The 4 Different Types of Oil for Your Car

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For many, car maintenance is simply a hassle. Finding time for an oil change appointment is hard enough, but not understanding precisely what your car needs can evoke feelings of anxiety, inadequacy, and stress.

Rather than getting overwhelmed trying to figure out the best motor oil brands, take some time to read this guide for an in-depth understanding of the different types of engine oil.

T5_OC Man Pouring Oil

What Does Motor Oil Do?

Unless you graduated top of your class from an automotive program, you might be tempted to avoid looking underneath your hood when problems arise. But it’s important to know what your engine’s oil does—and how it contributes to a vehicle's operation and lifespan.

The purpose of motor oil is to lubricate all the moving metal components inside your car’s engine, allowing your pistons, valves, and camshaft to operate correctly and without restraint. The lube creates a slick surface that separates these moving metal components and minimizes friction.

But even with oil in place, some friction still results when engine parts move back and forth—and friction creates heat. Another purpose of oil is to circulate through the motor and absorb some of this heat.

As it makes its way around your engine, your oil eventually travels back to the engine sump, where it dissipates some of the heat, cooling down, and extending your engine’s performance. Without motor oil, you risk the following:

  • Metal components rubbing against each other
  • Sections of the engine overheating
  • Your engine seizing up, essentially destroying it

4 Types of Oil

When it comes to oil change types, options are abundant. However, just like any other substance, you’ll want to be selective. Some options are more suited for cars with high horsepower, whereas others are designed to reduce oil consumption.

Below, we provide an assessment of the four most common types of oil:

1. Conventional Motor Oil Conventional oil remains a common choice among car owners. The base oil, which is 100% mineral, comes from refined crude oil. This option is well-suited for lightweight, late-model vehicles with low mileage.

Not only do they suit cars with simple engines, but are also the most economical for the owner.

2. Synthetic Motor Oil When it comes to synthetic oil vs. conventional oil, the former provides the following: High viscosity levels, strong resistance to thermal breakdowns, and protection from sludge build-up in your engine. And if you live in an area prone to extreme temperatures, synthetic also contains additives to prevent thickening.

More importantly, many modern vehicles require synthetic oil. Synthetic (or a synthetic blend described later) is widely considered superior to conventional and will help your vehicle last significantly longer.

3. High-Mileage Motor Oil

As your vehicle ages, the engine becomes prone to wear and tear. A high-mileage option reduces metal-to-metal contact, minimizes oil consumption, and keeps your engine operating smoothly without the risk of smoke. Furthermore, high-mileage oil contains seal swells additives to prevent leaks and antioxidants to prevent oil burn-off.

If you own a car with 75,000 miles or more, a high-mileage brand will serve you well and keep your engine operating without complications.

4. Synthetic Blend Motor Oil Think of synthetic blend oil as a mixture of synthetic and conventional oils. It includes natural and synthetic additives that provide superior engine protection against friction and wear. Because of the combination of synthetic and traditional lubricants, a synthetic blend is suitable for heavy-duty vehicles.

It’s a solid choice if you’re hoping to save some money.

Types of Oil Additives

Engine oils contain 8%–15% performance additives. These chemical compounds are designed to improve the performance of your oil by enhancing lubrication, preventing corrosion, and reducing engine noise. In short, they operate as an added layer of protection in your oil.

Here are some common additives in motor oil:

- Antioxidants: These additives reduce oxidation, a chemical process that breaks down oil and leaves deposits that can accumulate in oil and make it less effective.

- Dispersants: Similar to antioxidants, dispersants keep your engine clean by removing deposits and preventing rust. Without it, your oil can’t absorb solid contaminants that damage the engine.

- Anti-Wear Agents: If you live in an area susceptible to engine damage from high temperatures, you’ll want anti-wear agents. These agents limit friction between metal components, protecting them from wear.

- Corrosion and Rust Inhibitors: Made with barium sulfonate and calcium, these additives neutralize the acids in your oil, protecting your engine’s components from rust and corrosion.

- Friction Modifiers: Friction modifiers help reduce an engine’s friction when it’s operating at high temperatures with heavy loads.

Factors to Consider When Purchasing Motor Oil

By this point, you understand motor oil is essential for your vehicle’s lifespan. Your engine depends on quality oil for maximum performance and strong protection. Yet the question remains: Which oil type is best for your vehicle?

To help you make an informed decision, here are five key factors to consider:

1. Automaker Recommendations Your first strategy is to select a motor oil that matches your manufacturer’s specifications and requirements. Inside your manual, you’ll find critical information about your engine’s oil viscosity, recommended weight, and the industry specifications of your brand.

2. Vehicle Age and Mileage The older your car, the more selective you should be with your options. Standard vehicles with 75,000 miles or more work best with high-mileage oil. Remember that some vehicles—particularly newer ones—often require synthetic or synthetic blend regardless of age and mileage.

3. Climate Your engine’s performance largely depends on the type of climate you live in and your oil’s thickness level. The numbers on motor oil refer to its “grade,” which in simple terms is its thickness. The higher the numbers, the thicker the oil.

In general, thinner oil (lower numbers) performs better in cooler conditions, whereas engines with high-viscosity (thicker) oil fare better in warmer regions.

4. Driving Habits Do you mostly drive your vehicle in the city or on the highway? If your driving consists primarily of short distances, consider opting for a high-performance oil. All those stops you encounter on your commute to work can keep your engine from running at optimal temperatures.

5. Mechanical Breakdowns Let’s face it: we all deal with mechanical problems. Without preventative measures, we can end up diving deep into our bank accounts. If you want quality engine protection that a conventional product doesn’t offer, go with synthetic. It provides better fuel efficiency and more horsepower.

Protect Your Engine with Take 5

Understanding the different types of oil is essential for preserving your engine and avoiding multiple visits to your mechanic. If you want to preserve your car for the long road ahead, Take 5 is ready to serve you. Whether you’re on a tight budget or need help selecting the proper oil, our experts will prioritize your needs and get you back on the road in as little as five minutes.

Get started by finding a Take 5 oil change location near you.

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