The oil cap on your engine might read 5W-30, 5W-20, even 0W-20. If you choose a conventional or synthetic version of a name brand oil with those numbers on the bottle is your vehicle getting the oil it needs? Maybe? Unfortunately there is way more to it than that. Unfortunately deciphering what kind of oil your vehicle needs can be a challenge.
You might say “give me the synthetic version”. That will give me the extra protection I need. Sure, you might get lucky and end up with an oil that meets your manufacturer’s specification. In many cases you might not.
Let us look at some examples of what I am talking about. Let’s say you are driving a 2016 F150 truck with an Ecoboost 3.5 twin turbo engine. The oil cap has 5W30 written on it. Maybe there is a little more fine print. Maybe not. In fact a look in the owner’s manual will show that the oil for this truck must meet Ford’s WSS-M2C946-A specification.
Let’s look for an engine oil for this vehicle from a name brand manufacturer like Mobil. Using Mobil’s online product selector they have six products that meet or exceed Ford’s specification. Two of these products are conventional oils and the other four are synthetic products. A close looks show there is one 5W30 Mobil 1 ESP synthetic oil that does not meet the Ford specification.
Now suppose you drive a 2015 Chevy Silverado with the 5.3 litre V8. Again the oil cap requests a 5W30 oil. The fine print requests that the oil must meet GM’s own Dexos 1 specification. Back to Mobil’s product selector and what do we find? Now only four products meet the Dexos 1 specification. None of the conventional oil products meet that specification.
What about if you drive a Volkswagen? Say you have a 2012 Jetta with the 2.5 litre gas engine. The VW oil specification is simply VW 502. There is not a 5W30 from Mobil 1 that meets the specification. There is a 0W40 product that does though. No choice.
Switching to the Castrol product selector shows only two 5W30 products that meet the Ford specification. They make a total of seven 5W30 products. Be careful that you are getting the correct product.
Still at Castrol and using the Chevy how many 5W30 engine oils meet the Dexos 1 specification? Again only two products of the seven meet the needs of your Chevy truck.
What about the VW? Six products meet the VW 502 specification believe it or not.
The moral of the story. Just looking for the numbers on the oil cap and choosing a name brand oil may not get you what your vehicle needs. Choosing synthetic does not guarantee that your vehicle is getting the lifeblood it needs.