When you want to change the oil in a vehicle or piece of equipment, knowing what viscosity or grade of oil goes into the reservoir is important. Engine oil has many uses, but the efficiency of those uses, such as lubricating the engine, depends on the thickness of the formula. Thus, if you are weighing your options between 5w20 and 0w20, you may be wondering, can 5w20 be used instead of 0w20 and vice versa?

The answer is: It depends.

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What is the Difference Between 5w20 and 0w20?

When looking at different oil viscosity grades, things can get pretty confusing. You see numbers but might not fully understand what those numbers mean. Let’s get to the bottom of that, so the question “can 5w20 be used instead of 0w20?” can be better answered.

First, the “W” in any viscosity grade means “winter.” The lower the number, the better the formula is for colder temperatures. The number behind the W designates the operating temperature. That means that 0W shows that the viscosity of the oil is 0 in freezing temperatures.

Check out this video to see which oil is right for you:


A viscosity of 0 means that a 0w20 is going to be slightly lighter and thinner than a 5w20. Thus, in cold temperatures, both would flow easily, but the 0w may flow slightly faster.


Now that you know about viscosity, let’s touch on the grade. Engine oil grades range between 20 and 60. The higher the end number, the better those oils work in hotter conditions.

A 0W20 is ideal for cold conditions because the operating temperature is low. 5W20 is the next in line and also works best when it’s cold outside.

If you compared the grade of 20 to 60, you would find that an oil with a grade of 60 is far denser. It may not move freely in an engine during a cold start.

Performance Effects Between 5w20 and 0w20

Wondering which oil performs better? Since both have a 20 on the end, the performance will be relatively the same. An 0w20 oil may perform better in colder temperatures since it is designed for such extremes. Similarly, 5w20 is formulated for colder climates. Thus, because both have the same operating temperature and are cold formulas, they will perform nearly identically in warmer temperatures and the same in the cold.

This is similar to using a 10W30 in place of a 5W30. In warmer climates, swapping the 10W for the 5W may be better when the thermometer keeps rising. Yet, in average temperatures, they would operate more or less the same.

Fuel Efficiency Effects Between 5w20 and 0w20

Fuel economy is something that is on most people’s minds, especially when gas prices keep creeping higher and higher. Thus, you will want to know which gives you better fuel efficiency—5w20 or 0w20. Well, there is not much of a difference. As mentioned above, they are formulated for operating in cooler temperatures and have the same operating temperature. In other words, these are thin oils that are made to flow smoothly through the engine, even on freezing days.

You will not have to worry about your engine’s fuel economy with either formula.


So can 5w20 be used instead of 0w20? In some cases, yes. Both formulas are designed for cooler temperatures so that they will be equally thin. Because of that, whether you use 5w or 0w in an engine will not impact performance so much. Plus, the operating temperature is the same. Therefore, if you need to use 0w20 in place of 5w20 or vice versa, there should be little to no problems.

Categories: Oil Guides


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