What is Motor Oil and How Does it Work?

When it comes to keeping your vehicle running, there are a handful of things which ranks on the most-important list. In the number one spot on that line-up is motor oil, the amber liquid which keeps your car’s moving parts doing what they were designed to do. The reason motor oil is so important, is because it is used to lubricate the spaces between parts—which are sometimes as narrow as three-thousandths of an inch thick. (That’s about as thin as a sheet of paper.)

motor oil cars

How it works?

Keeping friction to a minimum is the most important job motor oil has within an engine.

Obviously, the freer parts are to move, the less heat builds up and the less stress is placed on parts. Less stress means fewer broke-down engines. While you might think this is all that motor oil does, that is not the case.

Oil in an engine also serves to keep the engine parts clean. Too much sludge in an engine can also slow things down and cause friction.

And while clean and friction-less are great, motor oil still has another very important job. This viscous liquid protects metal parts by preventing corrosion, while also keeping an engine cool. When it comes to moving metal, heat is one of its biggest enemies. Too much heat can warp engine parts, rendering them completely useless.

For people shopping for motor oil, most car manuals have the recommended type listed for that make and model of car. If you are unable to find your owner’s manual and are unable to ask a professional mechanic, there are ways to tell how an oil performs based on the letters and numbers on its label.

Viscosity Index – What is it?

The viscosity index is what is important when looking at an oil. This is indicated by two numbers separated by a letter; i.e.: 10W-30 or 5W-20, and this set-up is characteristic of a multiviscosity oil.

Most commercial cars and trucks will require multiviscosity oils. The number linked to the “W” is how the oil performs in cold temperatures. The number which is not directly linked to the “W” is how the oil performs in the hot temperature of a working engine. The lower the number associated with the “W”, the more light weight the oil is considered to be.

Why would you want a light-weight oil? While the lubrication may not last as long as with heavier oils, light weight oils tend to keep engines cleaner and improve fuel efficiency. If you chose to use a light weight oil, however, do not wait until the standard 5000 Km to check to see if it is time for an oil change. Some engines, like diesel engines, which are designed for a heavy work load, should never have a light weight oil used within the working parts.

Conventional oil vs synthetic oil?

Is there a difference between conventional oil and synthetic oil? While there is no major performance benefit one way or the other, many mechanics feel modern synthetic oils last much longer within an engine. One the flip side of the coin, synthetic oils take so long to break down they are not the most environmentally friendly products on the market.

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