How to Choose the Right Motor Oil for Your Car

8/8/2017


Choosing the right oil is vitalYou probably realize that motor oil is essential for any vehicle. Oil is what lubricates and cools your car's moving engine parts while your vehicle is running. Without it, the engine in your car would lock up, which potentially causing major damage to your engine. Even if your engine doesn't have enough oil in the system or if the oil is too dirty, it could still cause engine problems.

Knowing that oil is crucial for your vehicle is one thing, but you should also know how to choose the right motor oil for your car.

There are two important factors when it comes to choosing motor oil for your car. One of them is something called viscosity, and the other is knowing what type of oil you need.

What is Viscosity?

When you look at a container of motor oil, it will have two numbers, along with the letter "W" and a dash. Here are some examples:

  • 5W-20
  • 10W-30
  • 0W-30

Viscosity is used to measure a liquid's resistance to flow and usually refers to its thickness. For example, water has low viscosity while honey has high viscosity. The molecular structure of a liquid also figures into how viscosity is measured. Because there is friction between the molecules of a fluid, viscosity determines how much energy is required to make a liquid flow.

All of this comes into play with motor oil. Something else that plays a huge role in how well motor oil flows through the engine is temperature. When it comes to the viscosity of motor oil, most people think the W stands for "Weight," but it actually stands for "Winter."

The number before the W refers to how well oil flows at 0 degrees F. The lower the number, the less chance it has of getting too thick in colder temperatures. The number after the W refers to how oil flows at 212 degrees F. The higher the number, the less chance it has of becoming too thin in warmer temperatures.

How do you know which viscosity to use for your car? One way to know is to look at the owner's manual for your vehicle. However, if you live in areas where the winters are freezing cold but the summers are very hot, you may want to switch your oil from season to season accordingly.

What Are the Different Types of Oil?

Besides knowing which viscosity of motor oil to use, you'll also need to know what type of oil your car needs.

  • Conventional: Most people use this type of oil for their vehicles, and it is usually recommended for engines with a basic design.
  • Synthetic: Chemically engineered, this type of motor oil contains fewer impurities and more additives. It is often recommended in climates with extreme changes in temperature.
  • Synthetic blend: A blend of conventional and synthetic oil that works well in lower temperatures, this type of oil is better able to resist oxidation.
  • High Mileage: This oil is designed specifically for vehicles that have over 75,000 miles on the engine.

It's also important to note that while conventional motor oil is fairly common, some car companies, such as BMW, recommend that only synthetic oil is used.

When Should the Oil Be Changed?

In the past, mechanics have recommended changing the oil every 3,000 miles. However, in recent years, it has been proven that some vehicles can go 7,500 before an oil change. If, however, you drive in what are considered "severe conditions," such as driving in stop-and-go traffic in hot weather, you may want to continue changing it every 3,000 miles.

To learn more about proper car maintenance, take a moment to look through our other blog posts. If you are thinking about getting a different vehicle, consider donating your old one to Newgate School.