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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

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

The Best Oil For Your Mustang

Oil viscosity requirements have changed over the years due to tighter clearances in engine components. The Ford 302 used to call for 10w-30 oil, now the 4.6L requires a 5w-20. The modern engine clearances require a thinner oil to function properly.

Depending on how you use your Mustang will dictate which oil is best. If your Mustang is a track pony, a synthetic oil with high heat tolerances is a must. Something like Royal Purple (which has a race oil variant) is a good choice. Also consider if you're in stop and go conditions, there's a lot of residual heat lurking around between bumper to bumper traffic. A synthetic oil, not necessarily a racing version, works well here too (think Lucas or Redline). 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
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