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Autumn engine care: How to choose the right oil for cold weather

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As autumn leaves begin to fall and the temperature starts to drop, car owners across the UK face the task of preparing their vehicles for the colder months ahead. One vital yet often overlooked aspect of seasonal car maintenance is choosing the right engine oil. You might be wondering, "Does it really matter?" The answer is a resounding yes. The correct engine oil can significantly impact your engine's performance and longevity, especially during cold weather.

Find out how to look after your engine this autumn
Find out how to look after your engine this autumn

The importance of engine oil

Engine oil serves multiple functions: it lubricates moving parts, reduces friction, and helps in dissipating heat. During colder months, the viscosity or "thickness" of the oil changes, affecting how well it performs these roles. Selecting the wrong type of oil could lead to increased engine wear, poor fuel efficiency, and even engine failure.

Understanding that your car oil needs to be changed seasonally can be a critical part of car maintenance. If you've been using a thicker oil in the summer, you may find that it doesn't provide adequate lubrication in colder temperatures, as it thickens even more. On the other hand, oil that's too thin will offer less protection, especially as the engine heats up.

Viscosity ratings: What do they mean?

When looking for engine oil, you'll encounter numbers like 5W-30, 10W-40, or 0W-20. These are viscosity ratings. The first number (before the 'W' which stands for 'Winter') indicates how the oil performs at low temperatures. The lower this number, the better the oil will perform in the cold. The second number tells you about its high-temperature performance. In colder climates or during autumn and winter, oils with a lower first number like '0W' or '5W' are preferable.

Synthetic vs conventional oils

Synthetic oils are generally more effective at resisting temperature changes, making them a good choice for both high and low temperatures. Conventional oils, derived from crude, might not offer the same level of performance, especially in extreme conditions.

Make sure your car has the right type of oil
Make sure your car has the right type of oil

If your vehicle's manufacturer recommends synthetic oil, it's wise to follow this advice, particularly for modern engines which often have tighter tolerances and may require the superior lubrication that synthetic oils provide.

Oil filters: An essential component

While we're on the subject of engine oil, it's important not to overlook the role of the oil filter. Its job is to remove contaminants that can wear down engine parts. For optimum performance, consider changing the oil filter whenever you change the oil. Filters come in various types, including standard, premium, and high-efficiency, each offering different levels of filtration and longevity.

Expert recommendations

According to the Royal Automobile Club (RAC), you should consult your vehicle's manual for manufacturer guidelines on oil type and change intervals. However, if you frequently drive in extreme conditions—either hot or cold—more frequent oil changes could be beneficial.


Preparing your car for the fall involves more than just checking the antifreeze and tyre pressure. Paying attention to the type of engine oil you use can make a considerable difference in your vehicle's performance and could save you from future mechanical issues. Remember, oil is the lifeblood of your engine; choosing the right one for the upcoming season is crucial.

So, before winter's chill sets in, consider changing to an oil and filter that will offer the best protection for your engine. It's a small step, but one that could have significant benefits for your vehicle's health and your peace of mind.

More information on the website autodoc.co.uk

By taking a little time to understand your engine’s needs, you'll be well on your way to ensuring that your car runs smoothly, no matter how cold it gets outside.

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