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While I’d be the first person to recommend paying someone to change your oil — tool guy or not, it’s a simple, dirty job that’s a PITA — I’ll admit that I sometimes do it myself.  I have a couple of vehicles I don’t drive that much, and I like to keep synthetic in ’em — and I really hate paying the massive surcharge for it at the quickie-lube places.

So it occured to me today to ask all of you: what kind of motor oil do you use and why?  I’m a big fan of synthetics ever since Mobil 1 became commonly available, but now there’s quite a selection — at least five brands of pure synthetics that I’ve seen, plus partial synthetics and special blends.

We’re sure you buy based on more than just advertising.  Let us know what’s in your truck (car, etc.) in comments, and be sure to explain why you use what you use.


34 Responses to Reader Question: What Motor Oil Do You Use?

  1. Jake says:

    The cheapest on the shelf – because I change my pretty frequently and on schedule so I don’t need all those fancy additives or synthetics.

  2. DaveD says:

    My car isn’t anything special (’94 Honda Accord) but I’ve just always bought what my dad bought since he’s the one that taught me how to change oil. Regular old valvoline. Fairly inexpensive and seems to do the job. My car is hitting 200k and going strong. Now when I get a newer turbo charged car with more horses, I’ll probably consider using synthetic since I’ll also be forced to use premium gas.

  3. John says:

    My street car gets whatever the dealership puts in it (my first new car, I’m going to let them take care of it for a while! ). The racecar gets Mobil 1 pure synthetic because that’s what my friendly neighborhood engine builder recommends.

    The funny thing, I sell Red Line oil for a living. I would love to use it myself, but even with my employee discount it’s still more expensive than Mobil 1. I do swear by their gear oils, and our customers who use it are very loyal to it.

    Last point: Recent (independent) articles indicate that older cars with solid lifters should switch to Red Line. A zinc-based additive (ZDDP) that protects the cam lobes from the percussive forces of hitting a solid lifter has been phased out of nearly all other oils. Red Line still has it!

  4. William says:

    Cheapest name brand in the store. I’m reluctant to use the oil in the plain brown box marked “Oil”. I keep it changed every 3000 – 3 month so I don’t want to pay for the fancy oil.

    I’ve used high mileage oil in a car with an oil leak hoping it would slow the leak, but it made no noticeable difference.

  5. Eric G. says:

    I’ve been a loyal user of Mobil 1 since it came out. I started using it because Ford recommended the use of synthetic oil if you use E85 to fuel your (flex fuel ready) car. The recommendation has since been lifted but I’m reluctant to switch back.

  6. Gareth says:

    Mobile 1, changed about every 6000 miles. The ‘Normal Duty’ schedule on my car (1998 V6 Honda Accord) is 7500 miles and the extreme conditions schedule is 3000.

    The oil filter makes a difference too. When I was doing the changes myself (half the cost of a lube shop!) I used Purolator filters.

    I figure if your running synthetic on a good filter you should be able to reap the benefits of increased mileage between changes. At that interval it is no more expensive than conventional oil.

  7. Steve Thompson says:

    My modded MINI Cooper S which is used both on the street and the track only sees Mobil 1.

  8. Brent Haag says:

    I use Mobil 1 since I started buying brand new vehicles. Before that, just regular Mobil. My uncle was a mechanic and he always was rebuilding engines–he saw a trend that motors with Pennzoil had LOTS of sludge in them, therefore, I stay away from that.

  9. olderty says:

    Valvoline synthetic blend. Royal Purple when I can afford it.

  10. benjamen says:

    When I get a new vehicle I run what the manufacturer has put in for about 1500 miles unless there is some specific instructions on when it should be changed. Then I run another 3000 with whatever name brand oil I can find cheapest. The theory being that I am flushing out most of the initial manufacturing crud out of the engine.

    After that I switch to Mobil 1 synthetic and Wix filters. I change my oil twice a year, every fall and spring. Neither of my vehicles go much more than 15000 miles a year so thats about 7500 max between changes. Actually I didn’t run my truck much this winter so I didn’t even have 3000 miles. A guy at work recommended the twice a year schedule with synthetic to me many years ago and I thought, heck that makes everything really simple.

    It actually works out well for my jeep, the manufacturer wants 5w30 in winter and 10w30 in summer, so there’s no guess work on when to switch.

  11. KaiserM715 says:

    I use Mobil 1 in my truck and my wife’s car (both are daily drivers), changed at every 5,000 miles. I use regular Valvoline in my M715 (changed twice a year, it is only drive occasionally), but will run synthetic when I get the FE 390 I am rebuilding in it. For filters, I use a Delco on my wife’s car (a Chevy) and Motorcraft on both trucks (a Ford and my M715)

    Hot Rod Magazine (as well as many others) have run articles discussing the issue that John has brought up. Most new oils do not have the correct additives to allow for the proper break-in of a flat tappet camshaft (new cars now use roller tappet cams exclusively, as far as I am aware). Camshaft makers and engine builders have stated that failures of flat tappet cams is at an all time high as a result. The correct oils can be obtained, but they are likely labeled as “race only”. Once a flat tappet cam is properly broken in, “normal” oil can be used. The 390 I am building will use a roller cam, so this will not be an issue for me. But something to keep in mind….

  12. Jeff says:

    when i had a vw pushing 260k on orig. engine and trans i was running pennsoil (sp?) high milage blend (4 quarts) and 1 quart of Lucas oil stableizer, which is proven to help bring the oil to the top parts in the engine. worked good, she was at 255k when i sold her, still running like the day it was made.

  13. Rob says:

    Mobil 1 in the newer car, Valvoline MaxLife in the older car, BMW Motorcycle Oil in the motorcycle. I used to use Mobile 1 in the bike too but they changed the additive package and it’s no longer recommended for motorcycles (unless you get the motorcycle specific Mobil 1 which I can’t find as easily).

  14. Jim says:

    Mobil 1 5W/30 in my Toyota Tundra. In my girlfriend’s Toyota Echo it’s whatever brand name non-synth 5W/30 is on sale. Oh, and a note- If you’re feeling lazy, the weather is not cooperating, or for whatever reason you just don’t want to do the oil change yourself but still want to use synthetic or a preferred manufacturer, there are several oil change places that will use whatever oil you bring them to use and give you a discount off the price of the change. Around here (northern CA) Oil Changers 3000 will do this. It’s a good idea to check the company website though as often the people at the local shops have never heard about this and will complain a bit. I’ve done this once or twice myself when the winter rains have made changing my own oil impractical since I have to do it outside.

  15. SlowJoeCrow says:

    Castrol GTX, 20W50 in the BMW motorcycle and old cars, and whatever viscosity the book says for the newer cars. My family started using Castrol in the mid 70s and we have had several cars do over 100,000 miles. Of course this still didn’t keep our 74 Volvo from eating its timing gears after 10 years but the engine still ran great after they were replaced.

  16. Eric says:

    I use Mobil 1 extend performance in the motor, change it every 10,000 miles and the filter every 5.000. I run Amsoil fluids in everything else.

  17. Old Donn says:

    Mobil 1 in the Chevy van and GMC pickup I bought new, 8-10,000 mile change interval. Wix or PureOne filters, 3-5,000 mile interval. Kendall or Ouaker State 10w30 with 1 bottle of Lucas Oil Stabilizer, Wix filter in the ’67 Vette. One change a season’s enough for it, Less than 1,000 miles a summer. Oh yeah, 4 qts of 70wt and an HD filter for the Sportster.

  18. TL says:

    Mobil 1 5w30 changed every 3000-3500 miles in both the MR2 and the Tacoma. Probably more frequently than I need to, but it normally works out to every 4-6 months. Oil filters changed at the same time with a Toyota genuine for the MR2 and a Fram Tough Guard for the truck. I’d use the Toyota brand filters in the truck too, but the Fram texurized rubber grip stuff makes it MUCH easier to get off the truck.

  19. Tortfeaser says:

    I did some testing with a mate, with a lathe holding a cam and a jig holding a rocker with springing arranged to simulate what happens in a car. (This was specifically to simulate the valve train of the OHC L series engine in Datsuns.)

    We tested 12 different oils with new rockers on a fresh cam lobe. From the cheapest, nastiest stuff around, to cheap stuff with added friction modifiers, to semi and full synthetics, to Motul race oils.

    We found that the best performing was Castrol GP50, which is now sold as Castrol Edge 25W-50. Which was good, because its a mineral oil and not too dear for us to change every day of competition (our focus is on gravel rallying). It still has zinc in.

  20. Groove says:

    When I bought my ’01 Supercrew I did the first 3K on whatever Ford had put in and have been using Mobil 1 ever since. My “Volvo” and other gearhead friends have come up with what I think is the best way to use Mobil 1 in regular conditions:

    (This assumes you keep all your other maintenance up to date.)
    1. New Mobil 1 10W-30 and new filter (basic Fram for me)
    2. Drive 4-5K miles
    3. Change filter, add 1 quart Mobil 1
    4. Drive 4-5K miles
    5. Change oil and filter and start over

    I’ve never had an issue with this and never see any extreme fouling of the oil when I finally go to change it.

    I will attest that when we cannonball(2.1K miles in 33ish hours) from WA to IN I have to add a quart when we get there and am prepared to change the filter depending on the fouling, but usually just the quart and we’re ready to cannonball it home. This is in July when the heat in MT and ND is just insane as well.

    Mileage may very but I don’t get better than 15MPG around town as I’m a leadfoot….

    Did I mention the Fram SureDrain Oil Pan valve rocks?

  21. Major says:

    Castrol Syntec 5W-50 in all my vehicles.

    1) I live in an extreme cold climate and it flows well way below zero while also protecting and clinging at 50 weight.

    2) Extra mileage between changes

    3) In 1994 I inadvertantly simulated their TV ad (where they run an engine without oil after draining the Syntec) on a long trip for who knows how many miles before I discovered it–at 80 mph. When I dicovered it was dry I filled it up and continued on. I am still driving that pickup as a work truck. That pretty much sold me for life.

    4) I have an extra 4 cyl. Subaru SW with 230,000 miles on it — never touched the engine except for new spark plugs — nothing but Syntec 5W-50.

  22. Brau says:

    The thing to remember is that it is the metal and dirt particles suspended in the oils that contribute most to wear on your engine, and there’s only one way to get rid of it – change your oil frequently. Studies have shown that changing your oil at double the normal rate (EG: @ 2500K instead of 5000K), using basic name brand oils far outstrips the cost and negligible benefits of synthetic oils. It can extend your vehicle life another ten years. Mobil, Castrol, Quaker State, are all good oils that I use whenever they come on sale. I pick them up for about $6/4 litres and change my oil a minimum of 4 times per year and never go over 3000K.

  23. Alan says:

    As another poster noted, some places will be fine with using “customer-provided” oil and filter.

    I tend to take my car into non-oil-change places that also advertise “16.95 oil change” and have it done there, price seems to vary between $8-12. Muffler & brake places are one of the big ones that are happy to do this on slow days.

    Oil-wise I use Mobil-1 and either Mobil-1 filters or Mazda’s filters based on past reading from some folks who bought many varieties and disassembled them to investigate how the filters were assembled and from what.

  24. Rick says:

    I made a post yesterday.. but I had two links in it.. can someone moderate that one please?

  25. Up till now, I’ve not owned anything worth the price of synthetic oils. I’ve always chosen the cheapest oil that still had the API seal of approval on it. Not all cheap oils do. Then I’d stick to the 3000 rule, though I never did any aggressive driving.

  26. Randy says:

    Castrol GTX and either WIX or Purolator filters. I’ve tried Mobil 1 for 10k, and it looked fine when I drained it, but it was more than twice the price. I feel better with more frequent changes, even if the oil is cheaper. I had my last car for 15 years. It never complained about GTX.

  27. Fletcher says:

    Castrol GTX and Purolator filters. Have heard good things about Wix, would use those if I couldn’t find Purolators or Pure One. Also highly recommend replacing your drain pan plug with a valve (I use Fumoto valves.) Never had a problem with them (over 150,000 miles on 2 cars), makes oil changes quicker and easier, and reduces the risk of stripping your oil pan plug threads.

  28. ambush27 says:

    If it says Ferrari recommends… on your engine you put that in, of course if you have a Ferrari it probably goes to the dealership anyway. Me? I’m partial to Castrol.

  29. Randy says:

    Mobil 1 in the 2001 Silverado 2500HD following break in and ever since. Valvoline MaxLife in the 97 Chrysler Concorde. I follow the “change engine oil” monitor on the Silverado (usually about every 5,000 miles) and change the Concorde every 4,000 to 5,000 miles.

  30. Alex says:

    I changed oil at this shop: http://www.discountautorepairltd.com
    and they used Castrol and I paid 20 bucks. I am not sure what is the difference between Castrol, Castrol GTX or Castrol High Mileage. I guess all are the same but product differentiation for marketing purposes.

  31. Teacher says:

    I use whatever Advance/Autozone/Pepboys has on sale. At the moment, I have 6 cases of oil to service three vehicles so I can wait for a good sale to buy more. Right now I have Valvoline, Exxon, Shell, Castrol, and Pennzoil on the shelf.

    My sister in law works for the state testing, among other things, oil. She said that the viscosity of oils is almost exactly what the labels say. She said years ago this wasn’t the case. As to additive packages, the state does not test for that, only viscosity.

    For filters I use Wix, Purolator or Advance Auto Total Grip. And I change oil every 3,000 miles.

  32. Mike says:

    I have an oil related question. I purchased my ’96 Nissan 200SX in 2000, when it had about 64,500 miles on it. It now has about
    108,000 miles on it, and I have maintained it very well, including changing the oil every 2000 miles. I was using Castrol GTX 5w30 from the beginning, but at the last change (about 1 1/2 months ago) I switched to Castrol GTX High Mileage oil. Yesterday I was very disappointed to discover that the engine was leaking a lot of oil onto the ground, and today I have been diagnosed with a $450 – $500 repair bill to change some of the engine seals.
    Is this just a coincidence that this happened right after switching to the high mileage oil? Both I and my mechanic find it very suspicious. Any ideas or opinion are welcomed. Thanks

  33. Wolf says:

    I own a very well cared for 1997 Chrysler LHS(179.000) and only put Valvaline Maxlife,which is a synthetic blend in with a MOPAR filter.The oil gets changed every 3000 miles or three months.The car runs beautifully.The engine is very quiet, and the sludge that was in the engine when I aquired the car is gone!The engine is now extremley clean!Plus,I have no oil burn off,or leaks!I have often been tempted to switch,but wont mess with success!Plus,since the product works so well,I believe the consistant use of the same brand is , the most effective for the cars preservation,and performance.

  34. Ed says:

    I use Amsoil Signature Series 5W-30. I drive a 2003 Chevy Cavalier. It is 100% synthetic. It’s recommended change interval is every 25,000 miles or one year. At first it was hard to believe it could provide protection for such a long period. I’ve noticed a bit better gas mileage, more power, and I haven’t had to change the oil as frequently, which is saving me money. I had the oil analyzed (determining if it still had properties of lubrication) and I must say I got what I paid for. I don’t drive 25,000 miles in a year so I’ll be changing it again in November.

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