Different Types of Engine Oils | Everything You Need to Know

There are hundreds of moving parts in an automobile, an engineering marvel. Even the engine has various moving parts like crankshaft, camshaft, pistons, and more. These parts are hard, rigid metals, running against metals; there’s friction and heat. If only there was a way to keep things in healthy condition. You guessed it right, engine oil. 


Engine or motor oil was first devised by Dr. Ellis in 1866, during the same timeline when the engine started to revolutionize the world. Henry Ford was an early customer, with a demanding request: the World Land Speed Record. From there, to the present, motor or engine oil has changed everything, from the fastest vehicle on earth to daily commuters, even the engine needs to sip fresh engine oil from time to time to stay healthy. Every engine oil has the same purpose despite being filled in a Buggati or a Maruti Suzuki. 



Engine oil and its need




The most common and notable feature of an engine or motor oil is to lubricate stuff. The pistons inside the cylinder, slide over metal, and the layer of lubrication decreases the wear, friction and thus heat.



While liquid cooled engines have coolants, air-cooled engines are slightly dependent on oil to cool the engine.


Acid neutralizing

As the process of combustion is going on, inside the cylinders, there are various acids that are formed by oxidation of fuel and other lubricants. Hence the engine oil constituent help neutralizing these acids.


Sludge clean-up

When the engine oil degrades or burn while combustion process, it forms black gelatinous substances that wrecks havoc in the engine. The lubricants help cleaning out this thick sludge.


Intercept corrosion or oxidation

Motor or engine oil helps in reducing the oxidation of fuel and other lubricants, and oxidation too.


What is engine oil “Grades”?


With hundreds of different categories of engines and their specifications, it’s impossible to have a single engine oil and its properties to work in every engine block. This is where different “grades” of engine comes into assistance. SAE or Society of Automobiles have graded the engine oils on the basis of their viscosity. Viscosity is defined as internal friction of the fluid. The lesser the viscosity, the more easily fluid flows. Different oils have different different viscosities at different room temperatures, while they also react differently to temperatures.



How does the nomenclature of the engine oil grades work?


Given above is the nomenclature of a engine oil. The grades have two numbers and a letter.
The letter or the “W” stands for “Winter” and represents how the oil reacts to a cold start. The first number, the one preceding the letter ‘W’, signifies the flow of oil in different weather conditions. The lesser the number the better the flow will be. For example, a oil graded as 5W-30 oil has a better cold flow than 10W-30 engine oil.
The number following the letter “W” indicates how finely the oil will flow once it reaches its normal operating temperature.


Different engine oil grades

There are various engine oil grades such as:

  1. 0W-20
  2. 0W-30
  3. 0W-40
  4. 5W-30
  5. 5W-40
  6. 10W-40


The 5W-30 engine oil is the one extensively used, and the most in the Indian market, and is also recommended by majority of the Indian automakers.

While 5W-40 is the fully synthetic one, the oil performs like a 5-weight engine oil on cold start, while it acts like a 40-weight engine oil once the engine reaches the normal operating temperature.


Types of Engine Oil



While we have learned about engine oils, their purpose and the engine oil grades which differentiates each oil and thier operating temperatures.

The engine oil are of various types, depending on many factors. In general, there are three types of engine oil: Mineral, Semi-Synthetic and Synthetic Engine Oils.


Mineral Engine Oil


The mineral oil or the crudest and the purest engine oil is essentially refined petroleum oils, dug out from deepest spot under grounds. The petroleum oil refinement also separates petrol and diesel like the mineral oil. Being raw, the mineral engine oil is the cheapest deal in the market, and is mostly desirable for older vehicles.

The mineral oils have certain drawbacks too, like their inability to offer little to no lubrication and protection against the friction wearing inside the engine. They are the least favorable to perform in cold conditions and also much susceptible to breakdown in high-temperature operations. The mineral engine oils need more frequent replacement to the other two types of engine oils, and don’t last for more than 5000 kms.


Semi Synthetic Oil


As the name suggests, it’s semi synthetic, that means halfway through mineral and full synthetic engine oil. This means it also that it’s better than the mineal oil, having better performance yet remaining affordable to full synthetic engine oil. This kind of engine oil offers atleast three times the protection compared to mineral engine oils

In this, small amounts of synthetic oil is mixed and blended with mineral to overcome the weak ends of mineral oi, without making holes in the pockets. This mixing boosts the properties, hence the semi synthetic oil has enhanced viscosity, better wear resistance at higher temperatures, and also perform better in low temperatures compared to mineal engine oils. Though it also have a weak point, it doesn’t matches the superior protection offered by full synthetic oil.


Full Synthetic Oil




The full synthetic oil is the best amongst other types of oil. It deliver better performance and protection to the engine block with better efficiency.
Full synthetic oil are contribution of extensive treatment in laboratory. It is formed by breaking down the mineral oil in fine and most basic particles, which makes it superior to stock mineral engine oil.

Thus it has lesser impurities, more consistent particles in shape and size. This gives the full synthetic oil better lubrication property, as well as superior functionality at both lower and higher working temperatures. Only, the work behind synthesizing this type of oil takes time and money, which makes it more costly to other oils.


At the end, we can easily figure out that semi-synthetic oils are the best midway to both lubrication and better functioning of the engine. With this, we also grasped the importance of engine oil and yes, you guess it correctly. Changing engine oils when necessary takes care of the engine health and performance aspects too.


  • There are three main types of engine oils: conventional, synthetic, and semi-synthetic. Each has advantages and disadvantages. All of these lubricants must be changed regularly, whether your vehicle is new or old. Read more: https://www.sequoia-global.com/re-refining-used-lube-oil/

  • There are many different types of engine oils available on the market, and each one offers a unique blend that can be tailored to your individual car’s needs. There is synthetic oil that mimics petroleum-based products such as diesel or gasoline; there’s mineral-based blended motor vehicle lubricant. Read more: https://www.sequoia-global.com/re-refining-used-lube-oil/

  • My 1983 triumph acclaim (honda civic engine ) is using oil and smoking on startup and overrun ,does synthetic oil burn without smoke ?

    Ian Howat

Leave a comment