Choosing the best engine oil for your car can be very tricky given the large number of options available. However, your manufacturer’s guide can help you make the right choice.
If you’re looking to change your engine oil, chances are you’ll face a mind-numbing selection of options in a variety of grades from a countless number of manufacturers.
If you walk in with no background on the subject, it can difficult to tell each apart or know which is the best engine oil for your beloved car. Is regular better than synthetic? What do all those numbers on the front of the bottle mean? Do you have to use engine oil designed by your car’s manufacturer? The good news is, we’ll be helping you cut through the confusion.
Apart from being the lifeblood of your engine? Oil ultimately separates your engine from a very hefty repair bill.
Without lubrication, an engine will run for less than a few minutes, before being severely damaged, and sometimes beyond repair. If you allow your oil level to run too low or you don’t change it on time, you can almost forget about your engine living a long, healthy life. No, seriously. What else is going to perform the following critical functions:
There are different types of oils for all kinds of specific purposes: high-tech engines, new cars, higher-mileage cars, heavy-duty/off-road SUVs. And if that isn’t confusing enough, there is a wide selections of viscosities. However, if you read your owner’s manual, chances are, you’ll come across your car’s manufacturer’s recommendation for which engine oil is best for your car. The manual may include a reference to Energy Conserving Oils, which simply means that the oil has passed a lab test against a reference oil. It's no guarantee of better fuel economy, but most of the leading brands have at least some viscosities that are so labelled.
Viscosity is a fluid’s resistance to flow, or its ‘thickness’. For example, honey has much higher viscosity than water.
In engine oil, viscosity is denoted by the ‘xxWxx’ code on the bottle (i.e. 20W50). In 20W50 oil, the 20 indicates the oil’s flow at 0°F, W standing for “winter”. The lower this number, the less thick your oil will be in the cold.
The following number (50) represents the oil’s viscosity at 100°C, or 212°F. The higher this number, the more resistant the oil is to thinning at high temperatures.
Oil will naturally thicken in the cold and thin when hot, but needs to maintain an optimal viscosity to maintain function.
If your oil is too thick, it will make your oil pump work harder and affects the oil’s ability to circulate freely within the engine. Circulating oil keeps your engine cool, so less circulation = higher temperatures and more wear on your engine.
Too thin oil, on the other hand, will be unable to cling to moving parts and won’t lubricate your engine properly, again leading to overheating and wear.
Your car manual should suggest the viscosity range you can work within.
Premium conventional oil is the most commonly used type of oil. It contains additives to withstand the temperatures and breakdown resistance that engines require. It’s usually a manufacturer’s cheapest option, however it requires frequent changing. This type of oil is more popular amongst low to average-mileage cars with a simple engine design.
This type of oil is a combination of synthetic and organic oil. Synthetic blends make it easy for drivers to make the switch from conventional to synthetic oil, which is why this type of oil is becoming increasingly popular among today’s savviest drivers. It’s also a great middle ground for drivers who want the added protection and performance of a synthetic oil, but might not be ready to foot the bill for a total switch to full synthetic oil.
There are several standards that are important when selecting engine oils: Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) viscosity grade, American Petroleum Institute (API) service category, International Lubricant Standardisation and Approval Committee (ILSAC) standards and Association des Constructeurs Européens d’Automobile (ACEA).
SAE viscosity grade refers to how well an oil flows at various temperatures. API service categories involve a number of different tests that measure an oil’s ability to lubricate, clean, cool and protect internal engine components. ILSAC standards parallel API categories to a degree, but include an enhanced emphasis on fuel efficiency benefits. ACEA sequences are a series of standards for European cars that some consider more stringent than API and ILSAC requirements.
In addition to the industry standards, almost every car and engine manufacturer has unique oil specifications that involve proprietary tests to ensure oils meet the specific requirements of their powerplants. These standards are listed in your owner’s manual, and only oils that meet those requirements (in addition to SAE, API, ILSAC and ACEA standards) should be used in the car.
For example - after years of intensive research, Total and Suzuki teamed up in 2012 to reveal the best engine oil (Suzuki Genuine Oil) for our cars. SAE 5W30 synthetic engine oil variant (API rating of SG+) was unveiled as the recommended oil for most Suzuki cars, such as the Grand Vitara, Swift and Celerio.
Using an oil that fails to meet a manufacturer’s specifications can result in engine wear or damage that will not be covered by the new-car warranty. So, that means you are responsible for making sure any oil put into your engine complies with the requirements as set forth in your owner’s manual.
To keep your car running optimally, all Suzuki customers who are outside their service plan can book an express service at a Suzuki dealership and keep their car running smoother with genuine parts and expert knowledge. If you are a customer looking to gain more of this expertise, visit the service and maintenance page.