Guide to finding the right engine oil for your car
Your vehicle is comprised of a large number of precision mechanical parts that are designed to operate in tandem at extremely high speeds and temperatures. Selecting the appropriate motor oil for your car’s engine is an important part of keeping those components working smoothly.
Selecting the appropriate engine oil can be a daunting task without some background information, as there is a wide variety of automotive lubricants available for purchase. Motor oils vary in their composition, supplementary additives, viscosity and intended function. How can you decide which blend is best for your vehicle? Our helpful guide will assist you in making an informed decision that will keep your car running for years to come.
How important is choosing the right oil?
The short answer is: very important. Your vehicle could not function for more than a few seconds without proper lubrication of its various components. Modern blends of engine oil are specifically engineered to optimally perform in a variety of temperature ranges, and to cater to the needs of many different engine designs.
Which oil is right for your car will depend not only on the make and model of your vehicle, but also its age, the distance you have driven, and the climate in which you commute. The first step in determining which motor oil to choose is to read the owner’s manual for your car, which will contain the manufacturer’s recommendations for your engine.The manual may also offer suggestions as to other oil blends to use should you regularly drive in extreme temperatures, or as your car’s mileage begins to peak.
What makes each oil type different?
One important way that motor oil compositions vary is in their viscosity. You may see a bottle of motor oil labelled 10W-30, for example. This notation refers to the consistency of the oil at various temperatures. The number before the W indicates the oil’s thickness in near-freezing winter conditions, while the second number represents its viscosity at the high temperatures typical of prolonged automotive use.
While a high viscosity provides exceptional lubrication within the engine, colder temperatures require a thinner consistency to ensure the oil can spread throughout the engine easily. Cold-climate drivers may prefer a 5W-30, while motorists in a more temperate area may get more mileage from a 10W-30 or 10W-40. As your vehicle advances in age, you may also want to look into oils specifically formulated for older engines, as these lubricants contain additives that can help keep components clean and prevent leaks caused by aging seals.
Synthetic oils versus conventional oils
Another major difference between oils is their basic formulae. Generally, synthetic oils are designed to run for longer periods, and contain chemical additives that can enhance your motor longevity in a variety of ways. Synthetic oils tend to perform better than their conventional counterparts, flowing more freely in frigid weather while still maintaining optimal viscosity at high temperatures.
The trade-off is that synthetic oils are generally more expensive, and some engines simply don’t require the benefits that synthetic oils provide. Consult the recommendations of your owner’s manual before making a decision.