Most drivers know the importance of regular motor oil changes, but exactly how often they should be done, and which oil to use, can seem like a mystery. Find out the basics of motor oil and learn how you can keep your engine in peak condition for as long as possible.
5 Basic Functions of Motor Oil
The main functions motor oil serves for your vehicle include:
Lubricate the parts within the engine so the parts can move quickly.
Prevent rust and corrosion.
Cool the engine by carrying heat away from its parts.
Clean the engine by keeping out any debris between parts.
Create a seal between the piston and cylinder liner.
The bottom line is, motor oil helps your vehicle run more efficiently. Sticking to regular oil changes (every 5,000 kilometres is recommended) can help save you money on your gas bill and prolong the life of your engine.
Not All Oils Are Created Equal
While most motor oils that are bought and sold in auto repair shops and big box retailers are top quality, there are a considerable number that don’t meet the exacting standards, as the American Petroleum Institute found last year.
As a result, the API developed a program called “Motor Oil Matters,” or MOM, to ensure motorists can easily find high-quality motor oil when they shop. The program is a testing procedure that determines an oil’s overall quality based on specific benchmarks. If approved, the “MOM” symbol is stamped either on the product or at oil change locations. Keep an eye out for the MOM symbol when you shop.
Synthetic vs. Mineral
Generally, motor oil falls into 3 categories: mineral oil, synthetic, and semi synthetic (or a mix of the two). Synthetic oils are made using a more expensive chemical process than that used in mineral oil production, so it tends to give an enhanced performance.
Synthetic oils flow more easily at start-up temperatures, tend to be more heat-resistant, and often contain more anti-rusting additives. Canadians may benefit from choosing synthetic during winter due to its superior cold-weather starting.
Motorists should refer to their vehicle’s owner manual to be sure which oil is best for their car. While most manufacturers don’t specify a specific brand, they will specify the ideal grade or viscosity.
Viscosity is a measure of oil’s thickness. The viscosity index is shown on the label, preceding the W (for winter). A thin oil has a lower number and flows more easily, while thick oils have a higher number and are more resistant to flow.
Generally, thicker oil seals better and maintains better lubrication between moving parts. Thicker oil will perform better as it thins out under higher temperatures, making it ideal for milder winters. Thinner oil will perform the best in colder weather (a 5 or 10W oil is typically recommended for winter use, while 30 or 40W is recommended for milder conditions).
As with synthetic vs. mineral motor oils, what’s most important is that you use the oil viscosity your car’s owner manual recommends.
It Never Pays to Skimp on Oil Changes
Some motorists may try to maintain their vehicles less frequently than recommended in an effort to save on costs, but not following a dealer’s maintenance recommendations could end up costing you more down the road.
The Canadian Automobile Association (CAA) recommends that you change the oil in your vehicle every 5,000 to 8,000 kilometers or every three months, for good reason. According to Emanuel Hilario, Ground Service Equipment Lead Mechanic for American Eagle Airlines, “regular oil changes keep your engine clean and lubricated. Neglecting oil changes cuts down the friction which can literally wear away parts of your engine, causing it to fail,”
While an average oil change costs between $30 – $50, which adds up to $120 – $200 over the course of a year, to replace an entire engine could cost between $2,000 – $5,000.
As well as consistent oil changes, other maintenance practices like tire rotations, air pressure checks, filters and fluids require attentiveness to ensure a long life for your vehicle.
Avoid making an insurance claim – keep up with regular motor oil changes and help prevent any mechanical issues that could lead to an accident.