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Car Engine Oil Essientials

April, 27 2017 | Noelle Darwent


Car Engine Oil Essientials

Why do cars need oil?

Oil reduces unwanted friction in the car engine; keeping the parts cool. Oil also cleans and protects the engine’s components carrying any debris to the oil filter. Without oil the engine parts get too hot and wear out so that eventually the engine will stop working and will need to be replaced.

Why does the oil level drop?

All car engines lose some oil due to burning or evaporation as the oil seeps into different parts of the engine. Different car makes will lose oil at different rates and older cars with more worn components are likely to lose more oil than newer cars. In addition, cars using thinner oils that can trickle past engine parts may use oil at a greater rate.

How do I check my oil level?

Many modern cars have a dashboard light or message which will tell you that your oil level is low because of a drop in oil pressure. Many cars do not need a top up of oil between oil changes. You can check the oil level manually:

Make sure your care is on a flat surface and that the engine is cold (wait at least 10 minutes after the engine has been turned off)

  • Get a clean piece of kitchen roll and some plastic gloves (oil can be difficult to wash off)
  • Open the car bonnet and locate the oil dipstick in the car engine. Refer to the car manual if you are unsure what you are looking for.
  • Remove the dipstick and wipe it with the cloth
  • Re-insert the dipstick as far as it goes without forcing it.
  • Pull it out again and you can read how much oil is in the car. There will be two marks on the dipstick: a minimum and a maximum. If the reading is below the minimum the oil will need topping up.

What oil should I use to top up the oil? 

It is vital that you use the correct oil for your car and this should be stated in the car manual. You can also check on-line at one of the sites that will request the car make and model and will then advise which oil to use. It is advisable to use oil from a reputable manufacture stating the correct specification of oil for your car.

What are the differences between car engine oils?

Most engine oils are called “multigrades” which means that they have two viscosity (measures of flow), one for the winter and one for the summer. They are graded by a number (winter oil viscosity) followed by a “w” followed by another number (viscosity in summer temperatures). The lower the number before the w, the better the oil performance at cold temperatures.

Oils also have other specifications such as The European Automobile Manufacturers Association (ACEA) which shows specifications for performance and application for cars, API (American Petroleum Institute) which gives specifications within categories for petrol (S) and diesel (C) plus Original Equipment Manufacturer (OEM) Approvals.

Oil manufacturers are constantly blending new compositions and creating synthetic oils to meet the demands of increasingly stringent regulations on emission, complex car engine design and consumer desire for increased efficiency and performance.

Why is my car using so much oil?

If you regularly check your oil, there are many reasons why your car is consuming more oil than normal. An oil leak in the engine due to a cracked component or an engine burning oil due to worn parts can be spotted if there is a change in the smoke constituent in the exhaust, the coolant is brown and foamy or there are oil puddles or drips under the car. If you are not skilled at car mechanics, you should seek professional advice.

In addition, oil consumption can also be affected many other reasons such as engine design, driving style, condition of the engine parts, incorrect oil with the wrong volatility or viscosity, contaminated oil or a high engine temperature. Again, if you are concerned seek professional advice.

What is an oil change?

Over time, oil in cars becomes contaminated with fragments from the engine as well as pollution from the environment. The engine oil becomes sluggish and less efficient at lubricating the engine so it requires changing. Usually the oil filter gets replaced at the same time.

How do I know if my engine oil needs changing?

Most modern cars have a dashboard light or message which will remind you that your next oil change is due (according to the manufacturer’s recommendation). After the oil has been changed the reminder usually needs to be reset.

There are other indicators that might affect when your engine oil needs changing. If you are using your car more frequently or for longer journeys, check the car owner’s manual to confirm how many miles should elapse between oil changes. In the past manufacturers recommended 3,000 miles but with the advancement of oil composition recommendations now vary with some manufacturers suggesting changing the oil after 10,000 miles. The type of driving will influence the effect on oil, for example, stop/start driving, driving on poorly maintained roads and towing can all cause oil deterioration.

If you regularly check your oil then you may notice that it should be changed because it is losing transparency, the consistency has become gritty or there are some new colours in the oil. You can either learn how to change the oil and the oil filter yourself or seek professional help.

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