Ford 5W20

For model year 2001 and Newer: Ford, Honda, Chrysler and other OEM’s specify 5W-20 and 0W-20 motor oil for most all cars and light trucks.


Here are the facts behind why OEM’s now recommend 5W-20 and 0W-20 for 5W-30 engines: 

(Previously Updated October 2007, with major Special Note revisions in February 2016, and August 2018 – see below)

Is your motor oil devoted to engine protection?

Question:  My owners manual species 5W-20 oil. Do I really need to use 5W-20 oil and why did my 2000 model year vehicle require a 5W-30 oil, while the exact same engine in my 2001, 2002 and newer engines “requires” a 5W-20 oil?

Answer: You do not need to use a 5W-20 oil.  In fact, we recommend that you DO NOT.  We know that even OEM Lubrication Engineers do not agree with Ford and Honda’s calling for a 5W-20 oil, because the engines are designed for 30-weight oil, and engineers believe that a 20-weight oil will decrease engine life.  (See 2007/2016 note below for detailed explanation.)

Do not let your dealer scare you by telling you that you have to use it for your warranty. That is a tactic that some dealerships use to scare customers. Once you know the facts and the Federal Magnusson Moss Act law you will be much better informed to protect your rights and use the type of oil you want to use.

The main reason 5W-20 was specified for your engine is to increase the CAFE reported to the Federal Government. CAFE (Corporate Average Fuel Economy) is the combined average fuel economy of all of a vehicle manufacturers product line. Minimum CAFE levels are specified by the Federal Government, and financial penalties are large if they fail to meet the minimum. In order for a vehicle manufacturer to continue selling profitable large trucks and SUV’s, which typically have poor fuel mileage ratings, as compared to smaller cars, and still meet mandated CAFE requirements, they must also sell enough of the smaller cars which have much better fuel economy ratings to offset the poor fuel economy ratings of the larger vehicles. For model year 2001, the change to a 5W-20 oil will allow Ford and Honda’s overall CAFE to increase by a very small amount, typically in the tenths of a mile per gallon range. 5W-20 oil is a lighter viscosity than a 5W-30 oil and therefore has less internal engine frictional losses, or less drag on the crankshaft, pistons and valvetrain, which in turn promotes increased fuel economy. This increased fuel economy is virtually undetectable to the average motorist without the use of specialized engine monitoring and testing equipment under strictly controlled test track driving when compared to a 5W-30, 10W-30 or a 0W-30 viscosity motor oil.

(Q&A continues further below.)

August 2018 Update Notes from our Engineering Group:

Several things have changed since the original writing of this article (nearly 15 years ago) – specifically regulatory emissions standards, fuel economy mandates, automotive system designs, and technologies. One aspect that didn’t clearly come across is that a primary engineering concern was that poor protection from petroleum 5W-20 and 0W-20 oils was highly likely, if not certain, to accelerate engine wear in many instances. Of particular concern was older engines, whose internal component surface tribologies were not nearly as sophisticated in their engineering as newer engines with increasingly robust surface tribology.
There are multiple reasons OEM’s are recommending the thinner viscosities even for older vehicles.  Due to pressures from the illegal Obama CAFE mandates, OEM’s and petroleum oil companies no longer have adequate time for development iterations, testing and validation across an adequate span of changing and undefined engine conditions.  Essentially, they are forced to assume with crossed fingers that new oils will be adequately backward compatible with older engine designs, and will adequately protect the new engines.  However, in this brave new world of assumed performance in multiplied engineering complexities, it seems likely that consumer engines will suffer from this “Russian Roulette” engineering.  If new gas engine oils have unforseen issues of similar magnitude to the new CK diesel oils in older engine designs, the OEM’s may find that the new thin-viscosity petroleum oil service grades do not provide fully equivalent protection for older vehicle engine designs.  Keep in mind that the older engines (circa approximately 2003 and older) were completely designed for 30-weight oils.
Petro-oil companies benefit from the thinner oils because the more rapid consumption and topoff refreshes the additive packages, which extend the viability of mediocre to poor petroleum oil base-stocks.  And as long as OEM engines last past the warranty period, and preferably past 150k miles before needing major work, the OEM’s have minimal risk with benefit of repair parts at high profit margins.  As you might notice, neither of these scenarios benefits the vehicle owner/driver.
In the AMSOIL arena of molecular-engineered chemically constructed (truly) synthetic lubricants, technologies have also changed significantly.  Because AMSOIL has had to push the envelope harder than ever before in developing the latest round of gasoline engine oil formulations, and because the global companies who design next-gen additive components have been pushing the technology envelope, we have surprisingly good news to report: the new thin-viscosity AMSOIL oils now actually outperform some of AMSOIL’s best 30 weight oils!  That’s why you’ll notice that AMSOIL recommends 5W-20 Signature Series (ALM) oil for many older engines, as the pinnacle of global technology.
Just this latest April (2018), AMSOIL published an article explaining their strong confidence in calling this new series the best motor oil in the world.  To their surprise, it turned out that through over 1,000 formulation development tests, spanning two years, AMSOIL’s new formulations deliver much larger performance gains than they thought would be possible.  In addition, ALL of AMSOIL’s new oils passed every published specification performance requirement for guarding against LSPI, as explained in this pdf.  Low-Speed-Pre-Ignition is a big OEM concern for engine damage risk in the latest turbocharged GDI engines.  Keep in mind that even now, the (petroleum) “oil industry” and the SAE are still saying that it will take another year or two to develop the testing standards and performance requirements, and deliver petroleum “synthetic” oils that can pass the tests.
So the short story is that AMSOIL keeps their recommendations up-to-date in the vehicle lookup data, even for older engines, and those recommendations are based on the Signature Series oil products that provide the highest level of superior protection and boosted fuel economy available for those engines.
A final parting topic is increased engine oil consumption.  Consumers have been seeing that oil consumption rates with 20-weight oils (i.e. 0W-20 is a 20-weight oil) have increased substantially – sometimes shockingly.  Just today I spoke with the owner of a Nissan Fairlady (a rare 350Z derivative with a turbocharged V-6) sports-car who had their service center put in “their best oil” for about $95, and less than 700 miles later has discovered that the dipstick is down by a full quart!  As a general rule, AMSOIL oil consumption is substantially less than other oils.  So it’s unlikely but also increasingly possible with new engine designs, that a specific customer VIN-specific engine could show a high oil usage rate with a recommended 20-weight AMSOIL engine oil.  The vast majority of the time this is a specific engine-build issue.  In these cases I suggest a switch to a different AMSOIL Signature Series oil from among the the 0W-20 (product code ASM), 5W-20 (ALM), 0W-30 (AZO) or 5W-30 (ASL). In most cases that product switch will greatly improve or resolve any oil-formulation-specific consumption problem, without being detrimental to protection or performance.


October 2007 with Feb 2016 Updates – Special Note from our Engineering Group: 


Perhaps the above paragraph should begin “the main PUBLICIZED reason 5W-20 was specified for your engine is to increase the CAFE…”   This is the reason that was “leaked out” of Ford and Honda, and it is probably part of the picture.  However, the difference in fuel economy is a very small one.  And both Chrysler and GM have also been shifting vehicles to 5W-20 and 0W-20 oils.  In truth, the best synthetic 30-weight oils will produce a much higher fuel economy than the typical 20-weight oils being marketed.  So if that was really the goal, they could simply have specified an oil that was certified for fuel efficiency (forcing more widespread use of higher performance base-stocks and additive packages), and produced a larger boost in CAFE numbers.


A common thought of consumers and mechanics, voiced repeatedly in popular online Ford and Honda forums and user groups, is that Honda and Ford “know what they are doing” and have “specified 20-weight oils for a reason”.  Then they assume the reason is good, typically without questioning what that “reason” actually is.  (Not the best idea in today’s world of slimy business ethics.)  These opinions are sometimes followed by misguided skepticism about the expertise or motivation of AMSOIL’s dealers or corporate technical staff.


As an engineering manager in the automotive industry, and the lead engineer at DMT Technical, keeping in mind that there are hundreds of OEM engineers who strongly recommend AMSOIL technologies in synthetic lubrication and nanofiber filtration, please allow me to clear the muddy water.  I can tell you that we have no problem selling high-performance 20-weight oils to consumers who feel more comfortable with it.  If you want 20-weight motor oil because that’s what your manual says, then buy it.  We are merely recommending 30-weight synthetic oil in order to look out for your best interests, in a spirit of honest professional disclosure and the Golden Rule.  We’re informing you, as automotive industry engineers, that the engine designs have not been changed to “need” a 20-weight oil.  The truth is more complicated, because there is a LOT going on behind the wizard’s curtain…


I believe that since we are all consumers who are purchasing expensive vehicles, we deserve full disclosure on the REAL reasons for the recent switch to 20-weight oils.  But are you going to hold your breath waiting for official disclosures that will never happen?  It’s alleged that multiple lubrication and drivetrain OEM engineers in both companies strongly disagreed with specifying 20-weight oils.  I won’t name sources or quote engineering “scuttlebutt” that has un-officially come out of Ford and Honda.  But I WILL say that based on my past experiences in the automotive industry…


It is likely that there are two primary reasons behind the specification of 20-weight oils:
ONE reason is to provide increased wear rates that will serve to offset the longer engine life that is now being produced by the combined advances in oil specifications, and in engine design and manufacturing technologies.  (Specifically in engineering tribology areas which deal with surface finish, hardness, and highly advanced technologies for minimizing damage to wear surfaces.  These extensive technical advancements have sparked engineering discussions on recommending much shorter engine break-in periods, and some engineers believe that on certain engines, the needed break-in period is complete by the time the vehicle is delivered to the dealer.)


Consumers are not aware of it, but increasingly over the last three decades, upper-level OEM management has considered the vehicle life to be a critical factor in the long-term financial performance – and survival – of the company.  Therefore the lifespan of vehicle components and systems are planned to last only a “reasonable” targeted length of time (a minimum target).  Then they will fail.  Predictably, they don’t want their vehicles to last forever because that will not only reduce sales revenue from high-profit-margin repair parts, but will also eventually reduce the number of vehicles sold.  Continued use of modern-spec 30-weight oils in modern engines seems likely to produce far too many 200,000 to 500,000 mile engines, which could potentially cut their future sales IN HALF.

[However, in the defense of OEM’s, the government-forced continuous improvement in fuel economy standards (to a nearly unachievable level) is driving increasingly intensive engineering efforts to remove vehicle weight wherever possible, regardless of negative impacts on maintenance, accident repairability, and repair costs.  They have no choice (and central-planning government control has never worked in history).  So the “all-wise” dictatorial nanny government is effectively forcing three results:
1) consumers will pay higher and higher prices for new vehicles,  (this creates a severe national economic crisis that grows greater every year, so that more and more people can’t afford to own a vehicle, and many who must own a vehicle will have intense financial struggles)
2) some of the minimum-weight-engineered components and assemblies will break more easily in minor accidents, and will encounter fatigue failure once the vehicle is outside warranty, and
3) repair costs of those fatigue failures and accident damages will create sticker shock for vehicle owners and insurance companies, and drive higher insurance costs.  ]

In plain terms, an effective corporate financial “fix” for this “problem” that engineering advancement has created, would be to specify 20-weight oils, which WILL cause a compensating increase in engine wear rates because that viscosity is too low to provide optimum engine protection.

AMSOIL is devoted to protection

TWO (2nd reason), is probably the bigger reason: neither the OEM’s nor the petroleum oil companies wanted to wave and point at the more than 4.5 MILLION dead/dying engines from the 1997 – 2004 model years, which were being slowly killed by sludge buildup from using API-certified petroleum oils at the recommended OEM-manual drain intervals.  THIS WAS A GIGANTIC PROBLEM.  There was no practical way to create new SAE Service Grade oils and educate the public on the need to use them, and no quick way to identify all the root cause problems and identify solutions which could be quickly implemented into new engine production.

Looking in the rearview mirror of time, we can see that all the OEM’s with affected engines began putting 5W-20 oils into their owner’s manuals and in engine-compartment labeling, and also put out Technical Service Bulletins (TSB’s) and updates into the auto-parts lookup data for engine oil, to revise the oil requirements for these engines to use only 5W-20 engine oil.  At the same time, the petro-oil companies were claiming that this was a big trend being pushed by the car company designs, and they were busily filling quart bottles and Jiffy Lube tanks with the new viscosity.

These events suggest that the OEM’s and fossil-fuel-refiners both had big problems on their hands which they had to quietly collaborate on.  First, the only good lubrication solution was to use high-performance synthetics (like AMSOIL), which experience has shown would prevent/eliminate the sludge buildup problem.  But that solution would cause many global problems for both groups, and would not be quick to implement.  What they adopted instead was a clever dual-pronged strategy of technical and marketing savvy: higher fuel costs could serve as a “responsible environmental” cover for the change to 5W-20 oils.

These thinner oils are not only inherently less likely to produce sludge buildup (though petroleums will still do it), but they also slip past the piston rings in higher volume so that the engine burns a lot more oil.  The oil consumption difference between a 20-weight and 30-weight is roughly two to three times, meaning that instead of adding one quart in six months, you are now going to add two or three quarts. This additional “top-off” of the oil had both technical and legal advantages:

  • The oil properties, especially the decimated detergents in the additive packages, were being frequently renewed to minimize and slowly reduce sludging.
  •  The far higher oil consumption was causing habit issues with many drivers, who would frequently find that a noisy engine and red dash light meant there was nothing on the dipstick at all.  This created a clever way to dodge some of the massive warranty problems in slow motion, by saying that car owners were not using the lower viscosity oil and/or were not keeping their oil topped off, and that these had caused or increased engine damage.

In another article, we previously explained how “Saab is a good example of how AMSOIL’s high-performance synthetics are such dramatically superior protection for European engines.  The Saab engines are well designed, but highly prone to rapid turbo failure and engine failure using API Certified “synthetic” oils because they simply don’t meet the higher-performance requirements of the European oil specifications. Chuck Andrews is one of North America’s foremost Saab authorities, and writes the “Nines” Saab newsletter for owners.  Since 2006 he has proven that 5,000 mile oil changes with Amsoil 5W-40 European car oil (AFL) will consistently outperform all other options in preventing and reducing damaging sludge buildup in the Nines engines, retaining good oil chemistry and minimizing engine wear. Previous to extensive Amsoil testing in the many Saabs he services, his favorite had been Mobil 1.” 

In the global lubrication game, the “big-name” oil companies like Exxon-Mobil are quite capable of designing and producing high-performance synthetic lubricants that could closely compete with AMSOIL’s technologies.  But they won’t.  They have considered it and refused the option.  The difference is that their worldwide profit motives and management style will never support that market approach.  Faced with a strategic need to sell petroleum oil and a financial incentive to market frequent oil changes, and lacking a principled commitment to excellence for the benefit of their customers, they’ve attempted to equal AMSOIL performance only once.  (The original version of Mobil 1 was marketed briefly in the mid 1970’s as a 25,000 mile oil, as AMSOIL’s only competitor.  They apparently decided to abandon the ground of ultimate performance and consumer value to AMSOIL, in favor of higher profits.  That’s partly speculation, but it seems to be the only logical explanation for why Mobil 1 has continued to recommend OEM oil-change intervals, and why AMSOIL lubricants have dominated decades of test data performance, even when it was a truly small company.)
AMSOIL provides 75% Better Protection 400x300_75ASL

So how do you know who to trust?  How can you find superior lubrication performance and pick the best engine oils?  Do you compare advertising budgets, NASCAR decal sizes, and popularity of marketing slogans?  No.  Those are all useless.  There are two simple ways to settle disagreements in lubrication performance:

  1. Dig into the lubrication industry and find out what the insiders say.  Get the industry trade magazines, and you’ll eventually be reading references to how the big names in oil additive technologies, like Lubrizol, know that every time they develop higher-performance additive technologies, AMSOIL is immediately interested in it regardless of cost – while other companies only sit down to discuss what kind of performance they can buy for a certain price.  You’ll also run into references of Lieutenant Colonel Al Amatuzio’s induction into the Lubricants Hall of Fame many years ago, because of the way he took on “big oil” against all odds, to bring the superior purpose-designed performance of engineered-molecule synthetic lubricants into the automotive market.  (Or you might just watch a special historical piece about AMSOIL on TV.)
  2. Look at ALL the standardized SAE & ASTM test data (not just the viscosity numbers), like this and this.  Review the charts and photos in the motorcycle and gear oil research white papers.  Sure, AMSOIL is nearly the only company that publishes certified test-lab comparison data from the same industry standardized ASTM tests that every lubrication company uses to develop and test their products.  And they’re the only company that compares AMSOIL test performance to other competitive drivetrain lubricants.  Why?  Why is AMSOIL — as the undisputed historical leader in synthetic lubrication technologies — the only company to publish such test data, when published data is legally liable for inaccuracy?  The simple answer is that the petroleum oil companies have decided that it is less profitable to compete with engineered performance than to compete with marketing strategies such as API trademarks (that hide certification content restrictions), short oil-drain intervals, catchy slogans and advertising campaigns, and simply pretending that there is no data.

I’m going to state right here that I cannot recommend you to “buck” the recommended oil viscosity for your engine.  For my own 2010 3.8L Chrysler Town  & Country, I’ve decided to use a combination of 5W-30 and 5W-20 AMSOIL synthetic oils (rated for 25,000 miles), and change only the AMSOIL EaO nanofiber oil filter on an annual basis. (I have to add at least six quarts of oil a year, so there’s really no point in draining the AMSOIL oil.)  But that’s my personal choice that I’m comfortable with.  I strongly recommend that you look up your vehicle information and review whether your engine has a sludge risk.  And if your engine is affected, I strongly recommend that you use the simple Engine Flush conversion process to change to AMSOIL.  I also advise you to review the top three auto-industry secrets for vehicle maintenance. {To understand why we recommend AMSOIL’s engineered synthetic oils, review how to pick the best engine oil.}

If you want to use a 20-weight motor oil, don’t worry, that’s no problem at all.  The AMSOIL 0W-20 (for example) is a 25,000 mile oil that outperforms every other 20-weight motor oil on the market – typically by a huge margin.  If you convert your engine early in it’s life and you are not towing anything, this oil should take your engine well beyond 300,000 miles, and you can probably add another 100,000 miles if you’re using AMSOIL’s Ea (Absolute Efficiency) nanofiber oil and air filters.


Brian Dobben, BSMET.

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Question: Could using a 5W-30, 10W-30, 0W-30 or even a 10W-40 or 20W-50, oil in my vehicle which specifies a 5W-20 oil void my new car warranty?

Answer: Absolutely not. In general, lubrication physics dictate that a roughly 30 weight oil is optimal for most engines, and 40 weight or heavier oils are typically specified due to the engine’s ability to shear back petroleum oils to a lower viscosity, or to the engine running the oil hotter (making it thinner).  Vehicle manufacturers only recommend using motor oils meeting certain viscosity grades and American Petroleum Institute service requirements. Whether a motor oil is a 5W-20, 5W-30, 10W-30, 0W-30, 10W-40 or 20W-50 (for racing and high performance applications in, for example, a Cobra R Mustang) or even a synthetic vs. a petroleum based oil will not affect warranty coverage. The manufacturer is required by Federal Law to cover all equipment failures it would normally cover as long as the oil meets API service requirements and specifications and was not the cause of failure. In addition, the Federally mandated Magnuson – Moss Act states that a manufacturer may not require a specific brand or type of aftermarket product unless it is provided free of charge. If your dealership continues to tell you that you must use 5W-20 motor oil and or/ a specific brand of 5W-20 motor oil, then ask them to put it in writing. You probably won’t get it, because their position is inaccurate, and, in fact violates existing law.* (See Note below.)

Additionally, if there is ever a question of whether or not a particular motor oil was the cause of an engine failure, make sure to get a sample of the used oil in a clean bottle, typically 6 oz. minimum. The oil can then be sent to two independent testing labs for analysis. This is standard procedure for most commercial vehicles, trucking, construction/excavation and fleet companies and there are numerous certified test labs all over the country. Remember, a knowledgeable and informed consumer is your best defense against being taken advantage of by a car dealership service center.

Note: If a car or truck dealership, service center or other business states that using AMSOIL motor oil in your vehicle will void your new car warranty, ask for that statement in writing and send it to AMSOIL Technical Services. If the business won’t provide the statement in writing send AMSOIL Technical Services a letter identifying who made the statement, the name and location of the business and what the statement was. AMSOIL will then send a letter to the business informing them that their position is inaccurate, and, in fact, violates existing law. Your name will be held in confidence.

AMSOIL mailing address: AMSOIL Inc., AMSOIL Bldg., Superior, WI 54880

AMSOIL does manufacture about five 20-weight synthetic motor oils.  The AMSOIL XL series 0W-20 and 5W-20 oils are 6-month, 7,000 to 10,000 mile motor oils that are high performance, but use a Group III oil base-stock – these hydrocracked oils are the petroleum oil companies’ widely sold 1998 redefinition of a “synthetic” that wasn’t a synthetic before.  Group III performance is good, but it cannot provide the long drain interval performance of AMSOIL’s true synthetics.  As such, XL’s offer high performance at an attractively low cost per-quart, but without the savvy consumer value of AMSOIL’s famous extended drain intervals.  The AMSOIL Signature Series oils outperform EVERY 20-weight oil on the market – both in engine protection, and in fuel economy.  AMSOIL’s 0W-20 and 5W-20 synthetic motor oils provide outstanding wear protection and increased power, performance and fuel economy in high and low temperatures and also meet or exceed every aspect of the Ford, Honda, GM, Fiat/Chrysler, Toyota, Hyundai and Nissan specifications (did I miss anyone?).

However, for the ultimate performance and protection in Ford and Honda engines, we recommend using AMSOIL’s Signature Series oils, such as the 0W-30 synthetic (AZO) motor oil.  These represent the latest technology upgrades, the pinnacle of AMSOIL Motor Oil performance for gasoline powered light trucks and passenger cars. It uses race-proven technology and provides unsurpassed fuel efficiency and much better wear protection than other conventional and synthetic motor oils, exceeding the performance of 5W-20 oils. It is a 25,000 mile/1-year change interval motor oil that’s rated for 15,00 miles (700 hours) in severe service applications. Use it in conjunction with AMSOIL’s Ea Nanofiber Oil Filters that specify a change interval of either 15,000 miles/1-year or 25,000 miles/1-year, whichever comes first. Look up your vehicle information here, with full guidelines and insider tips on best maintenance for your vehicle.

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More about AMSOIL’s Excellence and Amazing History

AMSOIL – the First In History and In Quality

  • First to develop an API rated 100% synthetic motor oil (1972).
  • First to introduce the concept of extended drain intervals, with a recommended 25,000-mile/12-month drain interval.
  • First to produce synthetic motor oils for diesel engines.
  • First to produce synthetic motor oils for racing engines.
  • First to produce synthetic motor oils for turbo engines.
  • First to produce synthetic motor oils for marine engines.
  • First to manufacture synthetic gear lube for automotive use.
  • First to manufacture a 100:1 pre-mix synthetic 2-cycle oil.
  • First to manufacture a synthetic automatic transmission fluid for automotive use.
  • First to manufacture a full-synthetic cartridge-style oil filter.



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