motor oil

Motor Oil: What Is It & What Type Do I Need?

Have you ever wondered how long your car will last? Whether a brand new car from the lot or one you found used, how long do you think you have before purchasing another? Think about life without cars. Nearly impossible to do. How would you get to work, or take the kids to soccer? Cars have become so important in our lives, but we find that they do not hold their value as we thought. How to make your car last longer, the series will teach you simple tricks in enhancing the life of your vehicle, starting with the motor oil. Why not take care of your car like you do a new handbag? I guarantee a longer life, a bigger wallet, and fewer trips to the dealership. First on the list is checking your motor oil.

Engine oil is what makes your car run. Without proper oil, engine failures will happen which are expensive to fix. Do not let a simple oil check turn into a total cash nightmare. You should check your engines’ oil at least once every two weeks. Depending on how many miles you drive daily, you might need to check more often. Most people will tell you to change your oil every 3,000 miles. However, the more miles you drive, the quicker you accelerate, and the type of motor oil used determines how frequently you need an oil change.

Motor Oil 101

How To Make Your Car Last Longer Series

Choosing the type of oil you put in your car is vital to a long healthy life. Usually, when you go for an oil change, they will ask what oil to use and or make recommendations. You need to know some basic information about oil so you can determine which is best for your car. In your owners manual, you will find a whole section on proper oil for your vehicle. I recommend marking the page for further use. But in the mean time, let’s talk oil. There are four types of oil.

1. Conventional Oil: The very basic motor oil that just meets SAE requirements. This oil is used in low-mileage, late model cars with a solid routine. For example, a regular commute for work, use of cruise control often, or long vacation driving.

2. Synthetic Blend Oil: This is a blend of synthetic motor oil and conventional motor oil. It is recommended for trucks, cars, and SUVs that carry heavy loads at high RPMs. It adds resistance to oxidation and has excellent low-temp properties.

3. Full-Synthetic Oil: Most vehicles are switching to full synthetic oil because of its positive values. Synthetic oil provides the highest levels of lubrication and engine protection. It is known for a much better startup protection, better cleansing quality, enhanced durability, and greater protection against heat buildup. Newer cars are switching to synthetic oil. Check your owners manual to determine which is best for your car. You never want to switch from using conventional oil to synthetic oil, and vice versa.

4. High-Mileage Oil: As the name implies, this motor oil is used on vehicles with 75,000 miles or more. While some high mileage cars still go with synthetic, this motor oil can help older engines and cars. It will help to reduce oil burn-offs, seal oil leaks, improve the combustion chamber sealing, and restore engine compression.

Again, all of this information can be found in your owners manual. See what they say before you buy an oil brand based off of mileage or performance. Your car might have high mileage, but if it uses synthetic, switching to high-mileage motor oil can damage the engine.

The next information you need to know about motor oil is how to read the labeling. Each motor oil container has the letters SAE ( Society of Automotive Engineers), a “W” standing for winter grade, and numbers. The number in front of the “W” determines what kind of winter grade the oil has. This information is important to know for those colder seasons. The most common numbers are “0W”, “5W”, and “10W”. The 10W can withstand cold temperatures, but the 0W and 5W can withstand even colder temperatures. The lower the number before the “W”, the colder climate the oil can withstand.

The numbers after the “W” relate to high-temperature conditions. The higher the number, the thicker the oil will stay at higher temperatures. For example, 10W-40 will remain more viscous at higher temperatures than 10W-30. As you car engine starts, the oil will heat up naturally. Motor oil will become thinner as it heats up, and thickens as it cools. The amount of time it takes to heat up to its fullest will depend a lot on the outside temperature. That is why you should always let your car warm up for about 3 minutes in the winter, before switching to drive. It puts less shock on your engine enhancing the life and performance of your car. Happy engine = happy car!

Now that you know a little more about engine oil let’s go back to how many miles you should run before another oil change. You should absolutely check your engine’s oil once a week, once every two weeks at the latest. Checking your oil will help you to determine when you need another oil change.

Every car should have a sticker on the windshield from your mechanic explaining when to bring the car back for an oil change. However, sometimes cars run low on oil before the required change, or do not use as much. If your cars’ oil is low but you still have a couple more miles until the next oil change, using the information above, and checking your owners manual, you can buy more oil from places like AutoZone, and refill accordingly. That way, you can stretch the length between oil changes. You won’t need to take you car in for an oil change until that last refill gets low.

The same goes for more than expected oil. If you read the dipstick and still have a good amount of motor oil by the time you hit your appropriate mileage for a change, you can wait it out a couple of days or weeks before taking it in. Again, oil changes depend on how often you are driving, what kind of oil you use, your engine performance, and the temperature outside. Some cars need an oil change every 3,000 miles, and some can last 7,000 or more. Just know your engine, check your oil often, and you will save time and money at the mechanics.

Did you find this article useful? If so, leave a comment below! How often do you check your oil?

Up next in How To Make Your Car Last Longer is the importance of checking and changing your air filter.

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Comments 9

  1. Thank You for sharing a nice blog.
    Adding motor oil

    Motor oil sample
    Motor oil, engine oil, or engine lubricant is any of various substances comprising base oils enhanced with additives, particularly antiwear additive plus detergents, dispersants and, for multi-grade oils viscosity index improvers. Motor oil is used for lubrication of internal combustion engines. The main function of motor oil is to reduce friction and wear on moving parts and to clean the engine from sludge (one of the functions of dispersants) and varnish (detergents). It also neutralizes acids that originate from fuel and from oxidation of the lubricant (detergents), improves sealing of piston rings, and cools the engine by carrying heat away from moving parts.[1]

  2. My car hasn’t been running as smoothly as it normally does, and I think it might be time to replace it’s oil. Your article had some great tips for choosing motor oil like this, and I liked how you said to consider a synthetic oil blend, as this adds resistance to oxidation and has good low-temp properties. This kind of oil is great for vehicles carrying heavy loads at fast speeds, and I’ll keep this in mind when getting the best oil for my car.

  3. Thanks for the breakdown on the different kinds of motor oil. After reading your article I know my car needs full synthetic motor oil. This really helps me not to damage my car, so thank you!

  4. As obvious as it is, I never thought to check the owner’s manual for what type of oil to use. Let’s see what I learn after reading that section on proper oil for your vehicle. For the most part, I’ll probably still get my car inspected since it does seem like it’s about that time again.

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