Taking the Mystery out of Engine Oil
|A guide to all it does, and how it does it.|
|The more we know about engine oils, the more wisely we can|
|choose the best oil for our cars and trucks.|
|Engine oils do more than you think|
|It's easy to name the main function of engine oil: to lubricate every|
|moving part of your engine with a protective film that reduces friction.|
But engine oil has at least four other duties, and failure to perform them all can seriously reduce the performance and life of your engine.
First, your engine oil cleans your engine. Gasoline and diesel engines can produce soot, ash, acids, and moisture which form sludge, varnish, and resins. If they collect on critical engine parts, it means serious trouble. A quality engine oil keeps them suspended until filtered out or drained away when you change your oil.
Next, oil seals microscopic hills and valleys on piston rings and cylinder walls. Without proper sealing action, you'll lose power and waste fuel.
Engine oil also protects your engine against rust and corrosion.
Finally, oil cools vital parts such as camshaft, rods, and pistons that the engine coolant in your radiator cannot reach. As much as 40% of the cooling job in your engine is performed by the oil in your crankcase.
Making it easy to choose the proper oil for your car.
Look For The STARBURST
The API Certification Mark, also called the "Starburst", is found on the front label of most high quality passenger car engine oils made in North America.
With so much depending on your oil's performance, it's important to select the right oil for your engine's needs. The American Petroleum Institute (API) Certification Mark identifies oils which have passed a comprehensive series of performance tests and performance audits.
These tests verify the ability of the oil to perform vitually every task expected of it in your engine, from minimizing engine wear to preventing corrosion and the build-up of deposits. By choosing oil with the API Certification Mark, you can extend the life of your engine, reduce the chance of engine failure, and help maintain emission standards to fight pollution. API Certified engine oils are recommended for passenger car engine in most parts of the world. In Europe, a different system is used for passenger car oils and the same is true for heavy duty truck engine oils everywhere.
How to read an engine oil label
Detailed information about the quality of your engine oil is contained in the API Service Symbol, or "Donut" usually found on the back label of high quality oils.
In the centre of the donut is the SAE viscosity grade (for example, SAE 5W-30). Viscosity is a measure of the oil's flow characteristics at certain temperatures. The first number / letter combination (e.g. 5W) indicates how well the oil will flow to lubricate critical engine parts at low temperatures. The lower this number, the more easily the oil will help your engine to start in cold weather.
The second number (e.g. 30) indicates the oil's ability to lubricate the engine at high temperature. In this case, the higher the number the thicker the oil. A multi-grade oil, SAE 5W-30 in this example, satisfies the requirements of both cold start and high temperature viscosity grades.
In the top half of the donut ring, two letter combinations such as "SJ" identify the type of engine the oil is designed for and the performance rating of the oil. "S" ratings mean the oil is suitable for gasoline engines, and "C" ratings such as CH-4 designates oil for diesels. API Category SJ was introduced in 1996 and should be used for all current and earlier cars in North America.
"Energy Conserving" may be shown in the bottom half of the donut ring. This label is used to identify oils which have been proven in laboratory tests to help reduce fuel consumption compared to standard reference conditions.
European engine oils
In Europe, the same SAE viscosity grade system is used although different grades such as SAE 10W-40 may be recommended. Performance quality is usually measured by a system developed by the European Automobile Manufacturers' Association, ACEA (Association des Constructeurs Européens d'Automobiles). Categories beginning with "A" (example ACEA A3-96) are for passenger car gasoline engines, while categories beginning with "B" are for passenger car diesel engines. Many high quality oils will meet more than one category, for example ACEA A3-96, B3-96.
Heavy duty engine oils in Europe are identified by ACEA "E" categories.
Cold facts about viscosity index
The Viscosity Index or VI measures the change of an oil's viscosity over a wide range of temperatures. The higher the VI of an oil, the less it will thicken when cold, and the less it will thin out when hot. A high VI oil will be more effective when lubricating your engine over a wide temperature range. Changes in viscosity and VI result in different viscosity grades, so you can pick the best grade for your vehicle. Here's a description of the five most common SAE multi-grade oils:
Making a change for the better
Today's engines are efficient and sophisticated machines, often using multiple camshafts, turbo-chargers and other features. They also run faster and hotter, placing tremendous demands on engine oil performance.
That's why it is essential to follow a strict oil-and-filter change schedule for your car. Changing the oil and filter remove harmful contaminants that may build up in your oil.
A fresh supply of engine oil with its specially selected additives will restore the protection your engine needs against corrosion, gum deposits, excessive wear, and other problems.
The oil and filter should be changed at the interval recommended in your owner's manual. Every 5000 km or 3 months is a common recommendation in North America. Every 15,000 to 20,000 km is more common in Europe.
Speaking of performance additives
Most oils look, feel, and smell the same but their performance can be vastly different, thanks in part to additives. Additive suspend dirt, inhibit foam, improve cold-weather flow, prevent corrosion, reduce friction, and add other qualities.
Many specialty additives or oil treatments are sold separately as brand names and promise longer life or extra performance for your engine. Remember that modern oils are recipes with measured portions of ingredients. Upsetting the recipe balance could lead to problems.
An oil formula may include a little anti-wear additive the same way a cake includes a pinch of salt to bring out flavour. If a little salt works, should you add more? Probably not, and the same goes for oil additives.
We believe choosing the best quality oil you can afford and changing it according to your owners manual is wiser in the long run.
Promoting your car's engine and the environment
Premium engine oils such as Petro-Canada Supreme aid the environment by helping your car's engine maintain peak performance with minimal emissions. If you change your oil yourself, please continue to help....
In many ways, the only thing you need to remember about engine oil is to look for the Petro-Canada symbol !