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The difference between car oils

Car Oil Image

As a driver, there are a number of things that you really should know about your vehicle. This is easier for car fanatics to come to terms with than it is for those who simply use their car for getting to work and the weekly shop, but regardless of your feelings for your car, you should know whether your vehicle takes petrol or diesel, where the spare tyre is and what the various warning lights mean.

In addition, you should know what type of oil is best for your vehicle to keep it running smoothly and performing to its best.

Different oils?

Yes, believe it or not, there are different types of car oil and you should know which type of oil you’re looking for before you need to buy a bottle at Halfords.

What are the differences?

Oil is an essential part of running a car: it prevents the metals in your engine from rubbing together, disperses heat to prevent overheating, battles against oxidation and keeps acids to a minimum.

The two main differences are synthetic oil and mineral oil. However, combination oils have become more and more common.

You’ll notice on the shop shelves that synthetic oil is generally more expensive and that’s because a more expensive process, using various chemicals, is used to produce it. If you’re shopping for an oil that will enhance the performance of your car, then synthetic oil is for you.

Mineral base oil is crude oil based and is a great oil for lubrication, removing unwanted waxes or other ‘foreign’ materials.


Viscosity is one of those ‘car words’ that you should understand, although it’s more of an oil word than a car word. Viscosity is a figure you’ll see on any oil bottle, and is a measure of its thickness. An oil with a higher viscosity will flow less freely. Viscosity is important as it needs to match the different temperatures in your engine.

Your vehicle owner’s manual will tell you all about your car’s engine, and will go into some detail on which oil is best for best performance. Ultimately, the best thing to do is to stick to oils with the viscosity that is recommended in the owner’s manual.


Viscosity and oil is pretty complicated, but you don’t need to know about it in too much detail. If you want to, though, there are some great resources online (though even they’re fairly complex).

Shell have devised a useful tool for finding which oil you need if you can’t locate it in the manual – though of course you don’t have to buy the Shell branded oil.

Keep it topped up

In the most simple terms, oil is important to keep your engine performing well and to keep your vehicle moving and on the road. As you’ll have learnt from your driving test, it’s important to check under the bonnet of your vehicle regularly and to check oil levels. Keep it topped up with oil (and preferably – though not essentially – the oil with the exact recommended viscosity) and you shouldn’t go far wrong, touch wood.

Finally, for a few extra pounds you can also buy performance additives, which will help keep your engine clean and preserve it for as long as possible.

Car Care Tips  19/09/2013 11:00:01

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