What Do Motor Oil Viscosity Ratings Mean?

When you hear viscosity used in reference to motor oil, it simply means the thickness of that liquid. Your manufacturer’s guidelines and temperature are the key components to choosing the correct oil. If it’s too thin, the oil won’t be able to lubricate the engine’s parts well enough. Oil that’s too viscous, or thick, will overwork it.

The markings on a multi-grade bottle of oil tell you the viscosity it reaches in both cold and hot temperature conditions. The 10 in a 10W30 weight, for example, means that’s the highest viscosity your oil will reach in either cold weather or when the engine is cold. This number needs to be low because you want a more fluid liquid to flow through the engine at a quicker rate. The W means winter. The second number, 30 in this instance, means the viscosity, or thickness, of the oil at 212 degrees. Thicker oil, or higher viscosity, performs better under warmer conditions.

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