Ever have trouble pouring molasses out of a cold bottle? Certain fluids tend to become thicker and harder to move the colder they get. If you're busy getting your car's maintenance done before the upcoming winter, you might be wondering if the same could happen to its engine oil during the winter months.

How Oil Weights Affect Engine Performance

There was once a time when it made sense to switch oil formulations during the winter months. Before the advent of modern oils, conventional oils were typically formulated with a single viscosity, making them less ideal for use as the seasons changed and weather conditions shifted.

Heavier engine oils like 20w50 were once ideal for summertime operation since these thick oils could withstand extreme heat without breaking down. However, these oils often proved too thick for the oil pump to properly circulate under cold temperatures. This could lead to oil starvation as the engine cranks over on startup, causing severe damage to its internal components.  

For this reason, mechanics often switched to lighter weight oils like 10w40 during the winter months. These lower viscosity oils offered less drag and lower oil temperatures during startup, resulting in less wear and tear on the engine.

Multiviscosity Oils Make Seasonal Changes Unnecessary

Nearly all oils used in today's modern cars are formulated with multiple viscosities in mind, making them more adaptable under a broad range of engine operating conditions. This also makes it unnecessary to switch engine oil weights according to seasonal driving conditions.

Multiviscosity oils make use of specially formulated additives that adjust the oil's viscosity based on its temperature. When cold, multiviscosity oils remain thin for better flow during startup and under cold engine temperatures. As engine and oil temperatures increased, the additives within the oil would progressively thicken to provide better protection.

The advent of multiviscosity oils, along with more precise engine manufacturing techniques, have made it possible for auto makers to use lighter oils in their vehicles. These include 5w and even 0w synthetic oils that offer ample protection during the summer and winter.

Follow Your Manufacturer's Advice

When it comes to changing your oil, it's best to follow your manufacturer's advice as indicated in your vehicle owner's manual. Most manufacturers recommend a single oil weight for year-round protection, but also include a recommended oil viscosity range that covers severe winter conditions. Straying too far from your manufacturer's recommended oil weight could have a negative impact on your vehicle's performance, fuel efficiency and overall longevity. 

Contact a company like Powers Transmission Centers to learn more.