What is Car Lubricant and Which Is Used In Car Engines

A lot of people call oil the ‘lifeblood’ of the engine. Really, that title should go to fuel, since fuel is what powers the engine. However, oil lubricates it and cools moving parts, helps to seal pistons in their cylinders, and keeps the parts clean, so it definitely plays a crucial role in keeping your car running smoothly.

You need to change your oil at least once every 5,000 miles – or more often if it is showing signs of age, decay or contamination. When you take your car in for a service, whether interim or full, the mechanic will change your oil and filter for you. Alternatively you can change the oil yourself but be aware that you will need a few pieces of specialist equipment in order to do so.

How to Choose a Car Lubricant

There are a few different types of oil, and they carry ratings which describe what sort of car they are designed for, and their viscosity. Viscosity is the term used to describe a fluid’s resistance to flow, and oil is rated at two different temperatures; zero degrees Fahrenheit and 212 degrees Fahrenheit. The zero temperature is the ‘Winter’, or ‘W’, temperature and viscosity numbers are usually written in the format of 10W-30, or 20W-50. Lower numbers mean less viscosity.

Motor oil, or engine oil, tends to thin when it heats up, and get thicker when it is cold. Many manufacturers add chemicals to the oil to stop it from thinning out too much as it heats. It is usually better to choose a thicker oil, although it is possible to have an oil that is too thick to easily flow around the moving components to provide good lubrication.

Motor oils should be resistant to over-thickening at low temperatures, because if the oil gets too thick this will make it harder to cold-start the engine, and also reduce the engine’s fuel economy. There are some synthetic oils that are highly resistant to thickening, and they pass the 0W rating.

Another thing to look out for is the Service Level (SL). This is a rating that is used to describe the quality of the oil, and all good oil brands should carry it.

Synthetic oil goes through a number of processes including distillation, purification and refinement to remove impurities which can build up on your engine and cause parts to wear faster than they should. In addition to this, some synthetic oil brands will also add a mixture of additives to their oil to help prevent it breaking down at higher temperatures, flow better when cold and even help to clean your engine more thoroughly. It is important that you check your car’s manual before you invest in any oil, and follow the recommendations that it gives. Don’t be tempted to buy cheaper oil; you run the risk of damaging your engine and will find yourself having to change it more often . There is a reason for the oil recommendations given by automobile makers. If you don't have your manual and are unsure of what oil your car needs, you can always drop in to a garage and ask the team.

How to Change Car Lubricant

Changing the oil is a job that looks intimidating at first, but it is not as complicated as it first seems. You will probably need an hour to change your oil at home the first time you do it, but after that you should find that it becomes a much easier job, and you can do it in about half an hour. Make sure that you have all the equipment you need before you start your oil change, wear old clothes that you don't mind getting dirty and, if possible, change your oil with another person around to lend a hand should you need it.

To change your oil:

  • Park the car on a level surface, put the parking brake on, and turn off the engine.
  • If you do not have a lot of clearance below your car, use a jack and some stands to raise the vehicle.
  • Let the car’s engine cool down for a few minutes. If you have been driving that day, leave the engine to cool for as long as possible; oil retains heat very well and you want as much oil as you can to be sitting in the sump, not circulating around the engine.
  • Open the hood and remove the oil dipstick (this is usually a large, brightly coloured handle).
  • Make sure that your car is securely supported on jack stands, put on a pair of safety goggles, and crawl under the vehicle to find the oil pan.
  • Remove the oil filter cap.
  • Put an oil catchpan under the drain plug. Make sure that the pan is big enough to hold all of the oil you will be draining.
  • Use a wrench to loosen the drain plug, then remove the drain plug by hand.
  • Allow several minutes for the oil to completely drain.
  • Clean the oil pan’s threads, and the drain plug, and inspect it carefully. If it looks damaged, replace it.
  • Move the catchpan under the oil filter, and then remove the filter – be aware that a lot of oil may gush out quite quickly.
  • Clean the filter. You may want to replace it. Make sure that the o-ring on the filter is in good condition.
  • When replacing the oil filter, place a light coating of the new oil on the filter’s gasket, to make it easier to install. Tighten the filter until the o-ring touches the oil pan, and then give it one more ¾ turn.
  • Make sure that the drain plug and the filter areboth securely tightened.
  • Go back to the hood of the car, remove the oil fill cap, and slowly pour the fresh oil in, giving it time to settle.
  • Run the car’s engine at idle for 30 seconds, then turn it off.
  • Let the oil settle again and test the level of the oil with a dipstick. If necessary, add a little more oil.

Take care to add only the amount of oil that the engine needs. Over-filling the oil can be as bad for the engine as not adding enough. Also, wait until the engine is cold to change the oil. Even if you have given the engine a while to cool down, the oil inside can hold heat for a long time. Changing the oil while the engine is hot could result in some nasty burns.

Take your time, and don’t cut corners when changing your car’s oil. It is particularly important to make sure that the car is secure on jack stands before you get under it, and that you are wearing the correct protective equipment.

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