Understanding Oil Weights: What Do All the Numbers Mean?

Understanding Oil Weights: What Do All the Numbers Mean?

Have you ever wondered about the series of numbers and letters scribbled on oil containers? We get it — it can seem like secret car jargon. At Independent Vehicle Service, our mission is to simplify car maintenance for our community. So, let's demystify those numbers and get you well-oiled on this topic! If you live in the Albuquerque area and need an oil change on your car, contact us today to see how we can help.

Traffic with snow outside

The Winter ‘W’

Ever noticed that ‘W’? Contrary to popular belief, it doesn't stand for 'weight'. It's shorthand for ‘Winter’. The number preceding the ‘W’ (like the 5 in 5W-30) indicates how the oil will flow when it’s cold. The lower the number, the thinner the oil — and thinner oils circulate better in cooler temperatures which helps your car start easier when the frost is high.

rendering of an engine with oil

The Heat Number

The number following the ‘W’ depicts the oil's viscosity at 100°C. Higher numbers mean the oil is thicker. For instance, in 5W-30, '30' indicates how the oil will flow when it's hot. Thicker oils can protect engines better in higher temperatures, such as during long road trips.

someone doing an oil change

Why Two Numbers?

Cars deal with varying temperatures: cold mornings and hot drives. The dual number system, like 5W-30, means the oil is versatile and performs optimally in both cold and hot conditions, making it perfect for places with seasonal weather changes.

oil cap with oil being filled

Importance of Picking The Right Oil

Using the correct oil weight ensures longer engine life and better performance. Picking the wrong one? It might lead to poor lubrication, leading to potential damage. If you are unsure of what oil your car takes, either check the owner's manual or simply pop your hood and take a look at your oil fill cap, which in most cars should be colored yellow. That cap will tell you exactly what oil your engine needs to run its best.

Now, there’s no need to play the guessing game when it comes to oil weights. Armed with this knowledge, you can make informed choices for your vehicle. And if the numbers still boggle your mind or you're unsure about your car's needs, pop into Independent Vehicle Service. As your trusted car repair shop, we're here to ensure your automotive repair and car maintenance journey is smooth and hassle-free. Contact us today, and let’s talk oil!

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