The Best Car Oil for Winter: How Cold Weather Affects Oil

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Cold temperatures can significantly impact engine oil, affecting your car’s overall performance. Keeping things running smoothly during winter requires preparation. That’s why choosing the right engine oil for winter is essential—so your car is prepared for whatever comes.

Oil Change

How Cold Temperatures Impact Motor Oil

Your oil’s viscosity and performance are altered by cold. As the mercury drops, your oil thickens and becomes resistant to flow. Thicker oil takes longer to reach these components and, in extreme cases, can even freeze.

The freezing point of synthetic oil varies depending on the oil formula. Generally, synthetic oils have a lower freezing point than conventional oils, often reaching temperatures below -40℉ because of additives that change the chemical makeup.

How those chemicals change varies from brand to brand, so it’s important to opt for higher-quality, trusted brands.

The Best Engine Oil for Winter

When selecting your winter engine oil, pay attention to the viscosity grade.

You’ll find this grading on the oil container as a numerical code, such as 5W-30 or 10W-40. The "W" in these codes stands for "winter”, and the number before it represents the oil's cold-weather viscosity. A lower number indicates the oil will flow more easily in cold conditions, making it a better choice for winter.

For example, 5W-30 is more suitable for colder temperatures than 10W-40. The colder your winter gets, the more your car will benefit from the lower number.

Confusing? A little, but that’s why it’s important to consult an oil change expert. To simplify things, if you live in a climate with harsh winters, a 5W-30 or 0W-30 is typically a better choice than a 10W-40 or a 20W-50.

If you’re wondering which oil is best for a cold start, full synthetic oils are the ideal choice (regardless of the numbers). These oils flow more efficiently at low temperatures, ensuring your engine receives rapid lubrication even in chilly conditions. Ultimately, the ideal oil for cold starts will depend on your vehicle's specific requirements and your local climate.

Consult your owner's manual for recommendations. There are consequences for choosing a thicker engine oil in winter: slower engine start-ups, reduced fuel efficiency, and increased wear and tear on engine parts. However, as you might have guessed, the opposite is true for warmer seasons and climates.

9 Tips for Driving in Winter

Safe winter driving requires preparation to navigate seasonal challenges. Here are nine tips to make winter driving easier:

  1. Be sure your vehicle is properly maintained before winter sets in.
  2. When possible, allow the vehicle to heat up a bit before actually driving.
  3. Check tires, brakes, and battery consistently, and avoid unnecessary idling.
  4. Use synthetic oil, and change your oil and filter regularly to avoid running on dirty oil.
  5. Use winter tires for enhanced traction and grip.
  6. Clear snow and ice from the entire vehicle before driving—including the roof, hood, and windows.
  7. Drive at reduced speeds and increase following distance to give yourself a longer stopping allowance on slippery roads.
  8. Stay informed about weather conditions and road closures.
  9. Keep an emergency kit in your vehicle with essentials like blankets, food, flares, and a flashlight.

Get Your Oil Changed for Winter at Your Local Take 5

Take 5 provides convenient yet thorough oil changes. Our experts offer solid advice about the best oil to keep your car performing its best through winter months. Our technicians will also help you choose the ideal viscosity grade and cold-weather properties during your oil change service.

Prolong the life of your engine and ensure a trouble-free winter driving experience by finding a Take 5 oil change location near you today.

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