The local auto parts store typically used to carry a few big brands of oil, and that was about it. As engines have become more complex, engine oil has diversified to keep up. As a result, there are now many, many brands and types of oil on the market. Fortunately, there are automotive industry standards to explain the characteristics of all of them so you can find what is best for your vehicle. We spoke with the Service manager at Lynch, a full-service car dealership with locations in Burlington, Mukwonago and Kenosha WI that sells Chrysler, Dodge, Jeep, RAM, Chevrolet, Buick and GMC vehicles, and this is the information we were provided with:
The best oil for your car
Selecting the right engine oil is not straightforward. For one thing, there are two basic types; synthetic and standard oils. Synthetic engine oils have been available for decades but are just considered mainstream today. As the name implies, they are derived from chemical compounds other than those present in crude oil. More expensive synthetics provide improved lubrication at every temperature, contain additives to condition engine seals and can be used for a long time without a change.
So, which oil is best? The first thing to do is consult the owner’s manual. Some manufacturers outline specific brands, blends, and viscosities, especially on their new models. The designated oils might have specific additives or characteristics that your vehicle’s engine needs for the best performance and economy. If you’re ever in doubt, ask a car dealer or an ASE-certified technician who has experience with your vehicle model.
On the front of most oil containers you’ll see the specified “viscosity rating.” Viscosity can be thought of as the oil’s “thickness.” Some viscosities you may find include 0W-20, 5W-30, 10W-40, and 20W-50, but there are several more. These are multi-grade oils, containing additives to tailor their viscosities to various engines’ ambient operating temperatures and requirements.
Now Let’s Reflect
Consider oil’s role in your engine’s well-being. There is more to engine oil than we’re able to cover here, but with having looked at the basics just now, you can start to understand engine oil and make the right choices for your car.
How to do your own oil change (if you are so inclined!)
For most cars, it is ideal to check the oil with the engine cold and not running (there are a few exceptions, so look in your owner’s manual), while parked on a level surface. If you’re not sure where your engine’s dipstick resides, check the manual.
Pull the dipstick out and wipe it clean with a towel or rag. Replace it, then pull it out again. You should see oil between the two lines or holes in the dipstick; when it’s in that range, your level is fine. If it’s at or below the stick’s lower mark, add a quart and check the level again soon.
Whether you change your own engine oil yourself or have it done at the garage, just be sure you do it. As the oil’s additives break down and contaminants enter the engine, oil’s effectiveness is compromised!