What the Numbers in Motor Oil Mean

When you go into the automotive parts store to buy new motor oil, it’s easy to be overwhelmed by all of the different options that are available. There are many different brands, each offering different additives and protections for certain types of cars. Many times, a person makes a decision on the motor oil to purchase based not on what’s right for their car but what’s the easiest to grab.

Choosing the right motor oil for your vehicle isn’t a difficult decision – if you understand what to look for. One of the most important concepts to understand is the viscosity of the oil. Also known as the oil’s “weight,” this is usually shown as a pair of numbers on the oil container. Both numbers relate to the oil’s ability to withstand the extremes of hot and cold temperature. The number with a “W” next to it is the oil’s rating for winter weather – a lower number means it will flow freely in colder weather. The second number means that the oil is thicker and will not thin out while subjected to extreme heat.

When it comes time to select the motor oil for your vehicle, you should consult the guidelines for your car as instructed in the owner’s manual. If necessary, you can make adjustments based on the weather conditions your car might be exposed to. If your owner’s manual suggests 10W-30 oil but you are in Minnesota in the winter, you might want to consider going down to 5W-30.

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