By Amy F. Goodmann

You well have been taught and counseled that one of the most important maintenance tasks for auto ownership that should be adhered to , followed and never forgotten is to change your engine oil regularly. Yet you may be in the dark about which oil to use and how engine oils vary. On top of that the choice of oil type and grade may well vary from season to season, driving type to driving type and variety or use of vehicle. How do you know which oil to use or ask for when it comes time for your routine oil change or changes?

First question is how often you change your oil. Its best to consult your owner s manual. It will give you good and accurate advice for your particular vehicle and engine type. Your trusted local garage mechanic or experienced technical service writer at the dealership where your vehicle was purchased or is routinely serviced may have good and valuable input as well. Since the oil filter itself generally contains a quart of the dirty oil inside of it, its more than a good practice to fully replace your used engine oil for new, by replacing the oil filter each and every time you have an oil change done.


Regardless if you are more liberal and change your oil even more frequently than recommended in your auto owner s manual you are doing your automotive engine a favor. In severe driving circumstances that is stop and go driving , very cold weather driving and vehicles where most of the trips are short in duration so that the engine block and lubricating engine oil never really warm up taxis, police cars , pizza delivery vehicles and the like – are considered in the auto service field as severe service . Oil changes are recommended on a much more frequent basis than the standard run of the mill 16 to 20 thousand a mile year driven car.

When it comes to choosing oil the concept that is important to understand and comprehend are those of viscosity and the oil s service grade. Motor oils are classified first by viscosity which basically has to do with the size of the opening that it will flow through at a standard temperature. The higher the number the thicker the oil. If you compare SAE 40 oil with SAE grade 20, you will find that SAE 40 is thick and will not flow anywhere near as easily. That is at the same temperatures of the two products. Note that in the automotive trades the term SAE 40 is usually expressed as simply put 40 weight.

Most of the motor oils that you will run into these days are generally blended or multi-grade oils, the most common of which are 10W-40, 10W 30 and 10W-20 and even 10W-5, The W in these descriptive terms stands for winter grade. W oils are thinner than the same number without the W logo term so that they flow more easily in cold and even frigid temperatures. Think of your frozen and cold automobile s engine come January nights in either the northern US States or northern Alberta or Manitoba Canada. Oil designated 10W-40 contains additives that allow it to flow like a thin 10W oil , yet maintain its ability to form a lubricating film at higher temperatures like a 40 weight.

Hence come winter time you may well choose an entirely different oil product and grade when you have your oil changed. If in doubt consult your owner s manual for details or your trusted garage mechanic or auto dealer service adviser.

About the Author: Amy F. Goodman

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