Types of Engine Oil
When it's time to change your oil, what type of engine oil should you use for your vehicle? There are four main types of engine oil to consider.
1. Synthetic Engine Oil: Synthetic engine oil is created using man-made, precisely controlled materials. Additives are used to increase the lubricant's performance, which are generally non-conventional, high-performance fluids. Synthetic engine oils contain only smooth lubricating molecules, which means:
- they're more effective at reducing friction, offering better fuel economy.
- they provide lower volatility – the tendency of an oil to break down at extreme temperatures – for decreased oil consumption.
- they flow through your engine easier, which makes for easier start-ups at very cold temperatures.
- they reduce engine deposits – the "by-products" of engine combustion
- they offer greater viscosity (the "thickness" of an oil) at very high temperatures.
- they're more stable, meaning it will hold up for a longer period of time.
Synthetic oil tends to be the most expensive of all oils because of its benefits over conventional oil. While it may cost a little more, oil changes are needed less frequently, offering cost value. We recommend synthetic engine oils for newer, high-performance vehicles.
2. Synthetic Blend Engine Oil: Synthetic blend engine oils use non-conventional, high-performance fluid additives blended with some conventional engine oil. That chemical blend provides added resistance to oxidation and enhanced low-temperature properties, and protection against:
- stop-and-go traffic
- Cold start-ups
- long engine running times
- fluctuating or extreme temperatures
We recommend synthetic blend engine oils for cars, trucks, vans and SUVs that regularly carry heavy loads, tow trailers and/or operate frequently at high RPMs.
3. High-Mileage Engine Oil: High-mileage engine oil is a special chemical blend of oils and additives that's designed to extend the life of higher mileage vehicles. More mileage equals more wear on your engine, and demands a powerful concoction that will protect against:
- oil burn-offs
- engine leaks
- engine deposit buildup
We recommend high-mileage engine oils for vehicles with 75,000 miles or more, and that are driven an above-average number of miles (generally more than 15,000 per year).
4. Conventional Motor Oil: Also known as mineral oil, conventional engine oil is made from crude oil pulled from the ground and processed at a refinery. The product is a base oil that's combined with additives to enhance:
- engine protection properties
- heat breakdown capabilities
- viscosity – the thickness and fluidity of the oil
Conventional oil is typically the least expensive of all oils. It is a basic oil that doesn't have the special additives to make it more durable and long-lasting. We recommend conventional engine oil for older vehicles with higher mileage, and for drivers with routine habits (commuting, errands, and relaxed speeds). Engines built in the early 90's and before usually have more mechanical wear and built up grime that creates a seal around leaks. Conventional engine oil helps preserve that seal.
Engine Oil Grades
There are different grades of engine oils that classify oil by its viscosity at different temperatures. The grades are rated as follows, where "W" stands for "winter" and the numbers stand for the low and high temperatures at which the oil can still protect the engine:
- 5W-30 for an average low below 0 degrees Fahrenheit
- 10W-30 and 10W40 for average low above 0 degrees Fahrenheit
- 20W-50 for average low temperatures exceeding 20 degrees Fahrenheit
- SAE- 30 for an average low above 40 degrees Fahrenheit
- SAE -40 for an average low above 60 degrees Fahrenheit
What Type of Engine Oil Should I Use?
It's always safe to follow your owner's manual for motor oil recommendations, or ask an expert, like a Levin Tire advisor. If you've been using conventional engine oil and are interested in switching to synthetic or synthetic blend engine oil and your car is still under warranty, make sure your warranty cover's the use of all engine oils before you make the switch.
No matter which type of engine oil you use, make sure you change your oil regularly. Industry experts recommend a conventional engine oil flush every 3-5 thousand miles and a synthetic engine oil flush every 5-7 thousand miles. Check your manufacturer's recommendations for specific instructions about how often to change your vehicle's oil.