WHAT ARE OIL GRADES?
Viscosity is notated with the common "XW-XX." The number preceding the "W" rates the oil's flow at 0 degrees Fahrenheit (-17.8 degrees Celsius). The "W" stands for winter, not weight as many people think. The lower the number here, the less it thickens in the cold. So 5W-30 viscosity engine oil thickens less in the cold than a 10W-30, but more than a 0W-30. An engine in a colder climate, where motor oil tends to thicken because of lower temperatures, would benefit from 0W or 5W viscosity. A car in Death Valley would need a higher number to keep the oil from thinning out too much.
The second number after the "W" indicates the oil's viscosity measured at 212 degrees Fahrenheit (100 degrees Celsius). This number represents the oil's resistance to thinning at high temperatures. For example, 10W-30 oil will thin out at higher temperatures faster than 10W-40 will.
Monograde oils such as SAE 30, 40 or 50 are no longer used in latest automotive engines, but may be required for use in some vintage and antique engines. Straight SAE 30 oil is often specified for small air-cooled engines in lawnmowers, garden tractors, portable generators and gas-powered chain saws.