Consult an expert if your driver’s seat is heating up 

Every week, we take your questions about what is going on under the hood of your vehicle and pose them to a knowledgeable mechanic in the Greater Toronto Area. In today’s column we discuss the frequency of oil changes and why your driver’s seat might heat up after hours of use

By Nida Zafar

May 15, 2021 3 min. read

Article was updated a year ago

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Dear Ask a Mechanic:

Whenever I drive my vehicle for more than a couple hours at a time, my seat starts to feel unusually warm, and it’s sometimes accompanied by the smell of burning plastic. I check to make sure the seat heater isn’t on, but I’m concerned something could be causing overheating and might lead to a fire. Am I overly concerned about something that shouldn't be an issue? – Feeling heated

Qazi said this is common in vehicles that have exhaust systems that run underneath the driver’s seat or close to it. In most cases, it just means the area around the exhaust system is heating up. “Because it’s so close to the engine, you will feel the heat,” he said. Qazi recommends getting your vehicle checked by a professional, so you know with complete certainty that the heat isn’t an issue, and any that any heat shields or insulation are intact and working properly. If your car is emitting a smell of burnt plastic, it could be because something might be stuck to the exhaust. This is also something mechanics should check for, he said.

Dear Ask a Mechanic:

In the new BMW models coming out, they rate oil changes for every 20,000 kilometers. This is much higher than the 5,000-km average. Do you feel manufacturers are misleading consumers on the oil change intervals while they’re under warranty? – Looking for guidance

Talha Qazi, owner of General Tech Automotive, said all cars should have their motor oil changed every 10,000 kilometers or less because he doesn’t believe oil in any vehicle should be left for that long without being replaced. “I always recommend my customers with the newer vehicles to change every 10,000 kms because it’s going to make the car last twice as long,” he said.

Qazi said he has seen vehicles come into his shop with 70,000 kms on the odometer that have oil change intervals of 20,000 kms. These vehicles often have excessive carbon build up and oil sludge, caused when motor oil breaks down and forms deposits, in the motor he said. Sludge formation and the loss of additive properties can both reduce how well the oil protects and lubricates an engine.

Qazi acknowledged BMW has its own formula of special oil, but that doesn’t have to be the only brand used because an oil with the same specification might also be offered by other brands. If drivers are unsure, they can always check the owner’s manual and do their own research to find the best type to use.

 Ask a Mechanic is written by Nida Zafar, a reporter at The Pointer who grew up in a house full of mechanics in Scarborough, and occasionally poses your questions to her dad or brother. You can send your questions to These answers are for informational purposes only. Please consult a certified mechanic before having any work done to your vehicle.