Home Diagnosis and TroubleshootingEngine Oil and Lubrication What Does SAE Stand For – Everything You Need To Know!

What Does SAE Stand For – Everything You Need To Know!

by Jordan Harris
What Does SAE Stand For

Have you stumbled across the SAE acronym a ton of times while changing your oil and you are interested in learning what does SAE stand for? If that is the case, then you are at the right place because there will be a lot to cover on this topic.

Learning these things is not that essential for you as a car owner since there will be no major use for them in your mechanical career. Maybe except for the tools. SAE tools are really different compared to European measurements. But more on that later in the article when we will discuss what does SAE stand for in tools.

What is important for you to know first is the engine oil. You need to know the basics and understand the differences between different SAE viscosity types that are out there. This will be extra helpful for you to find the right oil for your vehicle. But you shouldn’t worry because we are going to cover everything in detail in the following article.

First, we will learn what is motor oil and why it is so important. Then we will cover what does SAE stand for and whether you should go for SAE-certified oil. After that, we will go through the types of motor oils that are out there and understand the SAE viscosity ratings to determine what type of oil you need. Then after we are done, we will discuss what does SAE stand for in tools. So, if you want to learn more, follow along.

What Is Motor Oil?

Now before we learn what does SAE stand for in oil, let’s learn what motor oil is in general. I bet there are people around that are not familiar with this type of fluid that is in our road vehicles and want to learn at least the basics before diving into more complex stuff such as SAE designations and other important information.

If you feel like you have the grasp of knowledge, you can jump to one of the following chapters. If not, keep up with us for a bit until we cover the basics of motor oil.

Motor oil, also known as engine oil is an integral lubricant that our cars need in order to run well. This is the case because every component inside of the engine is made out of metal.

And as you probably know, when metal comes into contact with metal it creates friction. When two metals friction, there is damage to both of them.

So, if you run with less oil than you should in your engine. Or oil that hasn’t been changed for a really long time, then you are risking getting engine damage. How extensive this damage is will depend much on the time and miles you put on an engine in this condition.

The more you run it, the worse will get, and then only a new engine could save your life. This is why you need to learn what does SAE stand for in an oil and learn more about the best intervals to change your oil. And that we are going to cover up next.

Best Oil Change Interval?

Now before we cover what does SAE stand for in oil. Let’s learn what is the best oil change interval. There are a ton of people scratching their heads about when they should change the engine oil on their cars and we think that now it’s time to clear the misunderstanding. So, how long you can go on an oil change? Let’s elaborate.

Many experienced mechanics will tell you to change the oil every 8,000 miles or so. Which I quite agree with.

But modern vehicles that use synthetic oil can go above this. In most cases, they can run even more than 10,000 miles on the same oil.

But beware, you need quality oil. Something like a Mobil 1 Fully Synthetic oil let’s say. You cannot rely on any oil that is out there since not a lot of oil makers can live up to the task of delivering this longevity.

What Does SAE Stand For

But any type of oil has its limit. It will start to burn and when you pull out the dipstick it will start to smell (and once you learn how to read oil level on dipstick). Also to add, it will become thicker and thicker the longer you push it.

This is why 10,000 miles on a modern car with fully synthetic oil is the sweet spot. Don’t put too many miles even if the sticker says that this oil will get you 15,000 miles or more.

But if you really care about the life of your car’s engine, flushing the oil every 6,000 miles will be the best. You might pay more for these more frequent oil changes. But you will benefit in the long run if you plan on keeping this car for the next 10 years or so. But what does SAE stand for? Let’s see next.

What Does SAE Stand For

So, what does SAE stand for in oil? If you didn’t know, SAE stands for the US Society of Automotive Engineers. The acronym is there to tell you that this engine oil or tools are up to the SAE standards. But why do you need SAE standards?

Well, in the early days of the invention of automobiles there were a ton of companies. There were different industries that benefited from the automotive production industry.

Namely, the oil industry, the industry for designing tooling and machining processes. All these industries brought their own ways of measuring things. So, Henry Ford and Thomas Edison said enough is enough. We need to standardize things.

Standardization was really essential. Because a ton of companies have created engine oils specifically for Ford let’s say. But these oils were not compatible with General Motors cars. You get my point.

This is why all these things were standardized by the Society of Automotive Engineers which was created by Henry Ford and other businessmen in 1905. Yes, the SAE is that old, more than 117 years. This improved the functionality across many industries and created a standard for basically everything from oils, to designing different tooling.

These standards are not global though. Engine oils are usually SAE globally. But tooling depends much on the geographical location. In Europe, they use the metric system for example. But more about the tooling we will discuss later. Now as we learned what does SAE stand for in oil. Let’s see if should you choose an SAE-certified oil.

Should You Choose SAE Certified Oil?

As e learned what does SAE stand for in oil, let’s now learn if you should choose SAE-certified oil for your car? And the short answer is yes, you should definitely choose SAE-certified oils. Don’t go for something that doesn’t have the SAE acronym because who knows on what standards is this product made and who knows if it will work as it should on your vehicle.

This is why whenever you choose motor oil. Make sure that it has the SAE badge on it. Even though, if it has the viscosity numbers, let’s say 5w-30 it is an SAE motor oil, even though you can’t find the SAE logo on the jug.

That’s why you should not get alerted. Nowadays everything is SAE certified. These standardizations are a must if the seller wants to sell on the American market. So, you should never get aroused if the oil lacks this sticker logo on it.

The more important thing for you is the type of oil that you intend to run on your vehicle. And that’s what we are going to cover up next where we will learn the different types of oils that exist and for which you should go. So, if you want to learn more about what does SAE stand for in oil, follow along.

Types Of Motor Oil

Now as we learned what does SAE stand for in oil. Let’s learn more about the different types of oil. We already mentioned synthetic oil.

But it is also worth mentioning that there are other types of oil out there. Not all of them are synthetic and some of them perform differently than others. So, what are these types of oil? Let’s find out.

Conventional Motor Oil

Now as we cleared what does SAE stand for, let’s learn more about the first type of oil. And this is conventional motor oil.

Conventional motor oil is also known as mineral oil. This is the case because this type of oil is a byproduct of crude oil.

Many products are created from crude oil. Namely, gasoline, and diesel. But also mineral motor oil.

What Does SAE Stand For

What is characteristic of this type of oil is its good performance on classic motors. These oils work the best on cars that were produced up until the late 80s.

This oil is rich in zinc and this is a very good performer when it comes to delivering proper lubrication and performance inside of the engine. Mineral oils are also the cheapest oils that you can get. Now let’s move to the next type of oil.

Semi-Synthetic Motor Oil Or Synthetic Blend

The second type of oil that we would like to cover after we learned what does SAE stand for is semi-synthetic motor oil. Also known as a synthetic blend.

This type of oil is a mix of synthetic compounds and mineral oil. These oils are much better performers than the classic mineral oil because they contain a lot of additives that serve to protect the engine’s health.

They also can get you more mileage. The average lifespan of these oils is up to 8,000 miles. Which is rather good. Considering that the mineral oil only lasts for about 6,000 miles.

This still doesn’t mean that you should always push it to the limit. Replacing it around 7,000 miles will be the way to go, just to be sure that there are no problems later on with the engine.

This oil is also more expensive than the classic mineral oil and will cost you a bit more. But it’s worth it. Technology has evolved a lot and we need to adapt to it. And frankly, there are even better options than semi-synthetic oils. And that type we are going to cover next.

Fully Synthetic Motor Oil

Now after we covered what does SAE stand for, let’s learn the last type of motor oil that is out there before we cover the SAE viscosity measurements.

The last type that we want to cover is the fully-synthetic motor oil. This motor oil is not mineral-based. Meaning that it is not derived from mineral compounds.

It is based on artificial synthetic compounds. First developed in WW2 by the Germans. These compounds improved the performance of the oil under cold weather by a big margin. Also, the longevity of these oils was a big advancement in comparison to mineral-based oils.

But the downside of this oil was the thing that was really expensive. It hasn’t become a thing until recently when oil producers started to sell fully synthetic oil. And consequently, the prices of this type of oil have dropped significantly.

Now you can get fully synthetic oil for a really good deal. And if you own a newer car, this is a must because modern engines are really sensitive when it comes to the type of oil they run.

This synthetic oil can also withstand quite a lot of beating. 10,000 miles is the minimum change interval. Some oil makers claim even that their oil will last for about 20,000 miles. But just to be on the safe side, change the oil every 10,000 miles. Now as we cleared the types of oil and what does SAE stand for in oil. Let’s learn more about the SAE viscosity chart.

Understanding SAE Oil Viscosity

Now as we learned what does SAE stand for in oil. Let’s learn more about understanding SAE oil viscosity.

As we learned, SAE refers to the Society of Automotive Engineers. And these engineers have created certain standards when it comes to the oil and its viscous characteristics at different temperatures.

You have probably come across the names of 5w30, 0w40, etc. What do these designations mean in the first place? Let’s elaborate.

These names are basically the characteristic of the engine oil in cold and hot temperatures. The first two letters indicate winter performance and “W” stands for winter, while the other indicates the viscous characteristics of the oil in high temperatures.

The lower the first number in the designation, the more the thinner the oil is in lower temperatures and the better it performs in cold. The bigger the first number, for example, 15, the worse the oil will perform in very cold environments.

The second number is the performance of the oil in hot temperatures. The bigger the number, the thinner the oil will get when the engine reaches operating temperature. This is excellent for high-performance engines and engines that are run in hot environments.

The gold standard for oil will probably be 5w30 or 5w40. Since these oils perform really well in both cold and hot environments.

So, if you live in a climate where the temperatures are moderate throughout the whole year, you will be good with these two.

If you live in a cold environment like Alaska, then the 0w-30 oil will do the trick. Or if you live in California you will highly need something like 10w-40.

Still, you should consider the driver’s manual and see what is the recommended SAE oil viscosity for your vehicle.

Other Uses Of SAE Acronym

Now as we cleared the important bit which was the question of what does SAE stand for in oil, we can discuss other things. Namely, what does SAE means when it comes to tools and other equipment. So, let’s begin.

What Does SAE Stand For In Tools

Now let’s learn what does SAE stand for in tools. As you probably know, in the US there is an imperial system for making measures. So, the tools used in Europe and anywhere in the world are not the same as the American tools.

American sockets are SAE certified and in imperial. While the ones used across the world are used in metric units.

To be honest, from an engineering point, the metric system is more precise and it is used more frequently for high precision measurements even in the US. Even though for the public, there is the SAE classification.

What Does SAE Stand For

If you work with European cars that were imported from Europe directly, then you will highly need European metric socket keys or wrenches.

European cars are not SAE, only the ones made for the American market are SAE certified vehicles. So, beware of this. Overall that is the question of what does SAE stand for in tools.

What Does SAE Stand For In Measurement

Now let’s learn what does SAE stand for in measurement. This SAE stands for the imperial measurement when it comes to tools.

SAE tools are imperial measurement tools. Meaning that they are working with inches and not millimeters and centimeters like in the metric system.

This is why it is key for you to know that if you are an American working in America, you are probably using SAE-certified tools. There is no other way around it.

What Does SAE Stand for And What Does It Rate

SAE is an acronym that stands for Society of Automotive Engineers. This was specifically created by American carmakers to define some aspects when it comes to building cars. Namely, the tooling was standardized as well as the engine oils that are used in automobiles.

The SAE standard for oil is global, while the tooling standard is only for America since it is in imperial units and not in metric measurement.

SAE Oil Facts: What You Need to Know

  • SAE stands for the Society of Automotive Engineers, a US organization founded in 1905 by Henry Ford and Andrew Ricker.
  • SAE issues the viscosity grading system for motor oil and sets standards for SAE tools and horsepower rating, among others.
  • An SAE oil is a motor oil that complies with the standard laid down by the automotive engineers of SAE international.
  • The SAE number is a code to grade motor oils by their viscosity characteristics, with multigrade oils having two numbers in the format “XW-XX.”
  • The first number in the SAE size indicates how well the oil flows at 0oF, and the second number indicates the oil viscosity rating at an operating temperature of 212oF.
  • SAE 5W30 oil is a very common engine oil for cars and light trucks, but different SAE oil grades should be used based on driving conditions.
  • Monograde oils only have one grade and are best used in regions or seasons with extreme temperatures.
  • The ILSAC GF-6 is the newest ILSAC motor oil standard, aimed at improved fuel economy and enhanced passenger car engine capabilities.
  • Engine lubricants can be divided into four types: conventional, synthetic, synthetic blend, and high-mileage motor oil.
  • Using an SAE-graded and approved oil ensures that you’re putting something that meets industry standards in your engine and helps resist engine wear, extending your engine life.


In this article, we have covered quite a bit when it comes to the question of what does SAE stand for. We first learned what does SAE stand for in oil and then we learned what does SAE stand for in tools. Both of these aspects are extremely crucial when it comes to tackling car-related problems.

But we primarily focused on the oil. SAE-approved oil is the type of oil you will definitely need if you want to run your car up to factory spec. Since nowadays everything is standardized.

It doesn’t matter if you purchase mineral oil or fully synthetic oil. They are all SAE standardized and the viscosity is fixed for all of these types.

And the viscosity as we can recall was the ability of the oil to work at certain temperatures. Not all oils are equal and some of them work much better in lower temps while some of them work better in higher temperatures. Lastly, we covered what does SAE stand for in tools.


Now let’s answer some frequently asked questions.

What Does SAE Stand For In Oil

When it comes to engine oil it is worth that SAE stands for the viscosity of the oil. The viscosity is the ability of the oil to flow at certain temperatures. Since not every oil works well on each temperature. That’s why SAE ratings were needed to determine what thickness a certain application will require in order to deliver the best performance.

What Does SAE Stand For In Tools

When it comes to tools the SAE stands for the tools for the American market. All tools in the American market are SAE certified. Meaning that they work only in inches which are the imperial measurements. They are not interchangeable when it comes to metric measurements. So, if you try to work on a car that was made for the European market, you will highly likely need sockets that are measured in millimeters and not in inches.

What Does SAE Stand For And What Does It Rate

SAE stands for Society of Automotive Engineers and it is there to rate the engine oil as well as other lubricants. In addition to this, the socket keys for the American market are SAE rated. Meaning that they are approved by this institution and the same sizes of a key are used across the whole country.

What Does SAE Stand For In Measurement

SAE stands for the tooling standard that is used in the US. All tooling that is sold in the US needs to have the SAE standard. In other words the imperial system for making measurements.

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