Is Engine Oil the Same as Motor Oil? Debunking Common Myths

Have you ever pondered if engine and motor oil are different products or just two names for the same fluid? The answer is more straightforward than you might think. This article will explain how these are just interchangeable terms. Whether you're a car maintenance novice or looking to improve your automotive knowledge, here, you will be guided appropriately. When you are done, matters related to engine lubrication will be a walk in the park.
Pouring oil into a car engine

Key Takeaways

  • Engine Oil vs. Motor Oil: They cite the same thing: a vital fluid (lubricant) critical for engine health.
  • Components: Engine oil comprises additives and base oils, with viscosity grades playing an essential role in the machine’s protection and functionality.
  • Debunked Myths: Dispel various misconceptions about engine oil, such as mixing different brands, using thicker oil, etc.

Understanding the Terminology: What’s in a Name?

Motor oil and engine oil are terms that have similar meanings. Essentially, they refer to the engine’s lubricant.

In most cases, the choice of terminology boils down to one’s region of preference. Motor oil is often used in the United States, while engine oil is used primarily in Europe.

Composition and Functionality

Before getting to the ins and outs, it would be best if you were conversant with motor oils’ composition and functionalities.

Oil in engines contains a long list of vital components. One of them is base oils that facilitate lubrication. You will also find additives that enhance thermal stability, viscosity, and oxidation resistance.

They then come together to help to cool engine components and prevent sludge build-up and corrosion. With this, its overall health is maintained at an optimum level.

Debunking Common Myths

Image labeled "myths"

Myth 1: Engine Oil and Motor Oil are Different Products

One of the most common myths in the automotive space is the belief that motor and engine oil are different items. As a certified mechanic and industry guru, I can confidently tell you this is untrue. 

In essence, as stated before, these are similar interchangeable terms referring to the lubricating fluid found in engines designed for efficiency and longevity. Knowing this clears any form of confusion. It also helps you make informed decisions when in the market for your next oil bottle.

Myth 2: Thicker Oil Provides Better Protection

Here is another myth that has been spread widely for years. Many think that with thicker oil, their engines will be better shielded from wear, tear and damage. Again, this is entirely false. Every single engine has its own specifications and oil requirements. This means using oil of the wrong viscosity (thicker than specified) can only cause havoc.  

Ensure that you always stick to the manufacturer’s recommendations. Doing so will ensure that your engine performs well and lasts longer.

Fact: According to the American Petroleum Institute (API), around 60% of surveyed motorists are often unsure of the designated engine oil viscosity to use on their vehicles.

Myth 3: Changing Oil Every 3,000 Miles is Necessary

High mileage speedometer

For an extended period, motor oils were switched after every 3,000 miles covered. Well, that is no longer the case. The evolution of technology came with not only improved engines but also formulations. Nowadays, engines can run for longer distances without needing oil changes. You can drive with the same fluid for anywhere between 5,000 to 10,000 miles.

This emphasises the need to evolve and abandon old rules that could prove costly to you and the ecosystem.

Myth 4: You Can Mix Different Brands of Engine Oil

Just like engines are specially designed, so are their oils. Every component in engine oil is carefully selected and brought together distinctly. That is why combining two or more formulations creates an imbalance and brings numerous issues. 

An excellent example is the improper lubrication of the engine. Only one thing can come out of an engine “left out to dry”: its inevitable wear and breakdown. That is why you should stick to one engine oil type and follow the manufacturer’s advice to the letter. With this, you will enjoy a smooth and incredible performing machine.


Engine oil and motor oil are the same thing. Everyone saying otherwise is simply spreading lies and fueling myths like those highlighted above. As a car owner, it is essential to know such facts for the benefit of your engine. Furthermore, continue to read wide and get in tune with the technological advancements in the motor industry. This will open your eyes to many things, guide you on how best to care for your machines, and save you a lot.

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Picture of Victor Shvetsov
Victor Shvetsov
Victor is a car technician with 10 years of experience in the auto repair industry. He's an enthusiast of blogging and he likes nothing more than spending his weekends working on his car.

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