How to Find the Right Engine Oil and Filter For Your Car
Whether you are looking for a car repair service shop, a dealership’s garage, or plan on changing out your oil yourself, it’s extremely important to know how to find the right engine oil and filter for your car. Shouldn’t you just follow your manufacturer’s recommended oil viscosity, type, and filter? Yes, but what does viscosity mean? Did you even know there were different types of oils or filters out there? The point is, the more you know, the better off you will be in the long-run when it comes time for an oil change — regardless of who’s doing it.
Therefore, you need to consider these important factors when picking your engine oil and the filter to go with it.
Factors to Consider When Picking Oil
Even more important that viscosity, you need to know what type of oil to put in your car. Nowadays, there are four different types of oil: premium conventional, full synthetic, synthetic blend, and high mileage oil. Depending on the type and age of your car, the recommended oil varies. Your friend’s old hot-rod is going to require a different type of oil than your new 2016, and understanding the difference between the oils is the first step in figuring out why.
This premium conventional engine oil is the new standard car oil. All leading oil brand companies have one available for the SL (service level), and it’s available in different viscosities. Typically, you will see a 5W-20, 5W-30, or 10W-30. These three oils cover almost every single type of light-duty vehicle on the road and this is the most versatile engine oil on this list. As long as it’s not a high-tech engine, conventional oil will work just fine.
The reason it won’t work in a high-tech engine is because, even at the same viscosity, conventional engine oil is much thicker than full synthetic engine oil. Therefore, it won’t flow through the high-tech engine’s tighter system properly.
Full synthetic oil is made for the high-tech engines I just mentioned. Engines in a Corvette or a Mercedes-Benz are all considered high-tech engines, for example. The main difference between full synthetic engine oil and conventional engine oil is how it’s made. While the conventional engine oil is made from natural materials, synthetic engine oils are made strictly in labs. Therefore, they have less impurities than conventional oils, provide superior protection, and longer-lasting performance. They also flow better at low temperatures, and still lubricate properly at higher temperatures.
As good as they sound, they aren’t for everyone. First, they are much more expensive than conventional engine oil, and a lot of engines in your run-of-the-mill car need certain components only found in conventional oil.
This engine oil takes a shot of synthetic oil and throws it in with conventional engine oil. The result? An oil that has some protection of a synthetic oil, while still retaining materials from organic oil that some engines need to function. This oil works well in truck engines and SUVs, because it provides the extra high-load protection. They are also less volatile than conventional oil, and evaporate less, which results in longer-lasting performance and protection.
Best part? They are only a little more expensive than conventional engine oil.
This option is pretty self-explanatory, but I’ll give it a brief rundown. Higher mileage oil is developed for cars that have high mileage, typically over 75,000 miles. It does two things that the other oils don’t: replenishes the crankshaft seals to stop oil leaks, and helps a worn-in engine perform better because it is a little thicker than the others.
Knowing what type of engine oil your vehicle takes is key to its health, because the wrong type of oil could hinder or even damage the engine.
The Manufacturer’s Viscosity Recommendation
Now that you know the difference between the oils, it’s important to consider the viscosity recommended by your manufacturer. What’s the viscosity? In a nutshell, viscosity is a fluid’s resistance to flow. Engine oils are rated at zero degrees Fahrenheit by the number preceding the W (which means Winter), and 212 degrees Fahrenheit by the second number. Therefore, a 10W-30 oil will have less viscosity when cold and hot than a 20W-50.
Depending on what type of engine you have, the manufacturer will recommend the proper viscosity or weight. You can either find that in the owner’s manual or on the oil cap itself.
The Temperature Your Car Will be Operating Under
Why is the viscosity important? Because, oil thickens in cold weather and thins-out in hot weather. Therefore, that 10W-30 oil is going to do much better in the winter compared to the 20W-50. It will flow though/lubricate the engine easier, resulting in better performance throughout the colder months. The 20W-50 would move too slow through the engine, because it thickened like molasses.
The same holds true for the summer. You need a thicker oil for the summer because if it thins out, it won’t protect the internal parts of the engine properly, which results in poor performance and damage. Therefore, it’s important to not only figure out the type of oil your manufacturer recommends, but also the viscosity depending on the temperature it will operate under.
Understanding What it Does
Everyone always says oil is the lifeblood of your engine, so what does that make the filter? The answer is simple: life-support. Without the filter, the engine’s oil couldn’t perform properly. The filter does exactly what its name implies — filters. The oil gets cycled through, and it takes out any debris that accumulates in the engine when driving down the road. That way, the oil stays as clean and protected as possible. It’s already taking enough abuse being in such a high-stress environment, and having gunk mixed in with it will only cause more problems.
Which is why you typically change out the oil filter with the oil. That way, the gunk that it was filtering through won’t circulate back into the fresh oil and the system.
It’s Not Hard to Figure Out
Figuring out what type of oil filter you need isn’t nearly as complicated as figuring out what type of oil you need. There are hundreds of different filters, but only one type your car will need. The manufacturer will tell you in your owner’s manual what type of filter you need, so all you need to do is match it up.
There are, however, a couple of factors that determine what type of filter you should use.
It Depends On Oil Type/Engine Size
Your standard oil filter’s are broken down into three categories: good— better— best. The good and better categories are for conventional oil, and work just fine as long as you change your oil out at the manufacturer’s recommended intervals. If you are running synthetic oil, however, your car is going to need a top of the line filter to provide it with the best protection possible.
The reason that your car will take a different filter when compared to your friend’s car is simple: different engine sizes. Because these filters fit different size engines, they are completely different. Yes, they might look the same, but the threads are different and the gaskets are different sizes. There is even a new cartridge type of filter floating around, but that’s a whole different world.
Just make sure to match up the oil filter part number in your owner’s manual (which varies by year, make, and model) and grab the one off the shelf with the corresponding number, and you’ll be fine.
Never Stray From the Manufacturer’s Recommendation
It’s important for you to understand the engine oil and corresponding filter for your vehicle. But, if this all seems too overwhelming, just look at your owner’s manual. It will tell you the oil you need, and the filter. On that note, have I mentioned never to stray from the manufacturer’s recommendation? If I haven’t, then don’t stray from the automaker’s recommendation. If you don’t follow the owner’s manual, you could seriously damage your engine.
Even if you hear someone at a garage tell you differently, don’t stray from the recommended oil and filter from the automaker. As long as you do that, you’ll be fine.