Motor oil represents the life blood of a vehicle, lubricating vital engine parts. This helps reduce heat buildup in the engine because of the reduction in friction between parts. Some vehicles have an oil cooler or other engine modifications designed to help further reduce heat.
Changing the motor oil in a vehicle according to the maintenance schedule greatly reduces the wear and tear of the engine, as oil tends to lose its viscosity (or thickness), over time, reducing its overall effectiveness as a lubricant. Motor oil also helps clean deposits and other contaminants from engine parts.
How engine size affects the amount of oil used
Most engines require anywhere between 5 to 8 quarts of oil, depending on the engine size. The smaller the engine, the less oil required to fill the volume of the engine.
A 4-cylinder engine usually requires around 5 quarts of oil.
A 6-cylinder engine uses roughly 6 quarts.
An 8-cylinder engine uses anywhere between 5 to 8 quarts, depending on the size of the engine.
This amount also varies depending on whether you have the mechanic change out the oil filter when performing an oil change.
Some resources available to help vehicle owners find the oil capacity of an engine include the owner's manual, where it is usually listed under the Lubrication System in the Vehicle Specifications section. Another area to check includes the manufacturer's Website. Once on the Website, look for a section of the site specifically for vehicle owners, usually found at the bottom of the page. Vehicle owners can also search other online resources, such as Fluid Capacity, which lists the oil and fluid capacities of a number of different makes and models of cars and trucks.
Choosing the right type of motor oil
When choosing an oil for your vehicle, keep a few things in mind. The first is the viscosity level of the oil — represented by a number followed by W and then followed by another number. The first number represents the flow of the oil at 0 degrees Fahrenheit, the W stands for winter, and the last two numbers after the W stand for the viscosity level of the oil when measured at 212 degrees Fahrenheit. The lower the number before the W, the easier the engine turns over in cold weather. Read the vehicle owner's manual to find the best range of viscosity levels of oil to use.
Vehicle owners also need to choose between using a synthetic or conventional motor oil in the vehicle. Conventional oils work fine when owners get their oil changed frequently. Synthetic oils come in handy, because these oils contain special additives designed to help remove deposits, allowing the oil to flow better at lower temperatures and hold up better, viscosity wise, at higher temperatures. Another option for vehicle owners includes using a high-mileage oil for vehicles over 75,000 miles. High-mileage oils contain conditioners to help expand the internal engine seals and increase the flexibility of such seals.
Symptoms that an engine needs an oil change
Make sure to look out for the following symptoms, which could indicated it’s time for an oil change:
When the oil light comes on, it indicates that the oil level is too low. Either ask a mechanic to change the oil or add enough oil to bring it up to full.
A low reading on the oil pressure gauge, for vehicles equipped with one, usually indicates a low oil level. Have a mechanic fill the oil to the correct level or change the oil if necessary.
As the oil level gets low, an engine begins to run roughly. This is especially true of the lifters, which start sticking as deposits build up. Ask a mechanic to change the oil, which should help remove these deposits and alleviate the problem.
This article originally appeared on YourMechanic.com as How Much Oil Does My Car Take? and was authored by Cheryl Knight.