Not all engine oil is created equal, and depending on the climate where you live, you may have to consult your manual to determine the right oil for your vehicle. Before we can determine the right type of oil for your vehicle, let's talk about motor oil markers and how they are determined.
Let’s first talk about viscosity. Viscosity is fluid resistance flow, or how thick a liquid is, due to friction. Engine oil is labeled “XW-XX” normally. The W in the label stands for "winter," and the number in front of that is the relation to the oil’s viscosity at 0 degrees Fahrenheit. The lower the number, the less it thickens in the cold, which means if you live in a colder climate, you will want a lower number so that it will run smoothly through your engine. If you live in a warmer climate, you'll need a higher number so that the oil would not be too thin as the temperature rises. This is where the second number after the W comes into play. That number is the relation of viscosity related to the oil measured at 212 degrees Fahrenheit. It is the oil’s resistance to thinning at high temperatures.
Consult your owner’s manual for the proper viscosity parameters for your vehicle. We can start there. Let’s now discuss the different types of oil:
- Conventional: The cheapest type of oil, and the most readily available. This is a good choice for frequent oil changers who stand by the traditional 3k mile or 3-month rule and who have low miles.
- Premium: This is the “new car” oil. This oil is a step above conventional and comes in the most common types of viscosities.
- Full-Synthetic: This is for high-tech engines. This oil tends to have long-lasting, superior performance and is thoroughly quality tested. Synthetic oils flow well at low temperatures and maintain a good viscosity at higher temperatures. But if your car doesn’t call for it, using synthetic oil could just be an added expense that doesn’t really add anything to the performance of your vehicle.
- Synthetic-Blend: This oil is a part synthetic, part conventional hybrid. It is usually associated with higher temperatures and heavy engine loads. This is a good option if you want a better oil for a lower price.
- High-Mileage: This is a good option if you have more than 75k miles on your vehicle. This oil contains added conditioners which allows it to run smoother in some older engines without affecting the performance of others.
If you’re unsure of which oil would be right for your vehicle, first, consult your owner’s manual. Then you can consult a technician that is familiar with your make and model. Be mindful of any extra additives that could be in the oil and how many miles you can go between oil changes.