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Whether you drive a car or sport utility vehicle, your motor vehicle is one of the biggest investments you’ll make in your life. And with car prices going up every year, it makes perfect sense to take good care of your car. Pamper her right and she could last 150,000 kilometers or more. Ignore her and you’ll be spending lots of time at repair shops or worse, the scrap heap.
It is said that motor oil is the lifeblood of any engine. Ask any racing driver and you’ll get an answer to the effect that without oil, auto racing probably wouldn’t even exist. Racers and their teams put a premium on good motor oil; and so do car enthusiasts and motor heads alike. Motor oil lubricates your engine and helps fight the two biggest enemies of any machinery: heat and friction. Without oil, your car’s engine will produce excessive heat causing friction and subsequently wear and tear.
Reading the Label
Aside from the usual brand name, motor oils are labeled typically with two numbers such as ‘15W40’. This reads as the oil’s the thinness (viscosity or how runny it is) at low temperature (‘W’ standards for ‘winter’) and the thickness (viscosity or how sticky it is) at high temperature. In this case, 15W40 is thicker and 5W30 is thinner.
If the numbers are close together then the operating temperature and the performance of the oil is more uniform. However, the second number is the important one unless you live in sub-zero climates. It’s not easy to say that thicker or thinner oil is better since every car has its own requirements. Always use the recommended oil grade for your car and that information can be found in the owner’s manual. Choosing an oil that’s too thin can cause permanent leaks in the seals. Older cars sometimes prefer a slightly thicker viscosity to avoid leaks, but again, it’s best to consult your mechanic if you’re not sure. Try to avoid mixing oils of different viscosities or grades as well.
Mineral or Synthetic
Sometimes you hear the terms ‘mineral’ and ‘synthetic’ motor oil. The basic difference here is that mineral oil is refined from crude oil while synthetic oil is artificially made using chemically modified petroleum compounds. Synthetic oils provide superior mechanical and chemical properties than traditional mineral oils such as better low and high temperature viscosity performance; better chemical stability; decreased evaporative losses; better lubrication on cold starts and so forth. Moreover, some argue that synthetic oils are ‘cleaner’ because mineral oils contain wax additives and other leftover components in the refining process.
In 1966, Motul introduced a semi-synthetic oil blend. This is made up of a mineral oil base with no more than 30 percent synthetic oil mixed in. Generally, this type of oil provides the benefits of pure synthetic oil without the cost.
Always pick the right type of oil for your car. Though most of the time, mineral oil is good enough, never put mineral or semi-synthetic oil in a car that requires fully synthetic oil such as turbo-charged or high-performance sports cars unless in an absolute emergency. After which, get the oil drained and load the correct type as soon as possible. Neglect can potentially wear the engine components prematurely. And never mix oil types as well.
While it’s true that synthetic oils can last up to twice or thrice the recommended cycle of mineral engine oil, it’s still recommended not to skip a regular oil change. Because as good as your oil gets, the oil filter still gets dirty. Oil filters trap tiny particulars of metal from inside the engine and left for long, these can end up like a sandblaster. So even if the oil does last, it will pick up gunk from the engine. Always choose a good quality filter that matches your engine (sometimes synthetic-type filters are used with synthetic oil) and avoid using fake or no-brand ones. It may save you money right now, but at what cost, an engine rebuild?
How Much Oil
A common mistake of car owners (and sometimes shops) is overfilling a car with oil and thinking it’s a good thing. Always keep the oil below the maximum level and well above the minimum line. Too much oil and it will get into places it shouldn’t and that could cause engine damage. Too little oil will wear the top of the engine and can cause the pistons to wear out more quickly.
Never assume you know how much oil to put in; always consult the owner’s manual. If your car recommends four liters, then put four liters. Check the level in the way specified in the manual, then top up if necessary. Generally, oil should be checked with the engine warm but having stood for a couple of minutes to allow the oil to settle.
Lastly, use only engine oils designed for your car. Don’t attempt to put 2T motorcycle oil in your family sedan, for example. They’re designed for a totally different purpose and you should always be aware of what you’re buying.
Changing your oil and oil filter is the most inexpensive service for the most important part of your vehicle. However, some people neglect this and it’s the number one reason engines prematurely fail in the long run. Imagine investing less than P 10,000 per year to save you potentially ten times that amount in repairs in the future. In the end, that may well be the ultimate peace of mind.