The choice of viscosity of a lubricant must be made considering both the minimum engine operating temperature (winter temperature) and the maximum temperature (summer temperature): it is essential to choose an oil that remains fluid enough at low temperature to ensure easy starting, but at the same time ensures a satisfactory maintenance of viscosity when the engine is under stress.
Specifically, the viscosity of a lubricant is the measurement of the friction between the molecules of a fluid.
The Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE J300) table classifies engine oils by viscosity. The first number of the classification followed by the letter W (Winter) and the following number, indicate the range of ambient temperature for which that type of oil maintains an effective viscosity.
It is defined "monograde" an oil that guarantees a single coverage, cold or hot (for example SAE 10W, SAE 20W, SAE 30, SAE 50). It is defined "multigrade" an oil that guarantees both a good low temperature lubrication and a high temperature (for example SAE 5W30, SAE 10W40, SAE 0W20).