What Does SAE Stand for in Motor Oil?

SAE stands for the Society of Automotive Engineers. The SAE was founded in 1905 by Andrew Ricker and Henry Ford. At the outset, its sole aim was to provide an umbrella organization for the scattered automotive engineers who usually worked alone in various parts of the country. SAE’s role soon expanded and became an important resource for the auto industry so that engineering and technology developments could be shared.

SAE role continues to expand

As the SAE continued to expand, so did its role in the automotive world. Within a decade of its founding – its initial advocates were automotive publishers Peter Heldt of Horseless Age and Howard Swetland of The Automobile – SAE had grown. By 1916, it had added aeronautical and tractor engineers. In 1916, SAE took the form it has today. Heldt and Swetland believed in personal and professional development and wanted SAE to move in that direction. In that same year, the organization became global but believed in acting local for support through sections.

After World War I and through the postwar years, SAE continued to grow. Adding to its educational role, SAE became an international standards body, providing important consumer standards in oil, for example.

SAE assures global oil standards

The Society of Automotive Engineers provides a number of global standards in many fields including cars and trucks, petroleum, aerospace and others. SAE assures that a key automotive item – oil – is standard across the globe. This means that if you were to buy a quart of 5W-30 oil in Sri Lanka it would be the same as if you had picked up another can of oil in New York. Without an organization like the SAE, it is quite possible that instead of one set of oil standards that is recognized worldwide, there might be hundreds, one for each country, that would drive up the cost of oil and motoring, in general.

SAE currently maintains more than 1,600 standards and practices documents for cars and other road-going vehicles. Though they do not have the force of law, SAE standards have been included by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) in its documentation for some of the standards the federal safety agency establishes. The same is true of Transport Canada, NHTSA’s counterpart north of the border.

Oil viscosity standards explained

One of SAE’s important roles has been in establishing and maintaining standardization in petroleum products. That standardization includes a program of testing that assures that products have the same attributes. Oil viscosity is a measure of resistance to flow. A 5W-30 oil exhibits good flow characteristics in winter cold and summer heat. In other words, at -35°F, oil will retain its ability to flow and will refrain from gelling. Oil will also retain its ability to flow and protect an engine at high temperatures (212°F). These are the test points used by SAE.

SAE’s testing program centers on a viscosity number of 30. The 5W-30 identifies the oil as a multi-weight oil that, at -35°F retains the characteristics of a 30 weight oil. The W identifies the oil as Winter grade oil (it will flow better when cold). The 30 identifies it as a 30-weight oil that will flow at high temperature. SAE standards apply to not only multi-grade oils but also single-grade oils well.

The mission of the SAE

The SAE began its life as an attempt to provide scattered automotive engineers with an umbrella organizations that would not only act as a key support but which would also help to keep its members current with the latest information and education. That has been an important part of SAE’s mission.

Equally important, SAE provides consumers with the knowledge that important items like motor oil have the same quality the world over, as well as a means for measuring that quality. SAE has grown into an important organization whose role is essential in today’s multi-faceted world.


Next Step

Schedule Oil Change

The most popular service booked by readers of this article is Oil Change. YourMechanic’s technicians bring the dealership to you by performing this job at your home or office 7-days a week between 7AM-9PM. We currently cover over 2,000 cities and have 100k+ 5-star reviews... LEARN MORE

SEE PRICING & SCHEDULING

The statements expressed above are only for informational purposes and should be independently verified. Please see our terms of service for more details

Recent Oil Change reviews

Excellent Rating

(25,186)

Rating Summary
23,749
900
199
95
243
23,749
900
199
95
243

William

34 years of experience
517 reviews
William
34 years of experience
Hyundai Santa Fe V6-3.3L - Oil Change - Phoenix, Arizona
Excellent mechanic. Always came to appointment on time, thorough with his work, extremely knowledgeable, kind, friendly and honest. Highly recommend to anyone.
Land Rover Range Rover Sport - Oil Change - Goodyear, Arizona
William was knowledgeable and detailed on the work and any questions asked. His background with diesel will be noted for service on my F350 in the future.

Bryan

2 years of experience
87 reviews
Bryan
2 years of experience
Mercedes-Benz S550 V8-4.7L Turbo - Oil Change - Fort Lauderdale, Florida
Bryan was really great. Was quick but thorough. I will definitely recommend and use your services again.
Mini Cooper - Oil Change - Hollywood, Florida
Bryan was great...he communicated what he was doing very clearly and made suggestions based on inspection of the engine. I would be happy to book him again. I am finding your service to be very convenient and the service has been professional. I can recommend Your Mechanic without qualification.

Raymond

37 years of experience
402 reviews
Raymond
37 years of experience
Toyota Camry L4-2.2L - Oil Change - Las Vegas, Nevada
Raymond did a great job however I was charged for two hours labor and he was only here less than 45 minutes. should I expect this on future appointments with your mechanic ?
Ford Escape - Oil Change - Las Vegas, Nevada
He is a very nice man and very thorough. Explains the inner workings well. I would recommend him to anyone.

Jeffrey

16 years of experience
99 reviews
Jeffrey
16 years of experience
Honda Accord L4-2.2L - Oil Change - Saint Petersburg, Florida
Jeffrey arrived when he said he would and was very efficient and neat. I asked for some advice about gasoline additives and he was most helpful.

Need Help With Your Car?

Our certified mobile mechanics make house calls in over 2,000 U.S. cities. Fast, free online quotes for your car repair.

GET A QUOTE

Related articles

Symptoms of a Bad or Failing Oil Pan
Common signs include puddles of oil under the car, leaks around the oil drain plug, and visible damage to the oil pan.
How Do I Prepare My Car for Summer?
Summer's Summer's heat, dust, and stop-and-go traffic will take their tolls on your vehicle. Follow these tips to ensure optimum wellness of your car: Air Conditioning: Have your air conditioning inspected (https://www.yourmechanic.com/services/heating-ac-inspection) by a qualified technician. Newer models have cabin...
How to Replace Oil Cooler Lines on Most Cars
Oil cooler lines fail if there are bends in the hose, low oil levels, or oil visibly puddling underneath the car.

Related questions

What does it mean if the Low Oil Pressure light on the dash is blinking?
Your dash holds a number of very important lights. The Low Oil Pressure indicator is one of the most essential. If this light comes on and flashes, it means there’s something very wrong and you need to take immediate action....
Transmission issue after a long drive
Do not change the fluid or have it flushed. This could cause the transmission to go out even sooner. There are a load of different additives out there that may or may not work, but when the transmission is going...
Oil light
You would need to have the oil pressure tested with a gauge to see if the pressure is within specifications. A sending unit may be bad or you are low on oil pressure. The reason for this could be anything...

How can we help?

Our service team is available 7 days a week, Monday - Friday from 6 AM to 5 PM PST, Saturday - Sunday 7 AM - 4 PM PST.

1 (855) 347-2779 · hi@yourmechanic.com