The Ins and Outs of Lubricant Oils for Automobiles

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THE IMPORTANCE OF ENGINE OIL

If you own a vehicle, you’re probably well aware of the importance of engine oil, but why is it important, what is the primary function of engine oil? These are pressing questions that many motorists have, and therefore, this article is written with you in mind, the owners and operators of today’s vehicles. The single best thing you can do to extend the life your engine is to ensure that it is properly lubricated, which is a straightforward process if you’re taking your vehicle to a mechanic. If, on the other hand, you’re taking on the task of changing your own oil, there are several things to consider.

CHOOSING THE RIGHT OIL

So, how do you choose the right engine oil? Ideally, you will want to choose engine oil that is recommended by the manufacturer of your vehicle; your owner’s manual will provide you with the recommended oil weight/viscosity, which is where the “W” rating comes into play.

UNDERSTANDING OIL WEIGHT

For example, oil rated as 5W-30 is considered low viscosity oil, meaning it is thicker and has a slightly more restrictive flow. Conversely, high viscosity oil, like a 10W-30, for example, is much thinner and, as a result, flows unrestricted throughout your engine. Of course, bear in mind that this information is not intended to suggest that one is better than the other; it is, moreover, a delineation of types of oil available to consumers.

As a consumer, you should pay close attention to the labels on each container of oil. Each container will carry the following information:

  • Viscosity/weight rating
  • API rating
  • An “energy conserving” indicator

WHAT DOES THE “W” MEAN?

To better understand these various ratings, let’s take a closer at them individually. As previously stated, the oil viscosity represents the weight of the oil, lower viscosity being on the thinner end of the spectrum and high viscosity on the thicker side. In addition to the manufacturer’s recommendation, outside temperatures play a critical role when it comes to choosing the right oil for your vehicle. One important thing to note is that oil naturally shrinks and expands, which means that oil is at it’s thinnest when your vehicle is not running and gradually thickens while it’s in operation. The same holds true when it’s cold or warm outside.

The number that precedes the “W” on each oil container indicates how resistant your oil will be to thinning at low temperatures; the numbers that come after the “W,” on the other hand, indicates how resistant your oil will be to thickening in warmer temperatures.

WHAT IS AN “API” RATING?

The API (American Petroleum Institute) is an easier concept to explain; basically, the API denotes whether the oil is intended for gas or diesel vehicles. Again, this goes back to referring to your owner’s manual. Obviously, diesel engines require different oil than that of a gasoline engine and vice versa.

ENERGY-CONSERVING OIL

The energy-conserving indicator will only apply to oil intended for a gasoline engine. Each oil container has verbiage on it indicating whether or not it’s an energy conserving oil. What does this mean, exactly? Well, according to motorist.org, energy conserving oil has been shown to improve fuel efficiency in gasoline-powered vehicles.

THE COSTS OF AN OIL CHANGE

When it comes to vehicle maintenance, replacing your oil and filter should be paramount; as previously stated, it’s the single best things that you can do to extend the life of your vehicle. Also, from a cost perspective, it is considerably cheaper to change your engine oil as opposed to replacing an entire engine. According to a groupon.com article, the average cost of an oil change can range from $25 for regular oil to $55 for synthetic, with synthetic oil being the more costly option. Conversely, the average cost of a new engine, which will be needed if you neglect to change your oil, can be anywhere from $2000 to $4,000. This is a steep price to pay, especially when you consider that this is a cost that could have been avoided; the engine is the heart of your vehicle, replacing the engine can represent 10 to 20% of the cost associated with buying a new vehicle.