There are several motor oil options in the market, so it can be a tough task when it comes to selecting the right oil for your car.
If you are not an enthusiast, chances are low that you are going to open your car’s bonnet unless something goes wrong. But in a car maintenance routine, it is critical to keep the car well lubricated at all times. You don’t want bad and maybe expensive news because of unwanted friction in the engine that leads to your car breakdown.
Getting the best oil for your car is more important than ever. With advancements in mechanical technology in modern cars, modern oils have become more complex. Also, increased demands from consumers for better performance and strict regulations on vehicle emissions has made lubricant industry to stay consistent with manufacturer demands.
If you choose the wrong Oil, your car’s engine will be subjected to component wear and tear. Though you won’t see an instant disaster like if you’d put diesel in a petrol car, there is a great chance that this will lead to expensive repairs.
Shortcut: Look at your Owner’s Manual
While there is a lot of information to learn and gulp about the various oil choices, the first step is very simple: Look in your owner’s manual.
Recommended oil weight is mentioned in the owner’s manual. This can be a standard like 10W-30 or something more unusual. So make sure you choose from a reputed brand with the starburst symbol. This is necessary so you can rest be assured about buying top quality motor oil that has been tested by the American Petroleum Institute (API). API’s latest service standard is called “SL” (this is a two-character service designation on the Oil container). SL refers to a group of laboratory and engine tests, including the latest series for control of high-temperature deposits.
Are you confused on what “Weight” or “Grades” (i.e. 10W-30) mean and other terms like viscosity and oil grades? Keep reading to learn more.
Let’s Understand Basic Terms
This simply means how readily the oil flows. A higher-viscosity oil is more likely to withstand more heat than a lower-viscosity oil. But at the low-temperature end, it can become so thick that you won’t be able to start your engine. In worst cases, the oil won’t flow to all the moving parts. If we look from the other side, a viscosity that is too low won’t maintain a lubricating film on engine parts. This would lead to metal-on-metal contact which is a very bad situation for the car!
Grades or Weights
The first number on a multi-grade oil, let’s say 10W-30, indicates the “cold” viscosity of the lubricant, and the second number indicates the “hot” viscosity. For example, an SAE 10W-30 motor oil has a viscosity rating of 10 at 0-degrees Fahrenheit (the W means “Winter”) and a 30 rating at its maximum recommended temperature
The more resistant the oil is to thinning, the higher the second number which is good. For example, 10W-40 is better as compared to 10W-30. Thicker oil generally seals better and maintains a better film of lubrication between moving parts of the engine.
At cooler temperatures, oil has to be resistant to thickening so that it flows easily to all the moving parts in your engine. If the oil is too thick, it gets harder to start the engine, which reduces fuel economy. For winters, a 5W oil is generally recommended. However, synthetic oils can be formulated to flow even more easily when cold, so they are able to pass tests that meet the 0W rating.
So, the oil you choose will mostly depend on what, where and how you are driving. But what’s most important is that you use the oil viscosity your car’s owner’s manual recommends.
You will find these labels on every container of reputable motor oil. On the right, you have the starburst symbol that indicates that the oil has passed the tests listed for SL service. On the left, the API Symbol tells you if the oil meets the current SL service rating. It highlights the Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) viscosity number and confirms whether the oil has passed the Energy Conserving test.
Different Types of Car Oils
There are different oils for different purposes which cater to specifics like energy Conserving, high-tech engines, higher-mileage vehicles, new cars, heavy-duty/off-road SUVs, etc. This simply means that the oil has passed a lab test against a reference oil. Let’s have a look at the different types of car oils.
Premium Conventional Oil
These are also known as mineral motor oils and available in different viscosity grades with 5W-20 or 5W-30 oil being recommended for lower temperatures and 10W-30 oil when temperatures are high. Common engine designs and regular driving styles are typically suited for this oil, which needs to be changed twice a year or if the vehicle crosses 4000 miles.
Full Synthetic Oil
Even though this oil begins as mineral oil, an advanced engineered technique imparts a more uniform shape to the oil molecules. The oil has lesser impurities and stronger characteristics when it comes to performing in both low and high temperatures. So if you drive high tech cars, opt for full synthetic oils as they have undergone rigorous testing to ensure they give a stellar performance in crucial areas such as protection against deposits and maintaining a favorable viscosity index. But remember that these oils are quite costly, so make sure your vehicle actually needs them.
Synthetic Blend Oil
These oils are essentially a mix of synthetic and conventional base oils – they are specifically structured to resist engine oxidation better as compared to their conventional counterparts while performing brilliantly at low and high temperatures, even if the loads are bulkier. They stand out because they are less volatile and don’t evaporate much – oil loss is reduced and fuel economy goes up. If you drive large cars like 4WDs that require high load protection, synthetic blend oils are apt for you. They are cheaper than full synthetic oils!
If you wish to take the mileage of your car up to six figures, these oils are right up your alley. It contains additives that help to reduce oil burn-off and effectively prevents leaks. Engine type, driving styles, distance traveled, and average temperature range for car operation are some of the factors to be taken into account before you decide the type of oil you need for the vehicle. For improving and maintaining oil performance, you can use several additives such as friction modifiers, dispersants, anti-wear agents, foam inhibitors, and many more!
Your oil requirement might change if we consider your driving conditions, age of the car and weather conditions.
Driving Conditions and Habits
Do you drive hard and fast—keeping your car near redline for a long period of time? Do you enjoy high-speed freeway driving?
If yes, then it is advisable to choose a higher-viscosity oil for your car. Also, if your motor is a high mileage car, a high-viscosity oil will keep it a little calm and may not slip through the rings to be burned.
Age of your Car
If you just got a new car, you may need a low-viscosity oil. This holds true for most of the newer high-performance cars as well. These cars too have tighter bearing tolerances and that’s why it is recommended to use a low-viscosity oil.
In winters, it is recommended to choose an oil with a lower “cold” viscosity i.e. 5W or 0W oil. Even if you live in regions that have a cooler climate, it is advised to use a low-viscosity oil. In summers or high-temperature regions, a higher viscosity Oil is preferred. This means that the winter rating (the W rating) will be higher i.e. around 10W. This would help keep your cam and valves from clattering when you first start your car.