How to check and change your motor oil
It’s important to make sure your engine oils are properly topped up and in good condition, and this means regularly checking your motor oil level and changing it when needed. Doing so is easy:
1. Make sure your engine is off and cold, and your car is on level ground so you can see the exact oil level.
2. Open your vehicle bonnet, pull on the dipstick ring until the dipstick is fully removed, and wipe it with a clean, dry cloth.
3. Reinsert the dipstick fully in its pipe, without forcing. If the dipstick gets stuck, remove it, wipe it, and repeat the operation, keeping it as straight as possible.
4. Once fully inserted, pull out the dipstick and look at the ‘Min’ and ‘Max’ marks on the dipstick. If the level is below the ‘Min’ mark, you need to top up.
5. Unscrew the oil filler cap, which is near the engine and the dipstick (an oil can is drawn on top of the plug).
6. Pour in the oil slowly and top up the tank a little.
7. After each short top up, check the oil level on the dipstick until you reach the ‘Max’ mark. Do not go higher than this mark.
8. Screw the cap back on the oil tank and reinsert the dipstick.
Explore our guide to learn more about how to check and change your motor oil.
Differences between synthetic and mineral oils
The main two types of engine oil are synthetic and mineral oils.
Mineral oils are the product of refining crude oil, removing contaminants, unwanted hydrocarbons and other natural substances. The first motor oils to be developed, they’re designed to be used on older, less advanced vehicle models, and as a result are lower-performance compared to newer, synthetic oils. Nevertheless, they are some of the cheapest lubricants available, and in the case of vintage and classic vehicles, are usually recommended by manufacturers.
Synthetic oils are formed from highly chemically modified mineral oils, or are oils with entirely synthetic formulations. Featuring far fewer impurities to mineral oils and loaded with additives to boost their lubricating power, synthetics’ anti-corrosion, anti-oxidation, anti-wear and detergent effects are far greater than traditional lubricants. It’s because of this that they’re often the recommended motor oils for high-performance, technologically advanced vehicles and equipment.
Halfway between the two varieties are semi-synthetic oils. Not as advanced as pure synthetics yet offering greatly improved performance compared to mineral oils, they’re used as everyday oils for practical modern vehicles.
The role and benefits of motor oil
Motor oils are key to the safe and efficient function of engines and other machinery, but within this is a wide range of different roles, and a host of benefits for drivers and both fleet and machinery operators.
The key role of car or any other vehicle oil’s is lubrication, reducing friction and wear on parts. It cools engine parts heated by combustion and friction, assisting the role of coolant, and cleans dust and combustion deposits found in the engine, stopping clogging and the resulting reduction in performance. It also protects against engine parts from corrosive acids generated during combustion, and seals engine parts including pistons and cylinders, safeguarding performance and efficiency.
All these roles give engine oil a host of benefits. Firstly, motor lubricant improves the lifespan of the engine and its constituent parts, removing the threat of damage and corrosion and lowering maintenance costs in kind.
Next, the right motor oil will ensure the engine runs effectively and at peak performance. Well oiled parts simply work better.
Lastly, engine oil helps reduce the fuel consumption of the engine, and CO2 emissions in kind. This is because it reduces friction, improving efficiency as the engine requires less fuel to operate at the same level of performance.
What is the viscosity grade of a motor oil?
Every motor oil has a viscosity grade, such as 5W30, 10W40 or 20W50. Viscosity grades are used to differentiate different engine oils, representing the lubricant’s fluidity and performance at high and low temperatures. Low viscosity grades tend to be more fluid than those with higher grades, which are thicker and more viscous.
There are two types of viscosity grade: multigrade and monograde:
Multigrade oils are widely used by modern vehicles and can be used in all seasons thanks to their higher temperature range. They are noted as ‘xWy’, with ‘x’ representing the low temperature viscosity grade and ‘y’ the high temperature grade. As with monograde oils, higher numbers seal and protect components, while lower numbers reduce friction, cool and improve engine performance.
Monograde oils are designed for older vehicles and come in two varieties. For summer driving conditions are noted as ‘SAE x’, with ‘x’ being a number between 0 and 60. Monograde oils for wintry conditions are noted as ‘SAE xW’, with ‘x’ being a number between 0 and 25, and W standing for ‘Winter’. Lower numbers offer better lubrication, cooling and fuel-saving power, whereas higher numbers better seal and protect components.
Want to know more? Here are viscosity grades explained.
Choosing the right motor oil
If you’re unsure which oil your car or vehicle needs, it’s important to learn more about them so you can find motor oils perfectly optimised for your needs.
First, learn the differences between synthetic and mineral oils (scroll up to learn more). The choice of the two will largely depend on the age of your vehicle.
Next, you can learn more about the different motor oil standards used across the market. This includes the ACEA standard, which features a letter and a number (B3, for instance). The letter indicating the type of engine, with A noting it’s for petrol engines, B for car diesel engines, C for light engines equipped with particulate filters or catalytic converters, and E for commercial vehicles.
The ACEA number indicates the performance of the oil. There are three categories for petrol and diesel engines (A3/B3, A3/B4, A5/B5), five for vehicles with pollution control devices (C1, C2, C3, C4, C5) and four for commercial vehicles (E4, E6, E7, E9, of which two are for vehicles with a pollution control device: E6 and E9).
Then there’s the SAE standard (scroll up to ‘What is the viscosity grade of a motor oil?’ for more on that) and the API standard, which consists of two letters – the first meaning either S for petrol or C for diesel engines, and the second noting its overall performance, with letters towards the end of the alphabet indicating better performance.
All TotalEnergies’ premium lubricants are featured in Lub Advisor, including:
- QUARTZ – High-performance engine oil with Age Resistance Technology.
- ELF– Excellent-value, OEM-quality car lubricants for the independent motor trade
- RUBIA – Heavy-duty commercial vehicle engine lubricants
- GLACELF and COOLELF – Antifreeze and coolant for vehicles.
- Gearbox and transmission lubricants – Including Fluide, Fluidmatic, Transmission Axle, Transmission Dual and Transmission Gear.
Learn more about TotalEnergies’ ranges of car, motorcycle, van, truck, bus, coach, marine, or agricultural and construction lubricants.