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Saturday, September 8, 2012

Fiat 500 Abarth Oil Change

Fiat 500 Abarth oil change

Oil is the life blood of an engine, and this is especially true of the Fiat 500 Abarth's MultiAir engine. With its MultiAir valvetrain technology, the sophisticated engine is a marvel of engineering and ingenuity. The intake valves are operated by electro-hydraulic solenoids giving the engine infinitely variable valve timing -stroke by stroke - cylinder by cylinder. The engine is tuned to deliver maximum fun to drive characteristics meaning great low end torque along with substantial high rpm horsepower. This is done while achieving excellent fuel economy and the required low emissions. The proof is the Fiat 500 Abarth's engine has a specific power output of 117 bhp/L, beating the 114 bhp/L for the Mazda Speed 2, 113 bhp/L for the MINI S and 100 bhp/L in the VW GTI and still manages to be the most fuel efficient performance car available in the US.

Surprisingly, maintenance on the high performance Fiat 500 Abarth engine is kept to a minimum: oil and filter changes every 6 months or 8,000 miles, occasional air filter, spark plugs replacements and a timing belt change at 152,000 miles.

Fiat 500 Abarth MultiAir cylinder head

Engine oil is critical to the operation of the MutiAir valvetrain, so it is important to follow the recommended maintenance schedule. The oil change indicator system (light on the dashboard) will remind you that it is time to take your vehicle in for scheduled maintenance and it may illuminate early depending on how you drive. When this happens, bring your car in for the oil change service at your Fiat Studio within 500 miles.

If you are more of a hands on type Abarth owner, below is a guide to changing the engine oil and filter on the US Fiat 500 Abarth. A couple of caveats: This is a sophisticated Italian performance car, the engine compartment is tight, and you are dealing with modern plastics and composites so put the hammers and vice grips away. Also, if you typically have parts leftover after you put something together, you may want to reevaluate doing this.

Fiat 500 Abarth oil filter housing

Here is some background on how the lubrication system works on the Fiat 500 Abarth's engine. The oil from the oil pan is picked up by a gerotor type oil pump inside the oil pump housing mounted in the front of the cylinder block. The oil from the pump first travels to the oil cooler assembly and then to the oil filter element. After the oil has been filtered and cooled, the oil enters the main oil gallery.

The pressurized oil travels through the main gallery to the five main journals to lubricate the crankshaft main bearings and supply oil to four oil jets cooling the underside of the pistons. The pressurized oil travels through the cross drilled crankshaft main journals to supply oil to the connecting rod journals. Oil from the cylinder block flows into the cylinder head to the camshaft journals and hydraulic lash adjusters. Oil also flows through a filter screen and into the variable valve actuation assembly to open the intake valves.

Fiat 500 Abarth oil pressure specs
Description Specification
Pressure @ Curb Idle Speed* > 10 psi (0.7 bar)
Pressure @ 4000 RPM* > 58 psi (4.0 bar)
*At Normal Operating Temperatures

For best performance and maximum protection for turbocharged engines under all types of operating conditions, Abarth recommends SAE 5W-40 full synthetic engine oils that are API Certified and meet the requirements of Chrysler Material Standard MS-10896.

The oil capacity is only 4 quarts, so don't cheap out and get discount, no name oil. Currently, the most popular mainstream oil is Pennzoil ULTRA® EURO 5W-40 full synthetic. This oil meets Abarth's standards and will guarantee being in compliance with warranty requirements (save your receipts!). Penzoil Extreme ULTRA® EURO 5W-40 is also the recommended oil used by Ferrari, so you know you are using the right stuff.

There may be other oil that is suitable for the Abarth engine, so do your research carefully. A popular forum used to discus engine oils and additives is

Finding PENNZOIL ULTRA® EURO 5W-40 FULL SYNTHETIC may take some looking, The easiest place is your local Chrysler dealer where it is about $10 per quart, but if you have time, you can find it online and save a few bucks.

Speaking of savings, don't bother with oil additives. Chrysler cautions:

Do not add any supplemental materials, other than leak detection dyes, to your engine oil. Engine oil is an engineered product and its performance may be impaired by supplemental additives.

The oil filter used in the Fiat 500 Abarth is the same as the Fiat 500's. Again, the easiest place to get the filter is your Fiat Studio (they should be able to send you one). The part number is 68102241AA, and cost is a reasonable $8. Purolator has a part number listed, but my local retail parts store charges $18 for it and it needs to be ordered.

It is good to have a general selection of tools, but here is a list that you need:
  • Screwdrivers, both blade and Philips style
  • 27mm or 1 1/16" socket to remove oil filter
  • Ratchets: a stubby ratchet that fits the 27mm socket will make things easier. A 1/4" drive ratchet helps for loosening hose clamps.
  • Extensions for your ratchets.
  • U-joints for your sockets also makes things easier
  • Small pliers for a spring clamp on a vacuum hose.
  • I use and recommend an oil extractor. It will eliminate nearly all the mess associated with this dirty job.
  • Rags and paper towels.

Fiat 500 Abarth and Pela oil extractor

Oil extractors are gaining popularity. They are a convenient way to do this messy job without crawling under a car. I've used one for many years and on numerous cars. In my experience, it removes even more oil than the old way of letting the oil drip, drip, drip forever. The model I have is a Pela 6000 with a hand operated vacuum pump. Cost is approximately $40. Worth every penny!

Warm up your engine. Warm oil better caries or suspends impurities. It is also a must so the oil extractor works without a hitch. It doesn't have to be red hot, because if the engine is fully warmed up you will be quite uncomfortable removing the oil filter. It is the correct temperature when you can touch the oil on the dipstick without being burned.

Changing the oil on a 500 Abarth is straight forward, but you will need to remove the Turbo inlet duct. Loosen your oil cap and pull your dipstick out to help the oil drain to the bottom of the engine while you do this.

Fiat 500 Abarth turbo inlet duct

The Fiat 500 Abarth's turbo inlet duct needs to be removed to help gain access to the oil filter.

Fiat 500 Abarth oil filter location

The filter element is down there.

Fiat 500 Abarth Turbo Inlet Top Clamp

Loosen this clamp.

Fiat 500 Abarth Turbo Inlet Fittings

The two hoses on the left have to be disconnected and the clamp on the right loosened.

Removing Fiat 500 Abarth Turbo Inlet
Squeeze the grey tab on the hose connector and carefully disconnect. The vacuum hose next to it uses a spring clamp.

Fiat MultiAir Turbo Oil Filter Housing

Once the turbo inlet duct is removed you can get to the oil filter. It is in a tight location.

When performing an engine oil change, the oil filter cap must be removed. Removing the oil filter cap releases oil held within the oil filter cavity and allows it to drain into the sump. Failure to remove the cap prior to reinstallation of the drain plug will not allow complete draining of the used engine oil.

27 MM Socket Removes Fiat 500 Oil Filter

The filter cap has a 27mm hex head on it. Use a socket and a ratchet to remove it. An extension and a swivel would help. I just grabbed what I had handy, a 3/8" drive ratchet and an adapter for a 1/2" drive 1 1/16" socket.

Removing Fiat 500 Abarth Oil Filter

A stubby (short handled) ratchet would also make it easier to maneuver in the tight confines of the oil filter location. Make sure you use plenty of rags to wrap around the filter housing because some oil will inevitably spill once you remove the filter.

Alternatively, you can use a very long extension and snake it through a spot between the headlight and front valance / radiator support.  This works really well as it is a straight path to the filter housing.

This is the low profile, 27mm oil filter socket I use on the end of the long extension. 

Inside Fiat 500 Abarth Oil Filter Housing

Inside the oil filter housing. One advantage of using an oil extractor is you can use it to suck out the dirty oil from the filter housing.

Fiat 500 Abarth Oil Filter Element

The dirty oil filter cartridge. The filter is held in with some tabs so it won't fall out when you maneuver it out of the engine bay.

Fiat 500 Oil Filter Old vs. New

New filter ready to go in.

Removing Fiat 500 Oil Filter O-Ring

Carefully remove the old O-ring. I recommend using something plastic so as to not scratch or damage the oil filter cover. There is nothing like cracking a cover to ruin your day.

Fiat 500 Abarth Oil Filter Cap

The filter housing has the tightening specs cast into it. Using a torque wrench, tighten to 18 ft. lbs.(25 N·m).

New Fiat 500 Oil Filter

Old vs. new. Notice the tabs on the bottom of the filter. These snap loosely into the filter cover and hold it in place.

Fiat 500 Abarth Oil Filter Installed in Cap

Oil filter ready to go in. Make sure you lubricate the new O-ring with fresh oil. If you forget you will be sorry. Important: Screw the cover on all the way by hand. Press down on it to overcome the spring pressure and turn it until it firmly stops. If you don't have a torque wrench or can't fit it into the tight area, snug the filter with the ratchet you used. Be careful, because this is a composite and can be damaged if you over do it.

Fiat 500 Oil Change with Pela Oil Extractor

Insert the oil extractor hose down the dipstick tube and suck out the oil from the oil sump. Remember, the oil needs to be warm so it will flow freely up the oil extractor hose. The Pela 6000 needs to be pumped 10 or so times before the oil will start flowing and occasionally you may need to pump it a few times to continue the syphon action. The only downside of using this extractor is it can sometimes take a while to finish removing the oil. Between 10 to 25 minutes, depending on how cool the oil is and how lucky you are. Probably about the same time as crawling under a car and cleaning up oil spills. A hint is if you can get the oil extractor lower than the oil pan, the syphon action will work better. You will hear when the oil pan is empty because the hose will make a sucking noise. When that happens, continue pumping and moving the hose around and you'll get every drop out. The Pela 6000 has a graduated scale molded in, each rib corresponds to one quart. As you can see, 4 quarts of oil have been extracted from the oil pan.

Installing Fiat 500 Abarth Turbo Inlet Duct

Putting the turbo inlet duct back is easy, but you want to make sure that it is perfectly positioned and sealed, so don't just jam it back on without being careful. To make it easier to assemble, I took the end piece off of the turbo inlet duct.

Fiat 500 Abarth Turbo Inlet Duct Locating Pin

There is a cutout in the hose that lets you know the hose is in the proper position. Make sure that the hose is flush with the turbo housing all the way around, especially underneath!

Aligning Fiat 500 Abarth Turbo Inlet Duct

Insert the turbo duct housing into the rubber end piece. Again, make sure the tabs line up and the hose is sealed all the way around.

Installing Fiat 500 Abarth Turbo Upper Inlet Duct

Do the same with the upper end piece.

Fiat 500 Abarth Turbo Upper Inlet Duct Hoses

Don't forget the two other hoses and then tighten all the clamps. These need to be tight, but don't over do it. A good way to tell if a clamp is tight is to try to twist the hose connection. If you can move the hose it is obviously not tight enough, but don't keep wrenching on it once it is tight because these hoses are expensive and can be cut by the clamp. This could allow dirt to get sucked into the turbo.

Fiat 500 Oil Filler Neck

Add four quarts of oil. Use a funnel! I normally do, but wanted to get fancy for the picture! Start the engine and run it for a minute or two and check for leaks.

How To Turn Off The Fiat 500 Oil Change Reminder

Fiat 500 Oil Change Light

The oil change interval for the 2012 Fiat 500 Abarth is every 6 months or 8,000 miles, however the car has an oil monitor that keeps track of how the car is driven and may illuminate a message saying have the oil changed sooner (within 500 miles according to the manual).

Cars 2013 and newer had their oil change interval extended up to 12 months/10,000 miles or when indicated by the oil monitor. This longer interval is possible because of a new oil life monitoring system that takes into account more engine operating parameters and measurements and can better estimate oil life. Owners of 2012 Fiats should keep to their original oil change schedule and not adopt the extended change times because the newer system is more accurate than the old system and can tell if the oil is still usable.

Fiat 500 Oil Change Message

When this message comes up, it is time to change your oil even if it is before the 6 months / 8,000 miles (or 12 months / 10,000 miles for newer cars). If you bring the car to your Fiat Studio they will reset the warning light for you. Here is how to do it yourself:

1: Turn the ignition switch to the ON position.
2: Fully depress the accelerator pedal slowly , three times within 10 seconds..
3: Turn the ignition switch to the OFF position.

If the light illuminates when you start the car, the procedure did not reset the indicator and must be repeated.

Read more:

Sources: Fiat USA, Chrysler LLC, Fiat 500 Abarth repair manual


Darryl said...

Very excellent bit of work here! Thanks for taking time to do it. Pics are great. I have wrenched for years on all sorts of engines but its always nice to know what you are up against going in....even for mundane simple stuff. Thanks again.

aelfwyne said...

My 2015 triggers oil change at 8,000 miles not 10,000. So it appears they went back to the lower number. I am on my third oil change and each has been at approximately 8,000 miles.

Anonymous said...

I bought my fiat 2015 in January and in the first week of June at 4,000 miles the oil change light came on. I think this was a little too early especially for a new car that is barely driven. Is this any problem or concern? And, how long more can I drive the car before performing the actual or first oil change? said...

You should change it when the light comes on, or the time interval listed in the owners manual. Whichever is sooner. With the light, the computer uses the duty cycle of the engine and knows how you drive, etc. If it came on, now is the time to change it, +-500 miles. The mileage interval listed in the manual is under ideal conditions. The Fiat doesn't take much oil so the oil change is not expensive. It's worth the peace of mind having clean oil. Do it, you'll feel better. ;)

Unknown said...

thanks for your wonderful detialed explanation.... its help me a lot

Unknown said...

Hi Chris, i own a 2011 Abarth 500. I live in Australia and we now don't have a service department in my area. Car has done 12 months since last paid service but 4 thousand K's short of it's 40,000 klm service. Don't mind doing it myself. Does my model have a service reminder, if it does it hasn't popped up yet? Also they claim at 30,000 Ks the timing belt must be changed, surely this is a money making con as we get done over in AUSTRALIA quite a bit. All my cars have belt changes at 100-120,000 Ks. Quoted by ex Chrysler Fiat dealer, a belt change only would be $750-$950 ??? How do I check for the right S A E oil equivalent to the Selenia oil 10w-50? I'm thinking of a Penrite 10w-50 full synthetic 10 plus for the job.Hope you can help.Cheers

Unknown said...

Great post! Used it to change the oil and filter in my abarth yesterday. I used an extension with a wobble head for the filter so I didn't remove the turbo inlet completely. I just had to loosen the clamps and move it a little and I could get the filter out/in.

Noel said...

I still don't see how you get a rachet in there to take out the filter cover. In your photo with the ratchet, how did you get so much space in there? and to get a camera in there to take a photo? You must have taken out the front fender or something.