Can I Use 5w20 Instead of 5w30? – 5w20 vs. 5w30

Motor oils are also known as engine lubricants, as their main job is to provide softness to motor engines. These oils are chemically formulated with multiple substances, such as base oils rich with additional elements, particularly antiwear additives, detergents, dispersants, and different grade oils for viscosity index.

add oil into car 5w20

The primary purpose of using motor oil is to produce lubrication and prevent chafing in internal combustion engines. Friction is primarily standard on moving parts of the internal engine, and therefore, for long-lasting engines and improved efficiency, lubrication is a requirement for smooth running and function. In addition, the lubricants clean the machine from sludge and varnish, which are removed by the additional dispersants and detergent present in the lubricant. The acid produced from the fuel within the engine needs to be cleared off; therefore, the lubricant also neutralizes the acid in the engine, yielding abrasions and chafing.

The detergents oxidize the engine allowing the piston rings to see efficiently, resulting in excessive heat. In addition, lubricants are designed and produced to cool the engine, improve the pressure performance and curtail the corrosion of engine parts. The engine parts which are constantly in touch with each other lead to friction resulting in heat and compromising the efficiency and output of the engine. The wear and tear of engine parts can be avoided by constantly giving juice to the engine.

Is putting 5w20 instead of 5w30 an intelligent idea?

Can I use 5w20 instead of 5w30?

No, 5w20 instead of 5w30oil type is not recommended for your engine because 5w30 has a higher viscosity than 5w20. 5w20 oil is pretty light and generally designed to work with newer engines. In theory, you can use 5w20 or 5w30  oil without hurting your car’s engine if you don’t drive in more than 120F heat or less than -30F cold. 

So, if you accidentally put 5w20 oil, this one-time mistake can not drastically harm your engine. You can sometimes use 5w20 instead of 5w30 because 5w30 motor oil suits hotter climates where thinner oils tend to break down under high temperatures.

Let us see oil type based on temperature:

car oil type based on temperature

Or, in more detail, see this chart:

temperature range for each car oil type



Let us know the difference between 5w20 and 5w30.

5w20 vs. 5w30:

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  • 5w20 is thinner engine oil (lower viscosity) than 5w30 (higher viscosity).
  • 5w20 flows quickly with less friction while 5w30 flows slower with more friction
  • 5w20 enables the engine to start rapidly in colder climates, while the 5w30 engine starts slowly in colder climates.
  • 5w20 breaks down quickly in hotter climates, while 5w30 is better in a hot climate and gives protection because of higher viscosity.
  • 5w20 provides greater fuel efficiency in colder conditions, while 5w30 is less fuel efficient in colder climates.
  • 5w20 is better engine oil for winter, while 5w30 is preferable in summer or hotter conditions.
  • 5w20 is preferable for new cars, while 5w30 is for old vehicles.
  • Both engine oils have the same “5” viscosity rating during winter.

There is a large variety of motor oil products manufactured through different properties and chemicals. The most common type of engine oil is 5W20 and 5W30. The Society of Automotive Engineers has classified and labeled other motor oils based on their viscosity property and are labeled from 0, 5, 10, and 15 to 60. Viscosity is the time the liquid takes to travel and reach its destination.

5w20 engine oil

These oils are sometimes used interchangeably; however, there is a significant disparity between the chemical and physical properties; therefore, it is imperative to understand their internal structure before using them as lubricants. The main difference is observed through the viscosity concept, which, in simpler words, is the thickness of the liquid. If the viscosities of these oils are understood, they can be used in various conditions. For example, 5W20 is most commonly used during winter or colder climates. The number present before W highlights the oil’s viscosity in the winter season, whereas 20 highlights 20-weight oil in warmer conditions.

5w30 engine oil

To summarize, 5W20 provides lubrication to the engine like 20-weight oil. It is appropriate to consume in tremendously low temperatures and a subzero atmosphere as the engine experiences less friction to operate the engine. In winter, because of less friction, the engine is less dragged; therefore, this lubricant is ideal because of its viscose property. The viscosity increases with the increase in number; hence, 5W30 is comparatively more viscous and thicker than 5W20. After a sufficient understanding of the chemical properties of these two categories, it is established that substituting 5W30 instead of 5W20 is not a sensible idea. If the car manufacturing company has highlighted using 5W20 oil in the engine, it should remain that way. The less viscose property of the 5W20 engine provides the required efficiency and push to the engine because of its property.

Turning on the engines in freezing conditions requires less viscose or thinner oil to provide the necessary lubrication to operate the engine quickly. Optimal and appropriate fuel efficiency and commendable engine performance are only acquired by adding less viscous lubricant. As the weather changes, the engine is automatically heated up; therefore, 5W20 can no longer provide optimal performance. It is advised to replace it with 5W30 for excellent performance. 5W20 is more likely to break down in warm climates, consequently increasing the likelihood of engine impairment and weathering. At a hundred degrees Celsius, the 5W20 has a viscosity of 8.9, whereas the 5W30 has 11.
Similarly, at 40°, 5W20 shows viscosity at 49.8, and 5W30 exhibits it at 61.7. Hence it can be established that heat significantly affects the density of engine oils. It is ideal for keeping 5W30 for regular use if you reside in warm temperatures. Due to its highest viscosity and thickness, it provides friction and more drag. Because of this, it takes additional time to provide the necessary grease to the engine parts in freezing temperatures. Thicker engine oil is not recommended for freezing temperatures because it will take extra time to flow quickly to the engine components in less than a period. This will compromise efficiency because of its ability to stream.

Using suitable motor oil for the engine is essential otherwise, the engine may steer towards damage. Moreover, providing lubrication to the engine is necessary as it will protect it by preventing the metal parts from forcing towards each other. Overheating is a typical process that needs to be tackled before it is too late. Lubrication prevents the metal parts from pushing and grinding against each other therefore adding extra liquid is beneficial and healthy for the engine. They get rid of the acids embedded in the engine giving birth to corrosion, and clean it thoroughly. Silicon oxide naturally accumulates in the engine, which also needs to be cleared out. Providing lubrication to the engine removes all the waste, unnecessary litter material, and small particles that impair the engine’s efficiency.

There is no hard and fast rule for replacing engine oil as they are considered flexible. In this situation, both 5W20 and 5W30 can be used interchangeably to protect the car’s engine, irrespective of the climate and weather. If car owners are still apprehensive about which oil to purchase, 5W30 is the right option. It is equipped with strength compared to the 5W20 and has a smooth operational result irrespective of the location’s vehicle company features and temperature. Lubrication is similar to food intake as it provides the necessary nutrients and essential elements to restore efficiency. If engine oil has not been replaced for a while, the drivers may experience a bumpy ride. The need for lubrication will be revealed by the car itself through its improper function and lift.

Robert Aksamit

Robert Aksamit

Robert Aksamit is a mechanical engineer and automotive industry expert. Born in Minnesota, Robert worked in the US automotive industry last 25 years. He is highly regarded for his passion and dedication to continually improving vehicles in response to customer feedback. Robert has a keen eye for sourcing the best vehicle components and materials on the market and is always looking for ways to enhance the user experience. As a writer, Robert covers automotive-related topics. Read more on Robert Aksamit's biography page. Contact Robert:

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