Nothing is ever as simple as you want it to be, and unfortunately that applies to choosing the right motor oil for your vehicle, too. But, have no fear! There are a few key facts that can make the oil selection process a whole lot easier.
First things first: never buy an oil product that’s missing the American Petroleum Institute (API) starburst logo on the front label. If that logo is missing, that means the product didn't meet the API’s oil standards and is probably not the best product available to you.
After you confirmed that the oil is okay according to the API, set the bottle down, go out to your car, and pull out your owner’s manual. Look for the suggested viscosity rating. It’s a two-number sequence that will look something like “20W-50.”
Viscosity is a fluid’s resistance to flow, or thickness. Different oils have different viscosities to allow them to perform better for different engine types, model years, mileages, climates, etc. The viscosity rating essentially tells you at what condition this specific oil best performs, be that hot or cold.
Another element that differentiates oils is the category. Your oil can be one of four general categories:
Conventional oil is found in almost every light-duty vehicle on the road today. It’s your run-of-the-mill oil and is suitable for almost any car.
Synthetic Blend oil is best for high-temperature or heavy-duty driving. It’s best in large pick-ups or SUVs.
Full Synthetic oil is specially designed for high-performance or high-tech engines. Unless you’re driving around a high-styled Audi or super-powered Ferrari, chances are you don’t need it. Plus, it tends to be far more expensive than the other oil types.
High Mileage oil is just what it sounds like it is: this is the oil for cars with high mileage. Since cars are lasting longer than ever these days, it’s not uncommon for cars to keep on chugging along into ultra-high mileages. In that case, this kind of oil is best for that senior engine.