Best Motor Oils: Keep Your Engine Running Smoothly
Check out the top motor oils to keep your engine running at peak performance
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PUBLISHED ON April 29, 2019
What is the best motor oil on the market? We've created this guide to help you make the right choice. If you want a healthy running vehicle, it's important that you select the best motor oil brand based on your vehicle’s specifications. Combined with proper maintenance, the best motor oil will get you where you need to go while ensuring that your engine runs at peak performance.
- Best OverallMobil 1 High Mileage 5W-30 Motor OilSummarySummaryThis oil prevents leaks and protects critical engine parts in high-mileage vehicles. It also reduces sludge and deposits that conventional oils can leave behind.ProsProsThis oil makes an engine run well in the frigid cold and extremely hot temperatures. It reduces leaks and is formulated for extended use, allowing for increased mileage and performance.ConsConsThis motor oil tends to be pricier than competitor products unless you find it on sale.
- Best ValueValvoline High Mileage Synthetic Blend Motor OilSummarySummaryThis synthetic blend oil contains seal conditioners that restore aging engine seals to help stop and prevent oil leaks. Extra detergents remove sludge and deposits to keep older engines running cleaner.ProsProsThis oil does a great job of stopping and reducing leaks and adds life to old seals. It holds up well over time and makes the engine run quiet and smooth.ConsConsLike all motor oils, this one will break down, depending on how you drive and what the weather conditions are. It will not improve performance on severely worn engines.
- Honorable MentionLiqui Moly Premium 5W-40 Synthetic Motor OilSummarySummaryYour engine will run smoother and quieter with this top-level lubricant and protective oil, which is one of the best synthetic oils on the market. It also improves oil consumption.ProsProsThis oil keeps the engine clean and protects against engine wear. It fosters rapid oil delivery at low temperatures, as well as high lubrication reliability at both high and low temperatures.ConsConsThis oil can be pricier than its competitors, and the cap may be a little tricky to open, making it easy to spill when pouring.
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Benefits of Motor Oil
- It's an essential fluid. Cars, trucks, SUVs and other vehicles require engine oil to properly function. Without it, you won’t be able to drive anywhere. The best motor oil for trucks and cars cleans, cools, and lubricates your engine so it operates at optimal performance levels.
- Better operation in extreme temperatures. Your vehicle's fluids are affected by extremely hot or cold temperatures. Compared to conventional oil, synthetic oil flows better in the cold and is resistant to breaking down due to heat or friction.
- Enjoy fewer oil changes. If you use synthetic oil, the change intervals are between 7,500 and 10,000 miles compared to 3,000 miles for conventional, mineral oil.
- Get better fuel economy. Certain engine configurations will experience improved fuel economy with the use of synthetic oil. In addition, this type of oil may increase the life span of your engine.
Types of Motor Oil
Conventional motor oil is generally considered inferior compared to synthetic and blended oils, but it is common on new cars. Conventional motor oil contains detergent elements as well as friction modifiers, corrosion inhibitors, viscosity modifiers, extreme pressure agents, anti-foaming additives, and dispersants. Most brands allow you to go between 3,000-5,000 miles between oil changes. The recommended conventional oil is typically 5W-20 or 5W-30 for lower temperatures or 10W-30 for higher ambient temperatures.
High-performance vehicles operate best with full synthetic oil, which is not derived from crude oil. When deciding on the best synthetic motor oil, remember that it is intended for engines with higher RPM limits, higher temperatures, and those that carry large loads. One brand of the best performance motor oil may be better at engine protection, while another may excel at keeping your engine clean.
A synthetic blend combines conventional motor oil with a synthetic base. Essentially, it's conventional oil with a boost. A synthetic blend increases performance and protects your engine more than conventional oil. One major benefit of a synthetic blend is that it is much less expensive than fully synthetic options but includes some of the same benefits.
This type of motor oil is exactly what you'd expect it to be. It's intended for vehicles that have more than 75,000 miles on the engine. Parts of the motor on vehicles with this type of mileage are more likely to have operating problems. Motor oil that is designed specifically for vehicles with high mileage take this into account and contain additives to address common types of issues.
Mobil is one of the world's largest oil and gas companies. The American company was founded in 1911 as Standard Oil Company of New York. It merged with Exxon in 1999 to form ExxonMobil. One top product is the Mobil 1 Extended Performance 5W-30 Motor Oil.
Valvoline Inc. was founded in 1866 and is one of the world's top producers of premium lubricants and automotive services. Its headquarters are in Lexington, Kentucky. One of its most popular motor oils is the Valvoline 10W-30 MaxLife High Mileage Motor Oil.
Castrol's headquarters are in the United Kingdom, and the company, which was founded in 1899, operates in over 40 countries. It produces lubricants for motorcycles, two-stroke and four-stroke engines, and gas and diesel engines. Two recommended products are the Castrol GTX High Mileage 5W-30 Synthetic Blend Motor Oil and Castrol EDGE 5W-20 Advanced Full Synthetic Motor Oil.
Royal Purple is located in Porter, Texas, and its mission is "to develop products that significantly outperform other synthetic and mineral based oils." The company was acquired by Calumet Specialty Products Partners in 2012. One of its most popular motor oils is the Royal Purple HMX SAE 5W-30 High-Mileage Synthetic Motor Oil.
Liqui Moly GmbH was founded in 1957 in Ulm, Germany, and produces oils, lubricants, and additives. Its products are available in over 110 countries. One popular motor oil is the Liqui Moly Premium 5W-40 Synthetic Motor Oil.
Motor Oil Pricing
- Under $20 (for 5 quarts): Less expensive motor oils tend to be conventional oil or synthetic blends. Synthetic blends are a good choice if you want some of the benefits of full synthetic oil but don't want to spend too much money.
- Over $20 (for 5 quarts): Full synthetic motor oils vary in price, and it's helpful to find the product on sale if you want a good deal. Some can be as cheap as $25, while others run as high as $60.
Vehicles are given a viscosity (thickness or consistency) rating based on several factors, including external temperatures, operating temperatures, and engine load. Most gasoline engines have a viscosity grade of 5W-30, 5W-20, and 0W-20, while diesel engines are commonly rated 15W-40 and 5W-40. The numbers refer to how resistant the motor oil is to thickening in low temperatures and thinning at high temperatures. The number before the “W” is the thickness when the oil is cold, while the number afterward is its thickness when the oil is at normal operating temperatures.
- Type of Driving: If you like driving fast, own a sports car, or frequently tow or carry heavy loads in your vehicle, you may want to use higher-quality motor oil or one that is designed specifically for these types of tasks. Engines that undergo more stress than an average car will perform better with full synthetic oil, for example.
- Additives: When you're looking for the best motor oil brands, you'll notice that they differ in the type of additives they contain. Most feature some type of anti-foaming agents, conditioners, detergents, dispersants, corrosion inhibitors, viscosity index improvers, antioxidants, and anti-wear agents. Determine which of these additives is the best combination for your vehicle.
- Compatibility: It will not hurt your engine if you top off conventional oil with a bit of synthetic oil. However, that will simply dilute the synthetic properties, which will reduce the benefits. It's critical that you are aware of your engine's needs. Some older vehicles work better with conventional oil, while modern cars generally operate better with synthetic oil.
Best Motor Oil Reviews & Recommendations 2019
Best Overall: Mobil 1 High Mileage 5W-30 Motor Oil
This Mobil 1 motor oil provides superior wear protection, lubrication, and performance compared to conventional, high-mileage oils. It prevents leaks and protects critical engine parts, specifically in engines with higher mileage. It also reduces sludge and deposits that conventional oils can leave behind.
This is a great synthetic oil for a reasonable price and is one of the best synthetic oils for high-mileage cars. It pays for itself, especially in extreme temperatures and on short trips. Your vehicle will start without much effort even in frigid cold temperatures, and the engine will run smoothly and quietly. It also runs well in the extreme summertime heat. The oil reduces leaks and is formulated for extended use. There is also minimal sludge buildup after using this product for several years.
One downside is this motor oil tends to be pricier than competitor products unless you find it on sale. Also, it is not dexos approved, which is necessary for General Motors vehicles. If you drive a GM vehicle that is 2011 or newer, you need to use a motor oil that meets the company's dexos specifications to keep the vehicle’s warranty.
Best Value: Valvoline High Mileage Synthetic Blend Motor Oil
This synthetic blend oil contains seal conditioners that restore aging engine seals to help stop and prevent oil leaks. Extra wear protection prevents engine wear, and extra detergents remove sludge and deposits to keep high-mileage engines cleaner. In addition, antioxidants help prevent the oil from breaking down and clogging the engine with sludge and deposits.
The quality of this motor oil is excellent for the price, and it has some of the benefits of full-synthetic oil with a much cheaper price tag. It does a great job at stopping and reducing leaks and is thick enough to add life to old seals on motors with over 100,000 miles. It holds up well over time and makes the engine run quiet, smooth, and well overall. It does a better job than conventional oil at suspending debris and engine deposits.
Like all motor oils, this one will break down, depending on how you drive and what the weather conditions are. It will not improve performance on severely worn engines. This oil also does not meet the General Motors dexos standard.
Honorable Mention: Liqui Moly Premium 5W-40 Synthetic Motor Oil
This oil offers a high level of protection against wear, prolonging the life of the engine. It fosters rapid oil delivery at low temperatures as well as high lubrication reliability at both high and low temperatures. It also keeps your engine clean.
Your engine will run smoother and quieter with this top-level lubricant and protective oil. It’s used by many mechanics who work on German vehicles, and it has a grayish tone due to its robust additive package. You can go a long time between oil changes because it holds up to the long, recommended change interval. The Liqui Moly looks almost unused at the 5,000-mile interval. It also improves oil consumption and has a conveniently designed spout.
One downside is the product can be pricier than its competitors. Also, the cap may be a little tricky to open, making it easy to spill when pouring. In addition, the small-diameter opening makes the bottle "glug" at certain angles so you may need to use a funnel.
- Before you choose a motor oil, read your owner's manual. It will contain specific information from the manufacturer about your vehicle's engine and the recommended motor oil specific to the model.
- You should regularly change your oil according to the manufacturer's recommendations. Also, it's advisable to use the same brand and SAE (Society of Automotive Engineers) viscosity as the factory recommends.
- While you may be tempted to use the best oil brand, it's more important that you use the best oil type for your exact vehicle. This is based on the make, model, year, mileage and other requirements.
- When making a best synthetic oil comparison, check for all-purpose synthetic motor oil. This type of oil will suit your needs perfectly well if you have a vehicle that you drive for general purposes.
- While many brands tout that they are the best, must meet the same American Petroleum Institute (API) standards and properly protect your vehicle's engine. You really can't go wrong if a brand meets the manufacturer's recommendations.
- Less expensive, generic oils may meet SAE ratings, but they may not be as good quality as other brands. Generic products may not be as resistant to heat or have the same lubricating qualities.
- If your vehicle leaks oil on your garage floor, it's possibly due to the crankshaft seals, which can harden, lose flexibility, and crack. High-mileage oil has to seal conditioners that aid in restoring the strength and flexibility of this engine part.
- When changing your oil, you also need an oil filter. Be sure to check with your vehicle's manufacturer to make sure you use the proper filter because some aftermarket products are larger and may require more oil.
Q: What does the label on a motor oil container mean?
A: The API “donut” lets you know if the oil meets the current SL service rating as determined by laboratory and engine tests. There is also the SAE (Society of Automotive Engineers) star logo with the viscosity number and information on whether the oil has passed the energy conserving test.
Q: What’s the difference between oil brands?
A: There isn't much difference between motor oil brands. As long as you consistently use a name-brand oil, your vehicle should perform efficiently, despite some claiming to be better than others.
Q: How often should I change the oil in my car?
A: Check your owner's manual to determine the maintenance schedule. Most newer cars can go 5,000 to 10,000 miles between oil changes. However, if you tow heavy items, do a lot of stop-and-go driving, or go offroading frequently, you may need to change the oil more often.
Q: Is it worth it to use a specialty oil?
A: Some motor oils have an "extended life" feature, which purports users can wait for 15,000 miles between oil changes. However, it's crucial to check your owner's manual to determine how often you need to change your oil instead of relying on the recommendation of an oil brand.
Q: Is it okay to change my car oil from conventional to synthetic?
A: Be sure to check with your vehicle's manufacturer before you make the switch from conventional to synthetic oil. A trusted mechanic will also advise you about the best motor oil for your car or truck.
Q: What is a motor oil’s shelf life?
A: It depends on how the motor oil is stored. If the product is unopened and kept in a temperature-controlled environment, it should last for several years. If the oil is left in an open container in a garage that experiences drastic shifts in temperature, it won't last as long.
Our pick for the best motor oil is Mobil 1 High Mileage 5W-30 Motor Oil - 5 Quart. It's one of the best synthetic oils for high-mileage vehicles, reduces leaks, and minimizes sludge buildup.
For a less expensive option, consider the Valvoline High Mileage Synthetic Blend Motor Oil.