Reviews

Best Motor Oils For Cold Weather: Keep Your Car Running During The Winter

When it comes to cold weather, these top oils are the best for your vehicle

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BY Daniel Rika , Jennifer L. Passmore , Linsay Thomas / LAST UPDATED ON August 17, 2021

Oil is essential to keep a car running smoothly and at peak performance. It lubricates, enhances, and protects the engine. There are many different oils on the market, but not all of them are created equally. If you live in a climate where the weather gets especially chilly, you need a specific type of oil for your vehicle. Our buying guide below includes our top picks.

Best Overall
Mobil 1 Synthetic Motor Oil
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Summary
Summary

This oil is full-synthetic and helps provide great overall lubrication and wear protection for your vehicle’s engine.

Pros
Pros

While aiding in the fuel economy, this oil also has great low-temperature capabilities. In cold weather, it helps your vehicle to start up faster.

Cons
Cons

This oil, unfortunately, cannot be used on European cars like BMW and Mercedes. If you are driving a turbo-charged car, it is best to change it every 4K miles versus 5K. 

Best Overall
Mobil 1 Synthetic Motor Oil
Best Value
Castrol GTX MAGNATEC 5W-30 Full Synthetic Motor Oil
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Summary
Summary

This full-synthetic blend of motor oil gives your vehicle’s engine protection upon start, warm-up, and more.

Pros
Pros

It features “intelligent molecules” that cling to the engine, even after the vehicle has been shut off. This provides an extra layer of protection for the engine. 

Cons
Cons

For vehicles with much higher mileage, this oil doesn’t stand up to similar brands. It does not have very many anti-sludge detergents.

Best Value
Castrol GTX MAGNATEC 5W-30 Full Synthetic Motor Oil
Honorable Mention
Valvoline Advanced Full Synthetic SAE 5W-30 Motor Oil
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Summary
Summary

This oil helps maintain fuel efficiency and is also effective at keeping your engine clean from sludge.

Pros
Pros

This oil provides 50 percent more wear protection than most other motor oils. It works wonderfully in any weather, but especially during the winter. It provides faster oil flow at startup.

Cons
Cons

The oil is a little thin and can lose its viscosity pretty quickly. This is especially true for higher mileage vehicles. It can also get dirty fast.

Honorable Mention
Valvoline Advanced Full Synthetic SAE 5W-30 Motor Oil

Why Trust Us


Our reviews are driven by a combination of hands-on testing, expert input, “wisdom of the crowd” assessments from actual buyers, and our own expertise. We always aim to offer genuine, accurate guides to help you find the best picks.

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Benefits of Motor Oil for Cold Weather

  • Easier engine starting. Conventional oils lose their free-flowing abilities during cold weather. Starting the car during the cold weather is, therefore, harder when using these engine oils. Conversely, synthetic oils are thin, even during the winter, making it easier to crank the engine faster.
  • Cheaper car service. At face value, conventional oil may appear cheaper than the synthetic motor oil used during winter. But with conventional oils, you may need to change the motor oil more frequently. Synthetic oils have a much longer interval between oil changes—typically 7,500-10,000 miles—which is cheaper in the long run.
  • Engine protection. Because of its low viscosity, the oil is quite efficient in engine protection. Immediately after the engine starts, oil smoothly flows to the critical part of the engine. The low viscosity is what protects direct contact between engine parts, prolonging the engine life.
  • Fuel economy. Fuel combustion is faster when you use low viscosity motor oil. This boosts your car performance, improving miles per gallon gasoline usage. As long as gas prices don’t rise, you will notice the amount of money you spend on fuel going down in the long run.

Types of Motor Oil for Cold Weather

Full Synthetic Oil

Full synthetic oil is made with a lot of stringent considerations. It contains low impurities and has additives that help in cleaning the engine. It has low viscosity, even in cold weather, allowing for easy engine starting during winter. The smooth flow of the motor oil protects the engine from wear and tear, enhancing engines and making them last longer.

Synthetic Blend Oil

These are oils that are a mixture of synthetic and organic oils. They are formulated to provide for heavy loaded engines in cold weather. The oils evaporate less, which increases engine efficiency and fuel economy. The blending reduces the oil cost, and they are a favorite for SUV and truck users to protect their engines when the truck is loaded.

Higher Mileage Oil

If you own an old car, this may be the oil for your engine. This oil has been formulated with the aim of preventing motor oil leaks in aging engines. The active ingredients penetrate oil seals, restoring them and making them more leak proof. Your old car will start and work better in cold weather.

Top Brands

Mobil

Located in Fairfax County, Va., Mobil is an American oil company. It merged with Exxon in 1999 to form the parent global brand, ExxonMobil. Mobil has some of the most popular motor oil for cold-weather products in the market today. Among these are Mobil 1 Synthetic Motor Oil and Mobil 1 Extended Performance High Mileage Formula Motor Oil.

Castrol

A British automotive lubricant maker, Castrol is headquartered in Pangbourne, UK. From its humble beginnings in the 1900s, it has managed to spread its business globally. Notably, it has been a key supplier and sponsor of Formula One teams. One of its frontline cold weather motor oils is Castrol GTX Magnatec 5W-30 Full Synthetic Motor Oil.   

Valvoline

Founded in 1866, Valvoline is a brand in the motor oil industry. Having its headquarters in Kentucky, it is the second-largest provider of oil change services in the U.S. Valvoline Advanced Full Synthetic SAE 5W-30 Motor Oil is one of its notable products.

Motor Oil for Cold Weather Pricing

  • Under $15: In this category, you will find cheap synthetic oils that have been blended with conventional motor oil. The stability of their viscosity during the winter season is unreliable.
  • $15 to $25: Most synthetic oils fall under this price category. They are effective in protecting engines during the cold weather.
  • Above $25: These are specialty oils. They have a higher mileage interval before an oil change—usually 7,500 miles.

Key Features

Interval Between Oil Changes

How long you should wait between oil changes is one of the important factors when buying motor oil for cold weather in your car. Some oils are blended with conventional oils and are not fully synthetic. As a rule of thumb, your engine should run a minimum of 7,500miles before changing when using synthetic oils.

Viscosity

This is the measure of how free-flowing the motor oil is at different temperatures. Viscosity is measured by an SAE number, which is a standard established by the U.S. Society of Automotive Engineering. Low viscosity synthetic oil maintains the same level of thickness, even in winter weather, which extends the engine life.

Additives

You should look out for cold weather motor oils that have added ingredients. It is a standard practice for major oil makers to include these components in their oil formulation. They include antioxidants, viscosity index improvers, and anti-corrosion agents. These agents, when mixed well, can improve engine performance and keep its optimum performance, even at low temperatures.

Other Considerations

  • Fuel economy. Over time, car engines accumulate sludge from impurities in conventional oils. This clogs the engine, reducing its efficiency. Quality motor oil for cold weather should do a thorough job of cleaning the engine’s internal parts, making them function seamlessly. A smooth running engine uses less gasoline, improving your car fuel efficiency.
  • Compatibility. Not all engines are fit for cold weather motor oils in the market. You should properly read your owner’s manual to find out if the features on the oil you are about to buy are compatible with your car’s engine model. It is important to know if the motor oil is formulated for gas or diesel engines, too.
  • Age of your car. Knowing the age of your car engine should help in selecting the appropriate engine motor oil. Compared to blended oil products, your old car engine will benefit tremendously from fully synthetic motor oil products. They induce motor oil rejuvenating properties on gaskets and oil seals, making them swell and prevent oil leaks.

Best Oils For Cold Weather Reviews and Recommendations 2020

Best Overall
Mobil 1 Synthetic Motor Oil

There are awesome reasons why this product takes the top spot in this guide. Having been in the motor oil market since 1974, Mobil 1 motor oil is a product that has undergone years of research and development. 


It is produced through an extensive distillation process that creates a purified, fully synthetic motor oil. The oil maintains its thinness, even in winter weather, so you can be sure to have an easy cold morning car start. Moreover, it spreads fast over the moving engine parts, creating that essential protection against wear.


Over time, car engines build up sludge due to the impurities in low-quality motor oils. Mobil 1 synthetic motor oil contains additives specifically designed for cleaning this buildup, which reduces the performance and the life of the engine. It is packed in a 5-quart container that is easy to carry and use on your journey. Also, the container is tightly sealed to avoid evaporation when stored. The downside is that it is not recommended as the best motor oil for European cars, such as Mercedes and BMW.

Best Value
Castrol GTX Magnatec 5W-30 Full Synthetic Motor Oil

This is one of the best value cold-weather motor oils on the market. It has been shown that 75 percent of engine wear happens within 20 minutes of starting, and that's because when the engine is switched off, all the other motor oil drains to the sump. 


This is not so with Castrol Magnatec oil, which leaves a coat of oil on engine components. That is how the formulators came to incorporate specially designed additives that prevent wear through friction, helping in prolonging the life of your engine.


By using this oil, your engine is cooler and runs smoother. All that improves its performance, which results in better fuel economy. Moreover, with this oil, there are extended periods of up to 6,000 miles between oil changes, which cuts down on car maintenance costs. Morning starting is a breeze, as the fully synthetic oil maintains its viscosity despite the cold winter weather. However, some of the few downsides include lack of anti-sludge properties and poor packaging.

Honorable Mention
Valvoline Full Synthetic SAE 5W-30 Motor Oil

With the spectacular features in this motor oil, it is worth recommending. The oil is specifically designed for engines that operate in extreme conditions such as winter weather. 


A low viscosity rating means starting your car in these conditions should not be a hassle. Again, if you are driving in slow traffic conditions or short distances with frequent starts and stops, your engine gets stressed from the extreme heat. Valvoline, being a versatile engine oil, will also act as a cooling agent to protect your engine.


Sludge buildup threatens the life of your engine. Valvoline full synthetic motor oil has cleaning properties by binding the dirt buildup, which causes engine wear. When you start using this oil, you’ll be sure to cut down on fuel costs because your engine will have better fuel combustion, using less gasoline. 


The downsides are that it may not be the best for high mileage cars because it doesn’t have a stable viscosity. Also, it is designed specifically for gasoline engines and cannot work for diesel engines

Best for Trucks and SUVs
Shell Rotella Gas Truck Full Synthetic 5W-30 Motor Oil

If you’re looking for a truck-specific oil that will provide reliable and rugged protection in cold weather and harsh conditions, check out the Shell Rotella Gas Truck Full Synthetic 5W-30 Motor Oil. This oil is specifically engineered to provide excellent protection for new or high mileage gas-powered trucks and SUVs. It’s one of the first major oil brands to include a complete portfolio of full synthetic oils for both diesel and gasoline-powered trucks and SUVs. This particular oil actually outperforms conventional motor oils in extreme temperatures, severe driving conditions, and towing.


This oil is designed to also prevent sludge and other damaging deposits from accumulating in your engine. It not only protects your vehicle’s horsepower but also provides excellent wear protection and keeps your engine clean. This is a solid oil for trucks and SUVs, but there has been some concern over Shell not honoring their stated rebates. 
Best for 2-Cycle Engines
Royal Purple 01311 HP 2-C High Performance 2-Cycle Motor Oil

When it comes to protective and reliable lubrication for your 2-cycle engines, it’s tough to beat Royal Purple 01311 HP 2-C High Performance 2-Cycle Motor Oil. This engine oil is specifically designed to improve performance and reduce wear on your 2-stroke gasoline engine. Making it an excellent choice for your snowmobile, ATV, jet-ski, chain saw, motorcycle, dirt bike, snowblower, and more. This premium-quality engine oil increases horsepower and simultaneously reduces fuel consumption, heat build-up, and engine emissions. 


Its synthetic solvency keeps exhaust ports and spark plugs clean, while the Synerlec additive increases the oil film strength for added engine protection and efficiency. This engine oil is a great option for most cold weather applications, but it’s not ideal below 20-degrees Fahrenheit due to low temperature pumpability issues in oil injected snowmobiles. For those conditions, Royal Purple recommends using its Snow 2-C snowmobile motor oil specifically.

Tips

  • When selecting a motor oil for your vehicle, take into account the type of car that you drive. If you drive a truck versus a sedan or an SUV, you may need a certain type of oil. Consult your vehicle’s manual. 
  • Always keep track of when your vehicle’s last oil change was, and maintain a good oil change schedule. By doing this, you are taking care of your vehicle. When you do that, your vehicle will take care of you.
  • Research the best motor oil for your vehicle before purchasing to make sure that you are getting a good quality oil. Not all oils are created the same, and purchasing an inexpensive oil could cause more problems for your vehicle.

FAQs

Q: How do I know which oil is best for colder weather?

A: The “W” behind the number actually stands for “winter.” The lower the number, the better that oil is in colder temperatures. 

Q: Should oil for colder weather be thicker or thinner?

A: The numbers before the “W” on oil containers (i.e. 10W-30) stand for the thickness or viscosity of the oil. In the winter, lower numbers, which mean thinner oil, are best because the oil flows much more easily through the engine.

Q: Is full-synthetic oil the best type to use?

A: In general, if you can get a full-synthetic oil for your vehicle, it is the best. It stands up to cold weather very well and contains fewer impurities. 

Final Thoughts

Overall, the best motor oil for cold weather is Mobil 1 Synthetic Motor Oil. It helps to keep your engine clean and running well. 

Our pick for the best value is Castrol GTX MAGNATEC 5W-30 Full Synthetic Motor Oil.