Smooth operation and high performance depend on multiple factors when it comes to your vehicle’s engine but one that stands out, in particular, is oil. While lubrication is the main goal of oil it also benefits the engine as a form of insulation for all those heated parts. It helps keep combustion byproducts away from contaminating other parts of the engine too and it helps minimize rust since it reduces the amount of oxygen from getting to the surface of all that metal. Although there’s a lot of information about your car engine oil in your owner’s manual it’s not that difficult to understand what your four-wheeler needs. There are things like viscosity and oil type that affect the performance of your engine which are labeled as the following, “10W-30” or “5W-30”. This information alone may be enough to get you started but getting to know certain oil specifications is crucial for finding the proper one.
The easiest way to start in this case would be to first understand every oil type. The standard of engine oils is conventional or nowadays known as premium conventional oil. This oil for car engine is used by the majority of leading car brands since it has been tried-and-true for a long time now. While it does only offer basic protection and it needs to be changed more often conventional oil does work with a wide variety of engines. This, of course, makes it more affordable but at the cost of no protection in exceedingly cold temperatures.
For a vehicle that has a more advanced engine or is being used for a heavy-duty operation such as towing, fully synthetic oil is a must. This type of oil is made in laboratory settings and its true purpose is not only to protect your engine at a basic level but to improve fuel efficiency thus gas mileage. Fully synthetic oil protects your engine from the cold too and usually provides quick movement through the engine in colder temperatures.
A good middle ground when it comes to a car engine oil are synthetic blends. With this oil type, you get the best of both worlds, meaning both an affordable and effective solution. This is a mix of both conventional and synthetic oil and while it doesn’t provide the same level of protection of the latter it is still a substantial upgrade from the former. Synthetic blends reduce engine wear more than conventional oils and they don’t need to be changed as frequently too.
SAE & Viscosity
When it comes to labels, one thing which you’ll see often is the SAE (Society of Automotive Engineers) viscosity number. This rating tells you how thick the oil itself is at 0 °F ( -17 °C). Viscosity is another important instance on a label which presents the oil’s resistance to flow or simply put how easily the oil is going to circulate through the engine. Obviously the thicker it is, the slower it will move and vice versa. Remember, the characters and numbers mentioned above? Well, they represent the SAE rating and the viscosity of the oil.
The first number in 5W-30 represents oil viscosity and the “W” stands for winter with the number afterwards being the oil’s thickness at 212 °F (100 °C). If the number after the “W” is higher it means the oil is more resistant to thinning. Thinning happens naturally as a result of the heat generated from the engine. Remember this, if the oil is too thick it will make the engine work harder and thus consume more power in order to turn the crankshaft. The lower the number before the “W” the better the oil is going to be at low temperatures. You will find that most 5W oils are used in winter but there are also 0W synthetic oils that can perform well in cold climates.
The lubricating film that is created by the oil for car engine can break down sometimes which is why anti-wear agents are added in order to keep it protected from the engine’s metal surface. These agents usually contain a phosphorus and zinc compound known as ZDDDP.
When the crankshaft moves through the oil in the pan it makes it foamy and foam is not effective when it comes to lubrication. This is where foam inhibitors come into play to prevent foam bubbles from forming.
These may not be the same detergents you use at home to wash your dishes or clothes but they do the same thing by cleaning the oil from deposits, mainly solid ones. Still, their main purpose is to maintain metal surfaces clean by keeping rust, corrosion and high-temperature sediments away.
This self-explanatory additive helps scatter solid particles so they don’t form as acids, varnish and sludge. While these can be individual, there are additives that act both as a detergent and a dispersant.
To prevent the thickening of the oil, oxidation needs to be cut out and antioxidants are added for that exact purpose. Antioxidants are added to prevent an excess of emissions from being exhausted in the air which is what happens when oil thickens, making the engine work more aggressively thus hotter too. Some anti-wear agents also act as antioxidants.