There are a lot of motor oils to choose from, plus, it can also be quite a task especially if you do not know how to pick the right one for your car. There’s actually a lot of information you must browse through in order to make the right decision, from understanding the labels found on the oil container, to the different kinds of motor oil you can purchase in the market today. So without further ado, here are some of the different ways on how you can determine the right oil for your car.
Check the owner’s manual
This is one of the first steps you must do. Check your owner’s manual and have a quick search. The manufacturer has listed its recommended oil weight, whether that's a standard format like 10W-30 or perhaps something more unusual. What’s listed in your owner’s manual should be fine for regular use in moderate temperatures, however, there are times when you should adjust the weight and type depending on the seasons and your expected use of the car.
Understanding the labels on the oil container
Every oil container inside an automotive shop has different labels that you should familiarize yourself with. First is the API doughnut which is found on the right side of the container. What it indicates is that the oil you're about to purchase meets a current service rating. Aside from that, you’ll also notice the SAE (Society of Automotive Engineers) viscosity number which then tells you if the oil has passed the Resource Conserving test.
Lastly, on the left side, you’ll find the starburst symbol, therefore affirming that the oil has passed the service tests listed in the other doughnut. Just make sure that these symbols are present on the container and you’ll surely get quality motor oil for your car.
How important is the oil’s viscosity?
Viscosity usually refers to the fluid's resistance to flow. A motor oil’s viscosity is rated based on how thick it is at -17.7 degrees Celcius 0 degrees Fahrenheit. Notably, it becomes thinner and runnier as it heats up and thickens as it cools, it is represented by the number preceding the W, which stands winter, along with the second number after the dash.
Thicker oil maintains a better film of lubrication among the moving parts of your car’s engine, granted that it’s also accompanied by the right additives too. Therefore, the higher the second number is, the more resistant oil is to thin. However, during low temperatures, the oil has to be resistant to excessive thickening, allowing it to still flow properly among the moving parts of your engine.
While thick oil achieved better engine lubrication, excessive oil thickness is not good at all. This is because the engine would require more energy to turn the crankshaft, making your car harder to start than usual. Other than that, it could also reduce its fuel economy.
Now, a lower number should be better for the W for cold-weather performance. In other countries where lower temperatures occur more often, a 5W oil is the one recommended for their cars especially during winter.
Different kinds of motor oil
Nowadays, modern cars have a lot of motor oils to choose from. Visiting the auto parts shop would probably welcome you with several of its kind, with each having specific purposes such as new cars, higher-mileage vehicles, heavy-duty/off-road SUVs, and even cars with high-tech engines. While that’s the case, these are mainly divided between synthetic and conventional motor oils which are listed below for your understanding:
- Full Synthetic Oil - This type of oil is made for high-tech engines or heavy-duty uses. It is known to flow better at low temperatures and maintain peak viscosity at high temperatures. The only drawback here is its more expensive price tag, plus, not all engines require this type of oil.
- Semi-Synthetic Oil - This was made with a fine blend of synthetic and organic oil. It is also designed to provide protection for somewhat heavier engine loads and high temperatures. Semi-synthetic oil is popular among pickups and SUVs as many of its owners engage in cargo loading and other extreme activities. In terms of the price range, it is slightly less expensive than full synthetic oil.
- Higher Mileage Oil - From the name itself, this type of oil was made for higher mileage vehicles. With many old cars still invading the road, oil companies have found this as an area of customer interest, therefore allowing them to formulate higher-mileage oils for these types of vehicles.
- Conventional Oil - Conventional oil is the cheapest type of engine fluid that you can find at auto shops. They come with fewer additives compared to semi-synthetic and fully-synthetic oil. Notably, it is also good for brand new cars, as new engines require breaking in at least 7,000 km so it’s only wise to opt for a conventional oil during the first 7,000 to 10,000 km.
- Premium Conventional Oil - Now, last on the list is the Premium Conventional Oil and it is available in different viscosities including 5W-20 or 5W-30 for colder temperatures and a 10W-30 oil as optional for higher ambient temperatures. The following ratings cover almost all light-duty vehicles.
Other things you must also be mindful of
Don’t forget your oil filter and additives as well in order to maintain that tip-top condition of your engine. Remember, your owner’s manual is your go-to instructor when you need help or any assistance when choosing motor oil for your car or even a suitable oil filter.