0w20 vs 5w30 engine oil. What are the differences?

The importance of selecting the correct motor oil is a must, especially for a stable, long-lasting, and reliable operation of a car engine and its protection in the long run. One of the most significant selection criteria is its viscosity-temperature properties.

These characteristics are labeled according to the international standard for the viscosity of lubricants, or, in short, its SAE. This indicator has nothing to do with the quality of the oil, but only indicates its viscosity at certain temperatures. Depending on this, all-season, winter, and summer oils are defined.

Features of 0w20 engine oil

Engine oils with SAE marking 0w20 are multigrade products. The specified oil has a minimum viscosity of 5.6 mm2/s at an engine operating temperature of 100 °C or 212 °F and is meant to operate at temperatures from -15 °C to + 20 °C or 5 °F to + 68 °F.

The temperature range is shown by the first digit “0” (winter index) labeled on the oil recipient, as well as the last number “20” (summer index) which indicates the viscosity class.

In the automotive industry, the 0w20 oil is generally recommended by Japanese car manufacturers to be used on their car engines. At the same time, in the European market, this oil type is rarely recommended by manufacturers. 

This is due to the design features of the internal combustion engine and the predominant modes of operation. In addition, when choosing an engine oil, the degree of engine wear is an important factor and should be taken into account first. 

According to this reason, the use of 0w20 engine oil is recommended for engines that don’t have a lot of degree of wear, somewhere between 20 to a maximum of 30%.

Characteristics of 5w30 engine oil

Because 0w20 motor oils have a narrower range of use, many lubricant manufacturers are, usually, targeting a higher production of engine oils with a minimum SAE 5w30 marking. This type of motor oil is much more popular among engines and has significantly higher sales volumes, but also a cheaper price 

The operating temperature of 5w30 oil is in the range from – 35 °C (represented by the 5 – winter) to + 25 °C (represented by the 30 – summer) or -31 °F to + 77 °F, which suggests the possibility of its use in any season. At a motor operating temperature of 100 °C, the 5w30 oil has a viscosity of 9.5 mm2/s.

Referring to the degree of engine wear, the use of the 5w30 marking is recommended for internal combustion engines with a wider degree of wear in the range from 0% to 60% of the engine’s resource when this type is recommended by the car manufacturer.

What do 0w20 and 5w30 engine oils have in common?

After talking about their features and after making a comparison between these two types of car engine oils, the following general aspects can be noted:

  • Both oils, in most cases, have a synthetic base. This implies, in general, a high degree of fluidity, good lubricating properties to achieve fuel economy, as well as chemical stability over the service life. In addition, “synthetics” has a fairly high evaporation rate, which implies its low sensitivity to overheating.
  • Both oils are multigrade fluids, which implies a fairly large temperature range while maintaining good characteristics.
  • Both types of engine oils are recommended for use on modern internal combustion engines with low wear, corresponding to a mileage of up to 90,000 miles for the 5w30 and 50,000 for 0w20.

Differences between 0w20 and 5w30 engine oils

Despite the presence of certain similar characteristics, there are a number of significant differences between these oils that should be considered:

  • The operating temperature range for 5w30 oil is significantly wider than for 0w20. This determines the great feasibility of its use in temperate latitudes and the European and American climate.
  • The viscosity of 5w-30 is 1.7 times higher, which makes it more preferable for use in warmer weather and driving modes associated with long periods of idle time in traffic jams.
  • The 0w20 engine oil at high temperatures and mileage of over 50,000 miles will have a thinner protective oil film which accelerates the wear of the engine parts. For 5w30, this negative aspect is less pronounced. A thinner oil film is dangerous when the internal combustion engine is operating at high speeds and under heavy load. Under these conditions, the engine will have an increased oil consumption, and it will happen earlier than normal.
  • 0w20, due to the reduced viscosity, provides an increase in the motor efficiency in comparison with 5w30 by roughly 10-12%. This will result in almost the same fuel economy.
  • 0w20, by providing reduced friction and, as a consequence, a lower engine temperature helps to reduce high-temperature deposits on the cylinder walls. This keeps the engine cleaner.

When it is best to use 0w20 and 5w30 motor oils?

0w20 and 5w30 engine oils are indeed neighboring in the lines of manufacturers and cause many questions from enthusiasts about the expediency and effectiveness of using one or another option. 

Having considered both options in detail and summarizing what has been said, we can conclude that from the moment of purchasing the car, you definitely need to use the oil recommended by the manufacturer. 

This can be easily achieved by looking in your car manual where you will see a wider range of possibilities to choose from according to your engine mileage.

With an increase in mileage, especially in severe operating conditions of engines with 0w20 oil, it is recommended to consider the advisability of increasing its viscosity to 30. The first reason to think about this will be an increase in oil consumption, which will probably be eliminated after replacement.

If the annual mileage of the car is more than 9,000 miles and the oil is changed 2 or more times a year, then you should add in your engine the 0w20 before winter to facilitate starting in cold weather, and in summer go for 5w30, the viscosity will significantly decrease in hot weather.

Moreover, you should not mix 0w20 and 5w30 oils.

But, it should be understood that the considered characteristics of the oils are far from the only indicators that should be paid attention to when choosing a lubricating for your car motor, therefore, the option must be selected in a comprehensive manner.

Viscosity at Low TemperaturesLower viscosity, flows easily in cold temperatures (-40°C)Slightly higher viscosity, takes a bit longer to flow in cold temperatures (-30°C)
Fuel EconomyBetter fuel economy due to lower viscosityNot as good fuel economy as 0w20
Engine ProtectionGood engine protection, but might not be ideal for high-performance enginesGood engine protection, suitable for high-performance engines
Engine WearLess engine wear due to lower viscosityHigher viscosity provides excellent protection for the engine, reduces engine wear
Recommended forRecommended for small and medium-sized cars, hybrids, and electric vehiclesRecommended for SUVs, trucks, and larger vehicles
OEM RecommendationsPopular choice for newer Toyota, Honda, and Mazda modelsWidely used in a variety of vehicle models by different manufacturers
PriceGenerally cheaper than 5w30 oilGenerally more expensive
PollutionReduced carbon footprint due to the lower viscosity compared to 5w30 oilHigher carbon footprint and contributes to more pollution compared to 0w20 oil


In conclusion, if you are not sure what type of oil to choose, a good starting point is always the car manual. There is some great advice there, and only after thinking about the general aspects related to engine mileage, and under what conditions you drive the car.

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