What is the most important fluid to keep your car running smoothly? Gas? Oil? Something else?
Your car stays operational by ensuring all pieces are properly maintained, it’s hard to imagine how long your vehicle would run if you stopped putting motor oil into it.
Regular maintenance includes a trip to the service station every few months or few thousand miles, depending on your vehicle and driving patterns. Without replacing the motor oil, the lifeline to your car will be severed. Eventually, many problems will start showing up, such as reduced fuel economy, serious engine damage, leading to complete engine destruction.
What is engine oil?
Engine oil – motor oil – is a thick fluid that provides lubrication for your vehicle’s engine.
All motor oil is not created equal. If you head into an auto parts store, you’ll see a variety of makes and options sitting on the shelf. That’s because all motors were not created equal. If you purchased a high performance vehicle, that’s different than the family sedan. A car purchased ten years ago will also have different requirements than one you drove off the lot earlier this year.
Engine oil is sold by type and weight. That’s to keep your car running smoothly in all driving conditions. Newer cars use oil for better gas economy and oil consumption. It’s not only something drivers demand, but it’s also federal regulation. If you compare today’s engine oil to oil from twenty or thirty years ago, you’ll find it thinner. That’s for flow through. It keeps your engine running well no matter what you dish out as you drive.
There are two different categories of motor oil: mineral oil and synthetic oil. Mineral oil is petroleum based, similar to how gasoline is produced from crude oil. Synthetic oil is developed in a lab, designed for specific requirements. While mineral oil is often less expensive, it also won’t last as long once in the engine. Because mineral oil is also derived from a finite resource, there is also a question about carbon footprint.
Engine oil is designed to be a specific weight. You’ll see it rated like 0W20 or 5W30. It’s important to stick with manufacturers’ guidelines, as your vehicle was designed with a specific weight in mind. Going with another weight could reduce your fuel economy, or even impact your engine to the point of seizing your engine.
Why is engine oil important?
Engine oil is important for a variety of reasons.
Lubrication – the most important reason is for lubrication. The right engine oil keeps all of the moving parts protected, preventing them from rubbing against one another, causing wear. Metal on metal is never good. Not only would it wear individual parts out, but it can also wreck your engine. Preventing friction from having these parts wear on each other should always be your biggest consideration.
Cooling – every time you turn your engine on, it creates heat. If that heat builds, it can cause damage to the inner workings of your car. While most of the cooling is handled by the coolant system ( your radiator), motor oil provides supplemental cooling for parts of the engine where coolant can’t reach.
Cleaner – engine oil also acts as a cleaner to keep the engine clean. Over time, debris can accumulate in the engine compartment and start eroding various parts. Motor oil cleans those damaging deposits.
Why you should change your engine oil on a regular basis
When you take your vehicle in for a motor oil change, they’ll remind you to do so on a regular basis, either based on mileage or time. While service stations will do so based on simple guidelines, check with your manufacturer to determine the right course of action for your vehicle. With higher quality oils, it often means you can drive longer between oil changes. Newer weighted oil can often last up to 10,000 miles or more in between changes.
However, this isn’t an area you should skimp on. If you aren’t sure, sticking with the 3 months/3,000 miles rule is your best course of action. You can also speak with one of our mechanics and set up a time period that works well for your style of driving.
How do I know if I have low engine oil?
There are several issues that can cause low engine oil.
A faulty sensor
If the warning light turns on in your vehcile, signaling you have low engine oil, your first course of action can be to check your oil levels if you think it might be amiss. A simple oil check may be an indicator it’s a faulty sensor, not a problem with your engine oil. However, if your engine oil sensor is illuminated on your dashboard, it’s a good idea to let one of our mechanics take a look as soon as possible.
Improper engine oil
All motor oils are not created equal. That’s why it’s a good idea to go to a reputable shop where you know you’re vehicle will receive a high grade engine oil. Your car was created with specific grade levels in mind. If it doesn’t receive the proper grade, with time, it will break down faster, reduce lubrication within your engine compartment, and impact both the parts and performance of your vehicle.
Bad oil filter
The oil filter works to remove dust and metal from the oil. Without a good oil filter in place, particles can flow back into the engine. If the oil filter is bad, it can inhibit the oil from flowing freely, potentially setting off a warning signal on your dashboard as well.
Oil pump malfunction
The oil pump is designed to generate pressure and ensure the oil moves freely throughout the system. If the oil pump malfunctions either because of age or wear and tear, it bubbles into the oil, which in turn reduces the pressure within the system.
Pay attention to the ground underneath your car. As you pull out of the parking space, do you notice wet marks underneath? Any leaks should be checked out by one of our mechanics immediately to further prevent damage to your vehicle.
The best way to prevent low engine oil in your vehicle is to perform maintenance and schedule regularl oil changes on a timely basis. Ignoring any of the warning signs can shorten the lifespan of your vehicle, make it less reliable, and cause you more money in the long run.
Call now if you have a question about your vehicle.