The Different Types of Lubricants for Automobiles


Even though most cars are largely run by computers nowadays, they all have many moving parts. That means friction and heat. This is especially true of the engine, which can heat up to thousands of degrees Fahrenheit when the car is running. Because of this, the car needs lubrication to keep the heat in check and allow its parts to slide past each other with ease. Here are some of the different types of lubricants for the car:

Motor Oil

This is the queen of car lubricants. It is the one every car owner is familiar with and certainly the lubricant that they need to deal with most frequently. Motor oil cools down the engine, has additives that clean out the gunk that accumulates in it and prevents new gunk from forming. It also forms a cushion between the engine’s moving parts and cuts down on the friction. This reduces not only the heat but wear and tear. An engine that is clean and fairly cool is working with less stress and getting more miles per gallon of gas.

Motor oil and other types of car oils are rated by their viscosity, which their ability to flow. Oil thickens and flows less easily in cold weather and thins out and flows more easily in hot weather. The trick is for the oil to not thin out so much that it does not reduce friction. This is why most cars need multiple grades of motor oil. An oil such as 10W-40 gives the car owner information about its viscosity when the weather is warm and for when the weather is cold, for the W stands for winter.

Transmission Fluid

This fluid cools down the gears, plates and other moving parts in the transmission. As with motor oil, it keeps the transmission cool, lubricates the seals and keeps the parts from corroding. The car owner can tell transmission fluid from motor oil because transmission fluid is dyed to give it a bright color.

Gear Oil

Gear oil is found in cars with manual transmission and in the differential. The differential is a box of gears that lets each side of the car axle rotate at a different speed, which needs to happen when the car drives around a tight curve. Gear oil is made to handle high temperatures and therefore has a high viscosity rating. The rating is usually above 75.


Grease is put on the front non-disc brake wheel bearings which allow the front wheels to turn. It’s also put on the suspension system and shock absorbers which keep the car level on rough roads. These areas have grease fittings called lubrication points which are the focus of the famous “lube job.” Experts recommend these fittings be greased regularly or when they start groaning and squeaking. The grease is applied by a grease gun. The grease these fittings require is not high temperature, which is why it’s not used on wheel bearings with disc brakes. For that, the car will need high temperature wheel bearing grease.

Other types of grease include:

  • White Grease
    White grease is applied in areas that are exposed to water. Water does not dilute or wash away this type of grease.
  • Electronic Grease
    This is a non-conductive grease placed in the car’s electrical system to prevent heat build-up.


Graphite is a dry lubricant that is made of carbon. It is used on places in the car that shouldn’t be oiled or greased, such as the locks on the doors.

Lubricants For Rusted Fastenings

These are penetrating lubricants that come in a spray can. They are used to loosen those nuts and bolts that have rusted or corroded on such as those found on old license plates that need to come off. The way to use this lubricant is to spray it on, let it sit for a while, scrub the bolts with the wire brush then spray on the lubricant again until they come loose.