South Denver Automotive in Denver, Colorado has put together this handy guide to motor oil. We know that our customers are not expert car mechanics, nor do they want to be. That’s why we make it easy to figure out what is the best motor oil for your vehicle. And, of course, if you have any further questions we are always happy to help!
There are lots of different kinds of motor oil out there so it may seem like choosing the correct one for your vehicle is a bit overwhelming. We promise it isn’t as complicated as it seems, especially if you come to us for oil changes, you just need to know what to look for. Here’s your handy guide to motor oil.
The first thing you should note is if the oil you are considering has these two labels. The first, a starburst symbol indicating that the oil has met the American Petroleum Institute standards. The second indicates whether the oil meets the current SL service rating put out by the API, has passed the energy conserving test and gives you the viscosity number. Meeting the standards is straightforward, but what do you do with that viscosity number? Let’s look at that now in this handy guide to motor oil.
You may remember from a high school vocabulary quiz that viscosity refers to a fluid’s resistance to flow. If that sounds confusing, just think of it as the thickness of the liquid. Viscosity changes according to temperature (hotter equals less viscous) and motor oils are rated at two temperatures. The first is 0 degrees Fahrenheit (denoted by a number followed by W for winter) and the second is at 212 degrees Fahrenheit (the second number in the rating). Examples would be 10W-30 or 20W-50.
In general, thicker oil is better. The oil is better capable of sealing where it needs to seal and keep the moving parts well lubricated. However, as always there can be too much of a good thing. If the oil is too thick, the engine will have to work harder to move its moving parts, and it can even be difficult to get the car started–reducing the vehicle’s fuel economy.
So how do you decide on the correct oil viscosity for your engine? The easiest way is to check the owner’s manual. There you will find the right viscosity rating for your engine and the season, as even the same motor can use a different viscosity depending on the outside temperature.
Synthetic vs. Conventional Motor Oil
Now that you have the right viscosity, the next decision you will make is whether to choose synthetic or conventional motor oil. There is no one right answer as oils are manufactured specifically for different purposes. For example, there are oils for use in high mileage vehicles, high-tech engines, new cars vs. old cars, or heavy-duty/off-roading vehicles. So, which should you choose? Let’s explain the differences next in our handy guide to motor oil.
Conventional Motor Oil
This is your standard motor oil that comes in new cars. There is a range of viscosities available but with just three ratings, 5W-20, 5W-30 and 10W-30, most every light-duty vehicle is covered. Don’t forget to change your oil frequently. No matter how good your oil is, you can’t skip this step. The absolute minimum amount that you should change your oil is twice a year, but a better rule of thumb is every 4,000 miles or roughly every four months. Some vehicles have an indicator on the dash; never ignore it!
Full Synthetic Motor Oil
This type of oil is used in high-tech engines. The oil is better than others, flowing better at lower temps without losing too much viscosity at higher temperatures. It performs better and longer and even offers better protection against deposits. If it’s so great, you may be wondering, why it isn’t more commonly used. The answer is it’s more expensive than conventional motor oil and unnecessary in many vehicles. In fact, it may not meet the needs of your car’s engine so always check your owner’s manual first.
Synthetic Motor Oil Blend
These oil types offer a middle ground between conventional and full synthetic. They tend not to be too much more expensive than conventional while still offering many of the great benefits of synthetic oils. They are popularly used in pickups and SUVs for their heavy load and high-temperature protections.
Today’s vehicles offer a lot in the mileage department. Many can easily run well past 100,000 miles, and many people are taking advantage of that. Oil manufacturers have taken note and have put extra effort into creating some impressive oils that can help your engine run smoothly even when parts start wearing out.
For example, over time and use, crankshaft seals harden and begin to lose their flexibility, causing leaks and maybe even breaking. This contributes to having to replace the oil more often as is often the case in older cars. However, a good high-mileage oil has seal conditioners in the mix that are designed to help restore the seal’s flexibility and shape, virtually eliminating leaks of this type. Of course, these ingredients have been chosen carefully, because some can cause over-swelling.
High-mileage oils also generally have higher viscosities designed to help reduce the effects of engine wear. High-mileage engines naturally have a lot more wear than new vehicles, and this characteristic comes in very handy. These oils also have other anti-wear additives added to their formulation to reduce the effects of wear further and cause your engine to run more smoothly. The great thing is, all these benefits aren’t too expensive. High-mileage oils still are more affordable than the average full-synthetic oil.
We hope that this handy guide to motor oil has been helpful to you. Of course, this is not an in-depth explanation, and there are still other factors that affect deciding the proper motor oil for your engine, but it is a good basic overview and can help you understand a little about the ins and outs of motor oil. For more expert advice, talk to one of our highly knowledgeable mechanics here at South Denver Automotive. We can help you pick the perfect motor oil for your engine’s needs.