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What engine oil should you use?

Car ownership is an important part of Australian culture, and advertisements promoting car-related parts, accessories and services have been proud on TV screens for decades.

Many Australians are familiar with the soft tones of John Laws advertising Valvoline with the trademark sign ‘Valvoline, you know what I mean’ as well as them with the slogan ‘It’s not just oil, it’s oil. liquid technique’ by Castrol.

These advertisements may be hyperbolic, but the importance of motor oil cannot be underestimated. It is one of the essential fluids that engines need for smooth operation, as it lubricates vital components, prevents wear and tear, and also helps clean and cool the engine, thus ensuring the engine run in optimal condition for a long time.

The motor oils sold today are graded according to their thickness and the process in which they were manufactured. Let’s explore how each of these will influence your purchasing decision.

Straightweight and multi-weight oils: What do the numbers mean?

An important property of an engine oil is its viscosity, or consistency, or to use more scientific analysis, its ability to resist flow. An American organization called the Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) uses numbers to describe the thickness or weight of an oil, and the standards set by SAE have been consistently applied across the country. world.

Originally, engine oils were ‘straight weight’ with a single viscosity rating, such as SAE 30. However, this does not explain the usual principle that oils are denser at colder temperatures, before diluting under warmer conditions.

This means that a particular car may need a heavy 30 engine oil at its operating temperature, but this oil will then become too thick at lower temperatures, causing excess wear on the components. engine part or make it difficult to start the vehicle.

Today, multi-gravity oils are the norm, and this problem has been solved through the use of different additives to the oil that allow the oil to have a variable viscosity over a range of temperatures. This means that in cold conditions, the oil is thin enough for the vehicle to start easily, while the oil’s viscosity increases at higher temperatures to ensure adequate lubrication and protection of critical engine components. muscle.

As a result, multi-weight motor oils often have a rating like ’10W-30′ or ‘5W-40’, with the ‘W’ in this rating standing for ‘Winter’. As a result, the first number (before W) describes the weight, or viscosity, of the oil at lower temperatures, while the second represents the viscosity of the oil at higher temperatures, up to 100°C. .

Although these temperatures refer to the engine internal temperature, they can also be affected by other environmental conditions such as ambient temperature. As a result, the manufacturer may specify that a multi-weight oil with different specifications be used for the same vehicle in different geographical areas.

Oils: Mineral vs Semi-synthetic and Synthetic

In addition to their viscosity, engine oils also differ based on the process in which it was made. Today, motor oil manufacturers classify their products into three categories, namely mineral, semi-synthetic or synthetic motor oils.

Mineral engine oil, as the name suggests, is derived naturally from crude oil commonly found in wells around the world, before being highly refined for use in automotive applications. All in all, it’s the cheapest engine oil available and is generally suitable for use in low-end cars that aren’t as focused on performance.

While mineral-based oils may be cheaper than other engine oils, they can also have a shorter life, and as a result, owners can expect more frequent oil changes. Valvoline’s XLD Premium is an example of a popular mineral oil product that claims to protect against deposit formation and corrosion.

Meanwhile, synthetic motor oils are either man-made in the lab, or naturally derived but so heavily processed through methods such as hydrocracking, that the basic chemical structure of the oil has been lost. change.

It is often the most expensive oil available and often offers the best performance in regards to life between oil changes and its ability to adequately lubricate key engine components and protect them from wear and tear. .

Typically, sports cars and higher end vehicles will require synthetic oils. Some synthetic oils may also contain special additives and other molecules that are tailored to a particular engine type. Castrol’s Edge is an example of a fully synthetic motor oil.

In contrast, semi-synthetic oils include a blend of mineral and synthetic oils, achieving some of the benefits of the latter while remaining more affordable than fully synthetic oils. fit. Shell’s Helix HX7 range is a popular example of this type of engine oil.

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