How to read an oil can

Team Minimac

Feb 24, 2022 · 2 min read

This article aims to summaries how to read and understand the label on an oil can. That’s because brand and specification if chosen correctly, will affect the machine’s service life, reliability, ongoing maintenance costs, and help ensure the safety of all those working around.

OEMs, oil marketers, additive companies, and testing laboratories work together to establish oil performance requirements, test methods, and limits for the various classifications and testing processes.

The system includes a formal licensing agreement executed by lubricant suppliers with API. Through this program, API has standardized the labeling of engine oils by adopting the donut logo (Figure 1). The logo was designed to be placed in a prominent position on a variety of lubricant containers.

API – American Petroleum Institute: The American Petroleum Institute (API) administers the licensing and certification of engine oils through a system that meets the warranty, maintenance, and lubrication requirements of original equipment manufacturers.

SAE – Society of Automotive Engineers: SAE is an organisation that certifies and standardised working elements for automotive, aerospace, and commercial vehicles.

SAE 10W-30: The SAE has established a numerical code system for grading oils according to their viscosity characteristics. Because of the viscosity of oil changes with temperature, multigrade oils were developed to provide protection across a range of temperatures.

SAE 10W30 is an oil that has SAE 10W viscosity (thickness) at low temperatures, and SAE 30 viscosity at high temperatures. The W stands for 'Winter'. Note that these viscosities are relative and standardised numbers and no absolutes, the oil doesn't get thicker when it's hot, it gets thinner.

Category Classification on Oil Cans:

1 - 5W: Here, 5 describes the viscosity of the oil at low temperatures. W stands for ‘Winter’. The lower the number, the thinner the oil and the better the oil’s cold temperature performance.

2- 30: It describes how thick the oil is at the normal operating temperature.

Multigrade oils such as SAE 5W-30 and 10W-40 are widely used because, under all but extremely hot or cold conditions, they are thin enough to flow at low temperatures and thick enough to perform satisfactorily at high temperatures. In other words, the choice of viscosity would be different depending on the climate conditions of the operational site.

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