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The New 5W-20 grade - Good or Bad for your engine

americanflagamericanflag Posts: 400
edited March 2014 in Honda
5W-20 grade oil, and Mobil 1 has a synthetic 0W-20 on the way in March 2003. Some say 5W-20 is too thin to protect the engine, and that the manufacturers are recommending it because it improves gas mileage slightly. On the other hand, I have heard the opinion that the thinner oil gets into the cylinders of these engines faster and better than a heavier grade would, and Ford says it will void the warranty if you use a grade other than 5W-20 when this grade is called for. What are your opinions?


  • edwardn1edwardn1 Posts: 103
    ...then who do you trust? You go to the manuf. owners manual for everything from ATF to proper gas to use. Heck I remember a few years back when people were saying that the newly recommended 10w30 was way too thin and to use only 20w50. People really said that in the 80's. The best advice is follow your owners manual.
  • isellhondasisellhondas Issaquah WashingtonPosts: 19,830
    Just seems like putting oily water in the engine.

    But I reccomend to my customers that they follow Honda's reccomendations. I'm sure they know what they are doing!
  • When I did my first oil change, I went to a quick change place that put in 10W-30. I noticed the engine sounded like it ran smoother. Then I saw that the engine called for 5W-20, so I took it to the dealer and got the oil changed to 5W-20. I swear the engine sounds different now, louder, grindier... almost like when my oil would get thin when I would go too long between oil changes on my old Honda. That is a bit distressing...
  • kinleykinley Posts: 854
    Specifications section cost me over 11 hundred dollars. It stated you don't have to check the rear axle lubricant until 100,000 miles. Before 100,000 miles the whine began and the Ford Service Manager said the fluid had turned to foam.

    The owners manual is now regarded as just a guide, not a bible. After confronting a Ford Customer Service Rep I received 50% of my cost as their "goodwill" gesture.
  • I have been advised by a source that I trust, that the use of 5W-20 motor oil in Ford Corporation products is advisory, and not mandatory to maintain the warranty. My source, who is in the automotive parts and supply business, contacted a local Ford Corporation dealership service facility (without divulging my identity!) and requested the information. He sells parts and supplies to this Ford shop. They told him that 5W-30 was fully satisfactory, but that was the only acceptable substitution.
  • bretfrazbretfraz Posts: 2,021
    No way I'd ever put 5W-20 in my engine. None. The reason Ford is mandating 5W-20 is to improve their CAFE and to follow up on assurances made by Bill Ford that his company would be more environmentally sensitive. IMNSHO, its nothing more than a political decision with some business benefits. Ain't no benefit to a Ford vehicle owner AFAIK.

    Honda is doing it for similar reasons. Honda as a company has always been a leader in fuel economy and emissions technology. It's part of their core business values. So the use of 5W-20 fits perfectly into their global corporate image.

    I'm sure the product quality of the 5W-20's is fine. But there is no long term, real world proof that it will protect an engine over the long haul. Oil weights like 5W-30, 10W-30 and 15W-40 have been tested and proven over the years.

    Besides, its not like Ford redesigned all their engines to work best with 5W-20, is it? The 4.6's and 5.4's and 3.0 Duratec's and 2.0 Zetec's were running just fine on 5W-30 and 10W-30. Now all of a sudden they can only run 5W-20? I ain't buyin' it unless I see documented proof of the engine mods.
  • zr2randozr2rando Posts: 391
    What you choose to do after warranty may be different than during warranty as well. Some mfgrs may help with major cost problems shortly after warranty is up, but they are not under any obligation to do it.
    Far as I'm concerned, after warranty the vehicle is mine and running thin "CAFE" rated oils is much further down on my "to do" list than running thicker "ENGINE PROTECTING" oil is. Warranty period is a very short part of the life of vehicles that I have owned/currently own.
    A person who leases a vehicle is much less concerned with longterm protection than a person who expects at least 200k miles, mfgrs know that leases make a high percentage of vehicles now driving around...they also know that most people don't keep vehicles for that long (due to wrecks/trade-in every 2 years, whatever the reason).
    Each of us has our own priorities...
    Happy holidays!
  • tbonertboner Posts: 402
    To go along with your question about whether the engines are changed or not, I believe there is a Ford bulletin that suggests 5W20 is ok for older engines going back to 92 or 93.

    I saw it over at if you are interested in looking at it.

    I posted the text of it over at

    Bottom line, this tells me it probably has nothing to do with closer tolerances and everything to do with better fuel economy.


  • zueslewiszueslewis Posts: 2,353
    That's all. I'd use 5W30 unless climate conditions call for other selections.
  • void the warranty if another grade is used? Wouldn't they only do this if they were concerned about damage to the engine? Or why don't hey say 5W-30 optional in the owners manual?
  • tbonertboner Posts: 402
    I found a copy of the bulletin. Maybe someone from Ford can tell us if this is current, true, etc.

    02-1-9 Engine Oil - Oil Recommendations

    Page: 1/2

    Article No.



    1992-2002 CROWN VICTORIA
    1993-1994 TEMPO
    1993-1997 THUNDERBIRD
    1995-2000 CONTOUR
    1998-2002 ESCORT ZX2
    2000-2002 FOCUS
    1993-1996 BRONCO
    1993-1997 AEROSTAR
    1993-2002 E SERIES, F-150, RANGER
    1995-2002 WINDSTAR
    1997-1999 F-250 LD
    1997-2001 EXPLORER
    1997-2002 EXPEDITION
    2000-2002 EXCURSION
    2001-2002 ESCAPE

    1991-2002 TOWN CAR
    1993-1998 MARK VIII
    1993-2002 CONTINENTAL
    2000-2002 LS
    1998-2002 NAVIGATOR

    1992-2002 GRAND MARQUIS
    1993-1994 TOPAZ
    1993-1997 COUGAR
    1993-1999 TRACER
    1993-2002 SABLE
    1995-2000 MYSTIQUE
    1999-2002 COUGAR
    1997-2001 MOUNTAINEER

    This article is being republished in its entirety to update the vehicle models, engines and years affected.


    Ford Motor Company now recommends SAE 5W-20 viscosity grade for servicing most gasoline and flexible fueled vehicles.

    All 2001 and 2002 vehicles where SAE 5W-20 is specified should be serviced at the recommended oil change intervals using SAE 5W-20. This oil is an improved formulation to improve fuel economy.

    Testing has validated this viscosity grade can be used in many previous model year vehicles. It is recommended ALL vehicles on the following Vehicle Application Listing be service with SAE 5W-20.

    All 2001-2002 vehicles other than those listed in the "Exception 2001 Vehicles" or "Exception 2002 Vehicles" chart are being filled with SAE 5W-20 motor oil at the factory and should also be serviced with SAE 5W-20 oil.

    02-1-9 Engine Oil - Oil Recommendations

    Veh. App. Listing Approved For SAE 5W-20 Motor Oil

    ^ 1993-1996 1.9L Escort/Tracer

    ^ 1995-2000 2.0L Zetec Contour/Mystique

    ^ 1999-2002 2.0L Cougar

    ^ 1997-2002 2.0L Escort/Tracer

    ^ 1998-2002 2.0L Escort ZX2

    ^ 2000-2002 2.0L Focus

    ^ 2001-2002 2.0L Escape

    ^ 1993-1997 2.3L Ranger

    ^ 1993-1994 2.3L Mustang

    ^ 1993-1994 2.3L Tempo/Topaz

    ^ 1998-2001 2.5L Ranger

    ^ 1995-2000 2.5L Contour/Mystique

    ^ 1999-2002 2.5L Cougar

    ^ 2001-2002 3.0L 4V Escape

    ^ 1996-2001 3.0L 4V Taurus/Sable

    ^ 1993-2002 3.0L (Vulcan) Aerostar/Ranger,

    ^ Taurus/Sable (Flexible Fuel and Gas)

    ^ 1995-2000 3.0L (Vulcan) Windstar

    ^ 1993-1994 3.0L (Vulcan) Tempo/Topaz

    ^ 2000-2002 3.0L 4V Lincoln LS

    ^ 1995-2002 3.8L Windstar

    ^ 1993-1997 3.8L Taurus/Sable,

    ^ Thunderbird/Cougar, Continental

    ^ 1994-2002 3.8L Mustang

    ^ 2002-2002 3.9L 4V Lincoln LS

    ^ 1997-2002 4.2L (SPI) F-150 (under 8500 GVW
    only), E-Series

    ^ 1996-2002 4.6L 2V Mustang

    ^ 1992-2002 4.6L Crown Victoria/Grand Marquis

    ^ 1991-2002 4.6L Town Car

    ^ 1994-1997 4.6L 2V Thunderbird/Cougar

    ^ 1996-2002 4.6L 4V Mustang Cobra

    ^ 1995-2002 4.6L 4V Continental

    ^ 1993-1998 4.6L 4V Mark VIII

    ^ 1997-2002 4.6L 2V Triton F-150/250 (under 8500
    GVW only), E-Series, Expedition

    ^ 1993-1999 4.9L E-Series, F-Series

    ^ 1993-1995 5.0L Mustang/Mustang Cobra

    ^ 1993-1993 5.0L Thunderbird/Cougar

    ^ 1997-2001 5.0L Explorer/Mountaineer

    ^ 1993-1996 5.0L E-Series, F-Series, Bronco

    ^ 2000-2002 5.4L Excursion

    ^ 1998-2002 5.4L 2V/4V Navigator

    ^ 1997-2002 5.4L 2V F-1501250 (under 8500
    GVW only), Expedition, E-Series, E-350

    ^ 1993-1997 5.8L F-Series, Bronco

    ^ 1993-1996 5.8L E-Series

    ^ 2000-2002 6.8L Excursion

    ^ 1997-2002 6.8L E-Series, E-350

    ^ 1999-2002 6.8L Super Duty F-Series 250
    HD/350/450/550 Motorhome

    ^ 1993-1998 7.5L All Vehicles


  • As far as I can determine, Ford is not threatening anything concerning the warranty. I believe that the question is being left more or less open, to keep the air pollution Nazis quiet, while not really imposing the new "standard" on customers. Just today, I spoke directly to a supervisor in a Ford dealership shop. We talked at length, and I must say he never actually committed himself to either side of whether or not Ford would refuse warranty coverage if 5W-30 was used. The closest he came was to say that the corporation types would have the opportunity to refuse, if the records they reviewed showed the use of 5W-30. He never suggested that anyone would attempt to prove (by chemical analysis) that 5W-30 had actually been used.
    Has there ever yet been a case in which a car owner has been refused warranty coverage in a circumstance of the customer not using the prescribed oil? I suggest that the next case will be the first case.
  • zueslewiszueslewis Posts: 2,353
    but for lack of maintenance.
  • would use 5W-20 in his own Ford vehicle? That might tell us something.
  • zueslewiszueslewis Posts: 2,353
    they get free cars and the maintenance is covered on a payout just like a regular warranty operation. He doesn't care what oil they use.
  • I have an '03 Accord. I don't think Honda would recommend using 5W20 just to gain a couple tenths of an MPG in the CAFE numbers. Honda has a reputation they've build over the last 20+ years of long lasting engines. Recommending 5W20 just for CAFE even if it would hurt long term engine reliability would be the dumbest move in the world. If that were the case then eventually Honda's engine reputation will start taking hits when it turns out engines don't last as long as they used to.

    I think it's likely that with improvements in manufacturing technology that tighter tolerance engines can be produced, thus allowing a thinner oil to be used.

    Until it's proved otherwise, I'd trust the owners manual.
  • vidtechvidtech Posts: 212
    today's engines have smaller tollerances than they did ten years ago.that thick,cold goopy oil that was used in the past has a harder time getting into these smaller areas.if you deviate from the manual,don't go crying to the dealer because your 45,000 mile engine begins to make noise.
  • isellhondasisellhondas Issaquah WashingtonPosts: 19,830
    Call for 0-20 motor oil!
  • tbonertboner Posts: 402
    Did you read what I posted from Ford. They are recommending 5W20 oil for engines going back to 1991 or 1992.

    I'm not sure your tolerance argument really holds water (or 5W20)

    Now, I'm sure you will be fine using this oil under normal conditions for 100K miles.

    But then I'm not normal, LOL

  • 200,000? Also, Mobil 1 is currently developing a 0W-20 synthetic that will be approved by Ford for its vehicles calling for 5W-20, this new oil should be available in March 2003. I saw your post on the Ford recommendations, T, that was interesting.
  • vidtechvidtech Posts: 212
    if you look in the owners manual of those early 90's fords they recommended 5w30 not 5w20 or 0w20.
    seems when we figured out the answers,ford changed the questions.
  • lobsenzalobsenza Posts: 619
    I toured the Lincoln plant in Wixom. I spoke with the engineers regarding 5w-20 oil. They have done extensive testing before they recommended it for general use. There will be no problems using 5w-20. Ford's 5w-20 is a synthetic blend which may be one of the reasons the thinner oil will hold up.
  • I am ready, here and now, to provisionally accept the idea that synthetic blend 5W-20 (specifically Motorcraft brand) will do no notable harm to the newer engines being specified for use of that weight. I think the agony we suffer is more thoroughly expressed in the question concerning what can we expect if we use 5W-30 in those engines? Is there any elevation of potential for damage? I am inclined to think that the problem we will suffer is a (tiny?) loss in gasoline mileage.
    The Ford shop supervisor I talked to yesterday told me that he would predict the eventual demise of non-blended, non-synthetic mineral oils in the IC engine marketplace. I'll bet he's right. Now, my opinion is based on the concept that we include the new SL hydrocracked products in the "blended" term. It's time for us to start using up our stocks of SJ-- use it or lose it, as they say.
  • Maybe, but after feeling some 5W-20, I am not sure if 5W-20 is thicker than water. In fact, after feeling and seeing the oil, I almost think the oil in my oil and vinegar salad dressing from dinner tonight would offer more protection for my engine. Remember the old oil like 10W-30? When you watched it pour, you knew it was oil. There was no doubt what it was going to do for the engine. Now, I feel like I am putting water in my engine. My question is then, what is wrong with a little viscosity?

    I had 10W-30 in my Ford 4.6L engine at first, then changed to 5W-20. The difference is noticeable. The engine runs louder and more harsh. It literally sounds and feel as if it is not being lubricated as well. That is pretty hard to argue with day after day.

    Maybe Ford will be happy if I just get past 36,000 miles from my engine for the sake of the warranty. But I want the engine to go 200,000 or more. I hope the CAFE people are thinking about all the landfills these cars are going to take up after they are retired after a short, difficult life. How is that for the environment?

    It is not good enough for Ford to say it won't hurt the engine. I would like to know 5W-20 is AS GOOD or BETTER for the engine's protection as a heavier grade oil.

    The problem is, in 3-5 years we will be able to read these boards and see if the 5W-20 worked or not. If we read then that everyone is complaining about short engine life using 5W-20, we will know the answer. Right now it just feels like guess work. I hope it is not Honda's or some other corporations new idea for planned obsolescence of a product. What a great way to increase new car sales, decrease the car's life...
  • americanflag: And the price of vehicles is astronomical in our economy, so making them last is really important.
    A simplified view of a particular pair of oil weights is, that you start with REAL 5 weight oil and then put a quart of it in each of a pair of containers, A & B. Now, put elastomer molecules in container A such that when the oil in A is hot, it will cause that quart of oil to have the characteristics of 30 weight, and in container B put elastomers to cause it to act like 20 weight oil, when B is heated up. Both are made from 5 weight oil that has received an additive package to alter the hot characteristics of each. Is this not a pretty good view of the difference between 5W-30 and 5W-20 motor oils?
  • 5W-20 and 5W-30 are basically the same, except that the 5W-30 will have the additional viscosity range of 20-30? With 5W-20, when the oil is hot, wouldn't it get down to 5W, but never heavier than 20 weight when cold? So the 5W-20 would start out as thinner until it became warmed up. But the problem is to me the 5W-20 just seems thinner period.
  • Actually, 5 weight oil is too light to do much engine protecting after it gets hot, but it is very nice to have oil that is that thin when it is cold (starting and early delivery of lube to metal-metal interfaces). The additive packages put into the 5 weight base oils are responsible for increasing the ability of the thin oil to act just as protectively to the engine when hot as would a single weight of oil of 30 or of 20, in this case. I have heard a chemical engineer referring to the additive molecules as elastomers, when discussing this "stretch" of equivalent weights as oil heats up.
  • swschradswschrad Posts: 2,171
    that is, you have 5w oil that is chemically thickened when it gets hotter. to insure it does so repeatedly and at a specific rate, it gets an SAE rating of service. if you are pouring SAE SJ or SX or SZ+, whatever we end up with year after next, in the correct weight grade, the Society of Automotove Engineers, which is basically a standards group for the automakers, thus rules this oil will meet all standards for SJ, as well as meet or exceed all standards for SF, SE, SC, and older rated oils. if an automaker specifies SJ or another SAE grade system, they have signed on.

    if you don't trust the additives to protect you longer than the old 1000-mile rule of thumb back when oil was oil, pistons were pistons, and you could use the same rims on Plymouths and Chevies but had to use Ford rims on Fords, you change more often to get those sick, weak-kneed additives out of there.

    if you don't trust the BASE OIL, the 5w part of the equation, the general rule at this point in recorded history ;) is to quit dino oil and go with a synthetic, since the synthetics boast higher temperature tolerance at both ends of the scale. that is, better flowability without losing the film in below-zero temps, as well as lower vapor pressure, aka higher boiling point and breakdown point, without losing the film at high temps.

    if you don't trust the SYNTHETIC base oil, shine up your thumb, it will get a lot of use at the side of the road, and you want it real pretty as you'll be waving it at all the cars going by.

    used to be in the late 70s, there were serious questions about whether you could use the "new" oil in 7-liter DDA diesels, because there was no more CC cetane-rated SAE oil. Lots of SG/CD oil, but no straight CC oil. this has been sorted out before, and The Industry Decreed that SG.CD was just fine and didn't kill any warranties still in force. Drivers used to getting a quarter-million miles before the sleeve and ring jobs got 'em.

    as always, consider your driving conditions. if you are on the road and towing, you are running hotter under load, and may want to change oil more frequently per your towing instructions, etc. I don't think you want to put 50-weight racing oil in your DOHC 2003 engine calling for 5w-20.

    remember, if the thing fails two miles out of warranty due to total internal failure, and you maintained according to the owner's manual's more severe-service rating, and you can PROVE it in a court of law, you will likely win a lawsuit. that can't be said by dragging in a bunch of printed pages from the Edmunds board, your kids as character witnesses, and the weekly supermarket tabloid article that said Notradamus predicted the devil's oil would stop mankind cold.
  • Old "Nostrils" would have deduced that base oils being equal, and extended weight ratings dependent on elastomeric molecular additives, then surely 5W-30 must be better than 5W-20 for the engine in question, UNLESS there is some undiscussed feature of the additive differences between the two separate oils that weighs on the situation.
    Perhaps the answer lies in territory parallel to the situation years ago when 10W-30 began replacing 10W-40, and rumors had it, if not warranty provisos, that GM would cast you to the wolves if your engine blew up while running the evil 10W-40 instead of the corporate preferred 10W-30.
  • zueslewiszueslewis Posts: 2,353
    manner that the limits of oil viscosity are never tested. Only durability is tested since most people forget silly little things like maintaining their cars.
This discussion has been closed.