What Oil Do I Need to Use? (Why you should)

Modern vehicles are designed to last many miles if they're properly maintained. The engine is one such component that needs to be looked after. It requires special oil in order for it to work at its peak. But do you need to use the manufacturer’s oil to get the best results?

It’s not required to use the manufacturer’s oil but it’s highly recommended. It is possible to purchase motor oils of other brands if your engine meets the specified specifications. These specifications can be found inside your manual.

While it is always wise to follow the manufacturer’s recommendations when it comes to the oil type, there is some flexibility to consider. This article will help you understand the standards for motor oils, as well as the manufacturer's requirements.

Índice de Contenido
  1. Motor Oil Standards 
    1. 1. SAE
    2. 2. API
    3. 3. ILSAC
    4. 4. ACEA
  2. Manufacturer Oil Requirements
  3. Manufacturer’s Oil Recommendations and Warranty

Motor Oil Standards 

1. SAE

SAE stands to represent Society of Automotive Engineers. This is the important aspect to be aware of.

Viscosity grades indicate how oil flows at different temperatures. Because modern engines are built to tight tolerances, thinner oil is required that will flow in cold and hot temperatures. That’s why you find a lot of later-model motors requiring 0W-20 motor oil these days. 

RELATED : What is SAE in Motor Oil?

2. API

API is American Petroleum Institute. There are many types of tests performed by API to determine how oil cleans, lubricates and protects engine parts.

Oil was required to be classified as an API SA Service Classification when it first became possible to manufacture cars. New classifications, like SB, SC, and SD, were introduced after that. They advanced without SI or SK. 

API SA would only be sold to vehicles built prior to 1920. 

Motor oil must be labeled with an SN. However, you may find older oils mixed in. If you need something earlier, you shouldn’t have to pay too much more for it. 

READ ALSO: Best motor oils for high mileage engines


It is very common for API standards to have their standards matched by the International Lubricant Standardization and Approval Committee. Although they are often used in parallel, some new standards have been developed to improve fuel efficiency.

The latest ILSAC rating was GF-5. This oil is compatible with the API SN number and meets all requirements for use with gasoline engine.


The Association des Constructeurs Européens d’Automobile (ACEA) standards are used on European vehicles. These standards are generally stricter than the ILSAC and API standards.

C can be used with a catalyzed-equipped diesel engine or light duty gas engines. For heavy-duty diesel engines, the best choice is E. 

Manufacturer Oil Requirements

Motor Oil

Many vehicle manufacturers also set their own standards, in addition to the ones set out by industry guidelines. To ensure oil meets engine requirements, automakers use only their own testing procedures. 

You can find these standards in your owner’s manual. Don’t ever use oil that fails to meet these standards, on top of the SAE, API and other guidelines. 

Let’s say you drive a GM vehicle from 2011 or newer. Your Chevy, GMC Buick, Cadillac, or Buick manufacturer wants you to have your oil meet Dexos1 or Dexos2 specifications. These specifications were developed by GM in order to comply with the federal guidelines for fuel economy and emissions. 

Manufacturers may also require oil specifications such as the type of diesel used in heavy-duty pickup trucks. Your manufacturer will recommend the best oil formula for your engine to maintain its integrity.

There are also guidelines for European cars, including those made by Volkswagen, Mercedes-Benz and BMW. The automaker’s standards don’t just apply in Europe, but also for vehicles driven on the streets of America. 

Manufacturer’s Oil Recommendations and Warranty

Is your manufacturer warranty voided if you use the wrong oil? It depends. These standards are always changing and evolving as new requirements are identified. 

Today’s vehicles operate best with semi or fully synthetic motor oils. It is important to ensure that the oil you use meets the requirements of your automaker. If you don’t follow these recommendations, you could end up with engine damage or wear that will not be covered by the warranty.

However, you don’t have to purchase the oil sold by the automaker. You don't have to choose the exact same oil. You will find several oils that are compatible with your vehicle. But it is up to you to verify. 

If you are ever unsure, it’s best to speak with your local dealership for more guidance. The service department should have a list of the motor oils that are compatible with your vehicle’s engine. Getting this information from them also ensures that you don’t void the warranty.

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