Engine Oil: Types, Grades, Its Function, and Best Practices

Your engine oil is the most important consumable product you use in your car; if you don’t use it in the right way, it may cause severe damage to your engine; if you use bad oil, it is just a matter of time, and, you will find yourself at the auto repair shop looking for an oil pump, and if the case is worse you may end up looking for a new engine.

Yes, this is how the oil is important for your vehicle, so make sure you do the best practices, but first, you should understand how it works, understand the meaning of the grade label, the differences between types of oil, which one best fits your engine, and what are the consequences of using bad, or wrong oil on your engine.

Types of Engine Oil

When looking to change your engine oil, there are mainly four types of oils.

Mineral Oil (Conventional Oil)

Your standard engine oil is Mineral oil. It is made from earth petroleum that is extracted and processed. And then, It is bottled and sold for use in your engine after undergoing several addition and processing steps to increase its viscosity (thickness) and engine protection qualities.

Pros Of Mineral Oil

  • Conventional oils are ideal for older cars models
  • Mineral oils are significantly more affordable.

Cons Of Mineral Oil

  • Mineral Oil provides less protection than other oil types.
  • More oil changes are necessary for mineral oils. The change interval is expected to be between 3,000 and 5,000 miles.
  • This type of oil is made from materials that already exist in nature, so they tend to be less refined.

Full Synthetic Oil

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Fully synthetic oil is highly recommended if you have a brand-new vehicle or a newer car mode. This oil is created entirely in labs by breaking down and reconstructing petroleum molecules. It is better than conventional oil.

It has a consistent size of molecules, so all the molecules will handle the pressure at the same level before they break, which makes it lasts much longer, unlike conventional oil, where the different size of molecules leaves the load only on the bigger molecules, which leads to the fast-breaking of large molecules.

Pros of Full Synthetic Oil

  • Last Longer distances and longer periods of time: Synthetic oil should be changed every 7,500 to 10,000 miles, and some brands claim a much longer time between changes (15,000 to 25,000).
  • Resistant to chemical degradation and oxidation: Oil degradation causes sludge, varnish, corrosion, viscosity change, and engine performance issues.
  •  More stable viscosity as temperature changes during startups: Viscosity provides film thickness or clearance between sliding or rotating metal surfaces. Without it, friction and wear would be extreme.
  • Protects turbocharger components: Automakers nowadays are creating automobiles with smaller engines and turbochargers (to boost power). Turbocharged engines run hotter. Oil in a turbocharger may reach 400°F, and the shaft can spin up to 200,000 RPM, so it’s crucial that oil flows rapidly to these critical parts for optimal lubrication.
  • Withstand extreme Temperatures (either hot or cold):
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Cons of Full Synthetic oil

  • Highly expensive: If you use full-synthetic oil, you can expect to pay between two and four times as much as conventional oil.
  • Additive separation: During cold storage, additives may be more likely to precipitate. This stratifies additives, which can lead to their separation from oil.

Semi-Synthetic Oil (Synthetic Blend)

Synthetic blend oil is made by mixing conventional and synthetic oils. Adding synthetics enhances the engine’s protection, making it a better choice than conventional oils.

The results are pretty much what you’d expect: they protect and work better than mineral oil, but not quite as well as a full-synthetic oil.  
Semi-synthetic oil lasts longer than mineral oils but not as long as full-synthetic oils. It can go about 7,500 miles before they need to be changed.

This oil is also used a few times when switching a car from mineral to fully synthetic oil.

When it comes to price, its price range is between mineral and fully synthetic. Overall, they’re a good compromise for people who want to save money but also want to get good oil for their engines.

High-Mileage Oil

High-mileage oil is a type of oil that is a little different and stands on its own. These products have a unique mix of additives that are meant to help protect engine seals. This keeps oil from evaporating and improves overall performance. 
For cars with a few more miles on them, this extra protection is very important because oil burn-off becomes a bit more of a problem, which leads to more engine wear and a shorter life.

Engine Grades

There are different grades of engine oil. SAE (The society of automotive engineering) made a scale called “engine oil grades” to show how well engine oil works at working temperature. Has given them grades based on how thick or thin they are (viscosity).

SAE Number tells us the viscosity or how thick it is (how hard it is to move) while it is working.

Viscosity measures the internal friction of a fluid

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As we know, when the oil gets warmer, it becomes thinner, and as it gets cooler, it becomes thicker (high viscosity).

Think of it as similar to olive oil. When it is placed in the refrigerator, it becomes thicker, but when it is in a hot oil pan, it becomes very much.

At room temperature, different engine oils have different viscosities. And They also have different responses to changes in temperature.

On the label of every bottle of engine oil, it says what grade it is. If you look at the label, you’ll see some numbers and letters. The idea behind this system is very easy to understand. In particular, as science and technology have advanced, we’ve been introduced to various engine oil grades.

Each oil has been made to work best in a certain operating environment. Still, you probably don’t know what all those numbers and letters mean. So, let’s figure out what this “code” means.

How to interpret the Engine Grade “Code.”

The grade of engine oil is written as an alphanumeric code. Let’s look at what each letter and number in the code means:

W: The letter “W” stands for winter. and shows how the oil will act when the engine is cold.

The number with W. This SAE number Tells the viscosity (how the oil will flow) at cold temperatures. Or how viscous it is before the engine reaches operating temperature

Remember from physics that oil thickens at low temperatures. Drivers who live in Cold-climate should use oil with a lower W number.

The flow will be better the lower this number is; for example, a 5W oil will flow better at cold temperatures than a 10W oil.

The number That comes after W: This SAE number describes Viscosity (how thick the oil will flow) at 100°C (considered the working temperature for the average engine). It has a range between 20 and 50 SAE.

So The lower the SAE number, the thinner the oil at 100°C, The higher the SAE number, the Thicker oil at 100 °C

At hot temperatures, the 10W-30 engine oil will flow better than the 10W-40 engine oil.

Monograde (Single-grade) Vs. Multigrade Oil, what’s the difference?

Multigrade oil has a format of xWxx, While Monograde oil has a format of SAExx, so our previous discussion was all about multigrade oils since monograde oil aren’t as popular for cars as multigrade.

I’m sure you’ve seen oil cans that say SAE40. Well, we know what that is now; it simply means that this type of oil had been tested at 100 °C, and it got a viscosity SAE rating of 40; it has no data for cold temperature because this oil isn’t designed to be used and work efficiently when it is cool.

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Monograde can’t provide the flow needed for cold starts without a heated hangar or engine preheating gear. oils is better for warmer temperatures,

Monograde is mainly used for vehicles like lawnmowers and seasonal vehicles that have a basic engine, and it doesn’t need the same critical amount of lubricant when you first start the engine, and it is not frequently used in the dead of winter when it’s very cold.

What’s the function of Engine Oil?

There is some misconception about the role of the oil engine; many people think that the only role of oil is just to lubricate the part, which is partially true, one of the most important functions of oil is to lubricate the parts and prevent them from wearing,

Engine oil contains a lot of additives that make the oil have many purposes such as cleaning, the oil contains detergents that have a job to clean the engine, and that’s why when you change the oil, you find it turned dirty, that’s a good sign that the oil is doing a good job in cleaning the engine, Another important role is to cool the engine, form sealing, prevent corrosion.


What happens if you don’t change your oil?

I’ve written a separate article on the consequences of not changing the oil, but briefly, Unchanged engine oil will gel, solidify, and turn into sludge. This prevents oil from reaching all engine components. Crankshaft, bearings, camshafts, and other valve train parts will run dry.

What will happen If I use the wrong oil grade

Using the wrong engine oil can damage the engine because it doesn’t lubricate the parts the way it should. Since the moving parts aren’t properly lubricated, which will cause the metal to contact. where friction happens, therefore will wear out engine parts.

How does oil protect your engine?

Engine oils reduce friction, which helps increase fuel efficiency and protects vital engine surfaces from wear caused by normal engine operation by lowering the amount of wear and tear that occurs.

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