- 1 Why is it important to choose the best oil
- 2 Types of Motor Oil
- 3 Top Motor Oil Brands
- 4 Best Motor Oils of 2022
Manufacturers label the engine oils they produce using codes and numbers that puzzle many car owners. We will try to help you make sense of those!
Why is it important to choose the best oil
A critical part of keeping your car’s engine running smoothly and properly is regularly changing your motor oil and making sure the new oil your putting in is the best your car can get. The oil keeps the internal parts of the engine lubricated, preventing the moving parts from grinding against each other and causing damage, and keeps it cool too, ensuring it does not overheat.
If your oil is not changed frequently, dirt, grime, and sludge can accumulate inside the engine bay and around the moving parts and the old, dirty oil won’t allow the parts to smoothly slide against one another. If the oil is soiled and full of impurities it can cause some serious damage and you may even have to replace your engine in the future. Some oils also contain additives, such as detergents, to maintain the cleanliness of the high-temperature surfaces and antioxidants that prevent oxidation (which can lead to rusting) and keep the engine oil from thickening. Additives also capture dirt and other contaminants to prevent build up on engine parts.
But it isn’t always easy choosing the right motor oil. To make sure you aren’t left staring blankly back at someone when they ask you what kind of motor oil you want, in this article, we’ll be running down the top 10 motor oil brands and products to make sure you get the best to keep your engine running smoothly.
Types of Motor OilBefore we go into detail for each brand and product though, here’s a quick breakdown of the different kinds of motor oils there are that you have probably heard about in the past.
Before choosing an oil it is of course essential that you take your car into account; different cars require different types of motor oil. A brand new car may run perfectly well on mineral oil, but an older car with a high performance engine might benefit from synthetic oil. You want to get the best quality, but avoid forking out money for an oil that won’t enhance your car’s performance.
What does SAE labelling stand for?
Viscosity is one of the essential properties of a motor oil when determining if a specific product can be used in a specific season.
According to the Society of Automobile Engineers (SAE), all motor oils can be divided into the following categories:
- Winter. Labeled with a W for winter, these are suitable for cold seasons only. The number preceding the W is always divisible by five and serves to indicate the minimum temperature at which the oil can protect the engine during a cold start. The starting point is -35 °С, equaling grade 0. Each following grade counts up by 5 °С: a 5W product retains its properties at -30 °С, a 10W, at -25 °С, etc.
- Summer. These engine oils provide timely lubrication and protection of car parts in warm seasons, but are ineffective in the cold. Their labels also feature numbers: 20, 30, 40, 50 and 60. Contrary to popular belief, these numbers stand for the oil’s kinematic viscosity at 100 °С and not the maximum ambient temperature.
- All-season. These are labeled as suitable in the winter, with both minimum temperature and viscosity level at maximum heating temperature: 5W-30, 10W-60, etc. All-season engine oils are currently the most common.
AutoDoc Tip: All-season synthetic oils help save money, since you don’t need to change them twice a year. If you mostly drive on urban roads, with frequent stops, and you keep your car in an unheated room, and especially if you live in an area with harsh winters, look for an engine oil labeled as 0W или 5W. However, for a car with a worn engine with enlarged gaps between friction pairs, a higher viscosity product would be preferable.
Making sense of API classification
The American Petroleum Institute developed their own classification meant to sort engine oils based on their formula and operation properties. It also allows to indirectly evaluate the quality of lubricants since lately, the standards have become much more stringent as compared to earlier years of the industry.
According to API, all motor oils fall into two categories, each containing several classes:
S. For petrol engines. In most countries, the following four classes are currently approved for use:
- SJ. Recommended for use in engines manufactured before 2001.
- SL. Suitable for power units produced before 2004. A lot of car manufacturers have adopted SL as the minimum standard required for car maintenance.
- SM. Intended for engines produced in 2010 and earlier. SM oils are highly efficient at low temperatures, resistant to oxidation and sediment formation. They retain their excellent properties throughout their service life.
- SN. Introduced in 2010. Currently, these are the oils that can ensure the highest level of engine protection, as well as its high efficiency. SN oils help save fuel. They prevent the turbocharger from wearing out prematurely, without aggressive effects on seals and gaskets.
C. Designation for engine oils for diesel-fueled commercial vehicles. The classes currently in use for vehicles of different model years are CH, CI, CJ, and CK. The number 4 following the class designation stands for 4-stroke engine vehicles. Let’s look at C-grade oils in detail:
- CH-4. Introduced in 1998. Suitable for engines that run on high-quality fuel ranging in sulfur content up to 0.5% weight.
- CI-4. Introduced in 2002. This type of motor oils ensures reliable protection of the engine and exhaust system from soot deposits and prevent premature wear-out of their elements. Some lubrication materials of this class are designated CI-4 PLUS.
- CJ-4. They boast elevated temperature stability, resistance to oxidation and longer service life.
- CK. Developed for protection of engines that were produced in 2017. However, such motor oils can be used optionally in earlier engine models.
There are universal lubricants available, suitable for use in both petrol and diesel engines. They have double designations, for instance, CН-4/SJ.
AutoDoc Tip: A lot of the manufacturers recommend to use the latest-class oil for engine lubrication. And in most cases, this advice is justified: the more recent the formula, the safer, as well as more economical and environmentally friendly it is. However, this recommendation is useless for older vehicles since their engines are built differently, and will not be able to get the maximum out of all the advantages of a pricier oil. You can find more information on which lubrication to use in your car in your service book.
АСЕА performance evaluation
Decreasing emission toxicity and reducing fuel consumption are one of the crucial requirements for modern lubricating materials. Hence lots of oils would indicate they meet the latest ecology standards on their package.
According to the Association des Constructeurs Européens d’Automobiles ( ACEA ) classification, all engine oils approved for sale and use can be divided into the following categories:
- А. For petrol engines. This category includes three classes: А1, А3 and А5. The letter precedes a number indicating eco-safety level and viscosity under specific conditions. The numbers 1 and 5 indicate fuel economy, but otherwise it’s just like API: the higher the number, the better properties a product has.
- В. This category includes lubricants for passenger and small commercial vehicles running on diesel fuel. They are also divided into classes: B1 and B5 mean fuel economy, while В3 and В4 are regular products.
- Е. Oils marked with this letter are intended for diesel-fueled heavy-duty lorries and special vehicles. E1 stands for fuel economy; the rest are standard.
Fuel economy was a parameter that API specialists also decided to take into account, introducing a new designation, EC (Energy Conserving).
These oils boast lower viscosity at extreme temperature rises, ensuring smooth and even travel of moving parts and cutting fuel consumption. However, this means a thinner lubricating film, which is especially risky for older engines with a big mileage – those engines need additional protection.
Does the manufacturer’s endorsement really matter?
A product may work great for some engines while posing a risk for others. This compels vehicle manufacturers to do their own lubricant performance tests. If a product passes a test successfully, it will get marked accordingly, for example, BMW Longlife-98. This means an oil can be used in vehicles of this brand with longer maintenance intervals, manufactured in 1998 and later.
AutoDoc tip: Always try to use the oil recommended by your car manufacturer, and do not experiment with viscosity levels. The risks lies in the fact that in some engines, the lubrication grooves are only thick enough for high-viscosity oils. If disregarded, the power unit will inevitably wear out prematurely. At the same time, some car manufacturers, e.g. BMW Group and Daimler AG, bly advise against using low-viscosity lubricants in their vehicles, due to the design of their engines.
What do different engine oil classifications have in common?
Despite their differing principles, all classifications are closely related. For instance, if a lubricant is API-marked as SH, it can’t be an А1 or А5 in ACEA, since those requirements were not published until SJ class came out. If a label features А5, it means the products is at least an SL in API, i.e., it has longer change intervals.
Fuel economy products labeled as А1, А5, В1 и В5 tend to have temperature viscosity of 30 and less. Oils with viscosity of 40 belong to А2, А3, В2, В3, and В4 classes and do not provide fuel economy.
Learning to read labels
API SL / CF. This stands for a universal oil suitable for both multivalve turbocharged petrol-run engines and diesel power trains of various designs. The product provides increased protection for engines running on lean fuel-air mix and prevents carbon deposits from forming when using fuel with ash content over 0,5 %.
ACEA A3 / B4. This indicates that the lubricant is suitable for use in heavy-duty conditions, helps reduce fuel consumption and is to be replaced less often. May be used in high-performance petrol and diesel engines.
10W-40. The oil is suitable for both winter and summer seasons, retains its viscosity at -25 °С and remains quite viscous when heated, meaning it can be used in vehicles with a big mileage.
MoS2. The molybdenum disulfide in the formula of this oil prevents galling, reduces friction and wear out of the components, provides noiseless engine operation.
Teilsynthetisches Leichtlauf-motorenöl. This means that the oil is semi-synthetic.
Top Motor Oil Brands
Best Motor Oils of 2022
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