Whatever you do, if your car has run out of oil, do not top it up with the first engine oil that you manage to get your hands on. Get yourself clued up with the different oil grades and specifications here.
How to find out which oil you need
You might be surprised to know that not all engine oils are the same. So if your oil light has come on, it's time to top up, but if you've got no idea what oil you need, then it's time to get the handbook out.
Don't just guess and top it up with the oil that you think it needs, look in your handbook and the recommended grade that it needs. There will also probably a recommended manufacturer too. You should see some numbers, separated by a W, for example, 5W-30.
If you did happen to use the wrong oil, although it wouldn't be the end of the world, it would be a bit of a disaster later down the line and it will affect the quality of life of your engine.
What is engine oil viscosity?
Engine oils are graded based on their viscosity, which basically describes how easily the engine oil will flow.
The viscosity of oil changes with temperature. Our engines are capable of coping with a wide range of temperatures and you can also improve your viscosity by using additives. These work by providing your oil with one viscosity when hot and one when it's cold.
You can also check the viscosity and whether it is hot or cold by looking at the code marked on the container. For example, the code may look something like this 5W-30. The first part of this code refers to the cold temperature and the second to the high.
All this information will be in your car's handbook and it will tell you the viscosity that you should be using for your car.
What are the most common types of oils?
The two most common types of engine oils are 5W-30 and 5W-40. These oils are compatible with most models of common cars.
There are also some other recommended oils on common car models such as 0W-30, but this will be less viscous at lower temperatures. You'll usually find that your cars that use this are your Vauxhalls and MINI Coopers.
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