Engine Oil Management: Why Understanding the Basics of Oil Can Keep Your Car Running Smoothly

Cars have come a long way since the Ford Model T. Engines now come in types, have various range of cylinders, and the moving parts have made them incredibly more complex. At their core though, engines require the same basic level of maintenance and ensuring this maintenance is oil. Few people take the time to understand the fundamentals of engine oil, but those who do enjoy smother running cars and fewer trips to the mechanic. This article will help you navigate your way to the heights of those reasonably-educated car owners who enjoy the benefits of their knowledge.

A fully operational car engine is a crucible of metallic interaction. Without engine oil to lubricate these metal parts as they interact with each other, you’d soon be on the side of the road waiting for a tow-truck. So, in no uncertain terms, engine oil is even more important than gas.

This important element of efficient and healthy engine maintenance has undergone several changes over the years. Most of these changes have evolved with the ever-changing complexity of engines themselves. Engine oil manufacturers now use a variety of ratings and designations to specify which oil works best with which engines. The two most important markings are therefore the letters and numbers that come on a standard bottle of engine oil.

Here’s The Breakdown of Each:

Numbers equal viscosity – this is the constitution or thickness of the oil. Viscosity helps to manage temperature inside the engine and the numbers are crucial in matching the correctly oil to your car’s engine. Using 10W-40 in an engine rated for 5W-30 for instance, could result in minor to severe engine damage. It is important therefore that you follow the instructions carefully when buying engine oil. Most car makers place the recommended viscosity rating for the engine on top; you can’t miss it. If in doubt always ask the person selling the oil or your local mechanic.

Letters equal standard setting body – the letters found on the engine oil bottle are really there to set apart the standard setting body that gives the oil its rating. The main standard setting body is the Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE). Another lesser standard setting body is the American Petroleum Institute (API). Presence of either set of letters will give you an indication of the oil’s intended operational climate (“W” usually means winter) and how well it performs under the pressure of a churning engine.

Of course understanding the letters and numbers is only half the task of keeping your engine running properly. You also need to change your engine oil at the prescribed intervals. Most engine trouble in cars stem from improper management of oil-changing schedules. The standard recommended frequency is 3,000 miles or every 3 months—whichever comes sooner.

You should never take shortcuts on engine oil change and management. With the outlined information on oil basics, things should be easier.

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