I notice that different engine oil brands give poor or better performance even when using the oil has the same viscosity. What is the cause of this and why should you buy better known brands?

Also when you use good brands (e.g. Shell, Castrol) sometimes your manual will specifically state 'use Shell helix 5w30'. Would there be a reason why they would recommend using that brand over an equally good brand (i.e. Castrol 5w30)?

  • What is your litmus for "poor or better performance"? Oct 8, 2018 at 17:53
  • Many times they specify a specific brand because they have a business relationship with that company. Something like oil company"A" sells their oil to carmaker "B" at a discount if they recommend the usage of oil brand "A" in their vehicles.
    – mikes
    Oct 8, 2018 at 20:36
  • @Pᴀᴜʟsᴛᴇʀ2 I do not know how to quantify it, however after changing brands I noticed my car feel and move completely differently to what I was on previously, it was like a new car. Oct 9, 2018 at 1:42

2 Answers 2


"Quality " is not the right word, is it performance or properties. For the US ( which most of the world follows) , the API defines several tests . The API service numbers ( like SN, SM, SL ,and SJ ) Define which series of tests the oil has passed. An oil may pass more than one set of tests. When I was familiar with them there were both engine tests and bench tests. API has auditors that check documentation and the quality control programs at the manufacturers for compliance. It spoils some of the advertising departments' fun but brand "X" marked SJ is at least as good as brand" Y" marked SJ, etc. However,one oil may pass a test by a greater margin than another oil. But the only way to know that is to look at the manufacturers data, to which very few people have access. So you can look at your car manual and if it says SJ , go buy the best looking oil can marked SJ ; Or you can read the requirements for the API tests and try to pick some other type that you think is better for your car. Also , I suggest pick the viscosity .like 5W30 . that the manual lists.


The viscosity is only a part of the oil characteristics. The most important part is the oil specification, as this will specify the quality (resistance to heat and aging, cleaning capability, aftertreatment compatibility, wear protection etc.) of the oil. The brand name isn't important.

A nice comparison of oil specifications is this one: https://www.lubrizol.com/Lubricant-and-Fuel-Additives/Engine-Oil-Additives/ACEA/Relative-Performance-Tool

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