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What Oil Does My Car Take? 4 Oil Types and When to Use Them

Car Mechanic Putting Car Oil

Maybe you’re trying to save a few bucks and complete your oil change yourself, or perhaps you’re completing the first oil change on a vehicle that’s new to you. Either way, the last thing that you want to do is mess it up by getting the wrong oil.

But how do you know what oil goes into your car? Moreover, how do you know which type of oil is best for your vehicle? We understand the struggle, and that’s why we created this comprehensive guide to walk you through everything that you need to know to do the job right the first time.

divider 5 How to Tell What Kind of Oil Your Car Takes (4 Steps)

When you’re changing your vehicle’s oil, there are a few different ways that you can find out which oil is the correct choice.

1. Check the Owner’s Manual

The owner’s manual has everything that you need to know about your vehicle, especially when it comes to the right fluids to use and maintenance intervals. So, if you still have your vehicle’s owner’s manual, it’s the first place that you want to check.

It’ll tell you the recommended oil type by weight and viscosity, and it’ll often state if you should use a different type of oil depending on the climate that you’re in. But if you don’t have the owner’s manual, don’t worry, there are plenty of other ways that you can figure it out.

2. Check Under the Hood

red sportscar with open hood and doors
Image Credit: Michelle_Raponi, Pixabay

Many vehicle manufacturers put the recommended oil type for the vehicle in one of the most obvious spots to find it: right under the hood. It’s often on top of the oil cap, or sometimes it’s on a small sticker on the underside of the hood.

So, if you don’t have the owner’s manual, pop the hood and look around — the answer might be closer than you think.

3. Call the Dealership

salesman giving car keys to buyer
Image Credit: 89stocker, Shutterstock

Some people only think about the dealership when it comes to purchasing a car or dropping one off for repairs, but the truth is that they can be far more helpful than that. If you don’t know what kind of oil your vehicle takes, you can call up their service department and ask.

They work on the vehicles all day, so they know exactly what kind of oil should go in them. Don’t be afraid to reach out and ask!

4. Reach Out to an Auto Parts Store

Car Store
Image Credit: Pixabay

If you don’t want to reach out to the dealership for the information, call up an auto parts store instead. The staff there wants to sell you their products, so they’ll be more than happy to look it up and tell you what goes into your vehicle.

Just remember that even if you ask for the type of oil that goes into your vehicle, you don’t have to buy it from them! These stores thrive on great customer service, so they’re more than willing to help you out and hope that you’ll come back to them for future parts.

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The 4 Different Types of Oil for Cars

When you’re picking out oils to use in your vehicle, there are four different choices. While there’s no wrong choice here, there are definitely pros and cons of each. We break down everything that you need to know so you can get exactly what you’re looking for.

1. Conventional Oil

Conventional oil is the bread and butter of the oil industry, and it’s been what people have been putting inside their vehicles since they first started rolling down the road. Conventional oil is one of the lower-priced oils out there, but it doesn’t last as long as a synthetic or synthetic blend mix.

Still, for most applications, you can use conventional oil for the life of the vehicle.

2. Recycled Oil

Car Oil
Image Credit: Pixabay

Recycled oil is a newer oil variety, and its primary advantages are that it’s cheap and better for the environment than virgin oil. The problem is that it doesn’t last quite as long and is not as effective.

Still, if you’re looking for a more environmentally friendly option for your vehicle, recycled oil is an outstanding choice.

3.   Synthetic Oil

Full Synthetic Motor Oil
Image Credit: Pxhere

Synthetic oil is the most expensive option on this list, but it’s also the longest-lasting. Synthetic oil can last anywhere from 10,000 to 15,000 miles, depending on the specific grade of oil that you choose, which is far longer than most other oil types.

However, you still need to replace it every 12 months, so if you don’t drive that much, you might find that you’re replacing the oil before you hit the mileage requirements. Still, synthetic oil has plenty of performance advantages compared to conventional oil, and it’s better for your engine in the long run.

If you plan on keeping your vehicle for a while and can afford the higher upfront price tag, synthetic oil is the way to go.

4. Synthetic Blend Oil

Car Oil
Image Credit: Pixabay

If you want the extra service life and performance of synthetic oil but can’t match the high price tag, a synthetic blend oil is a great compromise. It’s truly the middle ground between conventional and full synthetic oil in every way.

Synthetic blend oil often has “high-mileage” labels on it, but the truth is that it works just fine in both low- and high-mileage vehicles. Still, if you do have a high-mileage vehicle and don’t want to pay for full synthetic oil, a synthetic blend can be a good choice that can keep the vehicle running longer.

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What Oil Viscosity Is and Why It Matters

Oil viscosity, often referred to as oil weight, simply refers to the thickness of the oil. The thicker the oil, the better it can respond to cold weather, but the harder it is for it to travel throughout the entire engine.

Engines with small channels need oil with a low viscosity, but low-viscosity oils don’t have enough cooling properties to work on large engines. Viscosity is an extremely important measurement for oil, and it’s not something that you want to mess up when you’re completing your oil change.

How Often Should You Change Your Oil?

While dealerships and oil change shops all over the country push the 3,000-mile rule, the truth is that changing a vehicle’s oil that often isn’t usually necessary. It comes down to the type of oil you’re using, how frequently you drive, and in what conditions, but we recommend pushing the intervals back a bit.

However, if the vehicle is under warranty, stick with the recommended intervals so you don’t void the warranty. But otherwise, we recommend these intervals instead:

Oil Type Interval
Conventional 5,000 miles
Recycled 3,000 miles
Synthetic 15,000 miles
Synthetic Blend 7,500 miles

divider 5 Final Thoughts

Picking out the right oil for your vehicle doesn’t need to be a massive headache. Once you know the type of oil that your vehicle uses, you can pick it up from the store and get the job done in no time! Even better, when you realize how much you’re saving by changing your oil yourself, chances are that you’ll never go back to having someone else do it for you!

See also: How to Check Engine Oil: 5 Simple Steps & 5 More Tips

Featured Image Credit: IamTimEre, Pixabay


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