Motor Oil - Things You Should Know


Motor oil is the LIFE BLOOD of an engine and the most important aspect of preventive maintenance regarding engine longevity.

Motor oil is essential for your automobile with the mission of combating metal-on-metal friction and heat.  Oil also fights against the soot, exhaust, and unburned fuel that sneak past the piston rings and into the crankcase.  Without motor oil, your car cannot function.

Checking Your Oil

-        Open the hood and look for dipstick labeled “oil”

-        Pull the dipstick out, wipe it off, and stick it back in the tube

-        Pull it out once more, this is an accurate reading of how much oil is in the engine

-        Most dipsticks will have markings for both “full” and “quart low”

-        Check oil when the car has not moved in a while so that the oil settles into the oil pan

-        You can check the oil while the car is still hot, just be sure not to touch the engine

-        Always check your oil level prior to any long distance trips

Oil Change

-        A safe interval for oil changes is every 3000 miles if using standard (non-synthetic oil) however, you should refer to your owner’s manual for specific requirements for your vehicle as different makes and models are engineered differently

-        Severe driving such as in extreme heat or cold temperatures, in dusty conditions, with much stop and go driving, towing or mountainous travel puts more stress on the engine and engine oil and requires more frequent oil changes than standard driving.

-        Educate yourself on the benefits of synthetic oils.  Synthetics are more expensive, however they may be your best option, depending on your driving habits and conditions and they will extend the time between oil changes.

Oil Labels  

An example type of motor oil is 5W-30.  Since this oil has two numbers, it is multi-grade oil  (where polymers have been added to give the oil different weights/thicknesses at different temperatures) and therefore it has two viscosities.  The lowest number represents the “cold weather” viscosity and the higher number represents the viscosity of the oil at operating temperature.  Viscosity can be thought of as the “thickness” of the oil and the higher the number, the “thicker” the oil.  Both synthetic and conventional oils use these labels.

-        5 – lowest viscosity rating in cold weather (oil is thinner in cold weather)

-        30 – highest viscosity rating at operating temperature

-        W – stands for Winter just reaffirming that the first number represents the viscosity at low temperatures

-        All motor oils will begin with SAE which stands for Society of Automotive Engineers, the organization that sets viscosity standards

Benefits of Synthetic Oil 

Synthetic oil is more expensive but it does have some benefits over conventional oil:

-        Improved lubrication – synthetic oils have added lubricants

-        Better stability – synthetic oils are created to maintain their viscosity for longer periods of time and at higher temperatures

-        Reduced breakdown – synthetic oils are less likely to break down and can last as much as THREE time longer which means they do not have to be changed as often

-        Fewer deposits – synthetic oils are less likely to create deposits or “sludge” that can wear down an engine.

Don't be intimidated by an auto service technician that is "trying to SELL you a service". 

Prepare and educate yourself to have an informed discussion at the Auto Service Shop.

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