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Three things to know about motor oil

How much do you know about the oil in your vehicle?
Know your motor oil, drivers. Photo: Metro Creative Connection

We know motor oil keeps the vehicle running, but how much do we really know about this liquid gold? The Alberta Motor Association's chief mechanic, Randy Loyk has a primer.

What’s the Most Important Thing When Choosing an Oil? 

Read your Owner’s Manual. While most manufacturers have guidelines around oil-change intervals, we’re also starting to see parameters around the weight of the oils, and whether to use conventional or synthetic oils.

What Do the Numbers on the Label Mean? 

Most motor oils today are multigrade, which just means there are two viscosity ratings. The idea is to eliminate the old need to use a thinner oil in winter and a thicker one in summer. Take 5w30, for example. The 5w refers to the oil’s viscosity in winter (“w” stands for winter, not weight), with lower numbers being best for a vehicle’s cold-start performance. The 30 refers to the oil’s viscosity when warm; once again, the lower the number, the thinner the oil. 

Why the Push for Synthetic Oil in Winter? Do I Really Need It? 

Synthetics are premium oils that allow for stable flow in all temperatures. The main benefit for those of us in northern climates is the ease of starting a vehicle in temperatures colder than -15 C. Synthetic motor oil won’t thicken up like a conventional oil. The quicker the oil flows when cold, the less dry running. The less dry running, the less the wear on your engine.