Engines rely on lots of moving parts. Pistons, camshafts, crankshafts, and valves all need to move in coordination to deliver the performance you expect every time you turn the ignition. If it weren’t for engine oil, the friction would cause your Mustang’s engine to grind to a halt.
Oil’s main duties are to lubricate your engine and clear away sludge. It also improves seals and even helps with cooling. But to get those benefits, you need to select the right oil for your Pony’s engine. The wrong oil can shorten its life, cause leaks, and generally make your life unpleasant.
Ford Mustang Oil Recommendations Chart
In most cases, checking your owner’s manual to find what oil your Mustang's engine takes is a good place to start. But based on your individual situation, you may need to adjust your oil viscosity slightly.
In case you don’t have your owner’s manual handy, here are the engine oils Ford has recommended for their Mustangs over the years. Most Mustangs are in a pretty similar range. The exceptions are the high performance models. If you have a GT350 or GT500, you’ll most likely be using 5W-50 oil. For high-revving driving situations, 5W-50 provides a higher level of protection against sludge and buildup.
We’ve also included oil filter options since you should be replacing that along with the oil.
Mustang Oil Recommendations by Year
Oil Viscosity & Why It’s Important
The numbers used to label oil are a measure of viscosity. 0W oil would be the thinnest, while 60 is the thickest.
The first number represents the viscosity at 0 degrees Fahrenheit, and the W stands for “winter.” This is how viscous the oil will be when you first crank the engine on a very cold morning.
Your engine’s operating temperature is 212 degrees Fahrenheit. At this temperature, the oil reaches the second printed viscosity rating.
That means a 5W-30 and 10W-30 oil will have the same viscosity once they reach operating temperature. What makes them different is how they respond to cold. The 5W oil will have an easier time flowing in the cold since it’s less viscous than the 10W. If you live in a colder-than-average area, the 5W will make it easier for your engine to get going on cold days.
High vs. Low Viscosity
If lower viscosity oils flow better, you might wonder why we don’t just use the lowest one. That’s because oil with too low of a viscosity can result in metal-to-metal contact, which damages the engine over time. Low viscosity oil is also consumed at a faster rate and is more prone to leak.
An engine oil with too high of a viscosity makes it hard to start your engine in cold temperatures. It also causes hotter engine operating temperatures and worse fuel economy.
Synthetic vs Conventional Oil
Once you’ve picked the right viscosity of oil, it’s time to make your next big decision. Whether to go with synthetic or conventional oil. Here’s a quick overview of the differences between them.
Conventional oil is made directly from crude oil. Chemicals are then added to make the oil thicker when it gets warm and thinner when cold.
The chemical additives break down in response to time and heat, causing the oil to become thinner. Because of this effect, conventional oil needs to be changed more frequently. How often depends on your driving patterns and the temperature changes your Mustang is exposed to.
After an initial break-in period, most people agree that modern Mustangs can go much closer to 5,000 miles before needing an oil change. For classics, you should stick closer to the standard 3,000. If, like a lot of classic owners, you don’t really put many miles on your Mustang, make sure to do an oil change at least once a year.
- Less expensive
- Needs to be changed more often
- Breaks down more easily than synthetic
Full Synthetic Oil
Synthetic oil starts as high-quality crude oil and is then further refined. No two synthetics are exactly alike, and most brands are very protective of their formulas. In general, you can expect to find petroleum components, distilled crude oil, and a proprietary blend of additives.
The additives don’t break down as quickly in synthetic oil, which is its greatest strength. Unlike conventional motor oil, where the true viscosity can be unpredictable, synthetic oil maintains its viscosity, even when the additives burn off. Eventually, the detergents and additives that help synthetic oil break through sludge do degrade, and the oil needs to be changed. But for full synthetics this can be around 16,000 miles.
- More resilient to temperature changes
- Need to be changed very infrequently
- Most expensive option
Because synthetics are so expensive, most people opt for a blend. Though you won’t get quite the performance you would out of a full synthetic, blends still keep many of the best traits. These include not degrading as quickly, starting up better in the cold, and dealing with extreme heat much better.
Every synthetic is different, and so every synthetic blend is different. Most will emphasize one or two areas of performance they’re especially working to preserve.
Synthetic blends need to be changed more frequently than full synthetics. How often will depend on the blend, but it’s not unreasonable to expect anywhere from 5,000-7,500 miles between changes.
Synthetic Oil Blends:
- Good compromise
- Offers some of the advantages of conventional and synthetic
- Most widely available option
Is Synthetic Oil Worth It?
Generally, yes. Synthetic oil is worth the price. You’ll go longer between oil changes, and you’ll get the extra protection synthetic offers. A more interesting question is whether synthetic oil is okay to use in classic vehicles, like the first-gen Mustang.
Once upon a time, classic car owners were discouraged from buying synthetic oil. That’s because early synthetic oils didn’t always play nicely with older engines. Sometimes synthetics would cause seals to swell, resulting in leaks and other issues.
Synthetics have come a long way since then. Testing is done to ensure that engine seals aren’t changed by synthetic oils. That means if you want to use a synthetic in your classic, you totally can. Given the extra cleaning properties of synthetics, it might be a good idea.
Because synthetic oil wasn’t an option for early Mustangs, it may not be recommended in the manual. Late model Mustangs will see a recommendation for synthetic in their owner’s manual. Modern engines are designed to run better on synthetic oil, so it’s a good idea to follow the manufacturer’s recommendation.
What Oil Should You Use for a Modified Mustang?
Most people who own a Mustang enjoy modifying it to increase horsepower. If that sounds like you, you might be wondering what affect those mods will have on the oil you should use.
Engine Swaps - If you complete a total engine swap, then your new oil requirements will be those of your new engine.
Mods to Existing Engine - You shouldn’t need to adjust oil unless the new parts say to. Superchargers, for example, do change your oil specification. They’ll often come with a sticker for your oil cap as a helpful reminder.
How you drive your Mustang can also affect what kind of oil you should be using. If you’re regularly tracking your Mustang, then you’ll want an oil that’s designed for that purpose.
What Else Do You Need to Change Your Oil?
Once you’ve selected the right oil for your Mustang, it’s time to actually change it. Here’s a quick list of the things you’ll need to get the job done.
Changing the oil is an easy maintenance chore that requires next to nothing in the way of tools. A couple of socket wrenches, a good set of jack stands, and a drain pan will get you started.
Somewhere to Dispose of the Old Oil
Once your Mustang is full of new, clean oil, you’ll need to do something with your used oil. Improperly disposed of oil can damage the environment. According to the American Petroleum Institute (API) a single gallon of oil can contaminate one million gallons of water.
Thankfully, proper oil disposal is pretty easy. Most service stations and auto shops offer it. You can go here and check for the nearest disposal site to you.
A High Quality Oil Filter
Dirt and debris can shorten your oil’s usable life. That’s why it’s recommended that you change your oil filter when you change your oil. Dirty and clogged oil filters can create performance loss and mechanical issues. Considering how inexpensive a part it is, there’s no reason not to replace your oil filter regularly.
The longer you intend to go between oil changes, the more important it becomes to select a high quality oil filter.
What Makes a Filter High Quality?
High quality filters can filter out smaller particles, which helps to reduce wear and tear on your engine. Some people believe that bigger is better, but when it comes to oil filters the particles you need to filter are too small to even see. You don’t need a big oil filter to catch them.
What does matter is the quality of the filter media inside. Traditional oil filters are made of paper. Though these filters are inexpensive, they have larger pores and thus aren’t able to filter very small particles. Oil filters with a cellulose synthetic-polymer blend will be able to filter up to 50% better.
Changing Your Mustang’s Oil
Whether it’s your first time changing your own oil or you just need a refresher, check out our Mustang oil change guide. It’ll walk you through all the basic steps involved in changing your pony’s oil.