The sheer number of choices drivers have when it comes to motor oil can make it difficult to find the right type for your car. It’s an important decision, too; using an optimal motor oil can increase the lifespan of your car’s engine, while making the wrong choice is likely to damage the engine and can lead to unexpected repairs. Below is a quick, informative guide to finding the perfect motor oil for your car
Read the Manual First
The first and most important thing to do when shopping for motor oil is to read your car’s owner manual. Somewhere in the manual, the recommended motor oil viscosity for your car will be listed. Even if you don’t do any further research, make sure you buy oils that meet this specification.
What is Viscosity, Anyway?
The viscosity of a liquid refers to its resistance to flow–maple syrup, for example, is a viscous substance because it’s extremely thick and flows slowly. Where motor oil is concerned, the key is oil viscosity at extremely high and extremely low temperatures. Oil gets thinner as it heats up and thicker as it cools, but you can’t have your car’s motor oil freezing in the winter or thinning excessively when you drive around on hot summer days.
Motor oil brands are rated for their viscosity at 0 degrees Fahrenheit–this number will be displayed before the “W” that stands for winter–as well as for their viscosity at 212 degrees Fahrenheit. The number representing the high-temperature viscosity will be located after the winter rating. Your owner’s manual will inform you what viscosity rating your engine needs for both high and low temperatures.
Before purchasing any brand of motor oil, you should also check what additives are present. Some of the benefits additives can provide include improving oil flow at low temperatures, reducing thinning at high temperatures or limiting engine friction to boost your car’s fuel economy. High concentrations of some additives, though, can actually damage your engine, so make sure to research brands thoroughly and ask a licensed mechanic if you have any additional questions.
The API Logo
One quick way to spot a reputable brand of motor oil is to check for the American Petroleum Institute (API) donut somewhere on the label. This logo indicates that the oil has met the quality standards set by the API and is usually a good indicator of a trustworthy brand.
These are just a few of the best and easiest ways to pick the right motor oil for your car’s engine. If you ever have questions, be sure to consult your owner’s manual or contact a mechanic with experience repairing your type of car. Whenever you have doubts, it’s best to leave such an important decision to automotive experts.