Whether you’re a car enthusiast that uses an automotive drain plug to do regular oil changes, or just somebody who wants to take good care of your baby, choosing the right oil for your car is a must to keep it running.
Why do you need oil? Motor oil is the lubricant that allows the moving parts of a car’s engine like the pistons and crankshaft. Without engine oil, car engines would overheat, and seize up within seconds of turning on. Let that serve as a warning for all of you who drive around with your oil light flashing on your dashboard!
When you look at a bottle of motor oil, most likely the first thing that will stand out to you (after the brand name and all of the flashy advertising like ‘HIGH PERFORMANCE’ and ‘LONG LIFE’) is a funny pair of numbers with a ‘w’ in the middle. These numbers refer to the ‘viscosity’ of the oil, and this is usually the main differentiator between oil that will work for you and oil that won’t.
Viscosity refers to the thickness of a liquid, or its ability to flow. Oil that is more viscous or has a higher viscosity will flow more slowly than an oil that has a lower viscosity.
Before reading on, please note that most cars have a recommended viscosity of oil that their engine has been specifically designed to use. If you know of the recommended viscosity of oil for your engine, (it can usually be found in your owners manual,) use it!
If you’re not sure, then you should select your oil based on the climate in which you will be driving it. For those of you who want the quick and dirty answer, if you are in a cold climate like the North American Prairies, go for a lower viscosity oil such as 5w30 or even 0w40. These oils will perform better in colder temperatures, and guarantee that your engine won’t lock up when the weather hits -40!
If you live in a more temperate climate such as the Pacific Coast or Great Britain, go with a medium viscosity oil such as 10w40. The slightly thicker nature of this oil will react better to your climate and the expected starting conditions/temperatures of your car’s engine. If you live in a hotter climate such as Egypt or Spain, you might want to go as high as 15w40 or even 15w50, as these oils are designed to retain their protective qualities in the hottest temperatures.
Lastly, if you are a gearhead and are looking to save a few dollars by doing your own oil changes, consider installing an engine oil plug that will allow for easier drainage of the oil from your engine.