Go to the nearest PEP boys or NAPA auto parts or even the auto supply section of Sears and look at the many different types of oil available for vehicles. Without a basic understanding of what your car needs, you might wind up picking the wrong oil for your vehicle. So, what do the different types of oil do for your car? More importantly, how can you know which oil is the right one?
The simple answer is also the easiest to find. Check your car’s owner’s manual. The manufacturer clearly spells out the oil that is recommended for your car and this information is found under the maintenance schedule section. Note that the manufacturer won’t tell you to use Valvoline or Pennzoil or any particular brand. What they will tell you is the viscosity or weight of oil that is recommended for your car.
Automakers make these recommendations based on extensive testing in the lab and on the road, as well as research conducted in cooperation with petroleum companies. So, if your owner’s manual recommends you use 5W20 oil, that’s what you should use.
Getting back to what different types of oil do for your car, consider the different types of oil. Essentially, there are three: conventional oil, synthetic oil, and synthetic blends. Within each type of oil, there are different weights or grades used for different purposes. There is single grade distinction, as in SAE40 (Society of Automotive Engineers), which is a measurement of the oil’s thickness and ability to withstand high temperatures. There is also multi-grade, as in 10W40. This refers to the oil’s ability to withstand both hot and cold temperatures.
Conventional oil – The least expensive of the three types, conventional oil, is a byproduct of the crude oil refining process. Conventional oil is less complex in make-up, is prone to quicker deterioration and gives off more sulfur and other pollutants. Carmakers usually recommend a 5W20 or 5W30 oil – especially when temperatures are lower or, for higher temperatures, a 10W30. These three ratings cover pretty much the new cars and light-duty vehicles on the road – not including high-performance cars.
Synthetic oil – Because it costs more to make, synthetic oil is more expensive than conventional oil. The structure of synthetic oil is different than conventional oil, with the result that it is cleaner and more stable as well. Another benefit of synthetic oil is that it is able to maintain better viscosity and flow in most temperatures and under most demands. High-performance vehicles such as theand luxury cars like the various models of Mercedes-Benz, Audi and BMW, for example, require the use of synthetic oil. Such oils have to pass special tests, indicated by their labeling. They have longer-lasting and superior performance in all the areas deemed critical to optimum performance and functioning of the car’s engine. Synthetic oils flow better at lower temperatures and are able to maintain peak lubricity at higher temperatures. Could synthetic oil be used in place of conventional oil, even if the car isn’t a high-performance or luxury model? In short, yes, but not every engine needs the benefits of synthetic oil. That, coupled with the fact of how expensive synthetics are could be reasons why not to use it.
Synthetic blend oil – As the name implies, synthetic blend oil is a mix of some synthetic oil and organic oil. Synthetic blend oil is formulated to provide engine protection for somewhat higher temperatures and heavier loads. Synthetic blend oils are generally less volatile, which means they evaporate less and reduce oil loss – which, in turn, helps to increase fuel economy. Who uses synthetic blend oils? According to automotive experts, drivers of SUVs and pickup trucks who are after high-load protection tend to gravitate toward synthetic blend oil.
Bottom line: Take the guesswork out of which oil to use in your car. Consult your owner’s manual and stick with the recommendations from the auto manufacturer.