The engine is the heart of the car, and what keeps that heart beating magnificently is the oil. Engine oil, first and foremost lubricates all the metallic parts of the vehicle to keep them from rubbing against each other. Secondly it cools the engine, by carrying heat away and preventing it from overheating.
However, like any fluid in a vehicle oil runs out. If you maintain your car yourself, you have to become familiar with the oil required by your engine. This will keep you from buying oil that does not protect your engine, or is of a poor quality.
There are many kinds of engine oil in the market, and the first time you set out to purchase oil can be very overwhelming. Every bottle has different numbers, and you have to figure out whether you want synthetic oils or not. Even veterans get confused occasionally because there are so many advancements in oils that you cannot tell which one would be suitable for your vehicle.
The following guide breaks oils down into the essentials to help you understand what the information on the bottles means, and tries to help you figure out whether the oil is for you or not.
Viscosity refers to the ability of oil to flow at different temperatures. Oil has a tendency to become thin when it heats up, causing it flow very fast, and conversely it thickens when temperatures drop. Thus different oils have their viscosity rated based on their response to different temperatures.
An oil has its viscosity tested at 0o Farenheit and at 212o Farenheit. When you see an oil with the designation 20W-50, it has a higher viscosity than an oil with a rating of 10W-30. It is preferable that oils do not become too thick when it becomes very cold, or do not become too thin when it is very hot.
Thus when you set out to purchase oils, it is advisable that you consult your owner’s manual. There will always be an indication of the viscosity rating that is suitable for your vehicle. Also take into consideration the climate you will be driving the car in, as it directly affects the performance of your oil.
2. Viscosity Index
This refers to an oils ability to resist thinning as temperatures rise. As mentioned earlier, oil tend to become thin when temperatures go up. Thus the second number should be higher. However, oil should be able to maintain its viscosity for many miles too.
To achieve a good viscosity index, companies use additives. These additives keep the oil viscous even as temperatures rise. Other additives are also used to prevent the oil from getting too thick.
3. Types of oils
These are used by most auto shops and dealerships. It is the lowest in price and adheres to the industry standards. These oils have very little to no additives, thus their viscosity can be precarious. They are suitable for drivers with engines that have low mileage.
Premium Conventional Oils
These are the oils that are found in fresh cars. They are available in the ordinary viscosities, and are manufactured by every brand, with a highest level service version. They come in three viscosities that are appropriate for light weight vehicles.
Pure Synthetic Oil
These are designed specifically for cutting edge, high tech engines. They pass through very strict testing procedures to ensure that they protect the engines at all costs. They score highly in viscosity ratings and end to have little to no engine deposits.
These are a combination of synthetic oils with organic oils. They are designed for vehicles whose engines have high loads, and consequently tend to generate high temperatures during operations. Pickup trucks and Sports Utility Vehicles are prime candidates for these oils, because they are protect their engines well, and are only slightly more expensive than premium conventional oils.
High Mileage Oils
Today a lot of people are driving vehicles with a lot of mileage on them. Conventional oils may not be capable of protecting these engines from all the wear and tear. It is for this reason that oil companies have developed the high mileage oils. They have special additives which boost the performance of internal engine seals.
4. Classification Codes
The API donut informs you that the oil you are buying has attained the latest SL service rating. On the other hand the SAE number assures you that it passed the Energy conserving test. Finally the starburst symbol shows that it is approved for SL service.
Now that you know what to look for in oils, go and buy your oil with a clear mind. If you are unsure of a brand to pick try Valvoline, they have a high quality line of engine oils for all vehicles.