stubbornly visible.

Then I did what I should have done in the first place and Googled it. It turns out Ford has a system which can be set to give an oil change warning at various points. No fault is logged, since the trigger is software-based and is “calculated” based on how the car is being driven. Apparently, you used to be able to set different trigger points manually (in America, at least), but there is no such option in the UK that I can see.

How to reset the oil change warning

Resetting it turned out to be incredibly simple – though completely undocumented by Ford. All you do is:

  1. Turn on the ignition (or push the start button with the clutch up)
  2. Press the brake and accelerator fully down for about 20-25 seconds

The display tells you when reset is complete, and the warning goes away. From what I understand, this applies to all Focus models from MkII onwards.

Does this work on other Ford models?

You’ll have to try it and see. Logic would dictate that Ford has implemented the same procedure on all its current models. However, taking Ford’s index in the handbook as just one example, it is clear that logic isn’t something they waste much time on, and there’s every possibility that the reset procedure is totally different on other models.

How soon should I get my oil changed when the warning message comes on?

For a Focus, if your car is under the manufacturer’s warranty then I think they allow 1,000 miles on top of the normal service points. My lease agent therefore allows me the range of 11,500-13,500 to book it in for a service. Outside that, your warranty might be affected.

Of course, if the oil change warning message appears before 12,500 miles (or whatever your service points are) then you can safely ignore it (or reset it, as explained above). It isn’t a sensor warning, just a software-based calculated value. If the oil warning dashboard light comes on, though, you mustn’t ignore it.

You shouldn’t ignore the message because you could damage your car

Someone wrote to me, making this point. As I have explained above, the alert (it isn’t a warning, as such) is calculated based on how the in-car computer thinks you’re driving. Frankly, when it comes on at around 1,000 miles when you’ve only had the car a few weeks, or several days after it has had a service, and the oil definitely isn’t old, yes you can ignore it.

My lease agent sets the service points at every 12,500 miles. They will not allow me to have it serviced any earlier. I know that Ford talks of 7,500 miles (I’ve never had it come on at that figure), and that’s fine. If you have a private vehicle then follow their advice. But if the warning comes on at any other time you can safely reset it – if nothing else, until you can get it in for its service.


Disclaimer: I take no responsibility if an oil change really is due and you ignore it.

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