Everything you need to know about car oil

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The thermal engines of the cars are advanced engineering works composed of hundreds of different parts, but for everything to work as it should and, above all, to have durability as long as possible it is necessary to have the optimal lubrication.

This lubrication that allows the movement of the pieces and the production of energy is in charge of the oil, and each car has one indicated. But how do I know what oil my car needs?

The types of car oil

Current engines, especially with the arrival of the most restrictive anti-pollution regulations, have technologies capable of generating high unit powers with tighter emission levels. For this to be the case, oil plays, among others, a determining role.

In addition to guaranteeing engine reliability by lubricating the metal parts and avoiding wear, the oils used in the automotive industry have the function of cleaning the engine and favoring the low friction technologies with which the brands seek to exceed the emission limits marked for homologation.

A less lubricated engine is a motor that ages faster and, also, a less efficient engine. The greater the friction, the greater percentage of energy produced will be wasted in the form of heat.

To know which the most suitable oil for your car is the answer is quite simple: just go to the owner’s manual and there the manufacturer will have reflected which type of car oil is the most suitable for each model. Now, there are many types of oils and we will explain what their differences are.

car oil

Mineral oils

Mineral oil is the oil of all life, are those oils that are derived directly from oil, refining the initial crude through different processes to get an oil with the properties that each manufacturer requires for their engines.

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Mineral oils are generally used in cars of advanced age since before 1995 the engines were not prepared for the most modern synthetic oils. Comparatively mineral oils are cheaper but also have a shorter duration to be less technologically evolved in their composition.

Synthetic oils

At the other end of the quadrilateral, we have synthetic oils. This type of lubricant takes as starting point mineral oil and through successive treatments in the laboratory are modified to meet certain specific characteristics.

Synthetic oils are of higher quality than mineral oils so they are also more expensive, but in return we will have a more stable oil with a longer life, being also more resistant to temperature changes without losing their properties and improve both reliability and performance levels over time.

Semisynthetic oils

On horseback between one and another type, we have semi-synthetic oils. As its name suggests, this type of oil is composed of a mixture of mineral oils and synthetic oils, the former usually prevailing.

With this type of oil, a medium point is sought both in lubricant performance as well as in price, reliability, and useful life.


Apart from the origin of the oil the other key fact when choosing the right product is the viscosity. Regulated by the SAE (Society of Automotive Engineers) standard, this SAE J 300 scale associates the viscosity of the oil with the operating temperature.

Within the viscosity, we must also stop at a difference that marks two different types. On the one hand, we have the monograde oils, with a single viscosity at any temperature, and on the other hand the multigrade, which has a viscosity in cold and another in hot.

Thus, a monograde oil is practically not used due to changes in operating temperature, since it would force us to use two different oils throughout the year, one in the coldest months and another in the hottest months.

In multigrade oils, this temperature is reflected in each carafe of oil with the nomenclatures 5W-30, 10W-40, 20W-50 … The first one that is accompanied by the W (winter, winter) marks the lower temperature range and the second the superior, but these values do not indicate temperatures, indicate values in the viscosity scale SAE J 300.

What these numbers tell us is that at the lower end of the temperature the oil maintains the necessary fluidity, does not become too dense, while at the upper end it manages to maintain its lubricating properties without becoming liquid like water, staying on the surfaces for more weather.

Thus, in cold temperatures, a 5W-30 oil would have a viscosity of 3.5 centistokes (cSt) at -30ºC and 6.9 cSt at high temperatures. Thus, depending on the temperature generated by the engine of each car, the climate in which it will be driven, or the requirement to which it is going to be subjected, an oil of one or another viscosity can be recommended.

We took into account the properties of modern oils, we will normally move in oils 10W-30, 10W-40, or 10W-50, more than enough for the rigors of an average driver. But in case of doubt, you know, the best remedy is always to look at the manual.

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