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The Best Oil For The Mustang

Written By: Josh Honeycutt

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Your Mustang's oil is critical in lubricating as well as keeping temperatures down. Changing your oil regularly will keep everything from getting gummed up and running smoothly.

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Despite its importance, a mustang's lubrication system is commonly overlooked. With so many different oil types on the market, it can be difficult to decide which one to use. Have no fear; it’s actually very simple to keep your mustang’s power plant lubricated and working properly.

American Muscle

Oil Breakdown

  • Viscosity measures the thickness of a particular fluid where zero is the thickness of water
  • Mineral based oils are the “conventional” variety, or the "change every 3,000 miles" oil
  • Synthetics are man-made and degrade slower than conventional oils
  • The newer the engine, the tighter the tolerances mainly because of advancements in machining
  • Newer engines require thinner oils to operate well with these tolerances
2015 EcoBoost Mustang in Competition Orange

Understanding The Terminology

The viscosity (thickness) Ford chose for the Mustang is based upon normal operating temperature, or 212° F. The operating temperature is important in your oil choice because oil thins to the correct viscosity at operating temperature. At room temperature (or in the dead of winter), the oil is too thick to be effective. This is why 90% of engine wear occurs at start up. The oil actually goes through a bypass and is returned to the sump until it is sufficiently warmed up.

Let's discuss 10w-30. The 30 represents how thick the oil is at 212° F. The 10w is the "winter" thickness of the oil. In this case, the oil is thicker at operating temperature than when it's cold. Technically there is no difference between 0w-30 and 10w-30 at operating temperature, but 0w-30 is thinner at start up. The thinner oils are for engines with tighter tolerances and to reduce start up wear. If the oil is too thick when it's cold, you won't have proper lubrication, and in the worst case you'll damage your bottom end bearings.

As far as oil wear goes, the reason you do oil changes is contaminants and heat degradation. The repeaded heat cycles break down the oil over time. Once the oil loses its ability to lubricate and draw heat away from the rotating assembly, it's time for a change.

2006 GT Mustang on the Lift for Maintenance

CHART: Mustang Recommended Oil Viscosities by Year

1979-1993 Mustangs1994-1998 Mustangs1999-2004 Mustangs2005-2009 Mustangs2010-2014 Mustangs2015-2018 Mustangs
2.3L I4: 10w30 5-QTS3.8L V6: 10w30 5-QTS4.0L V6: 5w30 5-QTS3.7L V6: 5w20 6-QTS2.3L I4 EcoBoost: 5w30 5.7-QTS
2.3L I4 Turbo: 10w30 5.5-QTS4.6L V8: 10w30 6-QTS4.6L V8: 5w20 6-QTS4.0L V6: 5w30 5-QTS3.7L V6: 5w20 6-QTS
3.8L V6: 10w30 5-QTS5.0L V8: 10w30 5-QTS

4.6L V8: 5w20 6-QTS5.0L V8: 5w20 8-QTS
5.0L V8: 10w30 5-QTS

5.0L V8: 5w20 8-QTS5.2L V8: 5w50 10-QTS

5.0L V8 Boss 302: 5w50 8.5-QTS

5.4L V8 GT500: 5w50 6.4-QTS

5.8L V8 GT500: 5w50 8.5-QTS

Mineral Based Oils

Basically mineral oils are your traditional, non-synthetic oils. The common engine oil used in older engines. To achieve the lowest start up viscosity and the correct operating temperature viscosity, additives must be used. These are called viscosity index improvers, or VII. The downfall, however, is heat. When the viscosity improvers degrade, you may end up with 10w-20 oil in your engine instead of 10w-30. Or worse. This is why mineral based oils have to be changed so often. Usually the recommended oil change is every 3,000 miles.

1993 Convertible Mustang

Synthetic Oils

As the name would imply, synthetic oils are artificially made. Not quite. They still require some VIIs, but they go through a different refining process than their mineral based cousins. Since synthetics are more pure, they can endure more between oil changes. They are not as vulernable to heat as mineral based oils, and they can generally go about 7,000 miles between changes. Although synthetics may have the same viscosity rating as mineral based oils, they offer better lubrication and protection even at start up.

Redline 10w-30 Synthetic Engine Oil

Brand Suggestions for Your Mustang's Oil

All oils come from the earth, and this may leave you wondering if the brand of oil you are using really matters. Guys will swear by Royal Purple, Amsoil, Mobil, Lucas, Redline, Valvoline and even Motul; each telling you why the oil they prefer is the best. The truth behind oil is that it is typically designed for a specific use. 

For example, some oils are meant for daily drivers, while others are intended for use on the track. How do you know which one you should be running and when? All the previous listings we discussed are strong reputable brands that have offerings for just about any application between them. However, understanding the pros and cons of each will help you decide which oil is best for you and your car. For specialty vehicles, Royal Purple, Lucas, Redline, and Motul will be found on the top of the list. The blends they use are what keep them stable in the abusive, high heat environment of racing engines which is a pro. The cons are the offerings of viscosity variances and conventional blends by these brands is limited, if even available. Also, depending on your location, they can be hard to come across.

As for which is the best among them, it’s all in the eye of the beholder. Royal Purple is typically crowned king for track use, though the contenders on the list are very much in the same rankings. Brands like Valvoline and Mobil do offer synthetic bends and offer great track options. Though they aren’t commonly held on high by the masses in this department. Where they truly shine is in their selection and abundance. Both can be found nearly anywhere with just about any viscosity or blend one could want. They also are much more economical, in most cases, which makes them the perfect choice for daily drivers.

If you just picked up your Mustang from a private seller, a mineral based oil with a lot of detergents might not be a bad idea to clean out the engine, assuming the previous owner wasn't as much of an enthusiast as you.

1999-2011 Mustang GTs and V6s at the Track

How do Engine Mods Affect Oil Weight?

You own a Mustang. Odds are you’re going to modify it and it at the track. After particular modifications and in the right settings you know that the suggested octane levels of the fuel changes. Which brings up an interesting question - what about the oil? Every engine calls for a specific oil viscosity. Oil viscosity is directly impacted by temperature; therefore engine temperature does have an effect on the way the oil behaves. 

So when do modifications to the engine impact oil viscosity? Well, any one particular mod may only narrowly raise the operating temperature of an engine. If oil temperature does rise, oil coolers can be added along with a bigger radiator to keep things stable. Though, testing out higher oil viscosity may be worth tinkering with. It generally will not go too far though. For instance, an engine running 5W30 in stock form may benefit from a slightly higher viscosity like that of 10W30. Some even prefer to simply combine the two to create their own blend. Upgrades that affect any engine tolerances, like rotating assembly upgrades, will impact viscosity in a whole different manner. They can raise or lower the right level of viscosity to different extents and the engine builder will have to point you in the right direction.

Fitment includes: 1979, 1980, 1981, 1982, 1983, 1984, 1985, 1986, 1987, 1989, 1990, 1991, 1992, 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 1997, 1998, 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018, GT, V6, Cobra, ShelbyGT500, Mach1, Bullitt, Boss, LX, SVO, EcoBoost, ShelbyGT350