“Motor oil is the lifeblood of your engine.” Have you ever heard that saying before? It is a popular proverb among auto enthusiasts. That is because oil is a key component for maintaining a healthy engine to keep your car running smoothly for many thousands of miles. But is that motor oil maxim really fitting? You have never heard anyone say that your body needs its fluids changed every three thousand miles, and yet people have been saying that about engines for decades.
While most people certainly do not need frequent blood transfusions, your engine does need fresh engine oil on a regular basis. But why? With all of the advances in oil technology, why do cars need oil changes at all?
The purpose of motor oil
The chief role of motor oil is to lubricate all of the intricate moving metal parts inside your engine. It does so by forming a wafer thin lubricating layer between, say, the pistons and their cylinder walls, or the valves and their guides.
Your engine likely contains anywhere from four to eight pistons and eight to thirty two valves, along with their respective bearings, springs, arms, and a slew of other parts. Oh, and then there are the camshafts, crankshaft, rod bearings, main bearings, and, well, you get the point. Hundreds of parts. Without oil, those components would come in contact with one another and deteriorate quickly, causing major engine damage.
Oil also helps an engine to manage heat. Combustion creates a good deal of heat. And that’s a good thing. Your engine should run in a range somewhere around 185-220 degrees Fahrenheit, give or take, in order to operate as it should. But too much heat, whether from combustion or from friction, is not a good thing. Motor oil draws heat out of internal components and helps your engine operate at optimal temperatures.
Benefits beyond the basics
You know, in some ways, the lifeblood analogy really does fit. Sure, blood is meant to nourish the body, to carry oxygen and other nutrients to your cells. That is not the job of oil in your engine. But blood is also there to carry away waste materials so they can be removed from your body. Blood also fights infections and carries hormones through your system. Likewise, modern motor oil serves several functions besides lubrication and heat management.
For instance, oil helps to keep your engine clean by cycling dirt, debris, and other contaminants through an oil filter just as your blood flows through your kidneys to be filtered. Moreover, just as your blood carries compounds throughout your body, oil carries chemicals known as additives through your engine.
Oil additives are included to boost oil performance and perform other functions. Detergents clean inside your engine. Dispersants remove and prevent sludge. Viscosity index improvers help oil to be effective across an extreme temperature range. Corrosion inhibitors protect against rust. Synthetic oils are made with higher quality additives than regular oil, but both contain additives nonetheless.
Why and when to get your oil changed
Motor oil really is a lot like the blood in your body – at least in some regard. But where the analogy begins to break down is the fact that the oil in your engine needs changing.
Why? Over time, motor oil begins to break down due to the extreme heat and shear forces inside your engine. When it breaks down, oil gets thicker and eventually – if you fail to change it – it turns to sludge, coating engine components and preventing proper lubrication.
Oil also gets dirty. Contaminants like dust and dirt that make their way into your engine end up in the oil. Normal component wear produces particles that get trapped in the oil as well. Oil filters do a pretty good job of trapping these contaminants, but only up to a point. If the filter gets clogged, the oil will bypass the filter, and all of those contaminants further deteriorate the oil and wear on your engine.
And those additives? They also begin to lose their effectiveness over time. Fresh oil in your engine ensures clean and adequate lubrication, heat management, and fully-functional additive capabilities.
As for how often you should change your oil, well that depends on your engine.
It used to be quite common to hear another automotive adage about oil changes: Every three months or three thousand miles . It is not clear whether that advice was ever necessary, if oil changes needed to be done at that interval, but it was common regardless. In fact, you can still hear the suggestion today, especially from quick oil change services.
Auto manufacturers have a different suggestion. Many suggestions. And they differ from one vehicle to the next. Some engines need the oil changed every five thousand miles. Some every six thousand. Still others can go ten thousand miles or more between oil change services.
The trick to knowing when to change the oil in your car’s engine is to check the owner’s manual. There, the manufacturer lays out the vehicle maintenance schedule so that you can keep up with oil changes and other fluid changes . You might even note that your manufacturer recommends changing the oil more frequently under “special” or “severe” conditions – as frequently as every three thousand miles.
So, your engine needs regular oil changes. So don’t skip oil changes to save money. If you switch to synthetic oil so you can reap the benefits of extended oil changes, understand that you still need to follow the manufacturer’s recommendations if your car is under warranty. Above all, remember that your car will not live long without its lifeblood.
Columbia Auto Care & Car Wash | Author: Mike Ales | Copyright
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