Why Are There Different Types of Motor Oil?
September 15, 2015 / Sara Davis / Keep My Car Running Smoothly
There are many different types of oil you can put into your car, and if you are like many consumers then you might just reach for whatever is cheapest. While this may be the best option for your wallet, it is not always the best route for your car. While choosing the cheapest oil from the shelf might seem like the most cost-effective thing to do, you have to take into consideration what you are missing out on.
Before we get into the various types of oil, it is important to know what purpose oil plays in your car. Motor oil is used as a greasy barrier between the parts of your engine, helping your vehicle run cleanly and more smoothly. According to Fox & Fox, motor oil cuts down the friction in your engine. When your engine doesn't have enough oil, then friction occurs, which in turn slows everything down and increases the amount of heat produced. If you don't replace your motor oil often enough or are using the wrong kind, you might be allowing too much friction to interfere with your car's performance. And trust us, additional maintenance costs will be more expensive than keeping up with your oil.
What is viscosity?
Motor oil is often measured by its viscosity grade, but since this is not a term that you probably toss around regularly, it is likely that you don't know exactly what it means. According to Popular Mechanics, viscosity is a fluid's resistance to flow. This is crucial because you want the liquid to be able to flow through the engine easily, but you don't want it to get so hot that it just drips away. This is when knowing your viscosity grades will be beneficial.
"Viscosity is a fluid's resistance to flow."
Each motor oil has numbers on the label, which stand for viscosity flows. There are also letters, such as W, which stands for "winter." So for example, a 10W-40 oil has less viscosity in cold and hot than 20W-50. Essentially, the oil will thin when hot and thicken when cold, so you want the second number to be higher, because this means it is less resistant to thinning.
Finding a good balance of thin/thick oil is what you want to do, because if your oil is too thick then your engine is going to work too hard, and if your oil is too thin then the engine is going to burn it up and this will cause more friction in the engine.
Conventional or synthetic oil?
The viscosity rates are not the only difference when it comes to motor oil. According to Mobil, synthetic oils are better for your vehicle because they have many impurities removed. Further, these oils can be tailored to respond better with certain engines. Mobile noted that synthetic oils work better for your engine and can protect it more efficiently for a longer period of time.
So how do you know?
Since the range of oils is so wide, it is worth taking a look inside your vehicle's owner manual for some guidance as to which oil is your best bet. Either that, or do some hunting online by searching your particular make and model.
Keeping your car running with the correct oil will help your engine last longer and your vehicle operate better overall. Don't only look at prices the next time you are in the auto shop, but select an oil that is ideal for your ride. Think of motor oil as your car's thirst quencher. You want it clean and performing well, so don't give it scummy, dirty water.