Friday, October 3, 2008

Motor oil is motor oil

I change the oil in my cars, and every time I buy oil when it's changing time, I am aghast as I ponder the billions of dollars spent for no good reason by most people.
It's difficult to miss the onslaught of advertisements for brand name motor oil. Each brand touts itself as the way to get maximum service life from your car's engine, but if your look closely, none make the outright claim that they are better than the rest.
That is because motor oil either meets the specifications of the American Petroleum Institute (API), or it doesn't. Compliance is designated with the application of the API seal (pic included) on the container. If it has that seal, the oil inside works just the way your car's manufacturer calls for, and the brand name is completely irrelevant.
Of course, you should change the oil about every 3,000 miles, and you do have to use the correct weight and viscosity for your car (10W-30, 10W-40, etc.) which is displayed on the car's oil cap, right on top of the motor. But other than that, all you have to look for is that API seal, and for what it's worth, I don't recall ever finding any that didn't have the API seal.
As for the oil filter that is replaced at oil change time, I have tried the cheap ones, and they suck. They probably filter the oil just as well as the others, but they are harder to work with, and are nearly the same price as the brand name filters. In my experience a little extra money is worth it there.
Perhaps there was a time when the oil brand name did matter, because in the past when I have pointed out the folly of paying extra for brand names, I got responses one might expect to be given a blasphemer. But going on the word of several people who work on cars for a living, I have persisted using the Brand X motor oil. Good thing I can't be excommunicated as a motorist!
Unless you are just determined to pay up to twice as much for ValvoHavoCastroPennzoQuaker oil versus the no-name brand stuff, or like the picture on the bottle, there is no reason to buy anything other than the cheapest oil you can find.