The life of your engine depends in no small part on the quality of the oil you put in it – oil is its lifeblood. Your engine needs the right amount to keep it running smoothly while avoiding any expensive repairs. Finding the right engine oil for your car however can be difficult, with so many brands and types to choose from.
What does engine oil actually do?
Your engine oil performs many functions. It stops all the metal surfaces in your engine from grinding together and ripping themselves apart from the friction, and it transfers heat away from the combustion cycle. Engine oil must also be able to hold in suspension all the nasty by-products of combustion like silica (silicon oxide) and acids. Finally, engine oil minimises the exposure to oxygen and thus oxidation at higher temperatures. It does all of these things under tremendous heat and pressure.
What grade of oil do I require?
Different engines all need certain types of oil to keep them going. The main difference in oils is the ‘viscosity’ or the thickness of the oil. As oils heat up, they generally get thinner. Single grade oils get too thin when hot for most modern engines which is where multigrade oil comes in. The number before the ‘W’ is the ‘cold’ viscosity rating of the oil, and the number after the ‘W’ is the ‘hot’ viscosity rating. The first number for example 5W, refers to the thickness of the engine oil during a cold start, the lower the number the better the protection.
The second number ’30’ indicates the oils thickness at operating temperature. A lower number can give modern cars better fuel efficiency.
Other than the viscosity of the oil, you will also come across three main types of oil:
: Based on oil from mother earth that has been refined. An engine oil for older cars, it provides basic protection. Not recommended for modern vehicles.
: Part or semi-synthetic oils are mixed with mineral oils to create a good in-between oil, cost and performance wise. Better engine protection and performance than standard mineral oil.
: Completely synthetic oils provide the ultimate protection in extreme conditions. They perform well under high and low temperatures, where other oils can break down or thicken. As they offer optimum lubrication they help reduce wear.
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