What Do Motor Oil Viscosity Ratings Mean?

Paying attention to the motor oil you use in your vehicle can save on repairs down the road. Viscosity is often used when referring to oil. It simply means the thickness of liquid, which is oil in this case. A lower viscosity means a thinner liquid, and a higher number indicates a thicker liquid. If an oil’s viscosity is too low, it won’t lubricate the engine’s parts well enough. If it’s too high, the oil overworks the engine.

When you look at a bottle of multi-grade oil, you see two numbers separated by a W. The first number, for example the 10 in 10W30, tells you the highest viscosity of the oil in cold conditions. This number needs to be lower to accommodate a cold engine or weather. Thicker viscosity would move too slowly. The W means winter. The second number, 30 in this instance, indicates the highest viscosity, or thickness, this oil will reach at a temperature of 212 degrees. Thicker viscosity is appropriate for hot conditions.

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