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How to Tell If Motor Oil Is Detergent or Non-Detergent?

Oil refiners produce several grades or blends of lubricating oils for use in automotive engines. Some are detergent formulations, while others are non-detergent motor oils. The basic difference is that detergent oils contain special additives which trap and hold dirt and engine deposits in suspension until the oil changed. Non-detergent oil lacks these additives. Distinguishing between the two types is an easy task that practically anyone can accomplish in a matter of minutes.

Visit an auto parts store or other retailer selling motor oil. Locate the motor oil display.

Select several different brands of motor oil in the weight you wish to buy. As an example, you might select 1-quart containers of SAE (Socierty of Automotive Engineers) 30W, or 10W-30W.

Read the label on each container. Any motor oil which is non-detergent blend will be clearly marked as such. Conversely, any oil which is not specifically marked as non-detergent is by default, a detergent blend.

Things You'll Need

  • Access to an auto parts store or retailer selling motor oil
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About the Author

Rich Finzer earned his boating license in 1960 and started his writing career in 1969. His writing has appeared in "Northern Breezes," "Southwinds," "Living Aboard," "Good Old Boat," "Latitudes & Attitudes," "Small Craft Advisor," "Life in the Finger Lakes," "BackHome" and "Dollar Stretcher" magazines. His maple syrup has won awards in competition. Rich has a Bachelor of Science in communications from Ithaca College.