Low Viscosity Motor Oils

The fluids you put in your vehicle – whether your daily driver or dragster – can make a huge difference in performance and longevity. Recently, The Burnout had a chance to sit down with some engineers from Mobil 1 and talk about low viscosity motor oils.

Q: Why are more auto manufacturers using and recommending low viscosity motor oils?

A: We’re seeing many auto manufacturers recommending 0W motors oils for potential fuel economy benefits as well as great low-temperature flow characteristics. Mobil 1™ fully synthetic 0W motor oils, for example, are designed to flow quickly to lubricate critical engine parts on start-up and provide outstanding engine protection and performance in a range of weather conditions.

Q:  What are the benefits of low viscosity motor oils?

A: Low viscosity motor oils can provide low traction (internal fluid friction) to further contribute to improved engine efficiency. They can also provide faster lubrication especially at start-up and less viscous drag than higher viscosity oils; thus providing a potential fuel efficiency benefit.

Q:  Do lighter W grade motor oils provide the same level of engine protection as heavier oils?

A: Yes, lighter W grade motor oils actually can provide superior engine protection than heavier oils.  The number before the W in the viscosity grade provides an indication of the low temperature (i.e. Winter) performance. A lower number provides better lower temperature performance.  The second number in the viscosity grade indicates the high temperature viscosity of the oil.

When choosing motor oil viscosity, it’s important to think about the quality of the base stocks and additives that affect the wear and sludge protection characteristics of a motor oil. Mobil 1 0W motor oils come from a fully synthetic base stock and have an advanced proprietary additive system. Mobil 1 synthetic oils meet or exceed the toughest standards of Japanese, European and U.S. car builders and provide exceptional protection against engine wear, under normal or even extreme conditions.

When choosing a motor oil, it’s also important to consult your owner’s manual to check recommended viscosity grade and specifications for your particular vehicle.

Q:  What 0W motor oils does Mobil 1 offer?


  • Mobil 1 Advanced Fuel Economy, available in 0W-20 and 0W-30 viscosities, helps improve fuel economy while providing outstanding engine protection.
  • New Mobil 1 Extended Performance 0W-20 is an advanced full synthetic engine oil designed to keep your engines running like new and protect critical engine parts for 15,000 miles between oil changes.
  • Mobil 1 0W-40 is an advanced full synthetic motor oil designed to help provide exceptional cleaning power, wear protection and overall performance. Mobil 1 0W-40 keeps your engine running like new in virtually all driving conditions.
  • Mobil 1 Racing oils are designed to maximize performance on the track but are not recommended for street use. Available in a 0W-30 viscosity grade and a 0W-50 viscosity grade, these oils are engineered to deliver outstanding power output while providing boosted levels of anti-wear to protect in a wide range of racing engine applications, including highly loaded flat tappet designs.


Q:  How do these oils apply to performance vehicles?  Are they appropriate for racers or other performance cars?

A: Many racers choose 0W engine oils, including Mobil 1 Racing 0W-30 and 0W-50, for their very low friction characteristics. Mobil 1 Racing oils also contain double the zinc (also known as ZDDP) level than current low-viscosity API-approved passenger car oils. The zinc helps form a protective layer on steel surfaces to protect wear during metal-to-metal contact.  Higher levels of zinc can also help better protect highly loaded flat tappet designed engines.

Above all, we encourage vehicle owners to consult the owner’s manual for recommended oil grades.

Q:  How is a low viscosity oil created, and how does it function differently than a standard W oil?

A: To meet industry performance requirements including low temperature and volatility requirements, 0W engine oils are typically synthetic engine oils. The superior properties of synthetic base fluids allow the use of lighter fluids which meet the 0W viscosity classification requirements and yet provide superior performance to heavier non-synthetic engine oils.

Q: How is it tested?

A: As with all Mobil 1 motor oils, we rigorously test the performance and protection attributes in simulated real-world as well as extreme conditions. In fact, we recently tested Mobil 1 Extended Performance 0W-20 motor oil. In one test, we operated a Toyota Camry and Honda Accord for 210,000 miles each in various driving conditions, including simulated highway and city driving, changing the oil every 15,000 miles.

Throughout the testing program, the used oil was analyzed to ensure the performance, quality and durability. At the end of the 210,000 miles, the team dismantled the Camry and Accord engines and found outstanding wear, sludge and deposit protection on both engines. The results can be seen in this video:

Q:  Is it appropriate for older vehicles that may have required a high viscosity oil? How does it function differently in these engines than in newer engines designed for it?

A: In all cases, we advise vehicle owners to check their owner’s manual for recommended motor oil grades. Some owner’s manuals will provide recommended motor oil grades based on various applications of the engine, including hauling loads or performance driving.

Q:  Where do you see this trend going? Are we as low as we can go, or will the viscosity continue to get lower?

A: Many engines are already being designed in such a way that they can operate on even lower viscosity grade engine oils. In April 2013, the Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) approved two lower engine oil viscosity grades SAE 0W-16 and 5W-16 to classify engine oils. Several auto-builders including Honda, Toyota, Nissan and Mitsubishi are already recommending 0W-16 engine oils for their new vehicles in Japan.

For more info go to www.mobil1.com.

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