The Difference between 5w20 and 5w30 Engine Oils

Every vehicle with an internal combustion engine requires oil for lubrication and cooling purposes. All those metal components within the car engine move very quickly, and many of them rub against each other and create friction. The more friction created, the more heat that is generated. Engine oil keeps these components moving smoothly while reducing heat at the same time. Otherwise, you’d have an overheated engine.

This basic concept is understandable by most vehicle owners. However, a lot of people get confused about which type of engine oil they are supposed to use. The owner’s manual of a vehicle may recommend a certain type of engine oil, such as 5W20 or 5W30, but it doesn’t take into account the natural climate of the region in which you live and several other factors.

Because of this, you must figure out which type of engine oil is the best for your vehicle in the environment it is in normally. To help you figure this out, let’s explore the differences between 5W20 engine oil and 5W30 engine oil.


What makes each oil type different is their level of thickness and viscosity. The 5W20 motor oil has less viscosity than the 5W30 motor oil. By adding 5W20 oil into your engine, its thinner nature means that less friction will be created. In other words, it doesn’t put as much stress on the crankshaft, pistons, valve train, and other engine parts. You may experience a boost in your fuel economy too.

Another great thing about its thinner viscosity is how quickly it gets transported from the oil pan to the engine. The oil pump can easily transport the 5W20 oil from the pan to the engine without much time wasted. As a result, the engine receives its lubrication and cooling needs a lot faster. This comes in handy if you live in an area with a lot of cold weather.


If you live in a location with a hotter climate, then you might be better off with 5W30 motor oil instead. This type of oil has a higher viscosity, which means it is thicker in nature. It is important to have thicker oil in a hot environment because the oil won’t break down as easily. If you were to use 5W20 in a hotter environment, the oil wouldn’t last very long. 5W30 can resist the heat of the friction in your engine and from the outside environment.

Most car manufacturers recommend 5W30 because it offers better engine protection compared to the 5W20. Not only that, but 5W30 is friendlier to a greater number of engine types. It could even last for a while in cooler temperatures, in case you drive cross country and visit different climate regions. This is a luxury you would not have with 5W20 because it’ll burn out quickly in hotter temperature areas.

Read also:

The Final Decision

If you need to go with a safe choice, then 5W30 motor oil is preferred and recommended. A number of car manufacturers would tell you the same thing. The only reason to use 5W20 is if you know you’re going to stay within a hot location without driving out of state and going someplace colder. That way, you can take advantage of the added boost you’ll get to your fuel economy. Then you can save money by not having to go to the gas station as frequently.

If for some reason you ever decide to drive out of state and you have 5W20 in your engine, then you can simply perform an oil change to replace the 5W20 with the 5W30. This is one of the few car maintenance tasks that laypeople can do without a mechanic’s help.

Leave a Reply