0W20 vs 5W20 Synthetic Motor Oil: Different or Same?

Both 0W20 and 5W20 are low-viscosity and high-quality synthetic oils that can greatly optimize the fuel economy. When you use such advanced full-synthetic oil formulation, the engine also performs at its highest efficiency. Is there any difference between 0W20 vs 5W20? Or, can you interchange them for high-mileage vehicles, commuter cars, and trucks?

Keep reading to get your answers.

What Do These Oil Numbers Mean?

To understand the differences or compare 0W20 vs 5W20, you should know what the numbers of these oils mean.

These numbers refer to the weight and viscosity (or thickness) of the oil. The letter ‘W’ means both varieties are suitable for cold temperatures. The first number before the letter refers to the oil’s thickness at a cold temperature and the number following the letter indicates the thickness at operating temperature. On a side note, motor oil becomes thinner when heats up (high temperatures) and thicker when gets cold (low temperatures).

0W20 vs 5W20
Oil’s performance depends on temperatures. (Photo Source: made-in-china)

So, 0W20 means the oil’s viscosity is 0 in cold temperatures and 20 at the operating temperature. The 5W20 oil is the same except for a viscosity of 5 in cold temperatures.

Both oils are designed to use in cold-weather regions. However, these multi-grade oils can perform in hot weather too, although not extremely hot.


0W20 vs 5W20: Different or Same?

Breaking down the numbers of these oils indicates that they don’t have many differences.

Motor oil’s sole function is to lubricate the engine and its components. It is at its highest efficiency when the engine is at the operating temperature because warm oil flows well. The properties of 0W20 and 5W20 are identical when they are at that temperature.

The ‘0’ and ‘5’ denoting the cold-flow properties have nothing to do with the thickness at operating temperature. Sure, 0W20 will flow better than 5W20 at low temperatures, but the difference is minimal and both versions run thin in cold conditions. However, if you live in an extremely cold region, the 0W oil will do less damage than the 5W oil while starting the engine.

Is It Possible to Interchange the Oils?

If you look at an oil chart (given below), you will see the both 0W20 and 5W20 are in almost the same spectrum.

synthetic oi viscosity
Oil viscosity and temperature chart. (Photo Source: pakwheels)

0W20’s range is from -40° to 20° while 5W20’s is from -25° to 20°. If you live in a severely cold region where the temperature gets beyond minus 25°, 0W20 is the better option. If there is no chance for the weather to get that much cold, you can interchange the oil. However, it’s better to use the 0W variant in extreme weather because the engine may suffer difficulties at the starting if you use the 5W version.

However, it’s always better to check your owner’s manual to see the recommended viscosity for the ambient temperatures. If both variants are on that list, use them without any hesitation.