Should You Really Use A Different Grade Of Oil In The Summer VS Winter?

By Chad Ina - August 28, 2015

There are a lot of myths surrounding auto maintenance that keep being perpetuated through the years by a few gear heads who heard it somewhere.

So, is using a lighter weight oil in the winter and a heavier weight oil in summer really necessary? Is it good for your car? Or can it damage your car? That’s what we intend to clear up here and now.

Years ago many mechanics would recommend a 10 weight in the winter because the older cars from the dawn of the automobile until about the 1980’s had serious problems in cold weather. They would have the oil turn to a molasses consistency and put tons of workload onto the pumps before the engine heat had a chance to thin it.

This of course would lead to horrible starts that would grind on engine parts that were not well covered because the oil was still in the pan looking like gravy. The oil then could not be pumped up to the engine top to lubricate the parts well.

Many people know that with those older cars back in those days it was generally recommended that you let your engine warm up before you took off. So much so that many would go start their cars and come back in, have a cup of tea, before they got in and drove off. By the way, i wouldn’t recommend this nowadays. Your car insurance would be void if your car was driven off by some thief.

There was a lot of truth to that. You needed to be sure that your engine was warmed up enough to get the oil to the right temperature to get the flow to cover all the parts. Then it would be safe to take off and put all that stress on the engine.

But, what about today’s modern cars and what about the advances in oil technology? Is it still necessary to do these things or has all that changed?

Advancements In Automotive And Oil Technologies

With the development of 10W40 we really had the 1st major improvement in oil technology that would be enough of a change to effect the consumers usage of the product.

With 10W40 the W stands for winter and the two flow rates are at 10 during the winter and 40 during the summer. In other words, they created an oil to help solve this dilemma that had the ability to remain heavier in the summer while not turning to a molasses consistency during the winter.

Manufacturers now had the ability to incorporate new design ideas that before were just impractical. They no longer had their hands tied behind their backs with the oil issues. This lead to a whole host of improvements within many of the component development issues that had been challenging them in the past.

These innovations have lead to warnings from the manufacturers many times pasted right on your engine that you should only use their recommended oils. On a few cars they even go so far as to void the warranty if you don’t use the recommended oil(s).

So, if we’re talking about technology improvements shouldn’t we bring synthetic oil into the equation?

Synthetic oils are really just natural oils that have been refined down to a much higher degree and then have had oil additives added. The real purpose is that you get a tighter range of oil consistencies at all temperatures and greater protection when you’re putting high demand on your vehicle such as towing or high speed driving.

So, Do We Really Need A Different Oil For Summer And Winter?

The answer is that if you have an older car where that was the norm, it would be advisable to continue. The parts systems they had are not even close to what we have today and they need a different type of care.

With today’s cars you’d be well advised to stick with the manufactures suggested oils as that’s what your car has been tested with. So, in that case no. There would be no need with today’s oil and automotive technologies to use one oil for summer and one for winter.

If it doesn’t void your warranty and you live in extreme conditions or use your vehicle under above normal stresses such as towing or racing then it might be wise to invest in a full synthetic to get that added protection.

One note to think about is; if you’re in the city and do a lot of start and stop type driving this is also enough to warrant looking into a synthetic.

However, for normal driving without living in freezing winters the manufacturers oil recommendation should do just fine.

About the Author - Chad Ina

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