The life-blood of your engine, engine oil consists of various weights mineral or synthetic oils combined with additives for engine protection. Oils may come in single or multi-grades and meet various oil performance standards. Multi-grade oils usually start out as single-grade base oils, such as SAE 10W (Society of Automotive Engineers is a large standard-setting organization for the automotive industry). Then viscosity-index improvers are added to modify viscosity.
The end result is SAE 10W-30 oil capable of flowing like 10W oil at cold temperatures and 30W oil at higher temperatures. The American Petroleum Institute also has classifications for oil, which are intended to address the formulation for different engine applications. You may see these designations also mentioned in your owner’s manual or on the oil filler cap of the engine. The SH designation was designed for 1996 and older engines.
This designation is now obsolete. The API SJ designation was introduced in 1996. Oils with an SL designation can be used to cover both SH and SJ applications. The most recent oil performance designation to be released is ILSAC GF-4. The new GF-4 oils provide significant performance upgrades and meet a stringent new specification that was jointly developed by auto and oil industry experts. Engine oils meeting this new standard began to appear in the marketplace during summer 2004.
According to automobile manufacturers, these oils should provide gasoline-powered car engines with several benefits:
- Improved oxidation resistance, which means less oil thickening.
- Improved deposit protection so that the engine won’t form harmful deposits as quickly.
- Better engine wear protection.
- Better low-temperature performance over the life of the oil.
Engine oil lubricates, cleans, and cools critical parts of the engine. The oil’s additives also help to suspend dirt, where it can be drained at the next oil change.
Be sure to use the correct oil as recommended by your car’s manufacturer. Oil grades have changed over the years and you will want to make sure you use the right oil for the best engine protection. Periodic oil and filter changes keep your engine clean on the inside. Motor oil can become contaminated by dust, metallic shavings, condensation, and even antifreeze. Additives break down over time and can also act as contaminants. The best advice is to follow the guidelines provided in the vehicle owner’s manual, but every 3,000 miles or 3 months is a good rule of thumb for oil and filter changes. Many car manufacturers today are recommending extended oil drain intervals for some drivers. However, if you regularly make short trips in your car, drive in stop-and-go traffic, idle for extended periods, drive in dusty or dirty air conditions, tow a trailer or live in a cold-weather region, it’s best to stick with a 3,000- mile/3-month regimen.
If you change your own oil, be sure to properly dispose of all waste. A single quart of used engine oil has the capacity to pollute 250,000 gallons of ground water. Never pour used oil down the drain or into the ground. Not only is it illegal, it’s also harmful to the environment. Used engine oil is converted for new uses, such as industrial fuel or lubricants. Put used oil into original oil containers or other clean, plastic closed containers, with the contents clearly labeled on the outside and bring the used to oil to a facility that accepts used engine oil.
The typical oil filter consists of a high-strength steel housing containing various types of filtering media. An anti-drain back valve prevents oil from running out of the filter when the engine is off. Today’s oil filters have a convenient spin-on design that makes removal and installation easy.
The oil filter sifts out contaminants, allowing the oil to flow through the engine unrestricted. Should the oil filter become restricted or clogged with contaminants, they will flow around the filter. This bypassing is a safety mechanism, but you never want to let oil and filter changes go so long that bypassing takes place.
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For best results, consult your owner’s manual, but considers that you’re driving probably constitutes a severe maintenance schedule. Usually, this means oil and filter changes every 3,000 miles or 3 months. If you change the filter yourself, dispose of it properly. Take used filters to a facility that accepts them. Used filters can be crushed, removing the used oil and the steel part of the filter can be recycled. The oil from one used, seemingly innocent filter leaking into a landfill can taint 62,000 gallons of ground water.
Your Engine is the heart of your vehicle. As your engine runs, hundreds of moving parts are working together to make your vehicle move. Changing your oil according to your vehicle manufacturer’s recommendation is perhaps the single most important maintenance that you can perform to keep your vehicle running. As the parts in your engine work together, they create tremendous heat through friction. Without oil, the heat would actually melt these parts together. By having oil in your vehicle, it keeps the moving parts of your engine lubricated and reduces the heat. Motor oil also contains special additives to help the engine work more efficiently.
Through normal driving, the constant heat in the engine begins to break down the oil. Over time, small bits of debris and dirt can get into the oil making it less slippery so that it doesn’t protect the engine as well. To make sure your engine is protected at all times, your vehicle manufacturer recommends changing the oil and oil filter regularly. This will keep your engine working at its best and may avoid costly repairs down the road.