10W-30 vs 5W-30: Difference Between 5W-30 And 10W-30 Explained

Motor oil is one of the most important parts of vehicle operation. It helps lubricate your car’s engine in order to prevent severe damage to it and other components.

However, there’s more to engine oil than buying it and applying it to your vehicle. There are different types of oil, each offering its own advantages and disadvantages. And the right oil for the right job can make quite a difference.

Today, let’s take a look at the 10W-30 vs 5W-30 oil types. They may seem similar at first, but there are a few key differences to be aware of.

What is 10W-30 Oil?

Motor oil is given a designation by the Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) that helps tell you about the oil. The two sets of numbers relate to the oil’s viscosity, or how thick the oil is. This is an important part of motor oil as certain elements of it such as the viscosity, can change depending on things like temperature.

In the course of operation, from startup to shut down, the overall temperature can change quite a bit which will most certainly affect the efficiency of all of the car’s moving parts.

The first number and the W (for “winter’’) tell us the viscosity at colder temperatures. Likewise, the second number tells us the viscosity at hotter temperatures reaching 100°C. The lower the number, the lower the viscosity. So this means that 10W-30 oil has a winter viscosity rating of 10 and a hot viscosity rating of 30.

10W-30 oil’s ratings mean that it’s a little thick at lower temperatures, but gets thinner during normal operation. This is fine if your vehicle is running in warmer climates, but when it comes to colder climates in freezing temperatures it won’t work quite as well as other oils.

It’s thicker in colder climates, which means your car will have to do more work than it should to get started up and get that motor oil working through the engine. Overall, this will reduce things like your car’s fuel efficiency when first starting up. However, once the car heats up and reaches a normal operating temperature, it should be fine.

Red camper van on the road.

While it might not be optimal for starting up in the winter, 10W-30 oil still has its own advantages. It’s able to function better at hot temperatures without compromising engine performance. This can greatly help if your car’s engine is really going to be put to work if it’s doing something like frequently hauling heavy loads.

It’s also thicker than 5W-30 oil, which allows for sealing action that gives extra protection. 10W-30 oil is also great for reducing engine wear and tear if you’re frequently encountering stop-and-go situations, such as city driving. Overall, if your engine is being put through some heavy paces, 10W-30 oil can be a good choice.

10W-30 oil can work with almost any motor vehicle and is even compatible with some biofuel models. The thick sealing action can even make it an ideal choice for older vehicles with widened clearances. However, be sure to consult your owner’s manual or talk to your mechanic to see if it’s the optimal choice for your vehicle.

10W-30 Oil Pros and Cons


  • 10W-30 oil can withstand hotter temperatures without compromising engine performance.
  • Reduced wear and tear during stop-and-go driving.
  • Thicker oil overall provides sealing action to further help your car’s engine.
  • A good choice if the car is being used to frequently haul heavy loads.


  • A higher winter viscosity rating means that the oil is thicker in freezing conditions. Your car will have to put in more work to get the oil pumped through the car at startup.

What is 5W-30 Oil?

5W-30 oil is a motor oil type that is found in a lot of cars. Similar to the 10W-30 oil, it can operate well at normal operating temperatures. But when it comes to the 10W-30 vs 5W-30 oil, the latter outclasses the former in colder climates. It has a winter viscosity rating of 5 and a hot viscosity rating of 30.

A rating of 5W means that this oil has low viscosity in colder climates, especially where freezing occurs. The benefit of this is that your car will have to do far less work to start up in those colder climates.

This means you’ll get an optimal startup with the engine being less stressed in contrast to the 10W-30 oil which makes the engine do more work in the cold on startup. This makes it an ideal choice if you’re often operating your vehicle in weather conditions that reach freezing temperatures.

However, the thinner nature of 5W-30 oil has a few tradeoffs. Because it’s thinner, it lacks the sealing action of the 10W-30 oil and isn’t as optimal if your car is dealing with lots of stop-and-go driving. It’s also not a good choice if you are frequently hauling heavy loads, which puts more stress on the engine.

5W-30 oil also doesn’t keep its composure as well as 10W-30 oil when operating at higher temperatures. Regardless, it can still make for a good selection if you aren’t hauling heavy loads, especially if you are driving cars such as sedans. It still provides the protections that 10W-30 oil does, just not quite as optimally due to its thinner composure.

A woman drives a car in cold winter weather.

In addition, the ability to start up and operate in colder temperatures while still retaining a good viscosity rating in normal operating temperatures makes it an ideal all-around choice. It is able to protect your car’s engine in a variety of conditions and temperatures ranging from -18°C to 35°C

5W-30 oil can work for automotive gasoline engines, such as those in lawnmowers, light-duty petrol engines such as sedans and trucks, and light-duty diesel engines such as passenger vehicles with a diesel drivetrain. However, it’s still always a great idea to consult your owner’s manual or talk to your mechanic to see if this oil is the best choice.

5W-30 Oil Pros and Cons


  • Thinner viscosity in the cold makes this helpful for starting cars in lower, freezing temperatures.
  • Like the 10W-30 oil, it works very well at normal operating temperatures.
  • The ability to work in cold and normal temperatures makes this a good all-around oil type.


  • Not as effective at reducing engine wear and tear during stop-and-go conditions.
  • This is far from an ideal choice when frequently hauling heavy loads.
  • 5W-30 oil isn’t as good at maintaining its composure during heavy work as 10W-30 oil is.

Which Oil to Use

10W-30 oil and 5W-30 oil seem similar in some ways, but very different in others. The main similarity is in the hot viscosity rating. They can both operate fairly well during normal operating conditions.

The differences between these two oil types become more clear when considering things such as the external climate, driving conditions, and load size. 5W-30 oil is great for driving in colder climates, but the 10W-30 oil can hold up better under heavy-duty conditions. 10W-30 oil is also optimal for stop-and-go operations and heavy loads.

On the other hand, 5W-30 oil’s ability to function in both hot and cold conditions makes it a little more well-rounded than 10W-30 oil.

However, despite these similarities and differences, neither of these oils is clearly superior to the other. Both have their ideal conditions in which they can be used, something that’s common with engine oil. There is no one size fits all solution.

The best way to decide on which one to buy would be to consider your area, the climate, the car you’re driving, and the type of driving you to do on a daily basis. For example, heavy-load bearing 10W-30 oil might not be too optimal if you’re driving a small sedan or even a truck to work, especially if temperatures outside are freezing or you never haul anything heavy.

Likewise, 5W-30 oil isn’t going to quite cut it when driving an SUV that’s going to be hauling a trailer in the warmer parts of the world or you’re driving an older car that has an engine with widened clearances.

It all depends on your individual situation and what specific needs you have. Consider the type of driving you do and the area in which you live, and go from there. And if you ever need a second opinion, it’s always recommended to check with your owner’s manual or consult with your mechanic.


The 10W-30 oil is great for heavy loads, stop-and-go, and extreme heat, with thicker sealing action oil. The 5W-30 oil’s thinner winter rating makes it excellent for colder climates and can operate fine at normal temperatures, making it a good all-around choice.

Motor oil can be a complex topic, however. If you have any additional questions, feel free to leave a comment for us to address.

The best motor oil depends on your specific situation. Take note of what type of driving you do and where, consult the owner’s manual, and make what you consider to be the optimal choice.

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About Matthew Webb

Hi, I am Matthew! I am a dedicated car nerd! During the day, I am a journalist, at night I enjoy working on my 2 project cars. I have been a car nerd all my life, and am excited to share my knowledge with you!

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