Finding the correct motor oil is a simple task, if you are armed with the correct information. But there are serious pitfalls that you must avoid.

Shopping for motor oil should be a straight forward task, but we see mistakes made all the time and often by people who should know better. We find that even some experienced mechanics will occasionally employ “guesswork” and choose a motor oil that is incorrect for their application. Choosing a premium brand or upgrading to synthetic oil will not gloss over a misapplication.

Examples of mistakes include:

  • Putting gasoline engine oil in diesel engines.
  • Not using the prescribed viscosity or grade.
  • Choosing the wrong motor oil specification for the engine.

While these missteps may not cause instant engine failure, they can lead to problems over time. If you follow the steps below, you will never make a mistake when shopping for a motor oil. HINT: The first 2 steps are the most important. Steps 1 and 2 will get you in the ballpark, while the remaining steps will help you refine your choices.

Step 1. Choose The Correct Engine Oil Specification

This is the most important aspect of choosing an engine oil. Your owners manual will offer the correct industry specification for your car such as those from the API (American Petroleum Institute) and this spec will be clearly marked on the motor oil label. This could be API “SN” for passenger cars or API “CJ-4” for diesel trucks. European cars often have manufacturer specifications such as Volkswagen “502 00” or BMW “LL-04”.

For older vehicles, the engine oil specification may be obsolete and replaced by a newer specification. If your vehicle is a little older, perform an internet search to see if the motor oil spec suggested for your vehicle has been superseded by a newer spec. Often times, newer oil specs are “backward compatible” with older specifications.

Step 2. Choose The Correct Grade

The “grade” refers to the viscosity suggested by the engine manufacturer such as “5W-30” or “0W-20”. Occasionally consumers will choose a viscosity that they feel is best with reasoning such as, “dad always used 10W-30” or “my cars have always used 5W-30, so why go with 5W-20 in my new car?” There is never a good reason to try overruling the engine oil grade suggested by the manufacturer. Just go with the grade listed in your manual and you will not go wrong (we promise).

Step 3. Should I Buy A Cheap Or Expensive Engine Oil?

Like everything else, you get what you pay for when it comes to buying motor oil. Just because two oils meet the same industry specification, doesn’t mean that they are equal in quality. The industry specs tend to be a minimal standard. There are many components that make up a motor oil and some of these additives tend to be very expensive. Motor oil makers can scrimp on some of these components to increase profit margins or lower the price. Or they can go all out and make an expensive, high-end product.

If you value the engine you are servicing, avoid the really cheap route. Many will justify buying cheaper oil by telling themselves that they’ll just change it more often. What this logic may bring is a mediocre performing motor oil throughout its service life. As motor oil is inexpensive relative to overall car maintenance costs, going the el cheapo route is not sound logic.

Step 4. Should I Choose Synthetic, Semi-Synthetic Or Conventional Motor Oil?

If you are confused about these choices, don’t feel bad. Motor oil categorization and labeling is not regulated, so some products that are listed as “synthetic” or “semi-synthetic” may not be any better than a conventional motor oil. We touched on the murky world of motor oil classifications in a recent post.

In most cases, don’t even bother with “semi-synthetic” or “synthetic-blend” motor oils. These so-called blends can contain as little as 10% synthetic oil and this tiny portion may not even be what would be considered a true synthetic oil by purists. Synthetic-blends are generally an excuse to have an inflated price tag and are unlikely to offer much in the way of real-world benefits.

As for full synthetics, the quality of these can vary wildly between brands. Less expensive synthetic oils are generally no better equipped than conventional oils. If you are going to spring for synthetic oil, stick with a reputable brand. The market is littered with over-priced synthetic motor oils that don’t even pretend to offer anything special.

As we are purveyors of ultra-high-quality synthetic motor oils, we are biased to be sure. But in our opinion, there is little reason to use conventional oil in this day and age. Its limitations when dealing with climate extremes, friction reduction and engine deposits pale in comparison to quality synthetic oils. Even for moderate everyday driving, a good synthetic oil offers vastly better engine protection.

Step 5. What About Aftermarket Oil Additives?

They can be called oil additive, oil stabilizer, oil treatment, oil supplement or tune-up-in-a-can and the vast majority are a complete sham. Most do nothing and some can actually be harmful. Most of these products exist to convince you that you are doing some good for your engine, but their real function is to separate you from your money.

Some motorists buy the cheapest motor oil they can find and then add these expensive products thinking that they have created a winning formula for their engine. If you have a good functioning engine, avoid aftermarket oil additives and save your money. Simply choose a good quality motor oil and that is all you will ever need.

The one product that can be effective to add to motor oil is engine flush products. Engine flushes are generally added just before the oil is changed and can be effective at cleaning out harmful engine deposits. Regularly serviced engines would rarely need an engine flush.

AMSOIL Synthetic SAE 80 Dirt Bike Transmission FluidAMSOIL has released a brand new synthetic transmission oil for dirt bikes and motocross motorcycles for the 2016 season. The AMSOIL Synthetic SAE 80 Dirt Bike Transmission Fluid is a high-quality gear oil for 2-stroke transmissions and also for 4-stroke bikes that have a transmission fluid that is separate from the engine oil.

Why Choose The SAE 80 Viscosity?

When choosing the best balance of friction reduction versus wear protection, SAE 80 seems to hit the sweet spot. Prior to the release of this Dirt Bike Transmission Fluid, a common recommendation by AMSOIL was their Synthetic 10W-40 Dirt Bike Oil. This product is an outstanding 4-stroke engine oil and also an elite transmission fluid.

Many assume that 10W-40 Motorcycle Oil is thinner than SAE 80 transmission oil, but the opposite is true. Gear oil and motorcycle engine oil use a different grading scale to prevent confusion and misapplication. The viscosity of AMSOIL Synthetic SAE 80 Dirt Bike Transmission Fluid is 10.3 centistokes at 100°C while AMSOIL Synthetic 10W-40 Dirt Bike Oil is 14.2 centistokes at 100°C. When comparing the two products on a viscosity chart, the 10W-40 Dirt Bike Engine Oil’s viscosity is actually closer to an SAE 90 gear oil.

What Kind Of Dirt Bikes Would Use This Transmission Oil?

Four-stroke dirt bikes and motocross bikes that separate the engine oil from the transmission fluid (such as the Honda CRF 250/450 series) as well as all 2-stroke dirt bike/MX transmissions.

Why Do Honda CRF 250 & 450 4-Stroke Dirt Bikes Use Separate Transmission Oil?

Most 4-stroke dirt bikes employed a common sump, meaning that one oil (usually a 10W-30 or 10W-40) is used for both the engine and transmission. This has always been the case for most motorcycle brands except for one. Honda CRF 250cc and 450cc dirt bikes and motocross race bikes separate the engine oil from the transmission oil and this makes perfect sense when you think about it. The engine oil does not have clutch plate material and metal filings from gears in circulation. The gear mashing in transmissions also tends to shear-down the oil’s viscosity. On the transmission side, the oil would not be contaminated with fuel dilution and combustion by-products. The transmission oil would also not be exposed to the high heat of the engine. Therefore each oil can do its job without being saddled with the baggage of the other compartment.

The advantage of a single oil sump in four-strokes is that they have the simplicity and convenience of changing just one oil type. They also have a large oil capacity on reserve, rather than two smaller oil sumps.

Best Oil Combination For 2-Stroke Dirt Bikes

Two-Stroke Dirt Bike/MX Engines- Use AMSOIL Dominator Synthetic 2-Stroke Racing Oil at 50:1. Some riders mix at 40:1 with excellent results. Dominator withstands extreme heat, big horsepower and prolonged high RPM. If you work your engine to the limit, you will be very pleased with Dominator.

Two-Stroke Dirt Bike/MX Transmissions Use new AMSOIL Synthetic SAE 80 Dirt Bike Transmission Fluid.

Best Oil Combination for Honda CRF 250 and 450 Series

Honda CRF 250 and 450 4-Stroke Engines- AMSOIL Synthetic 10W-40 Dirt Bike Oil combats heat and wear, while lowering friction and maximizing power output. This is the exact formula used by the Geico-Honda pro racing team and it will do a great job for you.

Honda CRF 250 and 450 Transmissions- Use new AMSOIL Synthetic SAE 80 Dirt Bike Transmission Fluid.

We’ve got these professional-grade AMSOIL products that are race-proven to provide maximum component life and optimum performance. Contact us for a wholesale price list using the form on this page.

AMSOIL 5W-50 Synthetic Mustang OilA reader asks: Do you sell an engine oil for a 2016 Mustang Shelby GT350? AMSOIL Signature Series 5W-50 is listed as a warranty approved oil for this car, but the AMSOIL application guide says “No AMSOIL Product Recommendation”. Can you please clear this up?

Our answer: AMSOIL Signature Series Synthetic 5W-50 Motor Oil is indeed suitable for the spectacular new Shelby Mustang GT350. The AMSOIL application guide simply has not been updated for many 2016 models as of yet. AMSOIL has assured us that “AMR” Signature Series 5W-50 is the correct motor oil for the Shelby GT350. Your car calls for a 5W-50 synthetic motor oil meeting the Ford WSS-M2C931-B motor oil specification. AMSOIL developed the Signature Series Synthetic 5W-50 to meet both the Ford WSS-M2C931-B and WSS-M2C931-C specifications. Signature Series Synthetic 5W-50 Motor Oil is a fantastic upgrade over the factory-fill oil which is Motorcraft SAE 5W-50 Full Synthetic Motor Oil.

What is The Difference Between Ford WSS-M2C931-B and WSS-M2C931-C?

These are motor oil specifications from Ford Motor Company. WSS-M2C931-C is the newer spec that supersedes WSS-M2C931-B. This means that a WSS-M2C931-C motor oil can be used in any application where WSS-M2C931-B is suggested.

Do We Sell An Oil Filter For the Mustang Shelby GT350?

We not have an oil filter for the 5.2L “Voodoo” engine just yet. Ford’s Motorcraft FL-2069-ST oil filter will have to do for now until the aftermarket develops replacement units.

For pricing and information on AMSOIL Signature Series Synthetic 5W-50 Motor Oil for high-output Mustang engines, contact us using the form on this page or call us at 1-800-748-5781.

AMSOIL Signature Series 100% Synthetic 5W-30 Motor OilA reader asks: AMSOIL recommends Signature Series 5W-30 for my 2012 Ford EcoBoost F-150, but I see online that some forced induction F-150 owners go with AMSOIL Series 3000 5W-30 Heavy Duty Diesel Oil. What is the difference between these oils? Is the Series 3000 5W-30 Diesel Oil not suitable for my truck or is the Signature Series 5W-30 a better product?

Our answer: Your EcoBoost F-150 requires an engine oil bearing the API SN and Ford WSS-M2C946-A specifications, so between those two oils, you must go with the Signature Series 5W-30. Aside from covering numerous diesel engine oil industry specifications, Series 3000 5W-30 Heavy Duty Diesel Oil is designed for the “API SL” spec for passenger car/light truck service. The API SL spec dates back to 2001. Series 3000 Heavy Duty Diesel 5W-30 is a superb product, but it will have higher additive levels of items such as zinc and phosphorus which may not be compatible with the complex emissions components on your truck.

The modernized Signature Series Synthetic 5W-30 uses a different additive balance than the Series 3000 5W-30. Is the Signature Series 5W-30 a better motor oil than Series 3000 5W-30? Both are world-class products and would be considered an elite choice for any appropriate application. The newer Signature Series 5W-30 simply utilizes a newer and more sophisticated approach to motor oil formulation. By the way, because your engine is turbo-charged, stick with the “Severe Service” drain interval as is outlined on the bottle. This would be a maximum of one year or 15,000 miles (24,000 km).

Note that we also offer two other motor oils which are suitable for the F-150 EcoBoost engine. The AMSOIL OE 5W-30 Synthetic Motor Oil and the AMSOIL XL 5W-30 Synthetic Motor Oil are great alternates to the high-end Signature Series product.

For more information, contact us using the form on this page or call us at 1-800-748-5781.

Update # 1 August 2016: Ram 1500 and Grand Cherokee EcoDiesel Now Require 5W-40

Update # 2 August 2016: We now offer an aftermarket oil filter for the EcoDiesel engine

This new formula meets the requirements for Dodge EcoDiesel, GM dexos2 and many of today’s most popular European motor oil standards. Also, is this the cheapest EcoDiesel motor oil? 

AMSOIL European Formula 5W-30 Improved ESP Synthetic Motor OilBack in early December, we announced the release of a new synthetic 5W-30 engine oil for the Dodge EcoDiesel engine. At the time, the reformulated AMSOIL European Formula 5W-30 Improved ESP Synthetic Motor Oil was only available in the new US gallon jug format. This formula is now also available in the US quart (946ml) bottle format as well.

This oil was formulated to cover the Chrysler MS-11106 and ACEA C-3 specifications. This covers the Dodge Ram 1500 and Jeep Grand Cherokee models equipped with the 3.0L EcoDiesel engine. Another new specification covered by this engine oil is the GM dexos2 diesel spec. The dexos2 motor oil specification is for the 2016 GM Canyon and Chevy Colorado equipped with the 2.8L Turbo Diesel Duramax engine as well as the Chevrolet Cruze with the 2.0L Turbo Diesel “LUZ” engine.

This Low-SAPS (sulfated ash, phosphorus and sulphur) engine oil also covers the following worldwide specifications.

  • VW 504.00/507.00
  • Mercedes-Benz 229.51
  • BMW LL-04
  • Porsche C30

EcoDiesel Engine Oil- Cheaper is Better?

We’ve had a few EcoDiesel owners tell that they’re pleased that AMSOIL has created a new engine oil suitable for their new Ram 1500. But then they express disappointment when they learn that this AMSOIL 5W-30 is not the cheapest oil available. Frankly we’re confused by this logic. How is it that some Ram 1500 owners spring big dollars for the EcoDiesel engine option. But then shop for the cheapest engine oil possible? As we’ve stated before, AMSOIL engine oils are not designed to be the cheapest on the market and never will be. AMSOIL endeavors to make the best engine oils in the world. Our customer feedback consistently tells us that they hit this target. The prices that AMSOIL sets for their motor oils are a relative bargain in our opinion. Yes products like Pennzoil Ultra Euro L 5W-30 are going to be cheaper, but we don’t view Pennzoil in the same league as AMSOIL.

EcoDiesel Oil Filter?

Speaking of the Dodge Ram EcoDiesel, as we covered in an article late last year, oil changes for these engines are insanely expensive. One of the biggest contributing factors to this issue is the lack of aftermarket engine oil filters in the marketplace. We’ve heard reports of Dodge dealers charging between $60 and $70 for a plain paper Dodge/Mopar cartridge oil filter. We hope to have a reasonably priced aftermarket oil filter available for the Ram EcoDiesel engine sometime in the next few months.

A reader asks: Will AMSOIL increase or decrease Canadian prices in the immediate future? The Canadian dollar is low, but crude oil is low as well. I know Amsoil is synthetic, but just wanted to see if I should buy now or wait for lower prices. What are your thoughts?

Our answer: That is a great question and frankly we wish we had a definitive answer. The last Canadian price increase due to our weak currency was in July, 2015 (about 12%). One would think that AMSOIL is seeing cost relief due to depressed crude prices. What they are telling us is that the raw materials in their synthetic motor oil products are highly processed and aren’t affected by lower crude to any substantial degree.

That being said, with $30 crude they should be seeing somewhat lower raw material costs, production costs, transportation costs, packaging material costs, etc. But then we thought that the drop in crude would have lowered all of these costs back in July and AMSOIL prices did increase. A big move in the Canadian dollar has a massive effect on the viability of AMSOIL’s business up here and seems to outweigh any cost reductions from lower crude prices.

Why Does AMSOIL Have To Raise Prices When the Canadian Dollar Drops?

AMSOIL is a US-based company, so all of their operating costs are measured in US dollars. When the Canadian dollar drops versus the US dollar, less Canadian dollars come back to them to cover these costs.

But we remember the financial crisis of 2008 where the Canadian dollar was battered and AMSOIL was forced to raise prices. After the Loonie recovered, AMSOIL did roll back Canadian prices. So they do have a record of providing price relief for Canadian customers when a currency situation stabilizes. As there are many variables at play, there’s never a guarantee that prices will be lowered in the future, but it has happened before.

If we were forced to make a bet right now, we would say that the odds of prices increasing are greater than prices decreasing anytime soon. We don’t pretend to know the future, but when we know that a low Canadian dollar has trumped lower crude prices in the past.

AMSOIL is very tight-lipped about the direction of prices, but they do give us a few weeks notice before making price changes. Let’s hope that the Canadian dollar finds some footing so that AMSOIL prices in Canada can remain stable.