Ideally, your car should run like a well-oiled machine. But this requires motor oil. This oil can be considered the engine’s lifeblood. Pumping through the running engine through galleries, it cleans, lubricates, cools and cushions the moving engine parts. All this while holding sludge, abrasive particles and harsh chemical contaminants in suspension. But in addition to all this, engine oils can protect your vehicle against corrosion formation while the detergent additives keep the engine clean. It also helps reduce friction and wear on moving parts, neutralises acids that may stem from fuel and oxidation, improves sealing of piston rings as well as keeps the engine cool by carrying heat away from moving parts. Overall, engine oil is crucial to keeping your vehicle running smoothly. But with all the different varieties of motor oil, you may be wondering what engine oil does my car need?

Types of engine oil

Many car manufacturers specifically indicate which engine oil you need to use in your car to ensure it runs smoothly. But this leads to the question, what types of car oil does my car need? You may have seen oils that contain combinations of letters and numbers, and it’s important to look at these first in order to answer the question.

For example, you may have heard of 5W-30 or 5W-40 as to car oil types. But let’s make more sense out of these numbers so that you can have a better idea of what car oil you need. The first part of the code refers to the cold temperature grade while the second part refers to the hot temperature grade. What’s more, the numbers on either side of the “W” indicate that this is a multi-grade oil which can stand variations in different temperatures. And in more detail, the meaning of each number and letter is broken down for you below:

  • “5” – this is the first number that identifies an engine oil and refers to the viscosity in cold weather. Viscosity is basically the thickness or thinness of the oil and this will depend on your engine type. It’s also important to note that the lower the number, the thinner the oil and vise versa. It helps determine how quickly the oil flows through your engine. If the oil is quite thin, it will flow easier. The opposite is also true although thicker oil tends to provide a layer of film and protection of engine parts.
  • “W” – this stands for winter. It generally indicates that your vehicle will be able to start normally during cold temperatures. If there’s no “W” on the engine oil, this means that your vehicle may be suited for warmer climates where temperatures tend to be higher.
  • “30” or “40” – this refers to the oil flow at higher engine temperatures. Whereas “30” is more often than not used for newer petrol engines, “40” is mainly for older or diesel engines. In addition, a lower number means that the oil is more effective in terms of reducing friction. This can ultimately result in savings on fuel expenses.

How do I know what oil to put in my car?

Whether 5W-30 engine oil, 5W-40 engine oil or even 10W-40 engine oil, you need to know which is the right oil for your specific make and model of vehicle. There are multiple reasons for this and they include the fact that using the wrong engine oil can mean higher oil usage, increased surface wear between engine parts and more. This is why it’s highly advisable to check the type of oil your car needs in the owner’s manual your car came with. If you don’t have access to this manual, you can always have it checked by experienced car technicians or pay a visit to the vehicle manufacturer. While there are some websites which enable you to enter your car’s make into a search field to check which oil you need, these sites can sometimes be unreliable sources of information and this should be avoided. Instead, it’s best to consult the professionals for more peace of mind and costs savings further down the road.

What happens if you put the wrong oil in your car?

Putting the wrong oil in your car will not necessarily mean the end of its life as yet. But you can expect to experience problems in the future. This can lead to costly repairs which will need to be made and it would result in unwanted expenses. Therefore, if you’ve realised that you’ve put the wrong oil in your car, it’s better to have it changed.

In addition to this, using the wrong engine for a while will result in your car giving you signals that something’s wrong. For example, you may see oil leaks, you might smell burning and the poor lubrication of your engine could lead to much bigger issues in the future.

With this in mind, you may also be wondering “is it OK to top up engine oil with different brand?” The answer to this question is quite straightforward. The brand essentially doesn’t matter. As long as you use the right specifications and engine oil codes that have been identified as the correct ones for your particular vehicle.

Can I mix synthetic and regular oil?

And if you’re now wondering can you mix engine oils, it’s vital to bear in mind that even though you may mix different brands of engine oil without facing any immediate issues, it’s best to stick to the same brand that you started using in the first place. The reason for this is that although you may be using oils with the same viscosities, they may have different chemical compounds and mixing unknown chemicals together could result in engine damage. This can therefore be considered risky and should be avoided.

But what about mixing synthetic and regular oil? What will this action lead to for your car? Before answering this question, it’s important to take a look at the different types of oil that are available on the market.

  • Mineral/conventional/regular oil: this is essentially refined crude oil with all contaminants, unwanted hydrocarbons and other natural impurities being removed. It is not commonly used for modern cars but rather for older cars and it also tends to flow through the engine at a much slower rate than synthetic oil. In addition, they need to be changed more frequently and can lead to an increase in fuel consumption.
  • Fully synthetic oil: this is a highly refined oil that is chemically modified and increases vehicle performance. When compared to mineral oil, it contains fewer impurities and it also contains multiple additives to increase the oil’s lubricating power. It is also considered much more efficient because it requires fewer changes, leads to less wear on engine parts and can increase the lifespan of the engine, although it is considered generally more expensive.
  • Semi-synthetic oil: this can be considered a mixture of mineral oil and fully synthetic oil as it’s not as advanced as fully synthetic but remains more highly refined than mineral oil. It can be considered a more cost-effective option.

What happens if you put new oil on top of old oil?

The answer to this question is relatively straightforward. The new oil that you add to your engine will essentially become watered down from the old oil and may result in inefficiencies in your car and engine’s overall running power.

Does an oil change make a car run better?

In short, changing your engine’s motor oil can help your car run better although it may not necessarily be noticeable to you. It will prevent metal-to-metal damage and wear and will help ensure smoother lubrication of parts while preventing dirt build-up in the engine.

How long can you really go without an oil change?

Going without an oil change for long periods of time that exceed what the car manufacturer’s instructions are can be detrimental to your vehicle. For example, you may face significant wear and tear of engine components, clogging due to the buildup of dirt as the oil starts solidifying and turning into sludge, your engine may overheat, the vehicle’s warranty may be voided and experience overall engine failure due to oil starvation in the bearings, crankshafts and other valve parts.

This situation is not ideal to say the least and this is why it’s encouraged that you follow your car manufacturer’s guidelines for your specific vehicle in order to use it optimally. In essence, it’s not always the time period that you drive which signals how often you should change your oil but the number of miles driven too. Therefore, oil change frequencies will be highly dependent on the age of your car, the driving conditions, the type of the motor oil itself, and the miles & time since the last car service.

In conclusion

Changing your engine oil is an essential part of having your car serviced. If you have checked it yourself and need to change engine oil soon but you aren’t sure which one to use, it is highly recommended that you approach a professional car service centre in Leicester to take care of your vehicle’s needs. Choose The Motor Company in Leicester for a thorough and secure service that will help extend the longevity of your engine and ensure your car runs smoothly on the road all while saving you time, money and hassles from incorrectly used engine oil