What Oil Weight Is Best for a High-Mileage Nissan Maxima?

1989 Nissan Maxima
  Car Culture/Getty Images

Older cars with high miles can require some tender loving care and special consideration when it comes to maintenance. If you own a Nissan Maxima with 200,000 miles or more on the original engine, you may wonder what weight of oil is best to use. Expert opinions vary, but 20W-50 or 10W-30 are frequently mentioned. You may have heard that the wear on the engine means that you should transition to an oil with heavier viscosity, but other opinions hold firm that the lesser weight still lubes better. In reality, this will depend on how your old engine is performing. 

Which Oil to Use?

There's no single one-size-fits-all answer to this question because a lot can depend on the quirks of your particular car. A 10W-30 motor oil is probably preferable in most situations, but a lot depends on the vehicle's oil consumption. If it uses one quart of 10W-30 per 3,500 miles and the engine sounds good, stay with the 10W-30. But If the engine burns more oil than that or is rattling, then try a heavier oil.

Also, check the owner's manual to find out what the manufacturer recommended when the engine was new. Although an older engine might run better with a different weight, it's always a good idea to is read the original instructions and take them into consideration. 

You might also want to contact a local dealership or Nissan-certified repair shop to find out what their mechanics recommend. This will give you an opportunity to discuss your specific vehicle and ask them for their reasons for making any particular recommendation. This should give you a little more confidence in the answer, and you can then apply it to your own Maxima without worry.

Some General Tips on Motor Oil

  • Make sure you know how to accurately check your oil level. Whether you're an old hand with the dipstick or just venturing into DIY auto maintenance, you may make some mistakes.
  • You can save yourself a little money avoiding the service station if you know how and when to add a quart of motor oil. Become a master of the dipstick and always keep your engine well-lubed.
  • Learn how to do your own troubleshooting, such as determining whether you're burning oil. Know how to diagnose problems and determine whether it's time to take your old friend to the repair shop. You should understand what symptoms mean, such as when there's smoke in the exhaust or if there are oil leaks on the ground beneath your car. Even if you're not qualified to repair the problem yourself, you'll be better able to discuss it with the mechanic and you'll be sure to understand what he or she is telling you.
  • That oil warning light on your dashboard is there for a reason. Do you know what it means when it comes on? Don't ignore it—the light means there is low oil pressure that could be due to oil pump failure or blockage. You should stop immediately to prevent engine damage.