We explore and discuss how you should go about choosing the best engine oil for your car.
If you want to talk about getting the most out of your ownership experience with a car, one of the best ways to improve longevity is to pick a good engine oil. Oil happens to be the lifeblood of the engine and the one you select can have a big impact on how quickly (or slowly) an engine wears out. Engine wear is an unavoidable fact of life, and all we can really do is slow it down or mitigate it.
Before we even get into what oil to select, let’s just run through a quick list of ‘best practices’ that will help regardless of which oil you put into your engine. These are things that every owner should know when it comes to taking care of their car.
- Always warm your car up gently. You don’t need to sit around with it idling, but for the first five minutes or so you should keep engine rpm low and be light with the accelerator.
- Change your oil according to the specified service intervals. Even if you don’t return to an official service centre, oil degrades over time and use.
- Keep an eye on your oil level. Some engines, especially older ones, will naturally consume oil over time and it’s important to keep track if it falls too low.
The Right Stuff - Viscosity
Now let’s get into the right kind of oil for your engine. The truth is, there is no singular brand that works best as every engine behaves a little differently. The most important value to look at is viscosity – which is represented either with a single number or a pair of numbers as shown above. You should always refer to this number in your service manual when purchasing oil for your vehicle, but there are some caveats.
Photo Credit: Raedi Yusof
For example, older and more worn engines may benefit from running a slightly higher viscosity oil in order to reduce oil consumption and keep things operating smoothly. The same applies for high stress applications, if you’re the kind of driver who goes to track days or has frequent spirited drives. Going to a slightly higher viscosity – say from 10W-40 to 10W-50 – can be beneficial.
Mineral, Semi-synthetic, or Fully Synthetic
There’s no argument that fully synthetic oil is the best kind of oil to put in your engine, regardless of age or design. It usually has the most additives and is the most resistant to temperature and abuse, so it would be our oil grade of choice whether dealing with a 40 year old Ferrari 308 GTS, or a brand new Toyota Yaris.
Photo Credit: Nelson Sim
Again, there are some caveats to this that apply in very specific situations. For some particularly old engines, oils with high zinc additive content are good to reduce wear in the valve train of the engine. For running-in freshly built engines, a good mineral oil is important as it allows the various components to bed in properly. In all other cases, we would choose a fully synthetic oil.
Affordable or Expensive
It may surprise you to know that even relatively affordable oils can be beneficial for your engine. Of course we’re not talking bargain basement items, but more commonly available products like Mobil 1, Castrol Magnatec, or Shell Helix have proven to be good standard solutions that provide good lubrication across a range of applications. That being said, you can always look for more specialist brands.
Photo Credit: MSF Racing
Among enthusiasts, you will find a much larger range of oils that they stand by with various results. Moty’s, Penrite, Millers, and Royal Purple may not be names that you are familiar with, but they have more specialized blends that work a little better in high performance applications. Be aware though as “racing” grade oils may not be designed for the repeated cold start usage that you get with a day-to-day car, and you are better off reading the label carefully to understand the application.
What has been increasingly common lately are fake oils entering the market – especially on online platforms. These oils are being sold for surprisingly low prices and can in fact damage your engine if you’re not careful. Always make sure that you’re getting your oil from a reputable source as you will have no idea what the actual oil content is in a fake product.
The same can go with oil filters, which we recommend changing with every oil change as well. Filters have a big impact on keeping your oil clean, and between a fake and original filter there is a huge difference in actual filtering ability. Some aftermarket filters boast longer service intervals but we recommend against them as there is no guarantee that they are 100% effective.
And there you have it. We hope our quick guide gives you a better idea of what to choose the next time it comes to an oil change. With the right kind of oil, your engine will run smoother, cooler, and generally last longer – and that’s a huge impact for something you may change once or twice a year.
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