Do You Know Your Vehicle’s Oil Weight?

If you are one of the many people shocked to find out that oil weight is important to know, then you’re not alone. But don’t bust out your weight scales just yet. Rather than tipping that number, so to speak, “oil weight” refers to the viscosity of the oil being used, which can affect everything from engine life to vehicle performance. Different oil weights are better in different climates, and some manufacturers recommend which oil weights to use and which to ditch. So, which type of oil weight do you need?

Open The Hatch!

Oil viscosity is simply a matter of how well a particular oil flows at a specific temperature. 210 degrees Fahrenheit, to be exact. That is the standard operating temperature for most vehicle engines, so it’s the temperature by which the Society of Automotive Engineers, or SAE, gauges an oil’s weight. If you pick up a bottle of oil in your local car parts store and see a conglomeration of numbers and letters, such as SAE 5W-20, that is the oil’s specified weight. That number tells you more information than just the oil’s viscosity, however. That number also tells you how well the oil coats engine components while in use and how well it protects against things like friction and heat erosion over time. Like the weight mentioned earlier, the “20” in SAE 5W-20 means that while it’s going to flow more quickly through your engine because of its lower viscosity point, it’s not going to do a better job protecting your vehicle’s precious parts. The higher that number, the greater the protection while under stress.

So, What About Those W’s?

5W-50. 15W-50. 0W-20. What in the world are those W’s? We’ve talked about the second number and how it affects a vehicle’s engine, but what about the first part of that equation? What does the W’s mean? Simply put, the W stands for “winter,” and the number that comes before is a cold weather rating. A lower number means that the aforementioned oil will do better in freezing cold temperatures, while a higher number means the oil will perform better in the summer. However, when in doubt, always default to the car’s manufacturer manual. You will always find optimal recommendations on what to utilize in your vehicle, including the kind of oil weight your engine should be utilizing.

Oh, So Many Oil Choices.

While the owner’s manual has good recommendations for oil weight, it doesn’t consider harsh winters or what kind of load you may be hauling with your vehicle. But, the issue is that no ‘overall oil’ is used in all vehicles. They are tailor-made and come in many options for a reason, and the owner’s manual doesn’t account for those other situations. The lower the number before the W, the more protected you will be in colder climates. The higher the number after the W, the better the oil will do in hotter temperatures. But, if you still find yourself at a loss or overwhelmed, have no fear! That’s where Jeff’s Auto Repair comes in. Walk in and see us anytime at 21701 Hwy 99, Lynnwood, WA 98036 or give us a call at (425) 771-4588 to speak with one of our many ASE-certified expert staff members. They will have all of the answers you seek so that you don’t have to keep going around in circles dealing with confusing numbers on the outside of bottles.

Written by Jeff's Auto Repair

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