Engine Oil

What Engine Oil Does Your Car Need?

If you walk into any parts shop, chances are you’ll be greeted with shelves and shelves full of various different oil types, catering for the wide range of cars out on the roads today. Just because your old car used a certain grade, doesn’t mean your new one will need the same type.

What types of car oil are there?

There are three main types of oil out on the market, and each one will perform slightly differently when put into your engine.

  • Conventional Motor Oil
    • Conventional oil is refined crude oil – basically it comes straight out of the ground, refined and then ready to go into your car.
  • Fully Synthetic Oil
    • Taking it a step further than conventional oils, fully synthetic oils are broken down to a molecular level after the refining process, with impurities removed and special compounds created specifically for use in modern car engines. As a result of these additional processes, these oils offer more protection and better performance than their conventional counterparts. There is also a wide range of different synthetic oils, each of which offer their own positives, such as engine protection, or improving the fuel economy.
  • Synthetic Blend Oil
    • A combination of both synthetic and conventional oils, a synthetic blend offers some of the benefits of a fully synthetic oil, but doesn’t have the same level of additives.

What are car oil specifications?

Car oils are specified based on their grade, which is calculated according to their viscosity – or to put it simply, how thick they are. Most oils are regarded as ‘multi-grade’, so they can cope with a wide range of temperatures, which is an incredibly important trait with the unpredictable nature of the British climate. Additives are included in the oils to help the viscosity at both ends of the temperature scales.

The temperature grades are marked on the oil bottle in code form, such as 5w-30 or 0w-30. The first part of the code relates to the cold temperature grade, while the second is the high temperature grade. Effectively, the lower the number, the thinner the oil, and the better it works. The ‘w’, meanwhile, stands for winter.


The European Automobile Manufacturers’ Association – which is know by its French acronym of ACEA – has also set standards for motor oils. These are split into three classes of sequences – one for petrol and light duty diesel engines, one for petrol and light duty diesel engines using after treatment devices and one for heavy duty diesel engines. There are also categories within these three sequences to reflect the performance requirements. In short, a lower number equals better fuel economy, whereas a higher number will offer higher performance and/or extended drain capability.

How to find out what type of oil your car needs?

Every car is different, and the easiest way to identify which oil you’re going to need is to check your owner’s manual, which will let you know which grade to look for. Some car manufacturers, such as Volkswagen, Mercedes-Benz and BMW develop their own specifications, and if the manual states you need this specification, then you must ensure that you pick up a bottle with that code on it. 

What car oil brand is best?

Finding the best brand of oil depends on a number of factors, including your specific car and also your own personal financial situation. As with many of these types of purchases and queries, it’s best to shop around and ask the attendants at your local car parts shop. For a run-down of some of the top lubrication companies in the UK, motoring website Honest John offered some advice as part of its “Good Garage Guide”.

For further details on how to change oil, as well as tips on everything from how to overcome driving lesson anxiety to sailing through an MOT, visit our Car Care hub, where we guide you and your car through every aspect of your driving career.

Meanwhile, if your car has had a nightmare when it comes to oil and is now unusable, or is nearing the end of its time on the roads, give Scrap Car Comparison a call and one of our team of dedicated experts will be able to secure you the very best price for your car, guaranteed.

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