How To Choose The Right Oil For Your Car
To say theres a lot of variety when it comes to engine oils is an understatement.
If youve ever stood before shelves of engine oils and felt overwhelming confusion, youre not alone. Each type of oil serves a different driving style, car make, and even different climates, so picking the correct one will help your car run at its full potential.
Were here to break it down for you so that by the end of this article youll understand Australias engine oil classification systems, oil viscosity ratings, API and ACEA standards, and the various types of oils available.
Not sure which oil is right for your car? Please call our expert team on or find your nearest store.
Why So Many Oils
Look in auto parts stores and you’ll see oils labeled for all kinds of specific purposes: high-tech engines, new cars, higher-mileage vehicles, heavy-duty/off-road SUVs, and even cars from certain countries. You’ll see a wide selection of viscosities.
If you read your owner’s manual, you’ll know what oil the vehicles manufacturer recommended to use when it was brand-new. The manual may include a reference to Energy Conserving or Resource Conserving oils, which means that the oil passed a fuel economy lab test against a reference oil. While that doesnt always translate to better fuel economy, most leading brands have at least some viscosities that are labeled as such.
Can Wrong Oil Cause Knocking
Yes, wrong oil can cause knocking. There are many oils that can damage cars on the market. Most of these oils are cheap, and will cause engine knocking especially in an older car.
Some may not know this, but all cars need to be run on the most appropriate type of oil. Why? Because it creates an environment for parts to remain lubricated and unchecked wear can result in damage. This damage may cause engine parts to seize, which could lead to catastrophic failure, including cracked heads or gaskets.
Heres why: As motors warm-up, they build pressure inside and explode a bit like those science experiments you used to do in high school chemistry class. Fuel and air go in, slosh around, and then it goes out again through the exhaust without incident. But if your engine isnt properly lubricated, all that internal pressure is going to grind at parts like a 1/2 ton of bricks hitting a picket fence.
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Symptoms That An Engine Needs An Oil Change
Make sure to look out for the following symptoms, which could indicate its time for an oil change:
When the oil light comes on, it indicates that the oil level is too low. Either ask a mechanic to change the oil or add enough oil to bring it up to full.
A low reading on the oil pressure gauge, for vehicles equipped with one, usually indicates a low oil level. Have a mechanic fill the oil to the correct level or change the oil if necessary.
As the oil level gets low, an engine begins to run roughly. This is especially true of the lifters, which start sticking as deposits build up. Ask a mechanic to change the oil, which should help remove these deposits and alleviate the problem.
Oil is vital to your engine’s reliable and efficient operation. Always follow the manufacturer’s recommendation on oil change intervals, and contact a certified mobile technician from YourMechanic to perform an oil change at your home or office using top-quality Mobil 1 oil.
Can You Mix Synthetic Oil With Regular Oil
Yes, you can mix synthetic oil with regular oil. Synthetic oil is made from petroleum but is used in high-performance engines. Regular oils are made from natural gas and refined from crude oil which is why they cost less.
Mixing oils, however, should be done in small amounts because all oils are not the same. Conventional may treat your car in a way that wont mix well with synthetic low-viscosity oil. Some companies like Mobil make a blend of synthetic and regular usually with the good stuff being quantitative amounts of premium.
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To Mix Oils Or Not To Mix That’s The Question
One question that keeps knocking our minds is that if it’s ok to mix up different types of oils or not. Answering this question may be very helpful, especially if you need an urgent top-up of oil and much choice is not available.
Well, mixing up oils may not kill your engine, but continue reading this article and then make your final decision.
If it ever occurred to your mind if mixing up different brands of oil is ok, you should think again. Each brand has developed certain chemical components for its product, mixing up these components may result in unneeded reactions, and success is not guaranteed.
That’s why it’s not recommended to mix them up.
Are you now thinking that mixing up different oil types is ok? Well, no. Mineral oils and Synthetic oils are incompatible in viscosity grades. This incompatibility can cause many problems, such as a reduction of effective additives and an increase in oil thickness which eventually affects the performance of the engine.
After all, mixing up oils is not your best choice all the time, so think twice before you do it.
Need Help Finding The Right Oil
If youre not mechanically minded – no worries! Our friendly Forecourt Concierge team can help you check your oil between 10am 5pm every day.
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Can I Mix Different Motor Oil Types
Yes, you can, but its not advisable.
All API oil types are required to be compatible with one another.
Adding a regular oil to a synthetic oil wont harm either. However, mixing will reduce the benefits of additives in the synthetic oil.
Its best to avoid mixing car oil types to maintain the maximum benefits of the better oil formulation.
How Engine Size Affects The Amount Of Oil Used
Most engines require anywhere between 5 to 8 quarts of oil, depending on the engine size. The smaller the engine, the less oil required to fill the volume of the engine.
A 4-cylinder engine usually requires around 5 quarts of oil.
A 6-cylinder engine uses roughly 6 quarts.
An 8-cylinder engine uses anywhere between 5 to 8 quarts, depending on the size of the engine.
This amount also varies depending on whether you have the mechanic replace the oil filter when performing an oil change.
Some resources available to help vehicle owners find the oil capacity of an engine include the owner’s manual, where it is usually listed under the lubrication system in the vehicle specifications section. Another area to check includes the manufacturer’s website. Once on the Website, look for a section of the site specifically for vehicle owners, usually found at the bottom of the page. Vehicle owners can also search other online resources, such as Fluid Capacity, which lists the oil and fluid capacities of a number of different makes and models of cars and trucks.
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How To Determine If Your Engine Has Too Much Oil
If you suspect you have too much oil in your engine, the quickest way to get an answer is to look at the dipstick. With the exception of some high-end exotic models, this simple part is found in all types of cars, typically has a bright yellow pull handle, and features low and high marks to show if your car has too much, too little, or the perfect amount of oil. Its advisable to get into the habit of checking the level frequently, and always after an oil change. Consult your owners manual for specific guidance on checking your cars dipstick.
There are other indicators that will suggest you have an overfill problem, including blue exhaust smoke, a burning smell, an oil leak, or a high reading on your oil pressure gauge . If the engine is running rough or your check engine light illuminates, the cause may be excess oil contacting the spark plugs and causing a misfire.
How Often Should You Change Synthetic Oil
There’s more than one answer, so let us simplify it for you.
The synthetic oil in your car’s engine has an incredibly challenging job. From lying cold in the bottom of the engine’s oil pan, it needs to surge up to the valve gear at the very top, then flow all the way back down down, and that has to happen almost instantly when you start the engine. The oil protects everything inside your engine: bearings, pistons, cylinder walls, and all the other parts that that move or touch something that does.
Then, after the initial cold startup, the oil must continue protecting no matter how hot it gets and how hard the engine runs. It has to do that for a period of months, if not years, through numerous short trips, long cruises, and occasional racetrack or twisty two-lane flogs. You depend on your car’s oil to do its job flawlessly through the bitter cold of northern winters and the sticky hot of southern summersall while fighting rust, contaminants, and passage-clogging deposits.
Your oil works hard, so when should you change it? That depends, so we’ll explain the facts behind the proper synthetic-oil change interval.
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What Oil Does My Car Take
When picking an oil for your engine parts, the most important thing to consider is the oils viscosity .
And your best guide to selecting an engine oil is the vehicle owners manual.
Remember, the owners manual:
- Will define the engine oil viscosity and type that the car manufacturer recommends
- May include details for cold or hot climate and seasonal use
- May include alternative-weight oils if you cant get hold of the exact product needed
But what can you do if the manual is missing?
There are still answers to be found:
- The oil-filler cap on top of your engine may list the viscosity rating.
- The car manufacturer may apply a small decal under the hood, noting the viscosity grade needed.
- You can check with your vehicle dealership for its engine oil recommendation.
- The oil section in a parts store sometimes has a chart listing vehicle makes and models and the right oil for them.
- Some oil companies offer online databases to search for the right oil for your vehicles make and model.
And if all these dont yield any answers, you can still consult a professional mechanic for help.
Next, lets get into some detail regarding motor oil selection.
Signs Youve Used The Wrong Oil
If you have used the wrong oil you might find the engine seems louder or makes a ticking noise after starting, because the parts are having to work harder to get going. This can also be an issue in cold weather if the oil is too thick and cannot get around your engine as easily as it should, which makes starting the car harder to do.
You might notice a few oil spot in your garage or under your car because using the wrong oil can lead to leaks, or you might become aware of a burning smell while driving. If the oil isnt working as it should engine parts might not be lubricated well enough and cause friction, which can burn the oil. This is definitely a warning sign and should be addressed quickly.
You might also feel like youre filling up the car more often, and this could be down to oil too. If the oil youve used is too heavy and thick to work well it means your engine has to work harder to keep going and will burn fuel more quickly.
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What Happens If I Put 10w40 Instead Of 5w30
Dont use 10W-40 oil in a 5W-30 engine! 10W-40 was designed to be used in an engine that runs hotter than a diesel. The 40-weight rating means that it is good for cold temps, however, it has too high of a viscosity to be safe for use in the thinner oil crankcases found in many small car engines.
Your car engine probably wont explode. But it will run poorly, just like it would if you put 2 quarts of motor oil in a 3-quart engine. In addition to decreased fuel economy, you could have poor acceleration, engine noise, and a shorter lifespan for your engine. So just always use the type of oil recommended by your car manufacturer.
What Do The Letters And Numbers Mean On Oil
The main letter and number combinations to look out for are the viscosity and the ACEA codes.
Viscosity refers to the thickness of the oil and the type is indicated by a code such as 15W-40 or 5W-30. The first number refers to the oils viscosity at lower temperatures the W stands for winter while the second number refers to the oils thickness at elevated temperatures. Its a bit like getting two readings for blood pressure.
Modern engines, built to higher tolerances, usually require thinner oils, so a newer car is likely to have a lower figure such as 5W-30 than, say, a classic car, which may require 20W-50 oil. Either way, your owners handbook or dealer will tell you about the correct viscosity for your car.
The ACEA is a European body that assesses and determines the correct types of oil for each new car, though the ratings are backwards-compatible for older models too.
Oils for petrol cars are designated with an A while diesel oils are often signified by the letter B.
Your handbook will tell you the ACEA oil rating you need for your car, which may be coded as A1, A2, B3, B4 or some other similar combination. Again, look for an oil container bearing a corresponding figure.
Some diesel engines with a diesel particulate filter will require low-SAPS oil so as not to clog up the filter. These are designated by a C, so your manual may specify C1 Low SAPS or C2/C3 Mid SAPS.
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What Are Synthetic Oils
Synthetic oils contain fewer impurities than regular mineral oil and some modern engines require it to run properly.
Semi-synthetic oils contain a mixture of synthetic oil and mineral oil. Although it tends to be more expensive, your handbook or dealer will specify whether you need it, and whether an oil is synthetic, semi-synthetic or not will be prominently displayed on oil containers in the shop.
Does Motor Oil Go Bad
Yes, motor oil does go bad. The shelf life for todays modern synthetic and semi-synthetic oils is typically three years, and poorly stored oils can break down in just a few months. Motor oils contain additives that are designed to extend the life of your engine. The way your oil reacts with the additives is a good gauge for how long it will be good for.
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Broken Or Worn Piston Rings
Piston rings do 2 things. For one, the compression rings allow for the piston to properly compress the air/fuel mixture without any leaks or blow-by. Second, the oil control rings scrape the lubricating oil from the cylinder walls so that no oil enters the combustion chamber.
As these rings wear, 2 things can happen. As compression rings deteriorate, blow-by gasses can escape, enter the crankcase, gather oil vapor, and be pushed into the intake tract via the PCV system. Secondly, and more commonly, the oil control rings can wear or become gunked up with carbon, leaving oil on the cylinder walls and combustion chamber, which is then burned. Worse yet, a ring can fracture or break, leading to an even bigger leak.
Find The Right Engine Oil For Your Car
Wondering what engine oil to use for your car? Use our engine oil lookup and get engine oil recommendations matched to your vehicle.
Simply enter your car details and the results will give you the correct specification and amount of engine oil for servicing your engine.
Once you’ve found the right engine oil, buy online from the biggest and best independent online supplier of motoring oils & fluids.
We stock a massive range of fully synthetic, semi synthetic, and mineral engine oil service kits, all picked by lubricant experts and including enough oil for a full change and a disposable filling kit . These engine oil packs DO NOT come with a filter if you need a kit with a filter select Engine Oil & Oil Filter.
We pride ourselves on having something for every budget and application. Got a unique vehicle and not sure what engine oil is right? No problem, get a FREE recommendation from the Opie Experts. We’ll find the right oil to match your vehicle, its condition, and your style of driving.
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What Is The Viscosity Grade Of A Motor Oil
Every motor oil has a viscosity grade, such as 5W30, 10W40 or 20W50. Viscosity grades are used to differentiate different engine oils, representing the lubricants fluidity and performance at high and low temperatures. Low viscosity grades tend to be more fluid than those with higher grades, which are thicker and more viscous.
There are two types of viscosity grade: multigrade and monograde:
Multigrade oils are widely used by modern vehicles and can be used in all seasons thanks to their higher temperature range. They are noted as xWy, with x representing the low temperature viscosity grade and y the high temperature grade. As with monograde oils, higher numbers seal and protect components, while lower numbers reduce friction, cool and improve engine performance.
Monograde oils are designed for older vehicles and come in two varieties. For summer driving conditions are noted as SAE x, with x being a number between 0 and 60. Monograde oils for wintry conditions are noted as SAE xW, with x being a number between 0 and 25, and W standing for Winter. Lower numbers offer better lubrication, cooling and fuel-saving power, whereas higher numbers better seal and protect components.
Want to know more? Here are viscosity grades explained.