Why Using the Right Type of Oil is Important for Winter Driving

January 27th, 2016 by

If you don’t keep your car maintained, especially the oil, chances are you will be making a costly visit to your Chevy service center sometime in the future. Maintaining your oil is important in general, but making sure you have the right type of oil for the winter months is even more important.

Below are some simple explanations to a complex situation; why the right type of oil is important in the winter. First, it’s important to know that there are different types of oils out there, and they do affect the performance of your engine.

What is Oil Viscosity?

Depending on the season, the viscosity of the oil will change. For motor oil, the viscosity is expressed by a number on the bottle; which is why you will see numbers like 10w-30, or 5w-40. The viscosity is what determines the thickness of the oil. A lower number means a thinner viscosity, and a higher number dictates a thicker viscosity.

But in most cases, the oil you will use in your car will have two numbers. In this instance, the viscosity is determined by two numbers. Let’s take 10w-40 for example; a very common engine oil. The 10 represents the motor oil’s viscosity when it’s cold, and is determined from tests conducted at below zero degrees Fahrenheit. The W quite simply stands for winter, and the 40 represents the viscosity of the oil when tested at an engine operating temperature of 212 degrees Fahrenheit.

Single grade motor oil, such as 40wt, only has one number representing the thickness of the oil. These are rarely used in todays car engines, and you will generally be dealing with oil that has two numbers.

Why is it Important?

Now that the meaning behind the numbers are revealed, its time to explain why viscosity is important. Because it determines the thickness of the oil, it also determines how your engine will perform. Thicker oils cause the engine to work more, and therefore consume more fuel. This is because the engine works harder to move the thicker fluid through the vehicle. A thinner oil will move through the engine much easier, and it not only helps with the fuel-efficiency of the vehicle, but it’s also a necessity during the colder months.

In the winter, all of your fluids thicken, particularly transmission fluid and oil. Which is the reason using a thinner oil is important. During cold weather startups, your engine is working twice as hard to move the oil. If it’s too thick, which it would be if a high-viscosity engine oil is used in the winter, it will not only take much longer to get the oil through; but it also might not get to where it’s needed in time.

This can cause serious damage to your engine, and is why a thinner oil is important. With a thinner oil, even if it does thicken in the winter, the engine has an easier time moving it through the engine when it’s cold. Which means there is less of a chance you will damage your engine in the winter.