What Happens if You Put 5w20 Instead of 5w30?

Each engine has a specific grade and functioning requirements. When looking for the correct oil, you need to consider your car’s operating temperature and mileage conditions, among other details.

Each type of oil has a different set of specs. Therefore, the performance might be better than the other in some conditions. This doesn’t mean the oils are freely interchangeable. For optimal performance, it is best to use the recommended oil grade for your engine. Doing so will save you money, time, convenience and ensure your safety.

Nonetheless, it is in your best interest to know the types of oils, their pros and cons, and the effects of switching them.

Difference Between 5W20 and 5W30 Oil

Both 5W30 and 5W20 are winter viscosity grade motor oils. They are usually used for old engines and give the best performance during light-duty use in cold temperatures. However, they have some prominent differences, which is why many experts suggest not to change the oils because what one type of oil does, others cannot.Difference Between 5W20 and 5W30 Oil

High-Temperature Performance

Multigrade oils have a specific naming format, where the title is representative of its properties. The ‘W’ stands for winter, the preceding number represents oil viscosity under 0°C, and the following numbers represent the viscosity after 100°C.

The high-temperature viscosity is different (30 vs. 20). 5W30 performs better than the counterpart (higher the number, better the performance) as it is thicker and won’t break down quickly. It is more robust and will blend well with your engine in a high-temperature and moderate pressure setting.


Generally, low viscosity oils are more efficient than their counterparts. Under normal operating temperatures, a lower viscosity oil provides a thin protective barrier for your engine. However, this doesn’t mean low protection rather low friction (specifically in cold temperatures). Lower abrasion reduces the drag across different engine parts, increasing efficiency mileage.

Thus, from an economic standpoint, 5W20 being a thinner oil will help improve your fuel economy. It may not be a huge difference, but over time it adds up.

Engine Protection

A significant difference between 5W20 and 5W30 is their weight (5W30 one is thicker and heavier, and 5W20 is lighter). Hence, the level of protection they offer is not the same. 5W20 flows easily at lower temperatures, but it may thin out at higher temperatures. 5W30 also provides a good flow but performs relatively better at higher temperatures, providing proper lubrication to sensitive engine parts.

This is why 5W20 is used chiefly for newer engines with robust parts and 5W30 for older ones.

Similarities Between 5W20 and 5W30 Oil

Both oils in the discussion have a ‘5W’ winter viscosity. Thus, they perform excellently in the cold. The lower the number, the better is the performance in the winter season. Both motor oils’ flow rate and protection at lower temperatures are the same.

Take a Look: Pennzoil Platinum vs. Ultra Platinum Synthetic Motor Oil

Which Oil Is Better?

None and both! Neither of the two is better or worse. Based on the differences and similarities, they both have their unique strengths and limitations. The right question is, which oil is better for your engine. The answer depends on the temperature at which you primarily drive, the age of your engine, and the motor oil recommended for it.Which Oil Is Better for car engine

There are specific engines that are flexible to oil type, but some have strict recommendations. If the manufacturer recommends a particular type of lubricant, then it’s best to stick with it. However, if there is flexibility, then you can switch.

Ideally, for people who drive in hotter climates, 5W30 is a better option. It has a higher viscosity with a versatile temperature range. Moreover, you also get better protection at various temperatures.

On the other hand, 5W20 will work best if you live in colder climates with a normally low temperature. It is perfect for light-duty, where the engine doesn’t get too hot. Moreover, newer engines perform to their optimum potential with thinner 5W20 motor oil.

Read Also: Compressor Oil vs Motor Oil: Get To Know Them

Should You Replace the 5w30 With 5w20?

If you must, then you can do so with certain precautions. However, it is not recommended. If the manufacturer insists on using a particular lubricant, stick with it. They made the engine, so they know it better.Should You Replace the 5w30 With 5w20

For some vehicles, they only include the oil viscosity rating. However, you can contact the manufacturers for detailed instructions. The user manual sometimes contains information for any possible substitute to the recommended engine oil.

Overall, the answer to this question is no. The differences may be minor, but in the long run, using the wrong lubricants can leave your engine in a non-functional state, and it may also nullify the engine warranty.

What Happens if You Replace the Oil?

If you are wondering what would happen if you switch up the motor oils, let us guide you through it. When you use 5W20 instead of 5W30, you risk damaging the engine and the car (in the long run), as the engine is compatible with maximizing functionality using 5W20 oil.What Happens if You Replace the Oil

5W20 is a lightweight oil, not suitable for heavy-duty driving. It also doesn’t protect the engine or flow smoothly at higher temperatures. A significant reason why motor oils are used is to increase gas petrol mileage. Using an oil that is not the right fit for your engine will decrease the synergy of the engine parts. The immediate result is low mileage, and a long-term effect could be permanent engine damage.

The same is applicable for replacing 5W20 with 5W30. The latter is heavier and requires more horsepower to flow smoothly, and an engine designed to work with 5W20 will not handle this thick lubricant.

Now, if you mistakenly switch the oils, should you panic? No. If you confuse the right oil for your engine once, it is not a problematic mistake. As the damage to the engine occurs gradually, you can take certain precautions and drive slowly until the oil runs out and replace it with the right fit for your engine.

People Also Ask

Can You Mix 5W20 and 5W30 Oils?

In many cases, a wrong mix may nullify your warranty and cost you a fortune in damage control. You are also risking the combustion power of your engine and its longevity. If your engine is flexible and can work with different types of oils, then you can, but there is no serious advantage that comes with mixing oils. Therefore, even if your engine is versatile, it is not a risk worth taking, and it is best to stick with the recommended motor oils.

What to Do if You Use the Wrong Oil in Your Car?

If you accidently use the wrong motor oil for your car, the best thing to do is drain it out and get an immediate oil change. An incompatible oil choice will not immediately affect your engine’s performance, but it is best not to risk it.

If an immediate oil change is not an option, you should maintain a conscious driving stance until you can change the motor oil. Firstly, drive slowly and maintain your speed. Secondly, do not let your engine heat up. If the engine’s operating temperature shoots up, pull over, turn off the engine and wait for it to cool down.

Does Switching Oils Affect Engine’s Warranty?

Strictly speaking, this depends on your warranty conditions. If the manufacturer’s guide mentions that a particular type of oil should be used, then changing to a different grade will nullify your warranty. Of course, no mechanic can tell which oil you have been using just by looking at your engine. However, if you apply for repair under warranty, the mechanic may opt for an oil test that will reveal the exact grade. We recommend that you keep the receipts of service for reference purposes whenever you get an oil change.

Are 5W30 and 5W20 Oil Synthetic or Conventional?

Both these oils are available as synthetic and conventional variants. Conventional lubricants are made from crude oil with additives to improve corrosion resistance and lubrication. It is economical and flows smoothly but runs out quickly. On the contrary, synthetic motor oil is long-lasting and highly stable in variable temperatures. The manufacturing process involves chemically altering hydrocarbon composition for a more stable working temperature.

Can I Use 5W20 Instead of 5W30 in Toyota?

You can, but you shouldn’t. Regardless of which company the engine belongs to or how robust and resilient it is. Long-term function with incompatible 5W20 oil (especially if 5W30 is the recommended grade) can damage the engine parts and lead to sudden failure.

Can I Use 5W20 Instead of 5W30 in My Honda?

For most Honda models, the user manual states that you can use 5W20 if 5W30 is unavailable. However, for the next oil, you should ensure the availability of the recommended lubricant. Given the manual, using 5W20 should neither harm the engine nor nullify the warranty. However, it should not become a regular practice.

Closing Thoughts

When choosing the type of oil, your vehicle’s manufacturer manual is your best bet. There are thin lines and tricks to switch oils while minimizing engine damage. Especially if you live in areas with moderate climate and your engine is not too old, the damage can be avoided. Although motor oils are sometimes used interchangeably, there is a substantial difference in their chemical and physical properties.

Therefore, understanding their fundamental structure is essential before using them as lubricants for your car engine. A prominent distinction may be seen in the concept of viscosity, which is simply the thickness of a liquid. Therefore, by understanding the viscosities and their effect on the engine’s function, you can employ the oils in various situations. However, maximum engine efficiency is not possible using an oil not compatible with the engine model. So, why risk it?

Lastly, irrespective of the oil you use or the age of your vehicle, regular maintenance, and frequent oil change can increase the longevity of your engine.

Leave a Comment