Ford F-150/F-250: How to Choose the Right Oil

How do you choose which oil to use in your Ford F-150 or F-250? Your truck is a big investment, and you want to protect it. You also don't want to spend a fortune if you don't have to, but if you're like me, you will spend the money if there is a benefit to spending it.

By Mark Kovalsky - September 16, 2014

The process you follow to determine the right oil for your truck is pretty simple. You just need an engine every oil you want to try and an engine dynamometer. Run the engine under the most severe conditions around the clock (so that it won't take 10 years to get 10 years of equivalent wear) and have some engineers look at the results. If you want to speed this up by several years, get one dynamometer for each engine. Simple... If you're a multi-billion dollar global business.

Can't afford to start your own engine-testing facilitiy? Neither can I. Ford, however, can. They do this type of testing 24/7/365. They have hundreds of dynamometers continually running tests like this to determine (among many other things) what is the best oil to make your engine last a long, long time, and to get the best fuel economy possible.

Step 1 - Figure out what weight oil you need

Your owner's manual will list what oil you need to use. This is important for the life of your engine, and also critical to maintain warranty coverage. If you use an oil that is not recommended for your engine and have a failure you have handed the dealer a golden opportunity to deny your warranty repair. Then it's on you to fix it, and that can run into many thousands of dollars.

Ford specifies the weight (5W-20, 15W-40, etc.) and the specification that the oil must meet in the manual. The recommended oil weight is also shown on the oil fill cap. Some engines, especially diesels, specify a lighter oil in cold weather. This requirement is pretty much obsolete in gasoline engines.

Motorcraft Engine Oil
Figure 1. An Example of 5W-20 Motorcraft Engine Oil

Most Ford engines require 5W-20 motor oil. This is important! I've personally seen low mileage engine failures when heavier oils were used. Passages and clearances on modern engines have become so small that thicker oils are hard to force through these small openings. The result is that thicker oil can't always get to where the oil is needed, so metal to metal contact occurs, and an engine failure is soon to follow.

Pro Tip

Every engine in the F-150 for the last two generations (2004-2014) requires 5W-20, with one exception. If you have an F-150 with the 3.5L EcoBoost V6, you need 5W-30 motor oil.

Step 2 - Choosing a brand of oil

Ford does not require that you to use a specific brand. They do prefer that you use Motorcraft products, but you do not have to do that to maintain warranty coverage or get a very long life out of your engine.

Another important factor is the API (American Petroleum Institute) rating. Oils are rated for gasoline engine use or diesel engine use, and for performance factors. If you want to learn more about this API has a publication that explains it all.

I personally would not consider using an oil that does not have an API rating. This rating proves that the oil meets the engine manufacturer's requirements to insure the life of the engine.

Pro Tip

Ford lists synthetic oil as their OEM replacment, but it isn't mandatory that the oil be synthetic. It only matters that it passes API certification.

Related Sites

API oil Certification - API.org