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Best Motor Oils for High Mileage Engines

Marc Skirvin
Marc Skirvin

What's in this Article

The average lifespan of a car is about 200,000 miles —Give or take.

That is if you take care of it properly. You don’t have to be an expert mechanic to maintain your vehicle. There’s a lot to know and understand about cars, which can be overwhelming.

There are two basic things that every car owner should know: How to change a tire, and when to change your oil. 

Choosing the best motor oil can be tricky, especially if you have an older vehicle. Understanding what type of oil your car needs at the different stages of its life can be what makes or breaks your engine, and your bank account.

If you’re looking to understand what the best high mileage oil consists of, then you’ve come to the right place.

What’s Different About High-Mileage Oil?

Motor oil is the life force of your car. If your car had veins, oil would be the blood. When your engine is brand new, clean and full of oil, all of your car’s moving parts work together perfectly and effortlessly. Once your car gets older, it’s parts don’t move the same anymore. Especially if you don’t keep up with its maintenance.

The purpose of motor oil is to keep your engine and its moving parts lubricated and protected. It minimizes heat build-up, protects from corrosion, reduces the impact of friction which causes the wear and tear, and it washes away deposits and sludge from the internal components. 

High mileage oil in comparison to your standard motor oil is typically blended with a thicker viscosity. A thicker viscosity allows an older engine to properly handle extreme temperatures. It will also contain more additives like antioxidants, seal conditioners to prevent oil leaks, and detergents to minimize sludge.

Over time, your car will experience normal wear and tear. After about a hundred thousand miles or so, moving parts like your pistons, valves, camshaft, and your crankshaft wear down which causes the engine to lose compression. Non-moving parts like your gaskets and seals can spring a leak. This will affect your car’s performance and fuel economy.

This is why high mileage motor oil for older cars is extremely important. Without the appropriate type of oil and consistent oil changes, your aging engine will face serious problems. By using the best high-mileage oil for your car, you’ll be able to reduce the wear and tear, maintain fuel efficiency and performance, and extend the life of your engine. 

What is Considered a ‘”High-Mileage” Car?

Typically, your car’s engine is considered “old” at 75,000 miles or more. Of course, highway mileage vs city mileage or, “stop-and-go” mileage will affect your engine differently.

Highway mileage refers to a car being driven for long periods of time, consistently. This allows your car to reach the elevated revolutions per minute (RPMs) needed for optimum lubrication. This lubrication is what creates a hydrodynamic film that prevents contact and wear on moving parts.

Stop-and-go mileage does not allow your car to reach the same RPMs which cause uneven wear and tear on its moving parts. Constantly starting your car and letting it idle will decrease the lifespan of your engine as well as lowers its fuel economy. 

This discrepancy means that you can have a prematurely aging car and need high mileage oil sooner than you think. If your mileage is below 75,000 and you are noticing a subpar performance while driving, then it’s time to switch to a higher viscosity oil. It may cost you a little more, but it can save you a lot of money in repairs in the long run.

What to Look for in High Mileage Motor Oil

If you’re in the market for some high mileage motor oil, there are a few things to consider before you make a purchase:

The age of your engine: Seven years or 75,000 miles —Whichever comes first. This is when it’s time to begin looking for a higher viscosity oil. Unless your car starts stalling out beforehand.

Viscosity and temperature: It’s important to find motor oil that has a thick viscosity and can also maintain its viscosity at high temperatures. The label on the bottle will have an oil rating that reads like “5W-30”.

The first number, “5W” refers to the viscosity of the oil when the engine is cold. The lower the number the lower the viscosity, which is good for your engine’s start-up performance. The second number, “30” refers to the thickness of the oil at normal operating temperatures.

Additives: You’ll want to check for additives that add protective qualities to the oil. These additives are in the form of detergents, seal conditioners, friction modifiers, and antioxidants to keep everything clean and corrosion free.

Pricing: There are a variety of high-mileage motor oils out there from synthetic grade to conventional. Prices will depend on the brand and the grade, synthetic being the most expensive. 

The bottles are labeled “high-mileage” above the viscosity number. If you’re unsure of what you’re looking for exactly, you can easily get recommendations from your local auto shop on which type of high-mileage motor oil to choose. 

Be wary of mechanics who tell you that high mileage motor oil is a “scam”. Using a high mileage oil for older cars is a necessity for protecting your engine and avoiding costly repairs. 

What is the Best Motor Oil for a High Mileage Car?

It can be tough to comb through all of your options when looking for the best motor oil for your car. You have to choose between conventional and synthetic grades, viscosity numbers and price.

To get you started, here is a list of the best high mileage oil for older cars:

Mobile 1 5W-30 High Mileage Motor Oil

Arguably the most popular brand for motor oil, Mobile 1 is designed to extend the life of your high mileage engine. It is a pure synthetic grade motor oil with superior additives to optimize your engine’s performance. It promises to clean out the built-up sludge in your engine for a smoother ride and is suitable for stop-and-go driving as well as high-speed driving.

The only downside to this oil is that it’s a bit pricey.

Valvoline MaxLife 10W-40 Higher Mileage Motor Oil

This is a semi-synthetic grade motor oil highly recommended for aging engines. Valvoline is jam-packed with additives and detergents to prevent your seals from leaking and clean the inside of your engine and its moving parts thoroughly.

This is a budget-friendly high mileage oil that can bring life back to your old engine. However, it may not handle extreme temperatures well.

Pennzoil 10W-30 High Mileage Motor Oil

This is a great all-around conventional motor oil. It has the right amount of additives and detergents to protect your engine from wear, prevent leaks, and it supports thermal oxidation. It also has low-temperature capability. Aside from improved performance, it will also improve your fuel economy.

If you are doing consistent heavy driving, however, this oil may not serve you as well.

Castrol GTX 0647 20W-50 High Mileage Motor Oil

This is one of the best semi-synthetic high mileage oils as it is specially formulated with fewer phosphorus additives to prevent catalytic converter failure. Like the other oils, it can take you up to 7,500 miles or more before your next oil change. Its detergents will clean up your sludge while its seal sweller will reduce the amount of oil that enters the combustion chamber. 

This motor oil exceeds industry expectations. Its only downside is the price.

Royal Purple HMX 10W-30

This synthetic oil is hands down one of the best motor oils. It is specially designed to restore the life of your engine and revitalize hardened seals. The HMX motor oil is especially effective at reducing oil consumption which is common in higher mileage engines due to stout detergents. This oil is formulated with a special proprietary blend of additives to provide superior corrosion protection and film strength.

This oil is unique in that it creates a metallic ionic attraction to metal components, which helps to minimize tear upon start-up as well as providing an outstanding oxidation resistance. This motor oil will not only revitalize your engine, but it will improve your miles per gallon and minimizes the number of oil changes you’ll need per year.

The only downside to this oil is that it is much more expensive than the other brands.

Amsoil Extended Life 5W-30 Motor Oil

This is another 100% synthetic oil that is exceptional at improving your engine’s performance and mileage. This motor oil is specially formulated to not only last for longer intervals but to remain effective for longer periods of time.

It has enhanced cleaning capabilities to get rid of that unwanted sludge and extra protection for even the most extreme conditions. It will take you up to 12,000 miles before your next oil change, giving you some bang for your bucks.

Aside from being expensive, this motor oil does not do well with aftermarket additives. 

If You Love Your Car Let it Know

Your car, whether you love it or not, is an investment. By using the best motor oil for your car you are ensuring its engine remains in its prime. High mileage motor oils are designed to help you maintain the life of your investment while preventing costly damages that need repairs.

High mileage motor oil is just the beginning —for further support and information on older or used vehicles, contact us.

We have plenty of tips for maintaining, buying and selling cars.

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About the Author


Marc is the Co-Founder of Cash Auto Salvage and Director of daily operations. He retired from a leading Internet Marketing company in 2013 and has been involved in the automotive industry ever since.

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