Table of Contents
What is Engine Oil?
Engine oil, sometimes called motor oil, is a lubricating fluid used in internal combustion engines. If you think of an engine as the heart of a car then engine oil will be the lifeblood of the said ‘heart’.
What Does Engine Oil Do?
Historically speaking, engine oil was mainly used to lubricate engine parts, reduce friction, clean, cool, and protect. In this modern day world that we live in, engine oil is meant to do more than just that, especially synthetic oils.
The following is an overview of the functions of engine oil:
- Lubrication – Your engine is made up of very important moving components. AS such, these components require lubricating to reduce the effects of friction such as wear and ensure that your engine runs smoothly.
- Prevent overheating – Your engine oil helps to disperse excess heat within your engine by absorbing the heat that is produced during combustion.
- Inhibits rust – Though it may not completely prevent rust, engine oil can reduce the spread of rust and prevent corrosion to essential engine components by acting as a detergent, neutralising the acids that are produced.
- Acts as a sealant – Engine oil prevents engine power from escaping by sealing the space between the piston ring and the cylinder liner.
What Are The Types Of Engine Oil Available?
There are various engine oil types available in the market categorised under synthetic, semi synthetic, high mileage, and mineral oils. Motorcycles also require a different type of oil made specifically for their usage.
- Synthetic oils – These oils are made artificially in the lab through a range of chemical processes, and is designed to provide enhanced engine performance. You can find best synthetic oils in our guide here.
- Mineral oils –these oils come from crude oil that has been refined to remove impurities.
- Semi synthetic oils – These kind of oils are usually a combination of both synthetic and mineral oils.
- High mileage oils – These oils are just as their name implies. They are specially formulated for older engines with high mileage on them to increase their lifespan. Need a guide on picking the best high mileage oils? Here you go.
Although you might be inclined to think that mineral oils do a good job of maintaining engine performance given that they are pure, synthetic oils are actually better at that job because they are designed to adjust particularly well to extreme temperatures and are more heat resistant. Another plus is that the antioxidant additives in them help prevent oxidation and this makes them resistant to degradation.
What are the different grades of oil?
There are basically two figures such as 5w-30, 5w-40, or 10w-40 on each oil bottle regardless of the oil type . These numbers indicates oil’s viscosity. Why this is so?
According to one of the leading oil manufacturer Castrol;
“The viscosity of oil changes with temperature, therefore multi grade oils were developed to provide protection across a range of operating temperatures.
The SAE (Society of Automotive Engineers) scale shows the viscosity of oil at both hot and cold temperatures. That’s why the viscosity grade on the oil bottle is made up of two numbers.”
The first number followed by W letter indicates viscosity when its cold. As this number decreases oil gets thinner. At low temperatures, thinner oil performs better than thick oil, especially at cold starts.
The second number indicates the oil’s viscosity when the engine is at normal operating temperature. As this number increases oil gets thicker. At high temperatures, if the oil becomes too thin, it may not perform well. If it is too thick there exists circulation problems.
We provide SAE Grades Chart below:
Normally, you may think that if I get the oil with the highest differential between these two grades, I would protect my engine both at cold starts and high temperatures. This is not necessarily true, maybe your engine could perform better with 0w30 then 0w60.
Engine Oil Maintenance, Change, and life
Most people are unaware of how to maintain the oil in their engines. They are mostly conflicted as to the nature of the term “maintenance”. Generally, this refers to ensuring that your oil is doing what it is supposed to do and that your engine is performing in optimum state.
It is recommended to check your oil at least once a month. This involves checking the level of oil in your engine to know if you require a top up. If your car is older, this frequency needs to increase. Now that you know just how frequently to check it, you’re probably wondering how best to check it.
Most pros will tell you that it is best to check your oil in the morning before you start your car. This rule of thumb works just fine considering that you have given the oil time to settle back in the engine so that you are reading the exact level of oil in the engine. If you check it after driving around, you might probably get a wrong reading considering that the oil will have been churned around and the level might read higher than it actually is.
As you check your oil, you might notice that it appears dirty and darker than when you put it in. Don’t panic. This simply means that the oil is doing what it was meant to do. So don’t think of changing it just because it’s not clear.
Cars should have a dashboard that tells you if your engine oil level is low. Always watch out for this warning light and be aware that it could mean a potential leak in your engine. If this is the case, act fast to avoid serious permanent damage to your engine.
Another important part to check is the oil filter. Since its function is to clean up the oil and get rid of particles within it, it might be clogged up. So get rid of these particles to make it be in optimum state. You can get a pro to do this for you if you are unsure.
When do I change my engine oil?
This is totally dependent of manufacturers but the best recommendation is to change it every 6,000-8,000 miles. This will ensure that your oil is at the right level every time and that it is in the perfect state to do its work in your engine. Always read the manufacturer’s recommendation just to be sure how long a certain oil is meant to last before change.
Also, while making the oil change or topping up the oil, make sure you know what the car manufacturer’s recommendations are of the type and grade of oil to use for your engine. This information can be easily found in your vehicle handbook.
How do I change my engine oil?
Changing your engine oil is an easy task once you get the hang of it. It only takes around 30 minutes to have a complete oil change. You can alternatively go to a pro to assist you to do the task, but if you are a DIY kind of person, you are going to need the following tools:
- Oil filter – This is an important part of the engine as it clears up the dirt and particles clogged up in the engine oil. Yes, you are going to need a new oil filter to change too. It is recommended to change the filter every other time you have an oil change though some manufacturers will recommend that you change it every time you change your oil.
- Oil filter wrench set – The oil filter wrench is the tool you will need to remove the old oil filter.
- Oil drain (drip) pan – As you change your oil, you are going to need this tool to avoid dripping the old oil onto the ground thereby ruining the environment. It will take the old oil from your engine to ensure it is free to take up new oil.
- Funnel – This will help you to pour in the new oil.
- Other tools include: clean rags, ramps, chucks, safety glasses, work gloves, and a hand cleaner.
Before you change the oil, ensure that your engine is slightly warm. Never do this while the engine is hot or too cold. This is because warm oil drains faster than cold oil and when too hot, the oil will be unsafe to drain. A good tip is to run your engine for a few minutes, such as when driving onto ramps.
Follow these steps to safely change your oil:
- Drive onto ramps – Remove the car keys, apply chucks behind the wheels for safety, put on your safety gear and get started.
- Place the oil drip pan below the oil drain plug – If locating the oil drain plug is a bit hard for you, you can always consult the owner’s service manual, or Google!
- Unscrew the plug by hand – At this point you have to be careful as the oil may be hot. Push back the plug towards the plate to hold back the oil until when you are ready to let the oil out.
- Drain old oil – Check your service manual for the location of the filler cap and remove it as this helps drain the oil faster due to air entering from the top.
- Replace oil plug – After old oil has been drained into the drain pan, replace the plug and tighten it by hand then secure with a wrench. Never over tighten the plug.
- Remove the oil filter – If you intend to remove the filter, place the drain pan below the old filter then carefully remove the filter using a wrench. Use a rag to clean the filter mounting surface and make sure you removed the gasket from the old filter.
- Place the new filter – Lightly lubricate the rubber seals of the new filter before screwing it in by hand. Ensure the seal is properly seated in the filter. Though it may not be necessary to tighten with a wrench, check the filter’s instructions just to be sure.
- Add the new oil – Using a clean funnel, pour in new oil from the top and make sure you pour the recommended amount for your engine. Never overfill. Do not forget to replace the filler cap afterwards.
- Run the engine – This step helps you to identify any leaks and deal with them immediately. If you do not notice any leaks, you’re good to go. Just shut off the engine then let it rest a few minutes to give the oil time to settle.
- Check the oil level – Remove the dipstick, wipe it off, then return it in its slot. Remove it again to check if the oil is up to the “full” mark. If it’s not full, add the oil, again avoiding overfilling.
Finish up by removing the chucks and backing off the ramps. Dispose of the old oil and filter properly by taking them to an authorized used engine oil drop-off center or a recycling center.
Problems Encountered With Engine Oil and How to Fix Them
Remember that your engine oil is the lifeblood of your car. Any issues related to the engine oil directly affect the engine and may be fatal for the car. Some of the common problems that are faced due to engine oil are:
- Oil Pump failure – This will lead to oil starvation which is almost always fatal to any engine. The oil should be of proper viscosity to ensure it flows to different parts of the engine properly.
- Dirty oil – This is usually mostly an indicator of a faulty filter. Check your filter and change it if necessary.
- Low oil pressure – This is usually due to low oil level in the engine. Use the dipstick to assess the situation and if it is within permissible levels, then check for other causes to the problem. If you experience low oil pressure during a specific season, then you should check the viscosity factor of the oil you use.
- Burning oil – This could be due to low viscosity, low quality of oil used, an overheating engine, or low oil pressure. Check the engine for worn out gaskets and seals and if any, replace them to avoid leaks.
With engine problems, you should never delay with having them fixed as this will only lead to more problems and more losses on your part.
Now you know all you need to know about the lifeblood of your car. Do not hesitate to deal with any issues that you may encounter due to the oil in your engine. Always carry out maintenance checks to ensure your engine is operating in optimum state. Also You may consider to have best synthetic oil for better performance and protection for your car.