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What Type of Oil and Oil Filter Does My Car Need?

Life plagues us with so many choices these days: paper or plastic? Tea or coffee? Italian or burgers? We have similar options when it comes to our vehicle’s oil. Conventional or synthetic? High-quality oil filter or basic?

While many vehicles may require full synthetic oils, some cars that use conventional oil can upgrade to full synthetic oil. The same goes for oil filters. Oil filter manufacturers make various grades of oil filters from good to better to best.

Oil is an essential component in your vehicle, and the oil filter is just as important. Unfiltered oil collects particles and debris that are harmful to the engine, including oil pump components, pistons, and the surfaces of bearings.

An oil filter also helps maintain oil pressure in the engine when it transitions from inactive to starting up. Superior-quality filters have improved features, such as pressure relief valves and filtering elements that trap smaller particles.

Get to Know Your Car Oil Filter

The oil filter has two jobs: filter waste and ensure oil stays within the engine.

Oil that is clean and free of debris keeps your engine cleaner for a more extended period, giving your engine better overall performance. The oil filter removes waste such as dirt, debris, and bits of metal from the oil to help prevent damages to the engine. It also prevents backflow and dispenses unfiltered oil to warm the engine in cooler weather.

Types of Oil Filters

There are many types of oil filters on the market. How do you choose the best one for your vehicle?
Your selection depends on your vehicle’s engine type and your manufacturer’s recommendation. These are the four main types of oil filters:

new motor oil filter next to old motor oil filter

    • Primary Oil Filter: Ideal for colder conditions, the primary oil filter, also known as a full-flow oil filter, is used by many vehicle manufacturers. This filter removes impurities from all the motor oil used by the engine.
    • Secondary Oil Filter: The secondary filter supports the primary oil filter. It cleans only about 10 percent of the engine oil used by the motor, catching any contaminants that the full-flow oil filter may have missed. Having both primary and secondary oil filters offer better protection for your engine and may extend its life.
    • Spin-On Filter: This full-flow filter possesses a steel canister and a paper component. It is typically easier to install.
    • Spinner Oil Filter: The spinner oil filter is a secondary-type filter that utilizes centrifugal force to catch contaminants within the oil. Because of their incredible power, they’re much more efficient in removing even the smallest particles from the engine’s oil.

Primary Car Oil Types & Which To Use

Conventional oil

This petroleum-based crude oil comes from underground and is less expensive. However, conventional oil is more reactive to changes in temperature by thickening in colder weather and thinning when hot.

They are also more likely to produce sludge. This tar-like deposit builds up in the engine due to thickening from oil, carbons, and contaminants.

technician hands holding an engine oil dipstick

Synthetic Blend Oil

A combination of conventional and synthetic oils that offer better performance, lubrication, and protection of internal parts. Synthetic blend oils resist heat and do not break down as easily as conventional oils.

While synthetic blend oils cost a bit more than conventional oil, they are less expensive than full synthetic oils.

Full Synthetic Oil

This high-quality oil originates from crude oil purified and broken down into basic molecules, with enhanced additives synthetically produced. Its formulation meets the demands of today’s higher-performance engines.

Compared to conventional oils, full synthetics are more costly. However, the cost is justified because of its improved lubricating properties, efficient removal of impurities, and longer-lasting quality.

Full synthetic oils help the engine consume less oil, are impervious to temperature changes, and do not break down easily because of their heat resistance. They also possess fewer impurities which contribute to the resistance of buildup.

What Type of Oil Does Your Car Need?

Combustible engines have improved in recent years, but they’ve also become increasingly more complicated. Manufacturers have tightened leniency on compression ratios and moving parts.

Synthetic oil’s formulation is a more chemically reliable element best suited for the changes manufacturers have implemented. Synthetic oils do not produce sludge at the same rate as conventional oil. They also evaporate more slowly, don’t thicken in colder weather, and have an increased life cycle in comparison.

On older models, using conventional oil is suitable and, in some cases, recommended. Older engines can’t handle the chemical makeup and thin consistency of synthetic oils.

Find the Right Car Oil Type For Your Vehicle

To determine which oil is best for your vehicle, research oil manufacturer guides, refer to your owner’s manual or visit a Sun Auto Service near you. Our knowledgeable Service Advisors and ASE-Certified Technicians will help guide you to ensure your engine utilizes the correct oil.