Changing your motor oil is commonly referred to as the most important type of car maintenance you can perform. While you can find many guides detailing every stage of the oil changing process, few discuss the very first step: choosing the correct motor oil.
Consult the owner’s manual
There are two reasons to consult your owner’s manual before buying any new motor oil. The first is that if your vehicle is still under warranty, you risk invalidating it by using something other than the recommended oil. The second is that your owner’s manual will tell you the viscosity your motor oil should have, which represents how well it flows in your engine. Motor oil thins as it heats and thickens as it cools, but too much of either can be detrimental: Too thick and too much energy is required to turn the crankshaft, impairing fuel economy; too thin and it won’t seal and lubricate as effectively.
Look for certification labels
When buying motor oil, you should always look for API (American Petroleum Institute) certification labels. A starburst symbol indicates that the oil meets the current engine protection standard and fuel economy requirements of the International Lubricant Standardization and Approval Committee (ILSAC), which is comprised of several U.S. and Japanese automakers. You should also look for the API donut, which displays the SAE (Society of Automotive Engineers) viscosity number and whether the oil has passed the Energy Conserving test.
Conventional, premium or synthetic
There are many different types of oil out there, including conventional oil, premium oil, partially and fully synthetic oil and even high-mileage oil. The cheapest and most common is conventional oil, and if your vehicle has been running well with it in the past, you should continue to use it. Conventional oil works well for owners who get frequent oil changes and have low-mile engines. Premium conventional oil is becoming more common on new vehicles, and fully synthetic oils are typically used on high-end performance cars. Synthetic oils are typically better than conventional oil in every way (as long as the owner’s manual calls for it), but cost significantly more. Partially synthetic oil, or synthetic blend, combines premium conventional oil and synthetic oil to offer a compromise between the two. As these are cheaper than fully synthetic oils but provide greater high-load engine protection, they are popular among pickup and SUV drivers. Finally, high-mileage oil, which can be conventional or synthetic, is constructed with seal conditioners to help extend the life of old engines that have already traveled well beyond 75,000 miles.
In summary, you should choose a certified oil that fits in your budget and meets the viscosity requirement outlined in your owner’s manual. Our service department also knows what works best for any vehicle we sell, so come in and see us for an oil change.
This article is presented by Jannell Ford in Hanover, Massachusetts.