How to Choose the Right Engine Oil

January 23, 2023


Regardless of what kind of driver you are, it’s useful to know that the type of engine oil you use is going to significantly impact the efficiency, reliability, and overall performance of your vehicle. This is even more important to professionals such as chauffeurs or race car drivers, as in their line of work, even a slight change in performance could mean a lot. Of course, the more important your car is to you, the more attention you’re going to pay when it comes to maintaining it, and the pickier you’re going to be when choosing the right engine oil, which is where this guide should be of use.

Know your oil types

All engine oil can be classified into three broad groups which are mineral oils, semi-synthetic oils, and synthetic oils, each with its own advantages and disadvantages. Mineral oils are extracted from the ground and refined in order to adapt them for vehicle use. These oils generally come at a cheaper price but also offer quite simple protection from engine corrosion. Semi-synthetic oils are created by blending mineral and synthetic oils, providing a greater level of protection than those of the mineral class, but also being more affordable than purely synthetic oils. Finally, synthetic oils have three subclasses, the first of which are hydrocracked oils, created by refining a mineral oil enough for it to be classified as synthetic. The second are polyalphaolefins, generally produced through synthetic reactions. Finally, esters are top-tier engine oils that are valued for their ability to cling to metal surfaces, ensuring heightened protection.

Environmental and human factors

Your driving style, the quality of maintenance, and the road, as well as strictly environmental factors such as temperature, humidity, and the amount of dust particles in the air, can all impact your choice of engine oil. For example, if you are a racecar driver, the car you are using and its engine are likely to be put under great strain due to the high demands put on them. This is why choosing the highest quality engine oil such as the racecar tailored vr1 20w50 can not only significantly improve performance but also ensure your engine is well protected from the harsh external conditions, which are otherwise likely to damage it.

The quality of fuel

A running engine causes a chemical reaction in the fuel, causing it to transform into sulphuric acid, which can lead to corrosion and damage the car engine, which is why the first thing you should consider is the quality of the fuel you’re using. There are three main elements that should be taken into account and they are the purity of your fuel, the octane/cetane number, and the amount of sulphur contained in the fuel. Of course, the higher the amount of sulphur, the more likely it is that issues will arise with the engine.

Through thick and thin

Viscosity is one of the main aspects to consider in your choice but neither too thick nor too thin oils will rise to every occasion. The goal is to find the right balance, where the oil flows well while cold but is not too thick when hot, the first property ensuring cold-start protection, and the second providing optimal heat transference and protection. The best level of viscosity will also depend on the conditions you are driving in. Thinner options might be better for cold environments, while a thicker oil might be more suitable for tracks as that is where the engine temperature will lead to thinning.

Physical qualities of oil

There are physical qualities of the oil you should check as well, as they will inform you about its quality and when it’s time for an oil change. Among these qualities are primarily the smell, feel, and visual condition of the oil. Firstly, new oil should be of a golden-brown color similar to honey, and a maintained engine will keep the color until it’s time for a change. You’ll know it is by the black color the oil takes on. There are exceptions to the rule, however, as some diesel engines will turn the oil black almost instantly due to the increased carbon content they create. In this case, it’s time to examine the other properties. A sign that it’s time for an oil change is its intense burnt smell and its abrasive feel when you rub it between your fingers.

Oil additives are great additions

Oil additives are harder to spot than the oil type, but can significantly impact the properties of engine oil. For example, detergents ensure that the engine is clean, anti-wear additives provide additional protection and anti-foaming agents keep the oil liquid. Additives such as extreme pressure, anti-aging, viscosity improvers, and friction modifiers just to name a few, have their purpose as well.


Your choice of engine oil is ultimately going to depend on the purpose of your car as well as on its importance. However, going with the “oil is oil” mindset and opting for low-quality, cheap oil can hurt your car’s performance and your wallet, which is why shopping for engine oil should be treated as an investment, rather than a quick fix.


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