Is 5w20 the best short trip/cold weather oil?

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May 28, 2002
But Patman, this is assuming wear occurs from the oil NOT flowing or not flowing well. I don't think this is the overall problem. We've seen lubrication problems from having "too thin" of a film thickness. This will cause wear. I think as long as you're above an oil's "pumpability limit" you will be safe from "the oil's not pumping adequately". Remember...thinner oil...faster is squeezes out of where it's supposed to lubricate. That's why WD-40 doesn't work in an engine.
You make some points, but you lost me with your advice to try a 5W-20 in car engines in which that weight grade is specifically not recommended by the oil companies, and further announcing you would be chancing it in a 9-yr old vehicle of indetermanant mileage (kilometerage?). Unless the car manuafacturers eventually come out with revised recommendations for oil weight to include 5W-20 oils in earlier models in cold climates, I'm not sure it's a responsible position on your part to advise others to undertake a clearly "not recommended" regimen. Take into consideration, Patman, the number of readers who blindly trust your advice. Your advice in this matter, though, considered as it well may be, is still in the realm of the experimental. -Ray Haeffele
You might think it sounds dangerous, but keep this in mind. A 5w30 or 10w30 oil at 100c is still going to be considerably thinner than this 5w20 oil would be at startup and for the first few minutes of operation. So I think it's a safe bet that if you're doing short trips like this, that the 5w20 oil will still never be as thin as those 5w30s and 10w30s are at 100c. So if you have a car who's short trips means the oil's temperature range is from -10c to only 60 or 70c, the oil will be flowing much faster through the engine during this entire time with 5w20 than it would with 5w30 or 10w30. My mom's Probe has over 130k on it, however I do believe it's still safe to do this, with her driving style (never revs above 3000rpm) she could probably run it in the summer too and not have a problem. I'd also like to add that in no way am I recommending someone try this without doing oil analysis first. I do believe most people on here are open to new ideas though, and when trying out new ideas they back them up with analysis. [ January 29, 2003, 01:39 PM: Message edited by: Patman ]
Originally posted by Dr. T: But Patman, this is assuming wear occurs from the oil NOT flowing or not flowing well. I don't think this is the overall problem. We've seen lubrication problems from having "too thin" of a film thickness. This will cause wear. I think as long as you're above an oil's "pumpability limit" you will be safe from "the oil's not pumping adequately". Remember...thinner oil...faster is squeezes out of where it's supposed to lubricate.
That's not the way I understand it though. I feel that a particular engine shows it's lowest wear with an exact viscosity range and anything above it or below it results in higher wear numbers. So for instance, for argument's sake let's just say that this particular engine likes a viscosity of between 10-11cst at 100c, and this has been proven to show the lowest wear, the person did long highway trips all the time on an oil of this viscosity and oil analysis proved it. Now all of a sudden this person changes jobs and is only driving 5 miles to work, and it's winter time. The person previously ran 5w30 oil. So now with the 5w20 oil, their oil ends up being closer to that 10-11cst sweet spot for a longer period of time then it would with 5w30. I know that a lot of experts say that the engine has the most wear during startup and the first few minutes of operation and I agree with this. I think a big portion of the reason is because the oil is much too thick and simply does not lubricate properly. So if you're driving patterns mean that your oil is spending more time cold than it is fully hot, then you have to rethink the way you approach it's lubrication needs.
Be very careful Patman! Even suggesting the use of 5W-20 oil, under any conditions, can get you sentenced to the "oil gulag" on this site [LOL!] Time and testing will tell how well the 5W-20 oil holds up in comparison to 5W-30, especially with the 5W-20 oil that has to meet the tougher Ford and Honda specs than 5W-30 oils. Even with both meeting the basic API SL ratings. Welcome to the dark side. [Dual] Whimsey
Just for reference, I thought I would place the latest copy of the TSB Ford put out that identifies which engines and years have been approved for 5w-20 oil. I didn't see the probe on the list so [I dont know] Anyways, here it is: TSB 02-1-9 FORD: 1992-2002 1993-1994 1993-1997 1993-2002 1995-2000 1998-2002 2000-2002 1993-1996 1993-1997 1993-2002 1995-2002 1997-1999 1997-2001 1997-2002 1999-2002 2000-2002 2001-2002 CROWN VICTORIA TEMPO THUNDERBIRD ESCORT, MUSTANG,TAURUS CONTOUR ESCORT ZX2 FOCUS BRONCO AEROSTAR E SERIES, F-150, RANGER WINDSTAR F-250 LD EXPLORER EXPEDITION SUPER DUTY F SERIES, SUPER DUTY F-53 STRIPPED CHAS EXCURSION ESCAPE LINCOLN: 1991-2002 TOWN CAR 1993-1998 MARK VIII 1993-2002 CONTINENTAL 2000-2002 LS 1998-2002 NAVIGATOR MERCURY: 1992-2002 GRAND MARQUIS 1993-1994 TOPAZ 1993-1997 COUGAR 1993-1999 TRACER 1993-2002 SABLE 1995-2000 MYSTIQUE 1999-2002 COUGAR 1997-2001 MOUNTAINEER This article is being republished in its entirety to update the vehicle models, engines and years affected. NOTE PLEASE REFER TO THE VEHICLE APPLICATION LIST LATER IN THIS TSB FOR A COMPLETE LIST OF VEHICLES AFFECTED BY THIS TSB ISSUE Ford Motor Company now recommends SAE 5W-20 viscosity grade for servicing most gasoline and flexible fueled vehicles. ACTION All 2001 and 2002 vehicles where SAE 5W-20 is specified should be serviced at the recommended oil change intervals using SAE 5W-20. This oil is an improved formulation to improve fuel economy. Testing has validated this viscosity grade can be used in many previous model year vehicles. It is recommended ALL vehicles on the following Vehicle Application Listing be service with SAE 5W-20. All 2001-2002 vehicles other than those listed in the "Exception 2001 Vehicles" or "Exception 2002 Vehicles" chart are being filled with SAE 5W-20 motor oil at the factory and should also be serviced with SAE 5W-20 oil. Article No. 02-1-9 Cont'd. Vehicle Application Listing Approved For SAE 5W-20 Motor Oil • 1993-1996 1.9L Escort/Tracer • 1995-2000 2.0L Zetec Contour/Mystique • 1999-2002 2.0L Cougar • 1997-2002 2.0L Escort/Tracer • 1998-2002 2.0L Escort ZX2 • 2000-2002 2.0L Focus • 2001-2002 2.0L Escape • 1993-1997 2.3L Ranger • 1993-1994 2.3L Mustang • 1993-1994 2.3L Tempo/Topaz • 1998-2001 2.5L Ranger • 1995-2000 2.5L Contour/Mystique • 1999-2002 2.5L Cougar • 2001-2002 3.0L 4V Escape • 1996-2001 3.0L 4V Taurus/Sable • 1993-2002 3.0L (Vulcan) Aerostar/Ranger, Taurus/Sable (Flexible Fuel and Gas) • 1995-2000 3.0L (Vulcan) Windstar • 1993-1994 3.0L (Vulcan) Tempo/Topaz • 2000-2002 3.0L 4V Lincoln LS • 1995-2002 3.8L Windstar • 1993-1997 3.8L Taurus/Sable, Thunderbird/Cougar, Continental • 1994-2002 3.8L Mustang • 2002-2002 3.9L 4V Lincoln LS • 1997-2002 4.2L (SPI) F-150 (under 8500 GVW only), E-Series • 1996-2002 4.6L 2V Mustang • 1992-2002 4.6L Crown Victoria/Grand Marquis • 1991-2002 4.6L Town Car • 1994-1997 4.6L 2V Thunderbird/Cougar • 1996-2002 4.6L 4V Mustang Cobra • 1995-2002 4.6L 4V Continental • 1993-1998 4.6L 4V Mark VIII • 1997-2002 4.6L 2V Triton F-150/250 (under 8500 GVW only), E-Series, Expedition • 1993-1999 4.9L E-Series, F-Series • 1993-1995 5.0L Mustang/Mustang Cobra • 1993-1993 5.0L Thunderbird/Cougar • 1997-2001 5.0L Explorer/Mountaineer • 1993-1996 5.0L E-Series, F-Series, Bronco • 2000-2002 5.4L Excursion • 1998-2002 5.4L 2V/4V Navigator • 1997-2002 5.4L 2V F-150/250 (under 8500 GVW only), Expedition, E-Series, E-350 Chassis/RV/Cutaway • 1993-1997 5.8L F-Series, Bronco • 1993-1996 5.8L E-Series • 2000-2002 6.8L Excursion • 1997-2002 6.8L E-Series, E-350 Chassis/RV/Cutaway • 1999-2002 6.8L Super Duty F-Series 250 HD/350/450/550 Motorhome • 1993-1998 7.5L All Vehicles NOTE FOR 1993 THROUGH 1998 MODEL YEAR FFV USE XO-10W30-FFV. NOTE THE "EXCEPTION 2001-2002 VEHICLES" SHOULD BE SERVICED WITH SAE 5W-30 MOTOR OIL. Exception 2001 Vehicles NOTE IF VEHICLE IS NOT LISTED IN THIS APPLICATION, SAE 5W-30 OIL IS RECOMMENDED. REFER TO TSB 99-8-16. PAGE 3 Engine Vehicle 3.3L 3.9L 4.0L Villager Lincoln LS Ranger, Explorer/Mountaineer, Explorer Sport, and Explorer Sport Trac Exception 2002 Vehicles Engine Vehicle 2.0L HP Zetec 3.3L 4.0L SVT Focus Villager Ranger, Explorer/Mountaineer, Explorer Sport, and Explorer Sport Trac
Thanks MNgopher. While I do use 5W-20 oil in my 2002 F-150, 4.6L, at least during the warranty period, I do not necessarily advocate use of 5W-20 oil in engines/vehicles that originally required 5W-30. I have a '96 Ford Contour with the 2.0L, ZTec, 4 cyl that will remain using Mobil 1 5W-30, a grade specified in the owners manual. I'm not against using the oils specified in the owner's manual as long as they cause no harm, as my UOA's will tell. It just seem's that ANY use of 5W-20 seems to cause heart failure for many members on this site [Big Grin] . Whimsey
I don't necessarily condone using 5w20 in a car that calls for 5w30 either, I'm just suggesting that for short trips in winter it might be the better choice. I figure it's an interesting discussion, since different driving habits and situations do bring up a need to adjust from what the manufacturer suggests. One size does not fit all.
I know a lot of people on here really have a hard time accepting 5w20 oils, but I think that if someone is doing short trips in cold weather, it will probably show better wear numbers than a thicker oil would. Think about it, if you're doing short trips, your oil never gets up to 100c, at least not for very long. So under these conditions if you run a thicker oil, you're gonna get a lot less oil flow. Looking at the specs of a lot of 5w20s compared to the same brand of 5w30, the viscosity at 40c is thinner too, so all along the temperature curve you'll have an oil that is flowing better. (example, Castrol GTX 5w20's viscosity at 40c is 50, versus 63 for their 5w30) So if you're the type of driver who drives less than 10 miles at a time in the cold winter months, you really should try out 5w20, even if your owner's manual doesn't specify it. I am probably going to try out 5w20 next winter in my mom's 94 Probe GT, since she definitely falls into this category of drivers now. She used to pile on miles fast and do all highway when she was in sales, so I had her car running Mobil 1 10w30. But now she's retired and only drives in short 2-3 mile spurts, very rarely does she get out and do a long highway run. I probably should not have put 10w30 Mobil 1 in her car last fall now that I think about it.
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