Although They May Look Similar – Motor Oils Are Not All The Same

Although They May Look Similar - Motor Oils Are Not All The Same

PQIA Educational Series - Volume 1 Issue 1 July 31, 2019

It’s not unusual to hear someone say, “Motor oil is motor oil, they are all the same.” Although this is far from true, it’s not hard to understand why some might think so.

As with many consumer products, the differences between products are often determined by using the five senses. In the case of food, for example, a consumer relies on sight to make a buying decision by looking at the price and the package to either actually see the product or a picture of it. Some go further to read the expiration date, ingredients and nutritional facts on the package to determine if the product is good for them. And when it comes time to eat, a consumer’s sense of taste, smell, and touch has the final say in what they consider good, better, best, and even bad.

But the ability to use one’s senses to do the same with motor oil is limited primarily to the sense of sight. And unfortunately, one can be betrayed by that sense if they are unfamiliar with, or fail to read the specifications and certification marks on the product labels, and instead, rely solely on price and packaging to make a buying decision. Since most motor oil bottles and the oil in them look similar, it’s not hard to understand why some might think “motor oil is motor oil, they are all the same.” But they are not and packaging and price can be deceiving.

Although most motor oil on store shelves (including major brands and private label) meet current specifications, the Petroleum Quality Institute of America (PQIA) continues to find products in the market that only meet obsolete specifications or fail to claim meeting any specifications.

As shown in the PQIA QuickReferences below, there have been very significant improvements in the performance of motor oil over the years. From the early days when motor oil comprised no more than base oil, it has evolved into a complex and carefully balanced blend of high-quality base oils together with functional and performance additives. Whereas the appearance of motor oil has not changed much over the years, its composition and performance has changed and improved significantly.

So, when using your sense of sight to determine if a motor oil is right for your car, be sure you read the labels to be certain the motor oil you buy meets the specifications recommended for your vehicle. Use of the wrong oil in your vehicle can cause damage to the engine.

Know how to read the labels and what to look for on both the front and back labels of the motor oil you buy, or you may be using product that can cause unsatisfactory performance or damage to your engine. 
Motor oils and transmissions fluids that PQIA has issued advisories, alerts and “Don’t Buys”



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