Confused about which engine oil to buy? Here's a comprehensive guide for you

  • Engine oils come in different viscosities and grades, meant for being used in different types of engines and in different climate conditions.
engine oil
Engine oils come in different viscosities and grades, meant for being used in different types of engines and in different climate conditions.
engine oil
Engine oils come in different viscosities and grades, meant for being used in different types of engines and in different climate conditions.

Any internal combustion engine-powered vehicle requires a host of essential fluids and engine oil is a major one among them. While we take our cars to service centres the workshops often pour their choice of engine oil, which is of course among the recommended range from the manufacturers. However, it is important to have some basic knowledge about the car and its components. As a car owner, one should have a minimum knowledge about the engine oil as well.

There are different types of engine oil available in the market, which come in different viscosity and grades. Here is a quick and comprehensive explainer about the various engine oil grades, which will help you make an informed decision to choose the right engine oil for your car.

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How engine oil grades are determined?

Engine oils come with an alphanumeric code. For example, take 5W-30, the most used engine oil in the Indian market. The W in this code stands for winter and the number before that represents the oil's viscosity at low temperatures or when the engine is cold. The lower the viscosity of the oil, the better its ability to be pumped and flow at colder temperatures. This means in extreme cold weather conditions and at engine start-up, 0W oil will be able to flow faster and reach key engine components like pistons, valves, cylinder walls etc compared to 5W oil.

The number after the hyphen, which in this case is 30, represents the viscosity of the oil at normal operating temperatures, which in an engine is around 100 degrees Celsius.

It must be remembered that the viscosity of the engine oil cannot be too thin or too thick. An engine oil that is too thin won't be able to make a protective layer around engine parts, resulting in higher wear and tear. On the other hand, an engine oil that is too thick will put a higher load on the engine as it will work against the agility of moving engine parts.

Types of engine oils

An engine oil is a mixture that consists of a base oil and some additives. The engine oil is developed according to the types of engines and driving conditions. This is why the engine and driving conditions are two crucial factors in determining the right engine oil for the car. Depending on the viscosity, effectiveness and efficiency, the engine oils can be categorised into a few types.

Mineral oils

Mineral oils are the crudest form of engine oils and are produced by refining petroleum oils. Some additives are blended into them. These engine oils undergo specific treatment to improve performance and work fine under a wide range of temperatures. Mineral oils are cheaper and used mainly in older vehicles and motorcycles.

Semi-synthetic oils

Semi-synthetic oils come with a blend of a small volume of synthetic oil mixed with mineral oil. These oils balance the affordability of mineral oils and the effectiveness of fully synthetic oils. Semi-synthetic oils are considered nearly thrice as effective as mineral oils, as these enhance the oil viscosity and functionality under a wider range of temperatures and stress.

Fully synthetic oils

Fully synthetic oils are the most advanced forms of engine oils. These oils are developed by breaking down the mineral oils into their rudimentary molecular forms, thus making it easy to remove all impurities from the oils. Synthetic oils offer high-level lubrication as compared to their counterparts like semi-synthetic and mineral oils. Also, these oils function pretty well in both high and low temperatures, and under severe stress.

First Published Date: 19 Jun 2024, 06:31 AM IST

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