Time for an oil change: how to choose the best engine oil for your vehicle?
Engine Oil plays an important role in the maintenance and sustenance of the machinery. Apart from its primary function of keeping the engine lubricated, it ensures proper running of the engine, its longevity and protection. Therefore, one must choose the right engine oil to keep their vehicle in good condition.
Let us have an in-depth understanding of the engine oil, its types and its properties.
The first thing to look for while choosing an oil is its type. Engine oil comes in three types: Mineral Oil, Semi-Synthetic and Fully Synthetic.
- Mineral Oil -Mineral or conventional motor oil is the oldest type of engine oil and the cheapest among the three. It offers little lubrication and fails to perform in extreme temperatures.
- Synthetic oils – Synthetic oils, on the other hand, are produced using synthetic materials in labs. They can perform well in extreme temperatures but are the most expensive engine oils in the market.
- Semi-synthetic oils – They are a hybrid between mineral and synthetic oils where a small amount of synthetic engine oil is mixed in with mineral oil. This increases the efficiency of the mineral oil by three folds without significantly increasing the cost.
Performance grade & viscosity
A fluid’s resistance to flow is described as viscosity. Oils with higher viscosity are thick and do not flow easily, i.e. they resist the flow.
On the other hand, engine oils with low viscosity are thin and flow more freely. Temperature affects the performance of the engine oil. Thin oils (lower viscosity) flow easily at low temperatures, thereby reducing friction and helping the engine start quickly during cold weather.
Thick oils (higher viscosity) help maintain film strength and oil pressure at high temperatures. Engine oils are graded on their viscosity levels and their performance in different temperature conditions.
The engine oil grade is in the form of an alpha-numeric code “XW-XX”. The letter “W” stands for winter and the number preceding it tells us how the oil will flow in cold conditions. The lower the number, the better will be the flow in cold weather. The numerics “XX” represents the oil’s viscosity under high temperatures. The higher the number, the thicker the oil will stay at high temperatures.
Factors affecting the Oil Change interval
There are many contaminants like air, water, fuel, soot deposits, metal debris etc that wreak havoc on the engine oil and lead to its degradation. A degraded oil affects the efficiency of the engine and harms it in the long run. Therefore, to keep the engine running smoothly and efficiently for long, timely maintenance and use of the best engine oil is a must.
Apart from the company recommended interval period, there are many other factors to keep an eye on when it comes to changing the oil in your vehicles.
- Age of the engine – A brand new engine that goes through a “breaking-in” period tends to consume more oil. After the post “breaking-in” period the engine’s oil consumption goes down. Then again, it demands more oil when it gets old and nears the end of its lifecycle.
- Driving Style – Improper handling, long hours of usage, repeated starts and stops etc., strains the engine which in turn leads to heavy consumption of oil.
- Hot and Cold weather – Temperature affects the performance of the engine oil. Using oil that is not suitable (inappropriate grade) for your climatic conditions damages the engine.
- Slump filter – Using a quality filter is as important as using superior quality oil. Oil circulates throughout the engine and picks up pieces of debris. An efficient filter catches this debris and prevents its reentry. If the filter is of inferior quality, the debris will escape back into the engine. Also, the presence of debris in the oil will degrade it quickly.
Change is due when
- Oil sensors alert – When the oil levels drop, the oil change light will light up as an indication. Check for some leaks or use a dipstick to check the oil level and degradation. If the engine runs on degraded oil for extended durations, the check engine light will illuminate to indicate that the engine is at risk.
- If components are being damaged – When the vehicle is running long on degraded oil, the components start getting affected. Breakdowns will be frequent and engine noise will increase.
- The oil stick shows degraded oil – Contaminants turn the amber coloured and slightly translucent engine oil into a dark and opaque substance. Use the dipstick and check the colour of the oil that sticks to it.
“Oil Change” is to be taken seriously if one wishes their engine to perform well, last longer, and avoid its untimely breakdown.