The big question on a man’s (or women who are into engines)mind when doing a DIY service on the car or bike….especially if it is your first time,  is what oil to use.

Before we look into that, let’s first decipher all the “codes” and abbreviations you might see on an oil can.

API – means tested and approved by the American Petroleum Institute(API)

SAE – means the oil was tested by the Society of Automotive Engineers

JASO – stands for Japanese Engine Oil Standards Implementation Panel. JASO is usually indicated in MA, MA1 and MA2. The JASO grading is especially important for motorcycles and specifically those that use a wet clutch (clutch is immersed in oil).

Viscosity – Refers to the oil’s resistance to flow in high and low temperatures indicated on the oil can as 5W30, 10W40, 15W50, 20W50 etc.

Now to explain the viscosity. If we use a viscosity indicator of 20W50 as example, it can be explained as follow. The first part “20W” refers to the oil’s resistance to thickening when cold. The “W” stands for Winter (sure you knew that). So if you live in an area with very cold winters and relatively low annual temperatures you will most probably use “5W…” or “10W….” depending on what your owner’s manual specify or as directed by your dealership. So an oil with a lower “W” grade should in theory smear, seal and protect your vehicle’s engine better in lower temperatures.

The second part of the viscosity grade, in this case “50” (according to our example) refers to…..you’ve guessed it….the oil’s resistance to thinning when hot (engine running temperature). So if you stay in an area with extremely hot summers and high all year temperatures you wil most probably use “……40” or “….50”. Once again it is recommended that you refer to your owner’s manual or contact your local dealer for advice.

Your owner’s manual might make specific mention of Synthetic oil or Mineral oil (older engines). Important, if you’ve been using Synthetic oil (also referred to as Full Synthetic) then you cannot use a Mineral or Multigrade oil not event to top-up. If you wonder what’s the difference….you’re in luck! Cause I have a layman’s explanation:

Mineral oil – mostly a by- product of crude oil (made by nature) and used in older engines as these engines does not break down or make old(short molecules) the molecules (long strand molecules)that do the lubrication as fast as modern engines. Technically you can switch from mineral to synthetic oil in your old engine to extend service intervals (check with your dealer first).

Synthetic oil – mostly produced according to a fixed laboratory formula and process. These oils are ideal for high performance engines and used in most modern engines. The long strand molecules are more resistant and do not break down as easy as with mineral oil. Modern engines also tend to have longer service intervals. You cannot change from synthetic to mineral.

Multigrade Oil – can handle a wide range of temperatures. Multigrade oil contains a viscosity modifier that causes the oil to behave like a thin oil 20W or 15W when cold but a W50 when hot.

Oh and it is advisable to always change the oil filter when you do an oil change….with that bit of logic out of the way.

I trust that we’ve answered some of your oil questions and help you to choose the correct oil for your next service. Or at the very least we gave you the “cool” words to sound like an engine savvy guy/gal when you go to the dealer and ask what oil to use.

Note that we’re NOT making any recommendations. Please consult your owner’s manual, your authorized dealer or the manufacturers themselves before you do the oil change on your vehicle or motorcycle.

By: Pavlovski

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