The Confusing World of Car Engine Oils

Clarifying the confusing world of engine oils

Unless you’re a real car expert car engine oils can seem very confusing. At the end of the day your car needs oil in order to stay healthy – a bit like how you need air and water. While the car needs these too, it also needs engine oil in order to work smoothly with each moving part able to do its job at the right moment and to the best of its ability.

Without engine oil all of the moving parts in the engine, the exhaust  system and the gearbox would slowly but surely grind each other down causing catastrophic (and expensive) damage. To those who aren’t car experts, engine oil is engine oil and it shouldn’t make a difference which bottle of oil you put into the system should it? With different products available from different makes, it’s just a case of choosing the one that provides the best value, right?

Unfortunately that is not the case at all. Engine oil is far more complicated than that as different makes and models require different types of engine oil in order to work effectively and efficiently at all times.

Engine oils – the facts

When it comes to choosing the engine oil, as mentioned, you can’t just pick the cheapest bottle that you find on the shelf. Different makes and models require different engine oils, and it is usually dependent upon the size of the engine and the subsequent power output.

A 3-litre engine, for example, will need more oil than a 1-litre engine, but the different grades of engine oil available aren’t determined by engine size. Instead, they come in a number of different grades such as 5w30 engine oil and 15w40.

This might sound like something of a maths equation from school, but actually the numbers refer to the lowest and highest temperature that the oils will help to start the engine in. In the case of 5w30, this means that it is better suited to performing in low temperatures than 15w40 engine oil, while the 30 and 40 refer to the viscosity at 100 degrees Celsius.

If you don’t know exactly which engine oil to buy for your vehicle the simplest ways to find out are to either consult your owner’s handbook, or to contact one of the Euro Car Parts experts who will be happy to advise you on the right type and the best oil for you.

Checking your engine oil

You should be checking your engine oil levels on a fortnightly basis – or at the very, very least once a month. Car maintenance is something you’re either good at keeping up-to-date with, or relatively poor, instead leaving it until you have your car serviced or when it goes in for its MOT.

Checking the engine oil level is one of the simplest bits of car maintenance you could possibly do, and it only takes a few minutes. Park on a flat surface so that the oil sits in a level position in the engine, and make sure that it is cold. As the engine warms up, so does the oil, and it thins out which will give an inaccurate reading.

Remove the dip-stick, wipe it clean, put it back into the engine and remove it again after a few seconds to reveal how much oil is currently in your engine. The dip-stick has a minimum and maximum marking, and it should be as close to the maximum point as possible to ensure that there is enough oil to fully lubricate all of the moving parts.

When to perform an oil change

In addition to lubricating the various moving parts and keeping them cool in the process, engine oils also collect debris and various materials that may have found their way into the system – or that may have corroded as a result of being low on oil previously.

To stop these materials from causing any damage it is important to change your engine oil from time to time, and most experts will recommend that you do this at regular intervals as suggested in your owner’s handbook.

Each engine will be different and your own driving habits will also dictate when to change your engine oil. Some manufacturers will say to change the oil every six months; others will say every 3,000-miles, so it is worth considering how much you drive before you start worrying about changing the oil after six months.

Again, if you are unsure get in touch with your local dealership or contact one of our experts who will help you.

For more advice on engine oils and various specific car parts that you might need to pay close attention to, continue to check the Euro Car Parts blog.