Decoding Motor Oil (Part 3): Motor Oil Labels

 In Neal's How-To's

In part 1 of this series on Decoding Motor Oil, we went over why motor oil is important for all engines, and the reasons behind routine oil changes.

Motor oil is important for 3 reasons:

  1. Lubricate and protect engine parts
  2. Maintain temperature
  3. Clean the engine

Diving deeper, in part 2 on Decoding Motor Oil, we presented a short checklist on what to look for when choosing the best motor oil for your vehicle:

  1. Check recommendations for viscosity
  2. Choose between conventional or synthetic
  3. Check for certifications

In part 2 we went over motor oil viscosity. Now let’s go through the next two items on the checklist: synthetic oils and certifications.

What is Conventional vs Synthetic Motor Oil?

Synthetic oil costs more but delivers added protection. Full synthetic oils optimize viscosities, reduces deposits, delivering long lasting performance. Usually these are recommended for high-tech engines.

Synthetic blends work well for vehicles pulling high-loads at a better price than full synthetics. High Mileage synthetic oils work well for vehicles that have a high mileage life, usually above 75,000 miles. These are formulated to reduce wear, improve crankshaft seals, and have an increased viscosity to help older engines run smoother.

Decoding Motor Oil: Certifications

1. API starburst. API in oil stands of the American Petroleum Institute. The API certification means that the oil meets the requirements for the International Lubricatn Specification Advisory Committee (ILSAC).

2. API Service Symbol – This is indicated by an API “donut” symbol on your motor oil container. They even put out a great but lengthy 4 page file to hep explain API certification.  The donut gives a lot of information. There you can find the API service, SAE rating, Resource Conserving, and Performance Levels.

* API Service- The API Service might be rated SN, SL, C. API Service of “S” means service, which includes most vehicles. API Service “C” means commercial. Each oil is designed for particular engines. AN API SN or SN Plus will fully protect any engine that calls for API SJ or SL.

* SAE Rating – Within the API Service Symbol is the SAE rating. SAE stands for the Society of Automotive Engineers. This measures the oil viscosity, such as 10W-30. (see part 2)

  • Resource Conserving – This indication means the motor oil may help save fuel economy.
  • Performance Plus – Plus ratings mean that the motor oil is formulated to reduce soot and resist viscosity changes.

All these acronyms, terms and certifications can make choosing the best motor oil overwhelming. Hopefully this series on decoding motor oil is helpful in understanding what you are putting into your vehicle and why.

At the end of the day, your owners manual or your local garage can help you find the best motor oil for your vehicle. Call us today!

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