September 15

How to Choose the Best Engine Oil

Tips & Insigts



Do you know what one of the most important things to consider is when getting your vehicle’s oil changed: which oil is best for your vehicle. Similar to doctors prescribing specific prescriptions and doses, vehicle manufacturers prescribe specific oil types and amounts to ensure that your vehicle runs the best it should for the duration of its life. The oil that is best for your vehicle is specific to its engine, as well as to your driving habits and the climate you drive in. 

Take for example a Mac Semi Truck, a Chevy Suburban, and a Honda Civic. All of these vehicles are different sizes and have different purposes. The semi has a much larger engine than the Suburban and the Suburban has a much larger engine than the Civic. Given the different engine sizes, they require a specific type and amount of oil to function properly.The best oil varies by each engine type. So, how do you know what oil is best for YOUR engine? Great question! Let’s start by getting an understanding of what oil is made up of. All motor oil has 3 main components: a base (source), additives (enhancers), and a grade (viscosity).

The next three sections are everything you need to know regarding the base, additives, and grade of engine oil. 

Component 1 of 3: Oil Base (Source)

The base of an oil is determined by two factors: the oil type and the oil source (i.e. where the oil came from originally). Bases are different for each type of oil, and there are four main oil types: conventional, synthetic blend, full synthetic, and high mileage. To put it short, whatever the oil type, its base is either pumped from the Earth, made in a lab, or a combination of the two. Let us explain:

Component 2 of 3: Oil Additives (Enhancers)

No matter the type of oil, all engine oils will have some amount of additives. The purpose of oil additives is to enhance the oil to achieve its’ most desired outcome. While there are many different additives that oil manufacturers may use, they choose the additive(s) based on the type of performance they are trying to achieve from that specific oil. 

FUN FACT: Race cars need oil with a higher percentage of additives to perform at racing speeds. Most engine oil is made up of 15-30% of one or more of the following additives based on the desired engine performance:

Here are the most common motor oil additives:

  • Viscosity-index improvers: Reduces the oil’s tendency to thin with increasing temperature.
  • Detergents: Keep the surfaces clean by inhibiting the formation of high-temperature deposits, rust, and corrosion.
  • Dispersants: Absorb solid contaminants, so they don’t come together to form sludge, varnish, and acids.
  • Anti-wear agents: Protect metal surfaces.
  • Friction modifiers: Reduce engine friction and can improve fuel economy.
  • Pour-point depressants: Prevents wax particles in oil that can congeal and reduce flow.
  • Antioxidants: Allow for better emissions control,and prevent oxidation (and, therefore, thickening) of oil.
  • Foam inhibitors: Cause the foam bubbles in the oil to collapse so the oil can continue to lubricate.
  • Rust/corrosion inhibitors: Protect metal parts from acids and moisture.

Component 3 of 3: Oil Grade (Viscosity)

Oil grades were first determined by the Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE). An oil grade is a measure of the oils viscosity, which refers to how easily the oil flows at any given temperature. Viscosity is read by the common classification “XW-XX”. This classification overall is also known as the “weight” of the oil. The first “X” rates the oil’s flow at zero degrees Fahrenheit. The lower the number, the better it will perform in freezing temperatures. The “XX” after the “W” indicates viscosity at 212 degrees Fahrenheit and represents the oil’s resistance to thinning at high temperatures. The higher the number, the better it will perform in hot temperatures. 

FUN FACT: You may be surprised to learn that the “W” indicates winter and not weight! The lower the “W” number the better the oil will perform in cooler climates. 

Different grades of oil: There are 11 different viscosity grades and they are 0W, 5W, 10W, 15W, 20W, 25W, 20, 30, 40, 50, and 60. In the United States, these numbers are often referred to as the “weight” of a motor oil,and single-grade motor oils are often called “straight-weight” oils. An example of a single grade oil would be a SAE 30 which has a set viscosity. This was common years ago in older vehicles. 

Today most vehicles call for a multi-grade or “multi-weight” motor oil. An example of this would be a 5W-30 which performs like a 5 weight in winter temperatures and a 30 weight in hot summer temperatures.

FUN FACT: Older engines have more loosely fitting parts and larger tolerances which needs a thicker oil. Newer engines have tight or exact fitting parts and minimal tolerances which requires a thin oil to flow smoothly. 

Getting greasy: Additional things to consider when understanding which oil is best for your vehicle

In North America, nearly all oil marketing companies are licensing their product though the American Petroleum Institute (API). The API has standards to identify different types of oil additives and viscosities. If a company meets these standards, they can use the labels API has created to indicate that their oil meets or exceeds the standard of quality and performance. So if you want to be sure the oil going in your vehicle is good, look for these labels.

American Petroleum Institute “Starburst” 

The API “Starburst” means that the oil meets the gold standard of ILSAC, the International Lubricant Specification Advisory Committee. ILSAC establishes quality specs for the world’s lubricant standards – a joint effort of U.S. and Japanese automobile manufacturers.

American Petroleum Institute “Donut”

The API “Donut” seal provides performance levels, viscosity grade, and savings from fuel conservation. It is typically shown on the back of the oil container.

Does eco friendly play a factor in your decision?

It is without question that oil, when handled improperly, is bad for the environment. So what can you do about it? Well, you can choose businesses that are eco-friendly in how they create or dispose of oil. Did you know oil can be recycled and used again? 

FUN FACT: It takes 42 gallons of crude oil to produce 2.5 quarts of lubricating oil. Compare that to only one gallon of recycled oil to produce the same 2.5 quarts. Every time you choose to recycle engine oil or pick a shop that recycles properly, you’re contributing to a healthier, cleaner world. 

At Victory Auto Service & Glass we recycle our oil as best we can. 

Also, synthetic oil is typically more environmentally friendly than conventional oil.  

Two Common misconceptions: 

  1. Because full synthetic oil performs better and is more eco-friendly, why wouldn’t everyone switch to full synthetic oil?
    Not every engine needs or can handle full synthetic oil. In fact, there may be some features that your car’s engine needs that the full synthetics don’t have. The best thing you can do is follow your owner’s manual. If you are contemplating switching to a different type or grade of motor oil, talk it over with your trusted mechanic. They’ll be able to help you weigh the pros and cons and come to a decision that is best for your vehicle and its engine.
  2. Because you drive less in the city, you don’t need to change oil as often.
    Your driving style affects oil change intervals. In fact, driving in the city can be more harsh on your engine. Only driving short distances or stop-and-go traffic can create a lot of build up and carbon in your engine. Highway miles on the other hand are less taxing than city miles. Driving at steady speeds for long distances allows the engine to reach a steady operating temperature which creates less build up.

At Victory Auto Service & Glass, we take pride in providing honest and dependable service. That’s why we are proud to offer our customers a premium selection of Lube Tech oil. For over 60 years, Lube-Tech has formulated and manufactured custom fluids in state-of-the-art facilities, right here in Minnesota. We use their oil because not only does it meet or exceed most vehicle manufacturers needs, but they spend over 70,000 hours on testing every year to ensure that the product you’re getting is the best.

You might be thinking that you’ll have to pay a premium for an oil change at our shops. You’ll be happy to find out that is not the case! Our high quality oil changes that come with many perks including complimentary fluid top off and a 44 point safety inspection, is competitively priced with other shops in our area.


engine oil, motor oil

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