Engine Oil Types, Viscosity (and What Happens When You Use the Wrong Oil)

(Updated on April 17, 2020)

Hello everyone, in this post we are going to explain about engine oil types, viscosity and temperature ratings. I hope after read this article you will understand and can choose suitable engine oil for your car. And here we go:

Engine oil overview

Car owners often spend too much time worrying about which brand of oil they are using in their car. The truth is that the brand does not matter all that much. What does matter is the type of oil and its viscosity grade. You’ve probably seen these grades before but don’t know what they mean, such as 10W30 or 5W20. These grades basically refer to the level of thickness and stickiness of the oil. It also indicates how well they flow under certain temperatures. The 10W30 grade is thicker oil than 5W20, which means it seals and lubricates better. But since 10W30 flows a lot slower in the engine at lower temperatures, some people tend to choose 5W20 instead.

Remember that engine oil not only cools the components, it will also lubricate them too. When you look at viscosity ratings, you want to think about temperature. The “W” means winter and the number for it is the cold viscosity rating.  The other number to the right of the “W” is the hot viscosity rating. To know which type of oil that you should be putting in your car’s engine, all you need to do is refer to the owner’s manual and it will tell you.

If you go to oil changing service providers, they will try telling you which type of oil you need. However, you should always follow the instructions of your owner’s manual because the manufacturer knows best. If you happen to put the wrong type of oil in your vehicle, it could have bad consequences for the engine.

High Viscosity

High viscosity means the oil is thinner. This will enable the oil to get burned a lot more easily in the engine. That is why experts recommend that you use high viscosity oil in colder environments. This will reduce the possibility of burning the oil and causing problems for the components of the engine. Just be aware that high viscosity oils need more time to circulate through the engine because of how thin they are. If you end up hearing knocking sounds coming from your engine after you’ve added high viscosity oil, then it means the oil is too thin for your engine. This knocking sound would be the result of certain engine parts, like the pistons, not receiving an adequate amount of lubrication.

Low Viscosity

Low viscosity means the oil is thicker. This means that it won’t burn as excessively as the thinner oil. You’ll want to use low viscosity oil in hotter environments so that the oil doesn’t become too thick. Otherwise, it will be harder for your starter motor to function properly. It will also put more pressure on the parts of your engine. People often refer to low viscosity oil as the default oil to use, but you still need to consider the temperatures of your location before settling on this.

Read also: 5 Symptoms of a Bad Vapor Canister Purge Valve in Your Car

What happens if put wrong engine oil

The worst symptom that you will experience from using the wrong oil is not being able to start your car. If you live in an area with colder temperatures, then you are probably using an oil that has a higher cold viscosity rating. You would need one that has a lower cold viscosity rating. The opposite can be said if you live in a warmer climate.

If you accidentally use the wrong type of oil, it is not the end of the world. You can always get another oil change and replace the old oil with the correct oil. Mixing the two will not cause any problems, contrary to popular belief. However, if you continue to use the wrong oil in your engine for months or even years, then your engine’s components are going to get worn out too quickly. This will ultimately decrease the lifespan of your engine which, in return, decrease the lifespan of your vehicle. So, it always good to catch your mistake as early as possible by replacing the wrong oil with the right oil.

2 thoughts on “Engine Oil Types, Viscosity (and What Happens When You Use the Wrong Oil)”

  1. Unless you live in the arctic circle, 0w-20 oil is merely going to destroy your engine.
    The combination of weak piston rings, direct injection, turbo chargers, and thin oil, and extended oil change intervals is the perfect storm of engine destruction.

    Modern engines need no less than a 9.5cst 0w-30 oil to survive.
    and if you are in a hot climate and do towing, hauling, or extensive idling in city traffic, you may need a 12cst 5w-30 oil

    • Not so. Many modern vehicles (primarily economy cars) are designed for and specify 0W-20 oil from the factory. The engineers who design these engines and come up with such specifications usually know best, so you should fill your engine with whatever oil viscosity the owner’s manual calls for.


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