Can I Use 0w20 Instead of 5w20? Get Facts Here!

Written by

Charles Bolte


Vernon Hoppe 

can i use 0w20 instead of 5w20

Many vehicle owners ask, can I use 0w20 instead of 5w20? Would it be safe? The answer is yes. You can use and replace 5w20 with 0w20. It will run better and smoother compared to 5w20 in colder climates!

In this article, we’ll go over each of these motor oils and discuss what each are used for, how they’re different, and their oil equivalent!

Before we dive deeper into discussing synthetic or regular oil more thoroughly, let’s go ahead and check each of them out first!

Understanding the SAE Viscosity Rating System


The Society of Automotive Engineers, or the SAE, established the SAE code for conventional oil to have relevance and arrangement in the field.

This code is the prime identifier of viscosity and oil temperature range to ensure your vehicle is safe and sound.

To break it down and for you to understand what 0w-20 oil is used for, let’s use it as an example.

The first “0” is the viscosity in the startup of the vehicle (cold engine), and the “W” after it is the signal that it can be used for winter or cold temperatures.

Then, the “20” represents the viscosity if it’s in higher temperatures. The lower the number, the thinner and lower-friction the oil is.

0w20 vs 5w20: the Difference Between 0w-20 and 5w-20 Explained


Probably one of the most common questions when it comes to this would be the ever-famous debate of 0w-20 vs. 5w-20 motor oil interchangeability.

Is 0w-20 the same as 5w-20? Can they be considered oil equivalent? Is it okay for them to be substituted? We’ll answer all that here!

For this, we’ll discuss some of their independent traits and characteristics so you can better understand each oil!

1. Composition and characteristics


The prefix or the first number in the grade (5 for 5w20 and 0 for 0w20) represents the viscosity of the oil at rest. “0W” means that it’s great for cold weather, sub-zero levels because it is thin, while “5W” is great for cold weathers, too (but not as cold as 0).

You might be wondering what the “w” is, it’s the abbreviation or the symbol for “winter.”

Lastly, “SAE 20” or the suffix represents the viscosity of the oil in operating temperature or while it’s being used.

This can sound bad news in hot weather since thinner lubricants flow faster at higher temperatures.

2. Properties and benefits


When looking at them side-by-side, they are almost identical since they both are high-quality oil synthetic grades with low viscosity levels, which are relevant if you are big on fuel economy.

0w20’s oil range is anywhere between -30°C to 20°C, while 5w20’s runs from –20 °C to 30°C, which is also great for humid climates.

3. Fuel efficiency


Since both have almost-identical grades and viscosity, there will be little-to-no difference in terms of fuel savings. However, regarding starting the car, the 5w20 is known to be more efficient in fuel, and also why newer car models use it.

The 0w20, on the other hand, is the type of oil that’s suited for turbo diesel engines.

4. Vehicle use


The 0w20 and 5w20 are among the most popular multi-grade synthetic oils. A lot of people think that both oils are great for all vehicle types. However, there are subtle differences between them.

0w20, since it’s thinner and less viscous, are suitable for small vehicles like sedans, hatchbacks, etc.

On the other end of the rope, 5w20 would be more useful for diesel engines and light petrol vehicles like pick-up trucks, vans, and SUVs.

Can I Use 0w20 Instead of 5w20? Find the Truth Here!

So, now that you know the 0w-20 meaning, as well as 5w-20, respectively, do you think that you can substitute 5w20 for 0w20 or vice versa? Like how I did in my Ford unit, I changed it – and surprisingly, it worked!

Both are perfect for colder climates, while the 0w20 are perfect for freezing temperatures, while the 5w20 is the ideal oil for just colderinst-than-the-usual climates.

Now, let’s go ahead and discuss the considerations you want to have!

1. Manufacturer recommendations


In case you didn’t know, there are recommendations from your manufacturer via your unit’s manual on what oil to put. For instance, a Toyota Camry, the recommendation would be 0w20 and have 5w30 as an alternative for fully-synthetic oil.

Another example would be the Honda CRV. Since its manufacturing, most CRV’s have a recommendation of 0w20 motor oil.

However, depending on the mileage and usage of your vehicle, the manufacturer may recommend a different oil – a 5w20 or a 5w30, for example.

This will really depend on your manufacturer and whether they have rulings for warranty or not. Some manufacturers won’t give you coverage if they see that you are using a different oil from their recommendation.

2. Switching oil brands


Another question you could have would be with the brand. Would it be safe to change brands? Well, generally speaking, it is! In fact, there’s nothing wrong with it, especially if you’ll get the same grade.

It may even be possible if you switch brands and you’ll be using 0w20 instead of 5w20. However, you would want to choose a brand that has the same API level as what you are using now.

3. What will happen if I put 5w20 instead of 0w20?


Some of you may still be stuck with the question, will a 5w20 hurt a 0w20 engine?

The answer is yes and no – let me explain. Both of them have similar viscosities upon approaching the engine’s operating temperature.

However, 0w20 oils are designed for temperatures that are below zero – typically colder than it, which basically means that they’re thinner and less viscous.

5w20 would be great for moderately cold climates, but not in temperatures that reach -30 degrees Celsius. This will be a great substitute as it can help improve fuel efficiency and since it has substantially less crankshaft drag compared to 0w20.

So, is it ok to put 5w20 in a 0w20 engine?

Yes, so long as the climate or temperature is not reaching heights of -30 degrees Celsius. On the other hand, you wouldn’t want to put 0w20 in a 5w20 engine if it’ll be hotter than 20 degrees Celsius, which means it’ll be less effective and less viscous.

4. When it might be acceptable


The following situations would allow a change on the viscosity of the oil that you use:

  • Different Climate/Weather Conditions
  • Driving (More Than 15,000km per year = lower viscosity is better)
  • When Your Car Manual Allows Both SAE 5w-30/40 and 10w-40 or higher, switching to a more viscous oil is better because it enhances the quality of lubrication

Factors to Consider When Choosing Between 5w-20 vs. 0w-20

In choosing between SAE 0w-20 vs. SAE 5w-20, there are a few factors that are worth considering for you to get the results you’re looking for.

1. Your manual


No matter how matching the components and variables are, if your manual tells you that you need a 0w20, you’ll use a 0w20. Only in dire times should you change or modify it.

There are, however, units that recommend both (5w20 and 0w20), while there are some that only recommend 5w20, like in my Ford units, for example. Manuals say and recommend only higher-viscosity oils.

2. Location/Climate


Another crucial factor would be your location. Why? Because where you are will dictate the weather or climate you’ll be experiencing. For instance, having a Jeep in Michigan doesn’t mean you have to follow the 0w20 recommendation religiously.

Instead, you can go to your dealer and ask whether you can use 5w20 instead of 0w20 to give you better and more efficient runs or not.

In addition to that, using either a 5w20 or a 0w20 won’t be of much use in Florida since the temperatures in the given state exceed the recommended 20 degrees Celsius on a regular basis.

3. Viscosity


And last but most definitely not least would be the viscosity. As we know from before, the lower or smaller the number, the thinner the oil is – which means the better the flow.

You just have to keep in mind that naturally, oils thicken when they cool and they thin out when heated!



Can I Mix 0w20 and 5w20 Motor Oils?

If you’re asking about safety, yes, you can mix 0w20 with 5w20. However, since their viscosity is not identical and they’re not oil equivalent, in the long run, your engine could be damaged. It’s important to ensure that your reservoir is empty!

How Often Should I Change My Engine Oil?

The rule of thumb in changing oil should be anywhere between 7,500 and 10,000 miles or about 12,000 km to 16,000 km.

Does a 0w20 Damage Engine?

No, if your engine is designed to use 5w20. But, if your manufacturer’s recommendation is 15w30 or higher, it can damage it because of it being too thin.

Will the Warranty Still Be Covered If I Use the Different Motor Oil Viscosity?

Yes, it will still be covered given that your brand/dealer/manufacturer was the one that changed it. If you did it with another dealer or shop – or if you did it yourself, most brands will void it and leave you uncovered.

What Are the Disadvantages of Using the Wrong Oil?

There are many, but the major drawback of using the incorrect oil would be compounding component damage. Wrong engine oil can result in higher ash content, which can clog engines and make it not lubricate several components correctly.

The Bottom Line

Who knew that using and interchanging either 5w20 or 0w20 is safe? I mean, to reiterate, it’s safe if it’s used in moderate climates and weathers, but not if there are large differences.

So, the next time you ask, can I use 0w20 instead of 5w20, check this guide back again to avoid bricking your car!

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