Oil type

Tiny
CARLEY SHAW
  • MEMBER
  • 1997 HONDA CIVIC
  • 4 CYL
  • AUTOMATIC
  • 250,000 MILES
I am low on oil, and I am not sure what type of oil to put into my car.
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Monday, January 16th, 2017 AT 2:05 PM

4 Replies

Tiny
CARADIODOC
  • EXPERT
What brand is used at the place that changes the oil for you? Do you use petroleum-based or synthetic? What climate are you in? What is the engine size? The correct "viscosity" is addressed in your owner's manual. It is often also listed on the oil cap or on the emissions sticker under the hood. What is the exact level shown on the dip stick, or how did you determine the level is low?
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Monday, January 16th, 2017 AT 3:32 PM
Tiny
CARLEY SHAW
  • MEMBER
There was no oil level showing on my dip stick, so I stopped and got some 5W-30 synthetic oil. Was that a bad choice? I purchased my car about 4 months ago, and was told that the oil had just been changed in it. There was no sticker on the windshield, but I took the sellers word. The car seems to be running fine now, but I do know that there is a transmission misfire. I just don't have the money to have it fixed, so I'm going to try to either find someone to fix it for me, or fix it myself.
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Thursday, January 19th, 2017 AT 8:53 PM
Tiny
CARADIODOC
  • EXPERT
Most likely that oil will be fine. Synthetic oil is very expensive, and usually not the best value, unless it is specified for your engine. The concern with sticking with one brand of oil is each one has their own proprietary additives including detergents, dispersants, seal conditioners, corrosion inhibitors, and anti-foaming agents. There will always be a quart or two of old oil that doesn't drain out during an oil change, and if some of those old additives aren't yet fully depleted, they may not be compatible with those in the new oil. The new detergents, for example, might attack the old seal conditioners resulting in a new leak. Most of the time this is not a concern. If it was, car owners would have to specify which brand of oil must be used at every oil change.

5W-30 is a very light, (thin) viscosity. It would be too thin for most engines from the 1980s and earlier, but it is recommended for many smaller engines today. The "30" means it will maintain its thickness when it gets hot. The "5" means when it's real cold, it will act like 5-weight oil and flow easily to critical engine parts. This is probably a good choice, and if it isn't exactly the correct oil specified, it will be diluted with what was already in the engine.

For my final comment of value, be sure to only check the oil level when the engine is not running. I saw a fellow destroy his engine many years ago by trying to get it to the "full" mark while it was running. Also be aware that all engines today use some oil between oil changes. To address the numerous complaints, dip sticks are no longer listed with "add" and "full" marks. They're listed with "Min" and "Max" marks. The specified amount of oil for an oil change will not bring the level to the "Max" mark. As long as the level remains above the "Min" mark, there is no need to add any.
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Friday, January 20th, 2017 AT 6:17 PM
Tiny
CARLEY SHAW
  • MEMBER
Thank you! That was very helpful.
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Friday, January 20th, 2017 AT 11:05 PM

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