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4 Different Types of Oil for Cars

A display of orange bottles of car engine oils.

Motor oil, also known as engine oil or engine lubricant, is an essential part of your car.

You may know that you have to get the oil changed in your vehicle every so often, but do you know the difference between motor oils? Perhaps you may not know the type of oil your car requires.

Continue reading this article to find out more about the different types of oil.

What is Motor Oil?

Originally motor oil was a combination of additives mixed into a base oil. This oil has many functions for your engine, including lubrication and protection.

The base oil is made from crude oil or natural gas, and it is anywhere from 70 to 90 percent of the total. The other 10 to 30 percent is additives. 

Types of Oil

There are many different types of oil that you can use in your car. Although, cars may need a particular type of oil.

1. Synthetic Oil

A gray bottle of synthetic oil pouring in the car engine.

Synthetic oil is oil that has been chemically engineered to create an oil that is high performing and purer than conventional oil.

This oil is completely manufactured in a lab. As a result, it works better in the extremes between low and high temperatures.

In addition, the oil is more consistent because it is easier to control the process, and the materials are held to the highest standards. 

Synthetic oil is better for your engine because it is more refined. This oil is more expensive than conventional oil; however, it does last longer. It can go longer distances and periods of time before it needs to be changed.


  • This is a pure oil
  • Works great in extreme temperatures


  • Expensive 

2. Synthetic Blend Oil

Valvoline Daily Protection SAE 5W-20 Synthetic Blend Motor Oil 5 QT (Packaging May Vary)

Synthetic blend oil is a common choice for those with SUVs and pickup trucks. This type of oil provides better protection for vehicles that carry heavy loads.

It is a mixture of organic and synthetic oil. Synthetic blend oil protects vehicles from cold temperature oxidation and allows them to get higher gas mileage. 

This oil balances the best of synthetic and conventional oils when reducing the limitations of both of them. Therefore, it tends to be a middle ground oil. 


  • More affordable than synthetic oil
  • Commonly chosen motor oil


  • It does not last as long as synthetic oil

3. High Mileage Oil

Valvoline High Mileage with MaxLife Technology SAE 5W-30 Synthetic Blend Motor Oil 5 QT (Packaging May Vary)

High mileage oil is ideal for new cars as it has been enhanced with unique additives to reduce burn off and oil leaks.

These additives help to protect the seals in the engine to reduce oil evaporation while working to improve the performance.

It also helps the car consume gas more efficiently. In addition, high mileage oil reduces emissions and smoke from the engine, especially older engines. 

High mileage oil is designed specifically for cars that are driven a large number of miles. High mileage oils contain antioxidants, detergents, and additives for wear and friction.


  • Ideal for those that drive more than 75,000 miles
  • Improves the performance of your car


  • It is an expensive oil

4. Conventional Oil

A blue bottle of conventional oil pouring in the car engine.

Conventional oil comes in a wide range of quality and viscosity. It is ideal for cars that have a simple engine. It is also perfect for those that drive in a conservative style.

Conventional oil is a standard and common motor oil. It is created from crude oil pulled directly from the ground and refined.

Depending on the oil, different processes and additives are mixed into the oil. These additions change the thickness and protection it provides the engine. 

Conventional oil is an effective oil that is not refined as much as other oils. This also means they provide less engine protection. This oil is perfect for light duty vehicles. 


  • An affordable oil
  • Effective for late model cars


  • Less refined
  • Less resistance to oxidation


Can Conventional and Synthetic Oils Be Mixed?

It is not recommended that different oils are mixed. As motor oil consists of base oil and additives, each type of oil has different additives that may not mix well together.

In addition, some oils, like synthetics, have high quality additives while conventional oil does not. Therefore, they should not be mixed. 

What Does Motor Oil Do?

Motor oil has many different functions. One of the main functions is that oil lubricates the engine during the combustion cycle. This reduces the friction created by the components in the engine.

The oil prevents the parts from rubbing together because a thin layer of oil is created. This helps to reduce the wear and tear on the engine. Third, motor oil neutralizes acid that occurs during the combustion process.

Fourth, motor oil helps to keep the engine block free of residue and clean. When there is sludge in the engine, it can cause a blockage. Finally, motor oil prevents corrosion and provides protection against rust in the cylinder blocks. 

What Additives Are Used In Oil?

Anywhere between 5 to 30 percent of motor oil is additives. Motor oil can contain anyone of these additives:


Antioxidants are added to the oil to slow down the oxidation and deposits from forming in the motor oil. These additives keep the engine clean while extending the life of the oil.

Anti-wear Agents

Anti-wear agents are additives that protect engine parts highly likely to be damaged due to high temperatures. Those parts include cams, lifters, piston rings, and cylinder walls.

These additives create a protective layer on the components to reduce friction when the metal rubs metal.


Detergent is an additive that prevents rust, deposits, and corrosion from appearing on the piston ring area, under-crown, and other surfaces.


Dispersants are magic for oil. These additives give the oil the ability to absorb and hold onto solid contaminants so that they do not damage the engine.

Foam Inhibitors

Foam inhibitors are additives that prevent the oil from foaming and creating bubbles. When bubbles form in the oil, it is not able to coat parts of the engine to keep it cool.

Friction Modifiers

Friction modifiers reduce the friction when the engine operates with heavy loads and under high temperatures. This can help improve your fuel efficiency. 

Pour-Point Depressants

This additive prevents wax particles that are in the oil from getting hard when it is cold. This helps the motor oil flow more freely, even in the coldest temperature.

As a result, the engine does not have to work any harder to pump the oil.

Rust and Corrosion Inhibitors

The internal parts of the engine are susceptible to rust and corrosion when they are exposed to moisture and acid. This additive creates a film that protects the internal components of the engine to prevent damage. 

Viscosity-Index Improvers

Viscosity-Index improvers are additives that allow your engine to perform the way it is intended, even when there are extreme fluctuations in temperature. 

What Are Oil Grades?

All engine oils have different grades. They are graded based on their viscosity. Viscosity is the weight of the oil. Viscosity describes the quantity of the internal friction of any fluid.

All engines have varying viscosities at room temperatures. Oils also react differently to changes in temperature. 

What Are the Motor Oil Grades?

All motor oil is graded by its weight when it is cold and when it is warm. The engine oil grade is in the form of an alpha-numeric code.

The first number is cold, and the second number is when it is warm. The W in the middle stands for winter. 


This is a thin engine oil as the engine is started. The oil has a viscosity of 0 weight when the engine is cold. The viscosity becomes 20 weight when the engine reaches its operating temperature. 


This is a thin engine oil as the engine is started. The oil has a viscosity of 0 weight when the engine is cold. The viscosity becomes 30 weight when the engine reaches its operating temperature.


This is a thin engine oil as the engine is started. The oil has a viscosity of 0 weight when the engine is cold. The viscosity becomes 40 weight when the engine reaches its operating temperature.


This is the most common, extensively used, and easily found motor oil. 


This is a fully synthetic oil that has a 5 weight when the engine is cold. The viscosity becomes 40 weight when the engine reaches its operating temperature.


This oil has a viscosity of 10 weight when the engine is cold. The viscosity becomes 40 weight when the engine reaches its operating temperature.

What Grade and Type of Oil Should I Use?

The best option is to consult the owner’s manual of your car to determine which is the best motor oil for your vehicle. Your manufacturer recommends the type of grade of motor oil that should be used in your car.

If you are considering using a different grade or type of oil in your vehicle, you should discuss it with a mechanic. This person can determine the cons and pros to determine if that is the best decision for your car. 

How Do I Properly Dispose of Oil?

It is illegal to pour motor oil down the drain. It will contaminate the water supply. There are some recycling sites that will recycle motor oil.

These recycling centers may even provide you with a safe container to transport the oil. A safe container is ideally metal but could be a plastic made from polyethylene.

Oil should be kept separate from other chemicals. It should not be put in a container that ever contained cooking oils, petrol, thinners, paints, or solvents.