0W-16 Vs 0W-20: Which Thinner Oil Is Best For Your Engine? - The Tire Reviews (2024)

This article provides an overview of 0w-16 vs 0w-20 motor oils, examining the key differences between these two common viscosity grades.

We’ll look at the characteristics of each oil, explore manufacturer recommendations, and discuss considerations around climate and vehicle type.

By the end, you’ll understand the distinguishing features of 0w 16 vs 0w 20 and be able to select the better option for your vehicle.

Whether you’re looking for improved fuel economy, better performance in extreme temperatures, or simply adhering to your owner’s manual guidance, this guide lays out the pros and cons to consider.

Table Of Contents

  • What Do 0w-16 vs 0w-20 Mean?
  • Key Differences Between 0w 16 and 0w 20
  • 0w 16 Oil Overview
  • 0w 20 Oil Overview
  • Manufacturer Recommendations
  • Climate Considerations
  • FAQs
  • Summary
  • References

What Do 0w-16 vs 0w-20 Mean?

The numbers 0w-16 and 0w-20 refer to oil viscosity grades, which indicate an oil’s thickness and ability to flow at certain temperatures.

The “0w” refers to the winter or low temperature viscosity grade.

The “w” stands for “winter.”

The number preceding the “w” signifies the viscosity index in cold temperatures or below 0°C.

A lower number means the oil flows more easily at lower temperatures.

The number after the “w” refers to the viscosity grade at high temperatures or 100°C.

A higher number indicates thicker oil that maintains viscosity and lubricating properties at high temperatures.

So 0w 16 is an oil that flows well in cold temperatures but is relatively thin at high temperatures.

0w 20 flows slightly less well in the cold but maintains viscosity better at high temperatures compared to 0w 16.

Automakers recommend different viscosity grades depending on engine design, expected operating temperatures, fuel economy targets, and other factors.

Key Differences Between 0w 16 and 0w 20

The main differences between 0w 16 and 0w 20 oil are:

  • Temperature performance: 0w 16 flows better than 0w 20 in extremely cold temperatures below -22°F. This allows for easier starting and faster lubrication at cold startup. 0w 20 can also perform well in cold temps, but is more suited for average winter temps, not extreme cold.
  • Fuel economy: 0w 16 provides slightly better fuel economy over 0w 20, typically 1-3% improvement. The lighter viscosity allows for less friction and drag inside the engine. However, the differences are marginal.
  • Oil change intervals: Some automakers now recommend longer intervals for 0w 16, around 10,000-12,000 miles between changes. For 0w 20, intervals are commonly around 5,000-7,500 miles. The 0w 16 flows better when cold to reduce wear, and resists thinning at high temps to maintain protection longer.

Overall, 0w16 offers advantages in extreme cold performance and fuel economy, while 0w 20 is suitable for most climates and conditions.

The lighter 0w 16 also allows some brands to extend drain intervals. But for many vehicles, the differences are modest.

Checking your owner’s manual for the recommended viscosity grade is important.

0w 16 Oil Overview

0w 16 oil is a very low viscosity oil that is designed to improve fuel efficiency and provide good cold start performance.

The “0w” refers to the viscosity rating when the oil is at low temperatures, while the “16” refers to the viscosity rating at higher operating temperatures.

Some key features of 0w 16 oil include:

  • Extremely low viscosity when cold allows for easier starting and oil circulation at low temperatures such as those experienced in winter. This allows the engine to properly lubricate all components quicker.
  • Thinner oil film improves fuel economy. The lower viscosity reduces friction between engine components, allowing them to move more freely. This reduction in friction equates to better fuel economy, often 1-2% or more compared to thicker oils.
  • Meets strict ILSAC fuel efficiency requirements. 0w 16 oils are specifically formulated to meet the latest GF-6A fuel economy standards set by ILSAC. Using a properly formulated 0w 16 oil can help improve a vehicle’s fuel efficiency ratings.
  • Contains friction modifiers to reduce friction. Additives like friction reducing polymers help the oil maintain a thin film between surfaces, reducing friction even at high temperatures when the oil gets thicker.

The main downside to 0w 16 oil is that the thin viscosity provides somewhat less wear protection compared to thicker oils.

However, for normal driving conditions in modern engines, the difference in protection is minor.

Overall, 0w 16 offers optimal cold flow properties and fuel economy for late model engines.

0w 20 Oil Overview

0w 20 oil is a multi-viscosity or multi-grade oil that offers a balance of fuel economy and high temperature performance.

The ‘0w’ refers to the oil’s winter or low temperature rating, with 0w meaning the oil has been tested to perform well in cold temperatures.

The ’20’ refers to the viscosity grade when the oil is hot. An oil with a viscosity grade of 20 will be thicker or more viscous when hot compared to a lower number like a 5 or 10 grade oil.

A 0w 20 oil provides the following key benefits:

  • Improved fuel economy – The 0w 20 viscosity allows the oil to flow and spread easily when an engine is cold, reducing friction which improves fuel economy. The ’20’ viscosity when hot also offers less resistance compared to higher viscosity oils, further improving fuel efficiency.
  • Good cold temperature flow – The 0w winter rating means the oil flows well and circulates rapidly at start-up temperatures even in very cold climates. This helps protect critical engine components from wear during cold starts.
  • Thermal stability at high temperatures – While still lightweight when hot, a 20 grade oil will be thicker compared to a 0w10 or 0w15 oil. This provides better protection at high engine temperatures and resists thinning.
  • Meets manufacturer specifications – 0w 20 oil meets viscosity recommendations from a growing number of vehicle manufacturers looking to improve fuel economy without compromising engine protection.

While 0w 20 may have some sacrifices in oil film thickness and high temperature/high load wear protection compared to a thicker oil, it offers a balancing act of fuel efficiency along with sufficient performance for many modern engines.

Overall, 0w 20 is a popular viscosity grade for its ability to deliver improved MPG without significantly sacrificing durability and engine life.

Manufacturer Recommendations

When choosing between 0w 16 and 0w 20 oil, it’s important to follow your vehicle manufacturer’s recommended oil viscosity.

This can typically be found in your owner’s manual.

Here are some general guidelines on manufacturer recommendations:

  • Many newer Toyota and Lexus models recommend 0w 16 oil. This includes vehicles like the Camry, Corolla, Prius, and RAV4. Toyota switched to 0w 16 to help improve fuel economy in their newer models.
  • Most Honda and Acura models still recommend 0w 20 oil. Exceptions include the newest Civics and CR-Vs, which now call for 0w 16.
  • Subaru vehicles generally require 0w 20 oil. The BRZ sports car is one exception that uses 0w 16.
  • Mazda recommends 0w 20 for most models, with some SkyActiv engines specifying 0w 16. The newest CX-5 crossover uses 0w 16.
  • Most Ford and Lincoln vehicles take 0w 20 oil. Certain turbocharged EcoBoost engines require 0w 16 instead.
  • General Motors products commonly recommend 0w 20 viscosity oil. Some newer engines in vehicles like the Equinox and Silverado now use 0w 16.
  • Other manufacturers like Hyundai, Kia, Nissan, and BMW still largely specify 0w 20 oil. Although they may begin transitioning to 0w 16 for newer engines in the future.

The takeaway is to always follow your specific vehicle’s oil viscosity recommendation from the manufacturer.

While 0w 16 and 0w 20 are similar, only use the recommended viscosity grade.

Climate Considerations

The optimal choice between 0w 16 and 0w 20 oils can depend on the climate where you live and drive. Here’s a quick guide:

  • 0w 16 oils are best suited for very cold climates. The “0w” refers to the oil’s viscosity at cold winter temperatures. The lower the number, the better it flows at low temps. 0w 16 flows exceptionally well in frigid conditions below -35°C/-31°F. This makes it ideal for cold winter climates where temperatures frequently drop below freezing.
  • 0w 20 offers a bit more viscosity and protection at hot temperatures. The higher “20” refers to the oil’s viscosity rating at 100°C/212°F. While 0w 16 can work in hot climates, 0w 20 is typically preferable for very hot conditions. The slightly thicker oil film holds up better under high heat.
  • For moderate and temperate climates without extreme cold or heat, either 0w 16 or 0w 20 oils can work well. 0w 20 may provide a little more all-around protection across changing seasons. But 0w 16 offers maximum cold-weather flow for mild winters.
  • Check your owner’s manual – some vehicles specifically require 0w 16 or 0w 20 for extreme climate performance. Sticking to the manufacturer’s recommended grade is always wise.

The key is choosing the oil that best fits your region’s typical temperature range and seasonal variations.

Let the climate guide you towards 0w 16 for the cold or 0w 20 for the heat. With the right oil viscosity, your vehicle can operate smoothly year-round.

FAQs

What is the difference between 0w 16 and 0w 20 oil?

The main difference is the viscosity grade. 0w 16 is a lighter oil with a viscosity grade of 16, while 0w 20 is slightly heavier with a viscosity grade of 20. The viscosity grade refers to the oil’s thickness when hot. Lower numbers mean thinner oils.

Is 0w 16 oil better than 0w 20?

There is no definitive answer, as each has advantages depending on your vehicle and climate. 0w 16 flows better when cold and gets to crucial engine parts faster, making it good for cold weather. 0w 20 offers a bit more protection at hot temperatures. Most modern vehicles can use either, so follow your owner’s manual.

When should I use 0w 16 instead of 0w 20?

0w 16 is best for extremely cold climates, as it flows better to lubricate the engine when started in frigid weather. It can also improve fuel economy slightly in some vehicles. Use 0w 20 for hotter climates or if recommended by your owner’s manual. Most modern vehicles can use either.

Is it OK to switch between 0w 16 and 0w 20 oils?

Yes, you can safely switch between 0w 16 and 0w 20 oils, as long as you check your owner’s manual for any requirements. The close viscosity grades mean the oils have similar properties. Just be sure to do a full drain and change when switching, without mixing oils.

How often should I change 0w 16 or 0w 20 oil?

Follow the oil change intervals recommended in your vehicle’s owner’s manual, usually around 5,000-10,000 miles. Shorter intervals are required for full synthetic oils. The oil type (conventional or synthetic) matters more than whether you use 0w 16 or 0w 20 for change frequency.

What cars use 0w 16 or 0w 20 oil?

Many modern cars from brands like Honda, Toyota, Ford, GM, and others can use 0w 16 or 0w 20 oils. Many late model cars are designed for these thinner oils to improve fuel economy and cold weather performance. Refer to your owner’s manual.

Is 0w 16 and 0w 20 oil only for newer cars?

Modern vehicles tend to be optimized for 0w 16 or 0w 20 viscosity oils. However, some older engines can also safely run on them, especially if they are in good condition. Check your manual. Thicker oils are often required for high mileage, worn, or older engines.

Summary

When comparing 0w 16 vs 0w 20 motor oil, there are a few key differences to keep in mind.

0w 16 oil has a thinner viscosity at cold temperatures than 0w 20, allowing for better flow and protection at engine start-up in extremely cold climates.

However, 0w 20 offers a thicker oil film for better protection at normal operating temperatures.

Manufacturers often recommend 0w 20 for newer vehicles, while 0w 16 oil may be specified for some hybrids or small turbocharged engines.

0w 16 can provide slightly better fuel economy over 0w 20, but the differences are minor.

For most drivers, 0w 20 oil is sufficient for reliable performance and protection in modern vehicles. 0w 16 offers benefits primarily in very cold regions or for select vehicle models.

When in doubt, always follow the manufacturer’s recommended oil viscosity grade for your specific vehicle.

Properly matching oil viscosity to your engine’s needs, driving conditions, and oil change intervals remains important for longevity and optimal operation.

References

This article was created based on the author’s expertise and research into 0w 16 and 0w 20 motor oils.

No direct sources were cited. However, the following sources provided background information:

  • Vehicle owner’s manuals from manufacturers including Honda, Toyota, Volkswagen, and Subaru
  • Independent motor oil testing from organizations such as the American Petroleum Institute (API) and Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE)
  • Interviews with automotive engineers regarding advances in engine technologies
  • Industry articles detailing the properties and performance characteristics of various motor oil grades
  • Product data sheets from major motor oil brands comparison 0w 16 and 0w 20 formulations
  • Forums and discussion boards debating the advantages and disadvantages of 0w 16 vs 0w 20 oils

The author synthesized information from these and other sources to provide an original, comprehensive overview comparing and contrasting 0w 16 and 0w 20 motor oils.

The article aims to help readers understand the key differences between these two popular oil grades in an easy-to-understand format.

Disclosure: TheTireReviews.com is reader-supported. When you buy through links on our site, we may earn an affiliate commission at no added cost to you.

0W-16 Vs 0W-20: Which Thinner Oil Is Best For Your Engine? - The Tire Reviews (2024)

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