Is Motor Oil The Same As Engine Oil?

You are driving around doing chores and the oil change indicator lights up on your dashboard. Now, you know it’s time for an oil change but the question is which oil needs to be changed? Is it the motor oil or the engine oil? 

We’ve all been in such a situation where these terms have confused us. Is motor oil the same as engine oil? Some engines have both motor oil and engine oil written on them. Other times automobile oil manufacturers label these oils interchangeably.

Hence, distinguishing motor oil from engine oil becomes a hassle for the users. If you’re confused about this too, then you’ve come to the right place. We’ve discussed everything you need to know about motor and engine oils.

So, without further ado, let’s begin with the most asked question that has certainly crossed every driver’s mind at least once.

Is Engine Oil The Same As Motor Oil

Is Engine Oil The Same As Motor Oil?

Motor oil and engine oil both refer to a base oil that is laced with different agents like anti-wear, anti-foaming additives, viscosity improvers, detergents, etc. Both of them are used for lubricating the engine while also keeping it cool, clean, and working at an optimal level.

Moreover, motors and engines both are designed to produce and transfer energy into the machinery. In modern vehicles, motor and engine mean the same thing too.

So, there is essentially no difference between the two. Both engine and motor oil mean the same thing and serve the same objective. thing too.

The confusion arises because some manufacturers put ‘engine oil’ on the label and others put ‘motor oil.

Another reason these two names are used interchangeably may depend on the country you’re living in. In the UK, the term motor oil is more popular and in the US, people mostly call it engine oil.

It doesn’t matter if you call it motor oil or engine oil, people at the automobile workshop will understand what you mean. The only thing that matters is that you choose the grade or brand of oil that is suitable for your engine.

Read on to find out the functions, properties, grades, and more about motor/engine oils.

Significant Properties of Motor/Engine Oil

Whether you call it motor oil or engine oil, both contain some essential properties that are crucial for the overall performance of the engine. Let’s get to know them.

1. Viscosity

Engine oils are primarily used for lubricating the engine parts. Viscosity is the property that allows the oil to flow through all the parts and lubricate them properly.

SAE used this fluid resistance quantifier as the primary basis of engine oil categorization. Generally, you’ll see viscosities from 20-60. In a fixed temperature, a large number denotes a higher viscosity.

Dynamic or multigrade viscosity concentrates on how well the oil flows at lower temperatures. For this classification, viscosity starts from 0 and goes up to 25. The smaller the number, the lower the viscosity in cold weather. In addition, low viscosity indicates the cold engine will start efficiently in winter mornings.

2. Density

This property refers to oils’ heat capacity and how well it cools the engine. Engine oil has lower heat capacity. As a result, it requires less energy for changing the temperature. This is why engine oil can reduce the temperature inside the engine effectively.

3. Thermal Conductivity

Thermal conductivity plays a crucial role in keeping the engine in good health. Engine oils that have higher thermal conductivity can shift temperature effectively out of the engine. If an oil doesn’t possess this feature, it will break down under high temperatures. When this happens, the oil loses its lubricating properties and thermal breakdown occurs.

Types Of Motor/Engine Oil

Before deciding which oil is suitable for your engine, you first need to get to know the different types of engine oils. There are mainly four types of engine oil available in the market.

However, each type of oil possesses different characteristics that are meant for specific engines. Using oil that’s not suitable for your engine can end up damaging it. Hence, it’s extremely important to know what separates the different types of oil.

1. Synthetic Oil

Synthetic oil is artificially derived from petroleum and other chemical compounds. The chemical engineering process makes the molecules of this oil uniform and pure. Moreover, they include many additives that enhance the performance of the oil in both low and high temperatures.

Other impressive benefits of synthetic oil include build-up prevention, sludge clean-up, low viscosity, enhanced fuel economy, and efficient lubricating properties.

However, in some older engines, synthetic oil can cause leaks. This happens because the gaskets or pistons on the older engines are not as tight as new ones. As a result, they were initially sealed by the build-up that formed over time. But synthetic oil doesn’t allow build-up to form and so the oil leak happens.

2. Mineral Oil

Mineral Oil

This is the conventional engine oil everyone is familiar with. Mineral oil is produced from crude oil containing alkanes or cycloalkanes. The oil goes through several refining procedures to remove impurities. Based on how pure the oil is, mineral oil is divided into several qualities.

People love it as it’s really affordable and quite compatible with older engines. However, it loses lubricating property as heat increases in the engine. Hence, it’s not recommended for engines that go through heavy-duty driving. Also, it’ll freeze in colder temperatures rendering your engine useless.

3. Semi-Synthetic Oil

Semi-Synthetic Oil

Do you want to enjoy the advanced benefits of synthetic oil but don’t want to spend too much? Then, go for the semi-synthetic oil. This oil is derived from a blend of synthetic and mineral oils.

It provides outstanding oxidation resistance and low-temperature performance while being available at an affordable price range.

The most impressive feature of semi-synthetic oil has to be its friction modifiers that can prevent oil breakdown even in high temperatures. Moreover, it protects the engine from corrosion and damage guaranteeing a long lifespan.

4. High-Mileage Oil

High-Mileage Oil

If you’re looking for an oil that’ll work in engines that have crossed 70,000 miles or above, this one is for you. High-mileage oils have especially been formulated for engines that have crossed the 75,000 miles mark.

What’s more, you can use it in older engines too. This oil includes advanced additives that minimize oil burn-off and sealing agents that prevent leaks. Besides, high mileage oils contain anti-foaming agents and detergents that keep the engine clean and efficient.

However, this oil can cause mechanical wear in the long run. Moreover, once you begin using it, switching to another oil can cause leaks. So, if you choose this, you are in for a lifetime. Keep in mind that high mileage oils are on the pricier side.

Functions Of Motor/Engine Oil

Engine or motor oil is significant for the engine’s combustion cycle. In addition, this liquid keeps all the delicate parts inside the engine working properly and ensures that you get to enjoy an impressive performance every day of the week.

But how does the engine oil achieve all that? That’s what we have discussed in this section. Dive in to know all the impressive functions of engine oil.

1. Provides Lubrication

The primary function of engine oil is lubricating the metal parts inside the engine. This liquid has high lubricating properties that allow the parts to smoothly glide during operation.

We know that friction causes wear and tear. Engine oil protects the delicate components from premature wear by lubricating them. As a result, the lifespan of your engine gets prolonged. What’s more, maintenance costs get reduced too.

2. Prevents Corrosion

During the combustion process, the oil gets oxidized. This produces corrosive acids as a by-product. These acids increase the disintegration of the engine’s metal parts. minimized of this can be prevented as engine oil can neutralize these harmful acids and protect your engine against oxidation. The oxidation and corrosion inhibitors inside the engine oil make this possible.

However, oil should be replaced frequently as with time it loses the corrosion prevention capabilities.

3. Cleaning 

Another amazing function of engine oil is its cleaning property. This function is crucial for maintaining good engine health. Engine accumulates residues from the combustion process and dirt coming from outside. If left unattended, these deposits can clog the engine and reduce oils functionality.

Engine oil comes with cleaning additives that can clean the build-ups to keep the engine clean and working efficiently.

4. Cooling

Friction between different moving parts increases the temperature inside the engine. Excess heat can lead to oil breaking down and engine failure. But engine oil prevents this by trapping the heat and transferring it outside using the lubrication circuits. 

In addition, the cooling agents inside the oil decrease the overall engine temperature and keep it cool.

5. Sealing

Another wonderful function of engine oil is sealing. There are many pistons and cylinders inside the engine. If not sealed properly, they can leak oil.

Engine oil creates a protective layer over the seals of pistons and cylinders. As a result, the chance of oil leaks gets minimised.

6. Enhancing Performance

Engine oil enhances the overall performance of your engine. When the engine is clean, lubricated, and cool it will obviously function better. Moreover, the oil keeps the parts inside protected from wear and tear. As a result, the engine can provide improved performance continuously.

Motor/Engine Oil Grades

Engine oil or motor oil whatever you prefer to call it are classified using a system designed by the Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE). This system categorizes oil based on its viscosity.

Deciding which oil would be suitable for your engine vastly depends on the temperature you drive on. If you drive in both low and high-temperature climates, go for one that features multigrade viscosity. However, always make sure to check the manufacturers’ recommendations to choose the precise SAE grade for your vehicle.

1. SAE OW-20

This is a synthetic type of oil that has zero viscosity at lower temperatures. The viscosity goes up to 20 when you’re driving at a normal temperature.

It’s great for protecting the engine from oxidation, foaming, and corrosion at normal operating temperatures. Moreover, it won’t thicken in colder temperatures either.

2. SAE OW-30

The 0W-30 is a fully synthetic zero-weight engine oil formulated for colder operating temperatures. Its highest viscosity will be 30 when the engine temperature rises. You’ll receive a quick engine warm-up in cold mornings with this oil.

3. SAE OW-40

At colder temperatures, this oil will act as zero-weight motor oil and give you proper flow. Also, you get to enjoy the lubricating properties of a 40 weight motor oil at normal operating temperature.

4. SAE 5W-30

5w30 is the most common multi-grade oil. You can use it in both low winter as well as heightened summer temperatures. In cold weather, it works as a 5 weight engine oil.

The best thing about this oil is that it is suitable for a wide range of vehicles. What’s more, it can efficiently lubricate and protect the engine in both cold and hot temperatures.

5. SAE 10W-40

This oil is graded 10 for winter viscosity and 40 for higher temperature. It has a higher viscosity than the previously mentioned oils. However, you can not use it for temperatures higher than 40 degrees Fahrenheit. Because in higher temperatures, the oil will get thinner and lose the lubricating property.

You’ll find it mostly in diesel engines. In addition, it can solve leak or oil burning issues in older engines.

6. SAE 15W-40

This grade of oil is mostly used in engines that call for API SNX oil. You’ll be able to enjoy impressive wear, oxidation, and sludging with this oil. Moreover, your engine will start without any lag in cold winter mornings as this oil flows smoothly even in the lowest temperatures.

It is also suitable for farm tractors, off-highway diesel trucks, passenger cars, and gasoline engines.

7. SAE 20W-50

If your car calls for mineral-based lubricant, definitely check out the SAE 20W-50 oil. The main advantage of this oil is the minimized friction levels you receive. As a result, you’ll need less frequent oil changes.

Furthermore, this oil will protect your engine from degradation in hot temperatures.

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Importance Of Changing Engine/ Motor Oil

Engine or motor oil is the life-giving force of every vehicle. The performance and well-being of your car depend on the engine oil. This oil lubricates the different engine parts and keeps them moving smoothly.

However, with time and use, the oil gets filled with combustion by-products and other pollutants. Cleaning additives in the oil can help prolong the lifespan of the engine oil. But when the pollutant build-up goes beyond oil capacity, it loses lubricating properties.

When the oil can not lubricate the metal moving parts anymore, they begin to grind with each other and create excess friction. Friction results in high temperature which can further damage the engine.

What’s more, if you don’t change the oil when needed, the contaminants can cause problems in the engine performance.

Therefore, it is extremely important to change the engine oil frequently. This will not only ensure excellent performance but also increase the lifespan of your engine.

With a full tank, you’ll be able to drive for about 10 to 15 thousand miles. However, if you start noticing symptoms of wear on the engine, go for an immediate oil change.

How To Know That It’s Time For An Oil Change?

Changing engine oil falls under regular car maintenance tasks. If you want to enjoy the optimum performance of your vehicle, you need to change engine oil when required.

But how to know if your vehicle needs an oil change? Don’t worry. Some common signs will let you know when it’s time for a change. Look for these symptoms in your car and change the engine oil immediately if you notice one or more of them.

1. Oil Smell

Have you been getting an acrid oil smell every time you enter the car? Then you might have an oil leak. When oil falls on other engine parts, it creates a burning smell.

Oil leak means your engine oil is running out faster. So, if you smell oil inside the car, immediately go for an oil change and fix the leak.

2. Check Oil Color

Check Oil Color

Another way of knowing it’s time for an oil change is when your engine oil changes its color. When you put in new oil, it’s generally translucent or amber in color. However, with time the oil becomes darker brown.

Pollutants and engine deposits make the oil color change. Therefore, if you see brown murky liquid in the oil tank, it’s time for a change.

3. Engine Noise

Engine Noise

This is the most common way people identify that their car needs an oil change. Hearing knocking or rumbling noise in your car? It means your engine is low in oil.

If your engine is low in oil, the metal parts will grind together more and this results in noise. Letting the metal parts grind causes damage to the engine. Therefore, go for an oil change as soon as you hear engine noises.

4. Check Mileage

Generally, most engines need to have an oil change after running for 3 to 5 miles. This happens to be about six months. However, if you drive around quite frequently and put high mileage before this period, you’ll need to go in for an oil change sooner.

5. Exhaust Smoke

Exhaust Smoke

Another common sign of low engine oil is exhaust smoke. If you see the tailpipe emitting smoke, it means there is a potential leak on the engine oil tank. Take the car immediately to a workshop and get the leak fixed.

6. Oil Indicator

Oil Indicator

Modern cars come with an oil indicator on the dashboard. This indicator will change color or give a signal when your engine oil is low.

People also ask

1. How Much Engine Oil Is Needed To Run The Engine Properly?

Answer: You should use the engine oil only during the first 2-3 minutes of starting the engine. Therefore, about one liter of engine oil will be enough to properly lubricate your car.

2. Can Engine Oil Be Topped Up In A Hot Engine?

Answer: Yes, engine oil can be topped up with new oil while the engine is hot. Just make sure to check the oil levels after the engine has cooled. Also, wait for a few minutes after turning off the engine and do not fill above the max line.

3. Could Engine Oils Be Mixed?

Answer: No, you shouldn’t mix motor oils from different brands together. Even if they have the same viscosity, you should only use the oil recommended by the manufacturer of your car. Different brands use different additives in their engine oil, mixing them can cause damage to your engine.

4. What Will Happen If The Car Runs Out Of Engine Oil?

Answer: Your engine will fail if it runs out of oil. The metal parts inside the engine stay lubricated by the engine oil. When the oil runs out, these parts grind into each other, produce excess friction & temperature and ultimately seize up. As a result, the engine dies.

5. Do Engine Oils Have Expiry Date?

Answer: Yes, engine oils come with about 5 years of shelf life. However, synthetic oils can last up to 7 years. If you don’t see an expiry date on the oil bottle, make sure to use it up by 2 to 5 years from the manufacturing date.

Wrapping It Up

Now you know the answer to the most asked question “Is motor oil the same as engine oil?” After looking at the functions and properties of the oil that runs the engine, it is clear that engine and motor oil are the same things. Well, it doesn’t matter if you call it motor oil or engine oil, both are indispensable components for maintaining optimum performance and extending the lifespan of the car engine.

The only thing you need to be cautious about is using the right kind of motor oil. Therefore, check your manufacturer’s guide or contact the automobile workshops to identify the oil your car requires.

Lastly, keep an eye out for oil change symptoms and perform oil change when required. This will allow you to enjoy an excellent and hassle-free engine performance for a long time.

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