You might have seen something like 20W-50 or 10w40 on engine oil bottles.

Lets check out its meaning !!

Your engines rotating parts are protected from heat and friction by a thin layer of oil. Understanding the viscosity ratings and detergents used in today’s modern oils is critical to keeping your engine running. As an owner there is no more critical maintenance item than regular oil changes with the proper oil for your car or truck.

Oil weight, or viscosity, refers to how thick or thin the oil is. The temperature requirements set for oil by the Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) is 0 degrees F (low) and 210 degrees F (high).

Oils meeting the SAE’s low temperature requirements have a “W” after the viscosity rating (example: 10W), and oils that meet the high ratings have no letter (example SAE 30). An oil is rated for viscosity by heating it to a specified temperature, and then allowing it to flow out of a specifically sized hole. Its viscosity rating is determined by the length of time it takes to flow out of the hole. If it flows quickly, it gets a low rating. If it flows slowly, it gets a high rating.

Your engine needs oil that is thin enough for cold starts, and thick enough when the engine is hot. Since oil gets thinner when heated, and thicker when cooled, most of us use what are called multi-grade, or multi-viscosity oils. These oils meet SAE specifications for the low temperature requirements of a light oil and the high temperature requirements of a heavy oil. This is the best of both worlds and is accomplished by using special additives to increase viscosity with increase temperature.

In a 10w-40 for example the 10w bit (W = winter, not weight or watt or anything else for that matter) simply means that the oil must have a certain maximum viscosity/flow at low temperature. The lower the “W” number the better the oil’s cold temperature/cold start performance.

The 40 in a 10w-40 simply means that the oil must fall within certain viscosity limits at 100°C. This is a fixed limit and all oils that end in 40 must achieve these limits. Once again the lower the number, the thinner the oil: a 30 oil is thinner than a 40 oil at 100°C etc. Your handbook will specify whether a 30, 40 or 50 etc is required.

Shared by Pro Pawan Raj Urs, Bangalore (ARPRO3)

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