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Choosing the Right Oil For Your Car

How Do I Choose the Right Oil for My Car?



A quick trip to your local automotive supply store will easily remind you of how confusing it can be to find the right engine oil for your car. With so many different types of engine oil to choose from, how can you be sure that you're picking the right one? Below are some key concepts to understand that will help you choose the right motor oil for your car. 

Understanding Oil Viscosity and Weight

Oil has an interesting consistency that makes it thicker when cold, but thinner when hot. Without being blended with certain additives, your engine oil would turn into a thick, gummy mess on cold days. On the other hand, if non-blended oil were heated to a high temperature, it would thin out and become too runny to be of any use. This fluctuating change in oil thickness is known as "viscosity". The Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) developed a numerical grading system for motor oil viscosity, which is commonly referred to as "weight". This grading system is expressed by a series of characters, such as 10W-40. The number that comes before the "W" is a measurement of how well the oil flows in cold temperatures; lower numbers indicate a better performance in cold weather. The number after the dash is a measurement of how well the oil flows in high temperatures. The higher the number is, the "heavier" (e.g., the more "viscuous") the oil is. In recent years, multi-viscosity oils have been developed that allow you to use the same type of oil in both warm and cold temperatures. 

For the most part, modern engines require light oils, such as 5W-20. The reason for this is that modern engines are constructed much "tighter" than older engines, with smaller spaces between moving parts. It is more difficult for heavier oils to reach into those tight spaces. In addition, lighter oils boost the fuel economy of your vehicle. 

Understanding Synthetic Oils

Synthetic oils are just as the name implies; they include synthetic additives that change the chemical makeup of the oil. Generally speaking, synthetic oil provides more protection for your engine parts than conventional oil, and it can be mixed with conventional oil without doing harm to your engine. Using synthetic oil can also extend the length of time between oil changes. Due to its higher cost, most drivers avoid using 100% synthetic oil unless they consistently drive in extreme conditions (i.e., high heat or freezing temperatures). The most attractive option for drivers who are looking for higher performance without prohibitive cost is to choose a motor oil that is a blend of synthetic and conventional oil. 

High-Mileage Oil

If you have an older vehicle or if you have accumulated over 75,000 miles on your car, it is recommended that you choose a high mileage oil, as it is specifically formulated for engines that have racked up significant mileage. High mileage oil contains additional anti-wear additives, as well as certain detergents and dispersants that help to keep sludge from accumulating in your engine.

Beware of Imitations


All certified engine oils will have a small symbol on the container that looks like a "starburst". This is the API (American Petroleum Institute) certification symbol that confirms that the oil is safe for use in gasoline engines. You should also see another symbol that is commonly referred to as the "donut" (due to its appearance); this symbol will contain the SAE number (e.g., 5W-30, 10W-40, etc.) to let you know the weight of the oil you're buying. Be careful, because there are several less-than-reputable generic oil brands that will include close imitations of these symbols on their containers. Make sure to look for the official API and SAE certification symbols on whatever motor oil you choose to buy.

Stick to the Script


Perhaps the simplest way to choose the right engine oil is to find out what your car manufacturer recommends for the particular make and model vehicle that you have. This information is typically contained in your vehicle owner's manual, but if you can't locate your manual, you can always search online for it. More often than not, there are PDF versions of these manuals available through the manufacturer's website. Do your best to only choose the type of oil that matches the manufacturer's specifications; this will ensure that your engine will perform at optimal levels. If you deviate from the engine oil that the manufacturer recommends, you could cause significant damage to your engine, and you may void certain warranties that are in place for your vehicle.


 *Always check your owner’s manual for your vehicle model’s specific instructions before attempting any type of vehicle repair. Copyright 2015 Riverside Automotive www.riversideautomotive.biz

Written on Sunday, March 1, 2015 by
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