Getting to know engine oils and its different types

Getting to know engine oils and its different types

Motor oil consists primarily of two distinct components: base oil and additives. Base oil constitutes the majority of a motor oil formulation, typically comprising 70% to 90% of the formula, varying according to the motor oil grade.

What constitutes base oil?

Base oil is crafted from crude oil and then refined for use in motor oil formulations. The extent of refining dictates the properties and characteristics of the base oil. Throughout the refining process, impurities like waxy materials and sulfur are removed from the base oil. The quantity of these impurities, as well as the viscosity behavior of the oil at various temperatures, determines the quality or group of the base oil.

There exist three primary types of engine oil for your vehicle: conventional, synthetic, and semi-synthetic oil. The differentiating factor among them is the type of base oils employed in their formulations, thus defining these motor oil categories.

Base oils are categorized into five different groups:

  • Group I & Group II – conventional base oils.
  • Group III, Group IV & Group V – synthetic base oils.

Each motor oil type boasts its own set of advantages and drawbacks, which you should carefully weigh. For precise guidance, consult your vehicle’s owner’s manual before making any changes to your motor oil.

3 Types of motor oil

Conventional Oil (also known as mineral oil, regular oil, or traditional oil) is the least refined among the three types. It’s the most budget-friendly option but necessitates more frequent changes. Typically used in engines with straightforward designs or vehicles with high mileage, conventional oil is the most prevalent type.

Synthetic Oil is meticulously crafted in laboratories to ensure consistency and longevity between changes. Engineered with additional chemical properties, synthetic oil can endure high temperatures and combat corrosion effectively. Although it’s the priciest option, its superior performance justifies the cost.

Synthetic-Blend Oil, as its name implies, combines synthetic and conventional oils. This blend strikes a balance, offering many of the advantages of synthetic oil at a more reasonable price point. Synthetic blends last longer than conventional oils but not as long as fully synthetic ones.

Common additives in oil enhance viscosity and prolong wear, with synthetic blends typically containing more additives. Despite the higher initial expense, synthetic oils prove to be more beneficial for your engine, potentially saving you money in the long term. Moreover, their reduced frequency of oil changes makes the investment worthwhile.

Are engine oil additives necessary?

In the realm of engine maintenance, oil additives serve as indispensable agents, elevating the performance, protection, and lifespan of engine oil. These meticulously crafted compounds are tailored to tackle distinct challenges and fine-tune the operation of engine components. Let’s delve into several prevalent types of oil additives and their respective roles.

Antioxidants: Function to decelerate oxidation processes, inhibiting the formation of deposits, thus prolonging the lifespan of engine oil and preserving the engine’s cleanliness.

Anti-wear agents: Safeguard vulnerable engine components from high-temperature-induced damage, shielding critical areas like cylinder walls, lifters, cams, and piston rings.

Dispersants: Capture and retain solid contaminants, thwarting their ability to inflict harm on the engine components.

Detergents: Concentrate on inhibiting the accumulation of deposits, rust, and corrosion on crucial engine surfaces.

Foam Inhibitors: Counteract the formation of foam and bubbles within the oil, guaranteeing effective lubrication and adequate cooling of engine components.

Friction Modifiers: Diminish friction in scenarios of elevated temperatures and heavy loads, thereby boosting both fuel efficiency and overall engine performance.

Pour-point depressants: Counteract the solidification of wax particles in low temperatures, facilitating seamless oil flow and effortless engine startup.

Rust and corrosion inhibitors: Establish a protective coating on internal engine components, shielding against rust and corrosion triggered by acids and moisture.

Viscosity-index improvers: By sustaining uniform oil performance across diverse temperature ranges, they ensure optimal lubrication under various operational conditions.

Which is better: synthetic-blend or full synthetic oil?

In general, the higher the proportion of synthetic base oil in a motor oil, the better its performance. Therefore, a fully synthetic motor oil formulated with a robust additive system typically outperforms synthetic blends. However, it’s worth noting that a properly formulated synthetic-blend oil can still offer performance advantages over conventional motor oil.

Should you switch to synthetic oil?

  • To determine whether your vehicle is better suited for conventional or synthetic oil, consult your car’s owner’s manual. Look for the section that outlines the recommended oil type according to the manufacturer’s specifications.
  • Typically, high-performance vehicles and those equipped with supercharged or turbocharged engines require synthetic oil. Additionally, synthetic oil is suitable for most modern engines.
  • Even if your vehicle doesn’t necessitate synthetic oil, you can still consider making the switch from conventional oil. One crucial factor to assess is the mileage of your car, which serves as an indicator of your engine’s condition.
  • Engines with over 75,000 miles are more susceptible to wear and tear. In such cases, the slower flow of conventional oil may provide better lubrication for aging engines. However, many older engines still benefit from the superior performance of synthetic oil.
  • Conventional motor oil offers several advantages, with its affordability being a notable highlight. Simply ensure to adhere to a regular oil change schedule to maintain optimal engine performance and adequate lubrication.

Will the wrong engine oil damage my car?

Ensuring you use the correct engine oil is crucial when it comes to maintaining your car’s health. Using the wrong type can lead to significant damage to your engine. Engine oil plays a vital role in lubricating the moving parts of your engine, protecting against wear and tear, and ensuring optimal performance.

If you inadvertently use the wrong oil, it can result in your engine overheating, potentially causing severe issues. Moreover, using improper oil may lead to the accumulation of sludge in your engine, diminishing its efficiency and smooth operation. Additionally, it can even trigger leaks in your engine.

To avoid these complications, refer to your owner’s manual for the recommended type of oil for your car. It’s a simple yet essential step to safeguard your engine’s well-being and maintain its longevity.

Is it safe to mix engine oils?

Mixing different types of motor oil can pose risks to your car’s engine. Each oil variant possesses unique viscosities, additives, and properties that may interact in unforeseeable ways. Such interactions could result in the accumulation of sludge, heightened wear and tear on engine components, irreversible damage, and other issues throughout the vehicle.

As a general rule, it’s advisable to refrain from mixing disparate motor oils. When replenishing your oil, ensure you use the same type as already present in your engine. During an oil change, thoroughly drain the old oil before introducing the new one.

If uncertain about the type of oil your engine requires, consult your owner’s manual, seek advice from a mechanic, or visit a reputable local garage. They can identify the optimal oil for your car and guide you on the proper procedure for oil replacement.


By understanding the different types of engine oil and their respective benefits and considerations, you can choose the right oil for your vehicle, ensuring optimal engine performance, protection, and longevity. 

Leave a Reply