What weight oil should I buy when they don?t sell what the manual requires?

My 2008 Camry Hybrid manual calls for 0W20. All I can find in the automotive stores is 5W20 and 0W30. Which one is closer to the recommended weight? If I can’t get the exact match, will synth or blend help bridge the gap? Is one better in warm weather and the other in cold? Help! Thanks.

You should be able to find it.  Advanced Auto Parts has Mobil 1 in that grade.

Oil thickness or weight is chosen by the car manufacturer to maximize fuel economy (CAFE standards) while providing adequate protection for the engine. Newer engines have tighter clearances so you would not want a very haevy oil, such as a 10W40. However, I would not hesitate to run my Prius on 0W30, while 5W20 is OK too.

Once the car is fully broken in (2 oil changes), I would switch to 0W30 synthetic, such as Mobil 1. It is good for anywhere in the US in any season.

It’s interesting that Toyota specified 5W30 for the latest Corolla, which has been in production for 4 years, and has now changed that to 5W20, except for Canada. That same car uses 10 W40 or 20W50 in tropical countries!! Those countries DO NOT HAVE CAFE STADARDS. So by now you will know why these thin oils are specified.

Does your owner’s manual say that 5W-20 is an acceptable substitute? In most cases, there is a preferred oil (0W-20 in your car, 5W-30 in my car) and an acceptable oil that you can use if you don’t live in a cold climate (probably 5W-20 in your car, 10W-30 in mine). The important thing to consider is that the first number incicates the weight of the oil when the engine is cold and the second higher number is the weight of the oil when the engine is at operating temperature. The weight of the oil when the engine is cold becomes really important in cold climates. So I think you are better off with 5W-20, especially of you live in the South. Personally, I think you should keep searching for the right oil (0W-20).

By the way, if you do your own oil changes on a new car, make sure you keep detailed records and file the receipts so that you can prove you did the oil changes if you have a warranty claim.

You can always order the oil online. I found your oil (synthetic Penzoil Platinum for hybrids) online at http://oilstore.stores.yahoo.net/peplforhy0wc.html for $27.99 per case (6 quarts per case). If you do a search for yourself, you might find it cheaper.

The oil weight is not critical, especially since the manufacturer does not know whether owners live in Alaska or Florida. You say the manual calls for 0W-20. This is normally the weight used only in extremely cold conditions. If you live in a temperate climate, such as Maryland, 5W-20 should be a quite acceptable choice. Your engine will not know the difference.

If you want warranty coverage you better use the oil that is called for. The store receipts better tell what kind of oil you bought. Unless I have missed my guess 0W-anything is synthetic. Check the Honda specs for the oil they recommend. It is probably Honda?s synthetic oil.

The Camry is made by Toyota.

Oil weight IS IMPORTANT; try driving across Death valley in July fully loaded with cheap non-synthetic 0W20 in the crankcase and a full load! I will buy you dinner anywhere in the US if your engine suvives that ordeal.

Manufacturers, as you correctly point out, don’t know where the car ends up. They used to have a choice of 4 different oils for different climates. My 1994 Nissan still does, but the new Toyotas specify one. This has 2 causes; 1) they can now specify a thinner oil since the quality is much better and a 0W20 is usually synthetic, and 2) the CAFE fuel mileage standards in the US are driving the mileage, sometimes at the expense of engine wear. Toyota now sells enough gas guzzlers (trucks, SUVs, luxury cars) to be worried about meeting them.

All in all, a few warranty claims because of too thin an oil is cheap compared to fines like $40 million Mercedes paid the EPA in 2006 for not meeeting the CAFE standards.

My son paid no attention to Ford’s 5W20 spec for oil in his Mazda 3. He uses 0W30 synthetic Mobil 1 all year round. Mazda 3s use much heavier oils in tropical countries with no CAFE penalties!

You and I as car owners want our engines to last as long as possible, never mind the 1/10 mpg we get by using dangerously thin oil.

Toyota recently endorsed 5W20 for the US, but they kept the 5W30 for Canada, where is is on average, much colder! Canada DOES NOT HAVE CAFE PENALTIES at this time.


FWIW, the mobil 1 web site appears to recommend 5W20, you might want to give the dealer a call:


Thanks for such a thorough answer. And you’re right: the manual does give both 0w20 and 5w20 as options, but says that 0w20 should be used for maximum fuel econony. That reads like an endorsement of 0w20 to me, since fuel economy is the main reason I bought a hybrid. My understanding is that 0w20 is a synth weight, and that once you put synth in a car you should never go back. So much for the buck-a-quart 5w30 I’ve been using in my 1993 civic and 2001 odyssey. For some reason, my local AAP store doesn’t carry 0w20. I’ll do that online shopping you recommend for the best 0w20 price.