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A detailed look at choosing the right engine oil for your vehicle

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A detailed look at choosing the right engine oil for your vehicle

There are numerous options for consumers” when it comes to choosing the right engine oil for their vehicle. In fact, many people will pick up the first engine oil they see without understanding the suitability and performance. This can not only affect performance but also be detrimental to your vehicles health. As performance requirements set out by manufacturers are so unique, there are so many engine oils available. This detailed guide will not only break down the different information that you will need to know but allow you to make the best possible choice for your vehicle.

Why are Engine oils so Important for your Vehicle?

The most popular comparison for engine oil is that it is the lifeblood of an engine and to a degree, this is a true statement. If the engine did not have oil to lubricate the key parts, help with cleaning and sealing, the engine would run for only a few of seconds. The importance of the oil cannot be understated. Oil is so important that the minimum we want for our vehicle is the best oil we can get—for a price relative to performance.

The Key Functions Performed by Engine Oil

Engine oil can at times be taken for granted and its importance isn’t really understood. There are 5 key functions that are performed by engine oils to ensure that your vehicle operates to the best of its ability. Other than lubrication, engine oils also perform 4 other functions that are essential to both the performance and health of your engine.

  1. Corrosion Inhibitors contained in the oil protect the engine against corrosion and wear & tear as the oil begins to oxidise, ensuring an increased engine life and better performances.
  2. Reduces metal to metal contact between the moving parts of the engine by separating them with a film of oil. This greatly decreases friction and increases engine performance & reduces fuel consumption.
  3. Detergents found in the additive packages remove impurities to the oil filter and clean current deposits and foreign substances in the engine, achieving engine cleanliness & preventing it from serious damage.
  4. Engine Oils act as a seal space between the piston & cylinder due to the fact that they are not completely smooth. These gaps are filled by the Oil, increasing the performances and efficiency of the engine.
  5. The coolant cools the upper engine and its parts. Engine Oil helps to cool the engine, preventing energy loss, & engine deterioration.

Understand the Labels

The quality of a lubricant is defined by a number of parameters which can normally be found on the label. This information will enable you to view the properties and performance levels of the lubricant. To help you understand the jargon and information found on the label. I have highlighted the key terms and information that will be integral to choosing the right oil.

  1. Brand & Product Name – This is pretty obvious and any of the big brands will be easily recognisable from their name and logo. The product name will help you in the near future as once you find the right product for your vehicle, you will be left with the much easier task of searching by name.
  2. Oil Viscosity – Lubricants act in different ways at high and low temperatures. Oil can be characterised by its viscosity, flow Viscosity Graph resistance or by measuring the thickness of the oil film.
  3. Viscosity varies according to temperature in the following manner:

    The higher the temperature, the more fluid the oil and the lower its viscosity. This means that if the engine is to perform at its best, the oil must be able to retain its viscosity whatever the heat conditions: it must stay fluid at cold temperatures (to allow the engine to start) and it must be viscous at hot temperatures (to stop the various moving parts coming into contact with each other).

  4. Viscosity Grades – The SAE (Society of Automotive Engineers) has created a classification for lubricant grades in order to describe viscosity at high and low temperatures. The grades are made up of two numbers, between which is the letter W (for winter grade), as follows:
  5. Oil Quality – There are three main types of oils, depending on which base oil is used in the manufacturing of your lubricant.
  6. Mineral Oils – these are base oils made from petroleum-based products in their basic formulation.
  7. Synthetic Oils – these base oils consist of chemical compounds and are preferred to mineral oils which are refined from petroleum. Synthetic oils have superior qualities to the mineral oils.
  8. Semi-synthetic oils – these are oils made up of blends of mineral & synthetic oil
  9. Product Description, benefits & applications – This area points out the description of the products, the benefits you will see from using it and the different applications for the product.
  10. International Standards & Manufacturer Approvals – The international standards are levels which the performance of the lubricants must meet; they are set by authorities such as API, ACEA, JASO & ILSAC. These standards are set to ensure lubricants have high technical performances. In addition, to seeing these standards on the label you will also see some OEMs (Original Equipment Manufacturers) approvals. These OEM approvals are where the particular manufacturers have set their own standards which are usually more stringent than international standards. The OEMs will all so recommend the use of specific motor oil; this can be seen in your vehicles maintenance guide.

Other Features that may appear on labels

  1. Fuel Economy Lubricants – These are lubricants that are developed using a special formula that helps save fuel compared with conventional oils that offer the same level of performance.
  2. Low SAPS Lubricants – These lubricants contain low levels of sulphated ash, phosphorus and sulphur (SAPS). This technology optimises the operation of the depolluting systems fitted to the most recent engines.

What is Viscosity?

Viscosity is essentially oil’s resistance to flow. It is by far the single most important consideration of the oil as it affects both the wear and tear rate of the engine and its performance in relation to fuel consumption. For example, a liquid such as water is a low viscosity fluid; while a fluid such as syrup is considered a high viscosity fluid. If we increase the temperature of syrup, the viscosity of it lowers, meaning that it will flow faster.

Viscosity is commonly measured with the Kinematic viscosity and is usually quoted in data sheets at 40°C and 100°C. Kinematic Viscosity measures the resistance of the fluid to flow and shear under the forces of gravity, or how easy the oil flows to the different parts of the engine.

Single-viscosity oil and multi-grade oil are the two types of engine oil available on the market today. Almost every vehicle can run on a multi-viscosity oil. The lower the number, the thinner the oil and the more easily it flows. In 10W-40 oil, for example, the two numbers mean that it’s a multi-viscosity oil. The 10W refers to how the oil flows at low temperatures (in winter); 40 refers to how it flows at high temperatures.

Viscosity Index

Viscosity index is the measure of the change in viscosity due to the effects of temperature variations. Viscosity index improvers are additives that are sensitive to temperature and used to alter this index to make the change in viscosity small enough throughout the car’s normal range of temperatures that the oil will be useful whether your car is just being started on a winter morning or driven at engine temperatures well in excess of 90 degrees. Nearly all modern engine oils have viscosity index improvers.

How to Choose Between Synthetic and Conventional Engine Oil

As we have seen in our previous articles, engine oil comes in a number of grades, viscosities and contain various additives. Another option that will find is whether you are buying synthetic or conventional engine oil. Synthetic engine oils generally perform better than mineral engine oils in areas such as providing protection for your vehicle or added lubrication, but you may not understand why. So what are the key differences between synthetic and conventional oil and what factors should you take into account?

Key Differences between Synthetic and Mineral Oils

There are many types of synthetic oils that are available to buy including synthetic oils that are made from a base stock and semi-synthetic oils. Synthetic oils are refined and distilled and broken down into their basic molecules. This purification process removes impurities and allows for the oil to be tailored to suit modern engines. Semi-synthetic oils are a blended oil that is made up of no more than 30% synthetic base. Synthetic oils generally provide less friction and are more stable, frequently lasting longer than a non-synthetic oil.

Mineral engine oil, on the other hand, is a lubricant that is formulated directly from crude oil. It has excellent properties that allow it to provide lubrication at high temperatures, all the while maintaining its stability over longer periods of time. In reality, synthetic oils start their lives as conventional oils and are then modified to improve its protective and lubricant properties. A number of synthetic oil blends are designed especially to increase the life and performance of high-mileage cars. Other oils are designed directly for high-performance engines while others are created to increase fuel efficiency.

The Main Advantages of Using Synthetic Oil

  1. Increased Lubrication: The majority of synthetic oils start lubricating straight away increasing the ability of the oil to lubricate the engine parts, keeping them slick, particularly at high temperatures. Over the long term, this will decrease wear and could make your engine last even longer.
  2. Better Stability: Synthetic oils are specifically designed to retain their viscosity at higher temperatures and over longer periods of time. This helps reduce engine wear in several ways. It allows the oil to “stick” to engine parts more effectively, increasing wear protection, as well as doing a better job protecting your engine during dry starts. Dry Start’s happen when your car has been sitting for an extended period of time. Gravity pulls the oil down to the bottom of the engine, which causes components at the top of the engine to lose lubrication and leaves them to run unprotected. By helping the oil maintain viscosity, synthetic additives decrease the effects of “dry starts.”
  3. Reduced Degradation: Synthetic oils are less susceptible to break down, meaning that they don’t need to be changed as often as conventional oils. The more resilient properties of synthetic oil also mean that your engine is protected better through the whole service periods.
  4. Lower Deposits: As conventional oils suffer from degradation or “break down”, they will frequently leave deposits on engine components, referred to as “sludge”. This is especially common in engines that run for long periods of time or are driven under harsh conditions. As these oils break down, they stick to different surfaces in the engine. Synthetic oils are less likely to do this, with some conventional oils having the ability to remove some of these deposits.

The properties that separate conventional oil from synthetics affect your engine in many significant ways. But remember that these types of oils are in no way completely necessary. Although the properties of the synthetic oil are considered superior, conventional oil will protect your vehicle’s engine just fine. The most important thing you can do to keep your car running smoothly is to follow your vehicle manufacturer’s recommendations and service interval guidelines.

Oil Additives

Use of additives is another approach to improving and maintaining oil performance. High engine temperatures combine with moisture, combustion by-products (including unburned gasoline), rust, corrosion, engine wear particles and oxygen to produce sludge and varnish. The additives not only assist oil in maintaining good lubrication, they also help minimize sludge and varnish, and any damage from their formation. Here are the categories of key additive ingredients and why they’re important:

  • Viscosity-index improvers: These additives reduce the oil’s propensity to thin when temperatures increase.
  • Detergents: these detergents do not act like the general household types as they don’t scrub engine surfaces. They do remove some of the deposits, chiefly solids. But their main function is to keep the surfaces clean by inhibiting the formation of high-temperature deposits, rust and corrosion.
  • Dispersants: These additives scatter solid particles, keeping them in solution, so they don’t merge and form sludge, varnish and acids. Some additives can operate as both detergents and dispersants.
  • Antiwear agents: Sometimes the lubricating film can breaks down, therefore antiwear agents are needed to protect the metal surfaces. A zinc and phosphorus compound called ZDDP is a long-used favourite, along with various phosphorus (and sulphur) compounds
  • Friction modifiers: These aren’t the same as antiwear agents. They reduce engine friction and, so, can improve fuel economy. Graphite, molybdenum and other compounds are used.
  • Pour-point depressants: Just because the 0° F viscosity rating is low doesn’t mean the oil will flow readily at low temperatures. The oil contains wax particles that can congeal and reduce flow, so these additives are used to prevent it.
  • Antioxidants: With engine temperatures being pushed up for better emissions control, the antioxidants are needed to prevent oxidation (and, therefore, thickening) of oil. Some of the additives that perform other functions also serve this purpose, such as the antiwear agents.
  • Foam inhibitors: The crankshaft whipping through the oil in the pan causes foaming. Oil foam is not as effective a lubricant as a full-liquid stream, so the inhibitors are used to cause the foam bubbles to collapse.
  • Rust/corrosion inhibitors: Protect metal parts from acids and moisture

More Is Not Necessarily Better

Most of the additives above will already be found in the oil as it comes from the manufacturer, so they will not have to be added by the vehicle owner. But if you walk into any number of stores, you can find numerous bottles of aftermarket engine oil additives that will highlight how they will improve engine performance even further and/or clean your engine better than the detergents already found in your oil. It is extremely important to remember that the oil you are buying has been developed to perform specific functions and that the additives are balanced precisely to perform these tasks. Adding excess additives will affect this balance detrimentally lowering performance. Always follow the instructions in your manufacturer’s manual.

Top Tips

  • It may be appealing to go for the oil grade with the widest rating, but it’s always best to choose one with the narrowest range that still suits the ambient temperatures you’re likely to experience, as it will be better optimised over that range.
  • If you decide to swap from an inferior oil to using synthetic oil it’s advised that you change the oil and filter soon after, as it’s possible that carbon deposits and other detritus could be cleaned out by the new oil.
  • Using synthetic oil does not mean you can extend the amount of time between oil changes. The detergents and other chemicals deteriorate over time and reduce the oil’s effectiveness.
  • Always change your oil filter at the same time as your oil, as it catches unwanted material before it’s circulated to the rest of the engine.
  • You should never drive your vehicle when the oil light is illuminated. This light indicates that the oil pressure is dangerously low, which could lead to catastrophic engine failure in a really short amount of time.
  • A very good habit to get into is checking the oil level of your engine on a regular basis– once a month for newer vehicles used infrequently, or even weekly for older ones or those used for high mileage.

Finol provides the go-to app in choosing your engine oil. Go to the Finol Which Oil App choose your vehicle and fill in your details. Within seconds you will be brought to the best oil for your vehicle. Our full product range can be viewed here or you can contact one of our specialised team members by clicking here

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GradesFixer. (2018, December, 17) A detailed look at choosing the right engine oil for your vehicle. Retrived December 10, 2019, from https://gradesfixer.com/free-essay-examples/a-detailed-look-at-choosing-the-right-engine-oil-for-your-vehicle/
"A detailed look at choosing the right engine oil for your vehicle." GradesFixer, 17 Dec. 2018, https://gradesfixer.com/free-essay-examples/a-detailed-look-at-choosing-the-right-engine-oil-for-your-vehicle/. Accessed 10 December 2019.
GradesFixer. 2018. A detailed look at choosing the right engine oil for your vehicle., viewed 10 December 2019, <https://gradesfixer.com/free-essay-examples/a-detailed-look-at-choosing-the-right-engine-oil-for-your-vehicle/>
GradesFixer. A detailed look at choosing the right engine oil for your vehicle. [Internet]. December 2018. [Accessed December 10, 2019]. Available from: https://gradesfixer.com/free-essay-examples/a-detailed-look-at-choosing-the-right-engine-oil-for-your-vehicle/
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