How to find out what engine oil to use

by Danny Harwood, Technical Application Specialist Automotive & Energy, Broughton Lubricants

Every engine oil product is different, and when it comes time to top up your vehicle or perform an oil change, it is vital to choose the right product. Even if you take your vehicle to a mechanic or garage for the oil change (which is advised if you do not have the experience to do it yourself), it can help to know which oil product you should use.

This is not only to ensure basic compatibility with your engine. There are many different oils and lubricants on the market, and each one has been engineered with a specific purpose in mind. These products have distinct properties and, by choosing the right one, you can benefit from improvements in performance, extend the longevity of your engine, lower the emissions from your vehicle and gain other advantages.

As such, finding a compatible engine oil that will work for your vehicle is often relatively simple, but there is scope to go into much greater detail if you want to push for higher performance. This is especially valuable if you are managing not just a single vehicle, but a fleet. Here, the engine oil experts at Broughton Lubricants will explain where you should start in choosing an engine oil, and outline the steps you should take if you want to get more involved in the process and achieve a better result.

Check the owner’s manual

Your vehicle owner’s manual is usually the first place to start when looking for a suitable engine oil. In most cases, it will provide a specific product recommendation and also highlight some of the technical specifications your engine oil needs. For some vehicle owners, it will be enough to simply buy the recommended product and use this for your oil change.

However, the oil market changes regularly, and products are upgraded, replaced or discontinued on a constant basis. This may mean that the product recommended by your vehicle’s manufacturer no longer exists, and you will need to use the information you can gather about your technical requirements to source a suitable alternative.

Speak to an expert

On the other hand, if your ambitions are to draw a higher level of performance from your vehicle, these approaches may not deliver the best results. This is because neither of these product recommendations can take into account the specifics of your application. If you feel that you would like more from the product you choose, the next step you should take is to speak to an expert.

There are many different advantages you might be able to obtain by choosing the correct product – a high-quality engine oil can allow your vehicle to perform better at faster speeds, reduce the buildup of residue and keep mechanisms in good working order, and lower the frequency with which you need to maintain or repair the engine. If this is the result you wish to achieve, speak to a technical expert with experience in automotive lubricants.

They will be able to discuss the specifics of your application in detail and provide a bespoke recommendation, or guide you towards options that will deliver exactly what you need from a new engine oil.

Learn the technical details

This final option is by far the most demanding, and involves learning the differences between the available oil products and assessing for yourself which will be the most suitable for your engine. Oils differ in a number of key ways: in their viscosity, their base oil, and the additives that they contain.

Viscosity is expressed using grades that were established by the Society of Automotive Engineers. A value such as 5W-30 identifies an oil with a viscosity of 5 in cold temperatures, and 30 when working at normal temperatures. Your vehicle owner’s manual will identify the viscosity that you need.

It should also indicate whether or not your vehicle is compatible with different base oils. Engine lubricants may be made from mineral oil, a semisynthetic oil, or a completely synthetic oil. These are not always compatible with all vehicle types, but it is not difficult to find out what base oils will be suitable for your engine.

Finally, additives can confer a range of additional properties onto a vehicle, and how you use your vehicle will help to determine what you will need. If you regularly drive in cold temperatures, or if your engine is prone to overheating or a build-up of grime, there are additives that can help to address this. However, there is a significant variety of additives available and if you are unsure how best to meet your requirements, it may be best to work with an expert, even if you have mastered the technical details. By taking the approach that works best for you, you will be able to maximise the lifespan of your engine and keep your vehicle working at the highest level for as long as possible.