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Hey, you're in the vehicle / car zone--YOUR HANDYMAN ZONE!

Cars / Trucks / Vans Category: Oil

Maintenance Issues:

How to choose the right motor oil for your vehicle.

Tools / Materials (See Below for Applicability):

  • Natural motor oil with the applicable API quality and viscosity ratings for your vehicle and climate.

Guide:

Despite being sometimes overwhelmed with motor oil ads and other promotions by respective motor vehicle oil manufacturers about their own manufactured oil and all the tests that they alleged their oil products have passed, consequently pitting one against the other as far more superior, to make it easy on you, the two main factors that you should take into consideration when buying motor oil for your vehicle are the following, two criteria of which virtually all vehicle manufacturers also specify in their respective vehicle owner manuals that must be taken into consideration when buying motor vehicle oil: 1) Quality Rating; and 2) Viscosity Rating.  These two ratings should be clearly listed on the containers of motor oil for sale.

The first factor of your motor-oil purchase consideration, the quality rating of the motor oil, is determined by the American Petroleum Institute (or "API"), in conjunction with the Society of Automotive Engineers ("SAE") and the American Society for Testing and Materials ("ASTM"), all respected entities in the automotive industry that test and grade the quality of motor oil on the market today according to the standards upheld for different-engine vehicles by the industry. 

The quality rating should specifically read "API Service" followed with other letters that specify exactly for which type of vehicle such oil is designated.  Of these other letters that

 

follow "API Service," the main and most prevalent ones are "SG," "SF," "CC," and "CD."  Individually, "S" stands for oil that is formulated for spark-ignition engines of vehicles.  Individually, "G" speaks of the quality of the oil, and in comparison to "F," that "G" oil (up the alphabet-letter chain) is of a relatively better quality than that of "F" oil.  "SG" means the motor oil is designated for vehicles with gasoline engines.  "SF," really a predecessor of "SG," means the motor oil is designated for vehicles with gasoline engines made prior to 1989.  "CC" and "CD" both mean the motor oil is designated for vehicles with diesel engines.  These pairs of special letters also may appear in combination if the motor oil is specially formulated for more than one type of car.

So, when you look at the quality rating of motor oil on a shelf in your local automotive care store, you may notice these phrases:

"API Service SG / SF"

(The above means the oil has exceeded motor oil industry standards for quality and is specially formulated for gasoline engine [sparked-ignition] vehicles)

"API Service SG"

(The above means the oil has exceeded motor oil industry standards for quality and is specially formulated for gasoline engine [sparked-ignition] vehicles)

"API Service CC / CD"

(The above means the oil has exceeded motor oil industry standards for quality and is specially formulated for diesel engine [compression-ignition] vehicles)

"API Service CC"

(The above means the oil has exceeded motor oil industry standards for quality and is specially formulated for diesel engine [compression-ignition] vehicles)

"API Service CD"

(The above means the oil has exceeded motor oil industry standards for quality and is specially formulated for diesel engine [compression-ignition] vehicles)

    "API Service SG, SF, CC / CD"

(The above means the oil has exceeded motor oil industry standards for quality and is specially formulated for multiple types of vehicles, both those of gasoline and diesel engines [spark- and compression-ignition] vehicles)

In considering these above designations, bear in mind the specific requirements of your engine manufacturer by consulting their respective owner's manual:  A manufacturer, for reasons of their specific engine design, may strictly require motor oil to have a quality rating that encompasses two specific letters, such as S and C.  In this case, motor oil products designating labels that include "SG / CC" or "SG, SF, CC / CD," among others so long as S and C are included somewhere, are acceptable. Failure to heed strict manufacture guidelines, usually found in owner's manuals, for the purchase and use of motor oil may cause damage to your vehicle's engine and even void and nullify any warranty that may be in effect at the time.

After the quality rating, the second most important factor you need to take into consideration, as noted earlier, is the viscosity rating of the motor oil on the market.  Essentially, the viscosity rating concerns the thickness or the lack of thickness of the oil fluid--the weight of the oil.  Whether the viscosity rating of motor oil is high (i.e., thick) or low (i.e., thin) will have an impact on your vehicle's ability to start its engine in winter weather:  Starting an engine will be more difficult in cold weather if the motor oil therein has a  too high of a viscosity rating.

This is because, under cold temperatures, the thicker the motor oil (i.e., high viscosity), the harder it is for such oil to flow over and cover all the parts of the engine that should be lubricated in order to work properly and avoid premature wear and damages.  On the other hand, the thinner the motor oil (i.e., low viscosity), the more rapidly and haphazardly it will flow over the parts of the engine, making such a quick "wave" of thin oil, comparable to that of a wave of water, to be too insignificant to have provided any meaningful lubrication to all the parts.

Because the viscosity of motor oil greatly factors into the lubrication effect of such oil, the Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) has required the imprint of the viscosity rating on labels of motor oil so that consumers, such as yourself, can choose the best motor oil, viscosity-speaking, that is best for their vehicles.  In this vein, the viscosity rating on motor oil container labels specifically read "SAE" followed with two sets of numbers and a W in between (the W is applicable if the motor oil is made to withstand the winter, which most of them do).  The first set of numbers, like 5 or 10, are numbers that inform the vehicle owner, such as yourself, which motor oil will flow more easily in winter weather, 5 being the motor oil that best flows under such cold conditions, with the motor oil that is considered a 10 coming a distant second in flow readiness under such cold conditions.  (Therefore, the motor oil that is a 5 in this first set of numbers is thick enough in form to lubricate well, but not as thick as the motor oil rated as a 10 to the point the thickness inhibits the flow of lubrication.  Given that the 5-rated motor oil inherently is more fuel efficient in that it is least resistant to the start-up of a vehicle engine under cold conditions, motor oil manufacturers predominantly manufacture 5-rated motor oil products over the 10-rated ones.

The second set of numbers of the viscosity rating, most commonly 30,  informs the vehicle owner which motor oil will work in warm weather conditions.  In effect, 30 as the second set of numbers informs vehicle owners that the motor oil is thick enough to cover all the parts of an engine without becoming too thin to lose its lubrication effectiveness.  Though there is not a definite warm temperature schedule under which the motor oil rated a 30 will properly work, it is generally considered the range is from -30°F to 100°F.  Of course, while some manufacturers find this rate of 30 is acceptable for their manufactured engines, others specify a much higher rate of 40 in their respective owner's manuals; motor oil manufacturers, though, are known to make rates even beyond that, to the rate of 50, etc. 

Taking the two sets of numbers into consideration, along with the W and the preceding acronym of SAE, typical viscosity ratings read like these on motor oil labels, which you may notice on store shelves:

"SAE 10W-30"

(The above means the oil has exceeded motor oil industry standards for viscosity and has a viscosity oil-flow readiness rate of 10 in cold conditions, far slower than that of the rate of 5; is tolerant of Winter conditions; and has a rate of 30 for oil lubrication that maintains its thickness just enough to stay as an effective lubricant covering in temperatures of around -30°F to 100°F.)

"SAE 5W-30"

(The above means the oil has exceeded motor oil industry standards for viscosity and has a viscosity oil-flow readiness rate of 5 in cold conditions, far faster than that of the rate of 10; is tolerant of Winter conditions; and has a rate of 30 for oil lubrication that maintains its thickness just enough to stay as an effective lubricant covering in temperatures of around -30°F to 100°F.)

Failure to heed strict manufacture guidelines, usually found in owner's manuals, for the purchase and use of motor oil may cause damage to your vehicle's engine and even void and nullify any warranty that may be in effect at the time.

Quick Special Note: When looking for motor oil, being considerate of both quality and viscosity ratings, you will probably run across a line of synthetic motor oil products in addition to the usual line of natural motor oil products.  The mainly promoted unique feature of synthetic motor oil, which is probably why it costs a bit more than natural motor oil, is that it can last in a car without being changed for about 25,000 miles (as opposed to a change of natural motor oil every 7,500 miles / six months of regular vehicle use).  For those of you who are considerate of your vehicle warranties, this should not persuade you to buy synthetic motor oil over natural motor oil because vehicle manufacturers are still insistent that you change your motor oil much more often than every 25,0000 miles (again, vehicle manufacturers require oil changes at least every 7,500 miles / six months of regular vehicle use; in any event, be sure to check with your vehicle manufacturer to confirm the oil-change period to maintain your specific warranty).

With this said, it is better to buy and use natural motor / engine oil as opposed to the much more costly synthetic motor / engine oil that will not give you any more of a benefit than natural motor /engine oil.

Now, you're motor / engine oil savvy.

Ed the Handyman

            &

Your Handyman Zone Team

 

 

                                                         

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