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What Oil Does My Car Take?

What Oil Does My Car Take?

By PattyKay Lilley

Changes in the oil industry have changed our understanding of what type of oil is best for cars. Trying to decide what kind to use in your car or truck can seem overwhelming, given the vast selection that exists now.

Thankfully, manufacturers provide lubrication schedules and recommendations that are designed make it easier to know which type of oil your vehicle needs. In this blog post, we’ll cover all you need to know about choosing the right oil for your car or truck.

What Oil Does My Car Take?

Finding the right type of oil for your vehicle is essential for maintaining optimal engine performance and longevity. Typically, the best place to start is your vehicle’s owner’s manual. It provides necessary information about the right viscosity (thickness) and type of engine oil recommended for your specific vehicle model.

However, if you do not have the manual, there are several online resources available to help. Websites like the American Automobile Association (AAA) and various oil and auto manufacturers have tools where you can input your vehicle’s make, model and year to find the recommended oil specifications.

Another consideration is your vehicle’s age and mileage. Older vehicles or those with high mileage often benefit from high mileage oils. These oils are designed with special additives to help seal leaks, reduce oil consumption and improve the overall health of your engine.

It’s also important to consider the conditions under which you primarily drive. If you live in a very cold or hot climate, or if you frequently tow heavy loads, a synthetic oil might be your best bet. Synthetic oils flow better at low temperatures and maintain peak lubricity at high temperatures.

Remember, regular oil changes are as important as the type of oil you use. It’s recommended to change your oil every 3,000 to 5,000 miles, depending on the oil type and driving conditions, to maintain optimal engine health. The “What Oil Does My Car Take?” question is not just about the type but also about the frequency of oil changes.

Choosing the right oil for your vehicle is crucial. Understand your vehicle’s needs, consider the driving conditions and stay on top of regular oil changes to ensure your vehicle’s engine runs smoothly and efficiently.

See more: When Do Car Seats Expire?

Factors to Consider When Selecting Engine Oil

Factors to Consider When Selecting Engine Oil

When selecting engine oil for your vehicle, there are several important factors to consider. These include the oil’s viscosity, whether it’s synthetic or conventional, and any special considerations for your vehicle’s age and condition. Understanding these factors can help you make an informed decision and ensure optimal engine performance.

Engine Oil Viscosity

Engine oil viscosity, often referred to as oil weight, is the key factor to consider when selecting your engine oil. It is usually signified in a format such as “5W-30.” Viscosity is a measure of an oil’s flow resistance at different temperatures. Engine oil tends to become thinner when it heats up and thicker as it cools down.

While thicker oil generally provides a superior lubricating film between moving engine parts, excessive thickness can make it challenging to crank the car, as the engine needs more energy to move its parts, thus reducing fuel economy.

Conversely, thinner oil might flow more readily but might not provide enough protection for vital moving components. Motor oils often contain additives to reduce their tendency to thicken or thin with changing temperatures, and these additives can also provide other benefits like foam inhibitors.

Climate and Seasons

Modern engine oils are designed to cover a wide range of operating temperatures. However, there are situations where certain oil grades may perform better.

In hotter climates, oils that can resist excessive thinning (like 10W-40) may be required, while in colder regions, an oil that won’t thicken easily at lower temperatures (like 5W-30) might be more suitable.

Additionally, you may need to change your engine oil when transitioning from summer to winter, and vice versa, to ensure optimal engine performance.

Synthetic vs. Conventional

Conventional oil is a mineral-based product extracted directly from crude oil. It is the cheaper of the two options, and it does a great job of lubricating your engine’s components.

Synthetic oil, on the other hand, is a man-made chemical blend that has been formulated to provide superior performance. It is typically more expensive but can provide better protection for your engine in the long run.

Driving Habits And Conditions

Rugged driving conditions such as off-roading or towing require the motor oil to work harder, which often necessitates more frequent oil change service. Under these conditions, you might need motor oil with additives that help reduce engine friction under high temperatures and heavy loads.

On the other hand, if you make primarily short trips of under 15 minutes, your engine may not reach maximum operating temperature consistently. This lack of heat can lead to water condensation in your oil, which won’t evaporate, resulting in sludge build-up. To prevent this, you may need an engine oil with additives that ward off sludge formation.

Engine Age

Engine age is another factor that influences the kind of oil your car needs. Newer cars, especially those with multi-valve, high-rev engines, typically demand a thinner oil to prevent start-up wear and tear. In contrast, an older engine in a vintage vehicle might require a thicker oil to maintain correct oil pressure between worn engine parts.

With these basics, you should have a better understanding of how to determine what oil your car takes. Now, let’s take a moment to answer some frequently asked questions.


Engine oil is the lifeblood of your vehicle, vital for its efficient operation. Selecting the right oil can be a confusing task for many, with a multitude of factors to consider. In this guide, we delve into the intricacies of engine oil, providing you with the knowledge you need to make an informed decision. Let’s decode the complex world of engine oil.

Can I Mix Different Types of Oil?

It’s not recommended to mix different types of oil. Different oils have varying properties and additives, and mixing them could interfere with the oil’s ability to lubricate your engine properly. Always use the type of oil recommended by your vehicle’s manufacturer.

In emergency situations where you need to top off your engine oil and only a different type of oil is available, you can do it. However, you should have a complete oil change as soon as possible.

What Happens if I Use the Wrong Oil?

Using the wrong oil in your car might not cause immediate damage, but over time, it could lead to reduced engine efficiency or more serious engine damage. The incorrect oil may not lubricate your engine correctly, leading to increased friction and wear.

Low viscosity oil in an engine designed for high viscosity oil could result in inadequate oil pressure, causing your engine to run hotter and wear out faster. On the other hand, using high viscosity oil in an engine designed for lower viscosity could reduce fuel economy and make your engine harder to start in cold weather.

How Often Should I Check My Engine Oil?

It’s a good practice to check your engine oil once a month and before any long trips. This not only ensures your engine has plenty of oil, but it also allows you to check the oil’s condition.

If the oil is dirty or has a milky appearance, it may be time for an oil change. Also, if you find that you’re having to top up your oil regularly, your vehicle may have an oil leak, and you should consult a mechanic as soon as possible.

Final Thoughts

Choosing the right engine oil is crucial for the longevity and performance of your vehicle. The factors mentioned above should guide you in selecting an engine oil that best suits your car’s unique requirements. Remember, the right oil can significantly extend the lifespan of your engine and improve its functionality.

It’s always wise to consult your vehicle’s owner’s manual or consult with a professional mechanic if you’re unsure. These resources can provide specific recommendations based on your vehicle’s make, model, and age, assisting you in making an informed decision.

Never underestimate the value of regular maintenance and timely oil changes. Old or contaminated oil can lead to diminished engine performance and even severe engine damage over time. Keep an eye on your oil levels and the condition of your oil – these are keys to ensuring a healthy engine.

Lastly, remember that the most expensive oil isn’t necessarily the best for your vehicle. Different engines have different needs, and what’s most important is that the oil meets the specifications set by your vehicle’s manufacturer. Your vehicle is a significant investment, and selecting the right engine oil is one of the simplest ways to protect that investment.

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