What engine oil do I need for my car?

Thursday 5th December 2019

what oil do i need for my car

Has your oil light appeared on your dashboard and made you wonder, ‘what oil does my car need?’ According to David Wright, director general of the United Kingdom Lubricants Association, “modern oils are more complex than ever” – meaning, it can be difficult to know which engine oil to use for your vehicle.

With changes to the regulations on vehicle emissions, oil production has expanded over time, providing more choice than ever before. This means getting the right oil for your car is vital – as, if you do get it wrong, you may subject your engine to excess component wear. So, what engine oil does your car need, and what is the easiest way to find out?

How do I know what oil my car needs?

The type of oil that your vehicle requires will all depend on the engine. If you have a modern vehicle, it will likely have a recommended oil grade and manufacturer, which is usually listed within the vehicle manual. This grade, also known as the oil viscosity, will be shown in numbers, separated by the letter ‘w’. This is often regarded the most important part of oil, as it refers to the ‘flowability’ of the oil (thin oil has low viscosity while thick oil has high viscosity).

The first numbers on the oil grade give you an indication of how the oil flows at colder seasonal temperatures, whereas the last number of the oil grade indicates the flow at warmer seasonal temperatures. In the cold, oil will flow more slowly and vice versa in the summer months.

However, just to confuse things slightly, it’s important to note that many car makers actually have their own grades of oil which are intended to be used in specific models. For example, BMW’s grading system could be ‘BMW LL04’. However, it’s likely that these custom oil grades will always have an equivalent in the Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) grading system. Therefore, this can be cross-referenced for those who not as fussed about branding and are looking for a close equivalent.

If you’re unsure on what type of oil you should use for your vehicle, your owner’s manual will be able to tell you. If you have misplaced this or you’re still unsure which oil to choose, you can always get in touch with a member of our specialist team who can advise you on your required oil or even an oil upgrade to help improve engine performance.

Different types of engine oil

What type of oil does my car need?

So, when you come to buy the oil for your vehicle, you’ll likely be met with three core types of engine oil on the market:

  • Mineral oil
  • Semi-synthetic oil
  • Synthetic oil

Generally, mineral oil is the cheapest as it’s one of the by-products of crude oil after it’s been refined. It’s unlikely that your car manufacturer will recommend mineral oil as it doesn’t come with engine-cleaning products which are vital to most modern cars.

Synthetic is the most expensive as it has been engineered by scientists over various conditions and temperatures to ensure the drag of the engine is reduced, as well as fuel consumption. It actively cleans the engine after it’s pumped around, too – making it a clear winner in terms of performance and benefits, but easy to see why this oil is most expensive.

However, semi-synthetic oil is a combination of the two – so you’ll receive some of the bonuses but at a more affordable price. Still unsure on the difference? Learn everything you need to know about fully synthetic oil vs semi synthetic oil in our detailed guide.

What happens if wrong oil is put in my car?

By putting the wrong oil into your vehicle, it will not show immediate damaging effects – like you would experience if you put diesel into a petrol vehicle, for example. However, long term effects will inevitably begin to show. Inputting the wrong oil into your vehicle may subject your engine to excess component wear – and within 20,000 miles, your vehicle may suffer extreme operational issues.

It’s important to remember that you shouldn’t necessarily assume the most expensive oil is best for your engine. Comply with your oil grade and type of oil recommended by your vehicle manufacturer. Need more help? Book in for your oil change and upgrade today from your local Formula One Autocentre.

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