Different Cars Need Different Types of Oil: How to Choose the Right Oil for Your Oil Change

Regularly changing your oil is one of the most important parts of car maintenance.

Modern engines have thousands of moving parts. If they aren’t properly lubricated, you can cause serious damage.

If you’ve never worked on a car before an oil change is a great place to start. It’s easy to figure out and requires just a few tools.

Let’s dig a little deeper into oil changes and how you can figure out what types of oil your car can use.

What Oil Weight and Type Means

If you walk down the engine oil aisle at your local auto shop, it can be a little overwhelming. The modern system of engine oil numbering measures an oil’s viscosity and ability to work under different conditions.

Pick up a bottle of oil and you’ll see a number on the front in a format like:

  • 5w-30
  • 10w-20
  • etc.

The first number refers to the oil’s low-temperature viscosity. The lower the number, the better it will perform during a cold crank at low temperatures.

The second number refers to its viscosity at operating temperature. The lower the number, the thinner the oil is at operating temperatures. 

Synthetic vs Conventional Oil

One of the biggest decisions to make is whether to use conventional or synthetic motor oil. Both are petroleum products, but there are significant differences in their properties.

Conventional oil has been used in cars since the car’s invention. It provides good lubrication but has a shorter lifespan than synthetic oils. 

Synthetic oil is great for high-performance vehicles. It’s also recommended in areas with either very hot or very cold temperatures.

This is because its viscosity maintains its properties longer than conventional oil. If you have an older vehicle, it also helps prevent sludge and other deposits from building up.

Depending on the type of car you drive, you may be required to use synthetic oil. In general, though, synthetic is two to three times more expensive and should only be used if required.

There are also blends of conventional and synthetic oil. These give you some of the benefits of synthetic oil at a lower cost.

Common Types of Oil

Your car’s manual will tell you the exact grade of oil you should use. Within the actual grade of oil there are a lot of other choices to make.

Depending on the age and condition of your car, you may want to switch to a high mileage variety. These are designed to provide the best viscosity and function for older engines.

They help prevent engine crud buildup and can reduce wear.

Make sure you always follow your manufacturer’s recommendation for how often to change your oil. The old “three months or 3000 miles” rule isn’t accurate for every vehicle these days.

Always Perform Regular Maintenance

Changing your oil on a regular basis is essential for engine longevity. Choosing the right types of oil for your car is an important part of this. 

If you liked this guide, check out our other useful articles on engine maintenance and repair.

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