0w16 vs 5w20: Understanding the Differences and Choosing the Right Oil

When selecting the right engine oil for your vehicle, understanding the differences between various viscosities is essential.

This article will compare two popular oil viscosities, 0w16 and 5w20, and help you decide which is best suited for your vehicle’s needs.

Understanding Engine Oil Viscosity

Engine oil viscosity refers to its thickness or resistance to flow. The viscosity rating consists of two numbers separated by a “w,” where the “w” stands for “winter.” The first number represents the oil’s viscosity in cold temperatures, while the second indicates its viscosity at normal operating temperatures.

0w16 Oil: Benefits and Applications


0w16 oil is a low-viscosity oil that provides excellent cold-start performance and improved fuel efficiency.


  • Cold-Start Performance: 0w16 oil flows smoothly even in extremely cold temperatures, ensuring fast lubrication and reducing engine wear during cold starts.
  • Fuel Efficiency: Its low viscosity reduces internal friction, allowing the engine to operate more efficiently and potentially improving fuel economy.
  • Compatibility: 0w16 oil is suitable for newer vehicles that require this specific viscosity rating.


0w16 oil is commonly recommended for vehicles operating in regions with extremely cold climates. It is often used in hybrid and compact cars with modern engine designs that require low-viscosity oils.

5w20 Oil: Benefits and Applications


5w20 oil has a slightly higher viscosity than cold-start protection and overall engine performance.


  • Versatility: 5w20 oil provides reliable lubrication and engine protection across a wide range of temperatures.
  • Enhanced Engine Protection: Its slightly higher viscosity rating offers improved protection against wear, especially during high-stress conditions.
  • Widely Available: 5w20 oil is readily available and compatible with a broad range of vehicles, making it a popular choice among car owners.


5w20 oil suits newer and older vehicles, including passenger cars, SUVs, and light trucks. It is commonly recommended for vehicles operating in moderate to hot climates.

Key Differences between 0w16 and 5w20 Oils

Cold-Start Performance

When it comes to cold-start performance, 0w16 oil has the advantage. Its lower viscosity ensures smooth flow and fast lubrication during cold starts, providing optimal engine protection from when you start your vehicle. 5w20 oil, while still offering good cold-start performance, may not flow as quickly in extremely low temperatures.

Overall Engine Protection

Both 0w16 and 5w20 oils offer excellent engine protection. However, 5w20 oil, with its slightly higher viscosity, provides enhanced protection under high-stress conditions and prolonged operation in hot temperatures.

Manufacturer Recommendations

To ensure optimal engine performance, fuel efficiency, and warranty coverage, following your vehicle manufacturer’s recommendations regarding oil viscosity is crucial. Manufacturers specify the recommended oil type and viscosity to meet their specific engine design requirements.


Choosing the right engine oil viscosity is crucial for maintaining optimal engine performance and protection. Both 0w16 and 5w20 oils offer distinct benefits and applications. If you live in an extremely cold climate and prioritize cold-start performance, 0w16 oil is a suitable choice. On the other hand, if you require a versatile oil that performs well in a wide range of temperatures and offers enhanced engine protection, 5w20 oil is a recommended option. Always refer to your vehicle manufacturer’s recommendations for the best oil viscosity.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Can I use 5w20 oil instead of 0w16 oil?

While following the manufacturer’s recommendations is generally recommended, using 5w20 oil instead of 0w16 oil may be acceptable in certain circumstances. However, it’s important to consult your vehicle manufacturer’s guidelines to ensure compatibility and performance.

Which oil viscosity offers better fuel efficiency?

Both 0w16 and 5w20 oils contribute to improved fuel efficiency due to their respective characteristics. However, 0w16 oil, with its lower viscosity, generally provides a slight advantage in fuel economy compared to 5w20 oil.

Can I switch between 0w16 and 5w20 oils?

Switching between oil viscosities is possible, but it’s essential to consider your vehicle’s requirements and consult the manufacturer’s guidelines. They can provide insights into compatibility and the best oil viscosity for your specific engine.

Are there any disadvantages to using 0w16 or 5w20 oil?

While both oils have their advantages, it’s essential to consider your vehicle’s specific needs. 0w16 oil may provide a different level of high-temperature protection than 5w20 oil, while 5w20 oil may not flow as quickly during cold starts in extremely low temperatures. Choose the viscosity that aligns with your driving conditions and manufacturer recommendations.

Can I mix 0w16 and 5w20 oils?

It is not recommended to mix different oil viscosities. Mixing oils can alter their properties and compromise their performance. Stick to using a single viscosity oil that meets the manufacturer’s recommendations for your vehicle.