Do I Have To Use the Manufacturer’s Oil? (Why You Should)

engine oil

The modern vehicle is designed to last for many miles when it is properly taken care of. One such part that must be taken care of is the engine, which requires a specific type of oil to run its best. But do you need to use the manufacturer’s oil to get the best results?

While it is always wise to follow the manufacturer’s recommendations when it comes to the oil type, there is some flexibility to consider. We look at the motor oil standards, learn more about manufacturer requirements and help you choose the right type for your vehicle.

Motor Oil Standards 

1. SAE

SAE stands for Society of Automotive Engineers. It sets the viscosity grade that is important to pay attention to.

The viscosity grade shows how well the oil flows at differing temperatures. The modern engine that was built with tight tolerances needs thinner oil that flows good in the cold temperatures but also maintains viscosity when it gets hot. That’s why you find a lot of later-model motors requiring 0W-20 motor oil these days. 

RELATED: What Does SAE Stand for in Motor Oil?

2. API

API stands for American Petroleum Institute. The API categories cover many different tests that show how oil can clean, lubricate and protect the components of an engine.

When cars were first manufactured, the oil was required to have an API SA Service Classification. After that, new classifications were added, such as SB, SC and SD. These continued to progress while skipping both SI and SK. 

If you were to purchase API SA, the oil would be specifically formulated for vehicles that were constructed before the 1920s. 

Modern motor oil should be labeled with an SN, but you can find older types mixed in, so be careful. If you need something earlier, you shouldn’t have to pay too much more for it. 

RELATED: 6 Best Motor Oils for High Mileage Engines

3. ILSAC

The International Lubricant Standardization and Approval Committee (ILSAC) standards tend to be very similar to API standards. While the two tend to run parallel, there are some updated standards for fuel efficiency with these.

The most recent ILSAC rating is GF-5. When used in conjunction with the API SN designation, the oil meets the requirements from most major manufacturers to use with gasoline engines.

4. ACEA

The Association des Constructeurs Européens d’Automobile (ACEA) standards are used on European vehicles. In general, these tend to be much more stringent than those found with the ILSAC or API standards.

Currently, the ACEA designates C for use with a catalyst-equipped gas engine or light-duty diesel motors. Additionally, E is best for heavy-duty diesel engines. 

Manufacturer Oil Requirements

motor oil

On top of the standards set forth by the industry guidelines above, most vehicle manufacturers set their own specifications. Automakers will use their only proprietary testing methods to ensure that the oil meets the needs of the engine. 

You can find these standards in your owner’s manual. Don’t ever use oil that fails to meet these standards, on top of the SAE, API and other guidelines. 

Let’s say you drive a GM vehicle from 2011 or newer. The manufacturer of your Chevy, GMC, Buick or Cadillac wants your oil to meet Dexos1 (gas) or Dexos2 (diesel) specifications. These specs were created by GM to meet the emissions and fuel economy guidelines by the government. 

Another example of some oil requirements by manufacturers can include what type is used in your heavy-duty diesel pickup truck. To ensure the integrity of the engine, you want to choose a formula that your manufacturer recommends.

You will also find some guidelines with European vehicles, such as Volkswagen, Mercedes-Benz, BMW and Audi. The automaker’s standards don’t just apply in Europe, but also for vehicles driven on the streets of America. 

Manufacturer’s Oil Recommendations and Warranty

Does using the wrong motor oil void your factory warranty? It depends. The standards that we have outlined above are constantly evolving and changing as new needs are recognized. 

Today’s vehicles operate best with semi or fully synthetic motor oils. You want to make sure that this oil meets all of the necessary requirements set out by the automaker. If you don’t follow these recommendations, you could end up with engine damage or wear that will not be covered by the warranty.

However, you don’t have to purchase the oil sold by the automaker. The oil you choose simply needs to meet the same standards. Most of the time, there will be several brands of oil that will work with your vehicle, but it is your responsibility to double-check. 

If you are ever unsure, it’s best to speak with your local dealership for more guidance. The service department should have a list of the motor oils that are compatible with your vehicle’s engine. Getting this information from them also ensures that you don’t void the warranty.

Written by:

Magnus is the owner and main author of MechanicBase. He has been working as a mechanic for over 10 years, and the majority of them specialized in advanced diagnostics and troubleshooting. He has also been a motorsport (drifting) driver for over 5 years.