Archive for March, 2011
When you start up your car, all the warning lights should come on and then go off when the engine is running as it should.
However, when a warning light comes on and stays on; you know right away that something is not working right.
Another name for the check engine light is the Malfunction Indicator lamp (MIL). The Malfunction Indicator Lamp (MIL) must light up when a catalytic converter allows hydrocarbon (HC) emissions to increase greater than 1.5 times the level allowed by Federal Test Procedure (FTP) standards.
Three reasons for failing emissions are;
- High Hydrocarbons (HC),
- High Carbon Monoxide (CO)
- High Nitrous Oxide (NO).
This means that your car’s engine is not running efficiently. Your vehicle may either be runing too rich or too lean, and you may experience poor gas milage (MPG). This is due to incomplete combustion in the engine; the engine requires 14.7:1 air/fuel ratio for optimum fuel combustion.
So, unless you fix the problem you will not only fail emissions, but also loose money at the gas pump.
History of the check engine light
In 1996, The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) with the recommendation of Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE), mandated that all vehicles from hence forth were required to upgrade to the On-Board Diagnosis 2 (OBD II) system.
OBD II System
To protect the environment and bring vehicle emissions under control, a sophisticated electronic control system know as the OBD II system was developed. The OBD II diagnostic system continously or non continously monitors all engine and transmission sensors and actuators that run diagnostic tests on the emissions related systems.
Continous monitoring systems includes;
- Misfire detection
- Fuel trim
- Comprehensive component monitors (detects a failure when your emissions exceed a certain limit that triggers a Diagnotic Trouble Code (DTC), which in turn illuminates the Malfunction Indicator lamp (MIL) or check engine light, and lastly this code is stored in the computer.)
Non continous monitering is performed once per trip on the following emission systems;
- Catalyst and heated catalyst
- Oxygen sensor and oxygen sensor heaters
- Evaporative emissions (EVAP)
- Secondary air
- The Exhaust Gas Recirculation System (EGR System)
When the OBD II system detects a problem or a fault it triggers a daignostics trouble code or DTC.
All OBD II Diagnostic Trouble Codes are universal, meaning that these are generic and any technician including independent shops can read these codes by means of a scan tool. (Dealerships use diagnostic computers for Manufacturer specific DTC’s)
An example of a generic DTC is P0060 – heated oxgen sensor heater resistance (bank 2 sensor2)
- The first character, a letter that denotes – the system where the code was set
- The second character is a number – reveals whether it is an SAE or a manufacture defined code
- The last three characters, all numbers – describe the type of malfunction
Some states are considering an advanced OBD system that would allow them to do away with emissions testing.
For example, if the “check engine” light came on, the system would automatically send a email to state officials, who would in turn contact polluting motorists to have the problem corrected within a reasonable time period.
Driver errors that can trigger a check engine light:
- A loose gas cap on a Volvo can trigger a check engine light
- A tank of bad gas
- Filling the tank while the engine is running
- Disconnected vaccum hose
A check engine light lets you know that you are loosing money at the gas pump because your engine may be running too rich or too lean.
Amber check engine light means it is safe to drive if you have not noticed any symptoms, but have it checked out as soon as possible at the dealership.
Red check engine light, pull off to the side of the road when it is safe to do so and come to a complete stop.
Well, that was before some strange lights started flickering on my instrument cluster. I did not know much about cars back then. So my well sanitized reaction was, Oh No!
The check engine light was the worst offender. Each time I saw that light come on, my heart rate went up, I felt my blood pressure begin to rise, and my cholesterol levels went from good to evil.
Your check engine light or MIL (Malfunction Indicator Lamp) means that a fault has been detected in your engine control system. This fault will trigger a DTC (Diagnostic Trouble Code).
Some faults are intermittent and will make the lamp go on while the fault is occurring, and when it goes away the lamp goes off. Most faults that trigger the check engine light tend to stay on until a diagnostics has been done and the problem fixed.
Sometimes, all you need is to tighten up on a loose gas cap for the check engine light to go off.
Most times, I get calls from customers and they want to know why the check engine light is on. My answer is always, “I don’t know”. You need to make an appointment and come in for a diagnostic as soon as as possible if it’s an amber light, but if it is a red light, then pull over when it’s safe to do so and come to a complete stop.
There are over 5000 OBD II fault codes in a modern vehicle. However, the check engine light is reserved only for the Powertrain On-Board diagnosis problems that can cause you to fail emissions. The powertrain consists of 999 different generic OBD II Diagnostic Trouble Codes.
We currently charge $112 for a diagnostic, and yes we are competitive, you can shop around, but all dealers charge about the same.If you choose to have the problem fixed the diagnostic fee may be waived. We want your business.
The gas station down the street will probably charge you $80 and use a $150 scan tool to read the codes. After they hack your Volvo and can’t figure out how to fix it, they will have the car towed to the dealership, so we can fix their mess. It happens every day, last week it was New Concept Auto.
So why us, you may ask?
Because we have the latest technology and current software updates from Volvo USA. Our Codes are Volvo specific and not the generic off the shelf scan tool codes used by independent shops. Our Technicians are Volvo trained specialists; they work on the same type of vehicles everyday.
Please don’t get hacked, get the job done right the first time.
If you don’t agree with me, please let me know in the comments section below.
For all you early adopters, the new Volvo C30 all electric car will hit showrooms early next year. Unfortunately only 100 vehicles will be available in the U.S market and 250 in Sweden as they work out the bugs.
For an environmentally conscious vehicle manufacturer like Volvo, I am surprised that it has taken this long to develop a green vehicle. Take a sneak peek at the new electric Volvo C30.
Due to the rapidly rising cost of gas at the pumps, it’s important that we know how to calculate miles per gallon for our vehicles. This will save you gas money if can drive longer on the same tank of gas.
How to calculate MPG:
- Fill your gas tank to full and drive as you normally do.
- Note down how many gallons it takes to fill your tank.
- Note down the starting mileage on the main odometer.
- Reset your Volvo trip odometer to zero.
- Drive your car until the gas gauge lights up and it’s time to refuel and note the ending mileage.
MPG = MILES/GALLONS
If your car does not have a trip odometer you can take the difference between ending mileage and starting mileage dived by gallons of fuel.
(ENDING MILEAGE – STARTING MILEAGE) /GALLONS = MPG
You can take the initial MPG as the base line and repeat the process, but this time drive in a fuel efficient way and see if you can improve on your MPG and save money.
Use this Calculator to see how much money you can save annually.
You might also like:
Please tweet this post, thank you.
By following these four cardinal rules religiously, you are bound to save money at the gas pump.
The cardinal rules of saving money on gas are:
- Cultivate fuel efficient driving habits.
- Car maintenance ( tune up).
- Fuel efficient Tires.
- Low viscosity oils.
Fuel efficient driving
The trick here is to drive smoothly.
Personally, I often try to avoid aggressive driving but I am not always successful.
This is because when I am running late all my smart driving rules get tossed out the window. I am human after all.
Studies have been done on driving habits and at lower speeds, it has been proven that aggressive driving leads to a 6% reduction in fuel economy.
While at higher speeds, typically on the express way an average vehicle going over the speed limit will experience a 33% reduction in fuel economy.
Surprisingly, for powerful vehicles (here I am assuming V8 engines), experience less % penalties in fuel economy. For example, at high speeds smaller vehicles are loosing 33% in fuel economy vs 28% for powerful vehicles.
Car maintenance (tune up)
It’s time for a tune up when you start noticing the following symptoms:
- A decrease in gas mileage.
- Hesitation on acceleration, or noticeable loss of power.
- Rough idling or stalling when at a stop.
- Your engine is knocking when accelerating because your car is running a rich mixture. Low octane fuel can cause knocking or pinging.
- Your check engine light is on. A defective oxygen sensor could be the reason your check engine light is on. Note that for Volvo’s a loose gas cap can also trigger a check engine light
Fuel efficient tires
You may be surprised to learn that tires can contribute up to a total of 30% savings in fuel consumption when you factor in the rolling resistance of tires that is often not disclosed by tire manufacturers.
Tire design directly contributes to fuel economy when you factor in the forces required to overcome mass due to loss of inertia (force required to overcome a body at rest), aerodynamic drag force ( the tire profile that cuts through air resistance with minimum drag or friction), and rolling resistance due to tire-road friction and how the flexing of tire transmits frictional heat to various elastic component of the tire.
How tire pressure affects fuel economy
The U.S Department of Transportation’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHSTA) conducted a survey in August of 2001. The survey was conducted at gas stations around the country. The collected data on 11,530 passenger vehicles showed that many tires on passenger vehicles are under inflated.
From the survey findings, it was concluded that more than one in four of the passenger cars with p-metric tires had at least one tire under-inflated by 8 psi (pressure per square inch) or more.
According to the survey, an 8 psi under-inflation in one tire resulted in a 3.3% decrease in miles per gallon MPG. So, it would be wise to check your tire pressure regularly to ensure all your tires properly inflated.
Low Viscosity oils
On every container of motor oil there are three pieces of information:
- The API service rating.
- SAE(Society of Automotive Engineers) Viscosity grade.
- ‘Energy conservation’ indicator. The API ‘starburst’ quality symbol indicates fuel economy and energy conserving properties of the oil.
The API (American petroleum Institute)or ‘starburst’ symbol is a mark of quality that helps consumers identify quality engine oils for their gasoline or diesel-powered engines.
Viscosity grade tells you about the thickness of oil. For example, 5W-30.
The first number, 5 (five degrees celsius) indicates how quickly an engine will crank in winter and how well the oil will flow to lubricate crtical engine parts at low temperatures.
The lower the number the more easier it is to crank at low temperatures or cold weather. W – is the weight of the oil and the second number 30 (thirty degrees celsius) stands for temperature of oil at normal operating temperature.
Viscosity can be defined as the resistance to flow. Highly viscous Mineral oil is thick at low temperatures, but at higher temperatures the oil thins out and starts to flow.
The thicker the oil the harder the engine has to work to circulate the oil and lubricate the component parts especially in the morning when it’s cold outside.
Low viscosity oils (severely refined mineral oil or synthetic oil) are easy on the engine as they retain fluidity at very low temperatures.
Engine oil has several functions:
- Reduces frictional heat between the moving parts of the engine (The less the friction the higher your gas savings).
- Remove heat from the engine to the cooling system.
- Keeps the engine clean. Oil acts as a solvent for contaminants and also suspends small particles that are eventually trapped by the oil filter.
- Protects against corrosion.
- Creates a seal between the pistons and the cylinder walls to prevent combustion by-products like sulfur from getting through to contaminate clean oil. This is why you should change your oil frequently, to get rid of dirty and contaminated oil.
Thus, low viscosity oil does a better job of dissipating frictional heat. This will result in fuel economy because the engine is doing less work.
Please tweet this post, thank you.
Several days ago, a new Volvo owner called the service center with an interesting question.
The new Volvo owner had recently purchased a brand new Volvo C30, an upscale hatch back from our dealership. He wanted to know why he was not getting 21 mpg for city driving as listed in the owners manual.
The Volvo C30 is fun to drive, especially the sporty R-Design. On occasion I have pulled around the orange R-Design C30 loaner car for our customers and I love the way it handles. The little car has a zip to it unlike any other Volvo I have driven, probably because it has a 2.5-liter turbocharged 5-cylinder engine that produces 227 horsepower. The car easily hits 60 mph (miles per hour) in a respectable 7 seconds flat and averages 22 mpg (miles per gallon) on regular gas.
Volvo engines are designed for optimum performance on unleaded premium gasoline. So, if you read your owners manual you will note that an AKI (Anti Knock Index) octane rating of 91 or above is recommended.
Regular gas – 87 octane fuel is okay because the Volvo engines are strong and will re-adjust the timing sequence to accommodate the cheaper gas. However, you will note that the performance of the vehicle will go down.
When you switch to 89 octane fuel you will observe a smoother ride and an increase in horse power. The R-Design is a peak performance vehicle that responds well to higher octane gas.
Therefore, if you are going to invest good money into one of these sporty vehicles you might as well spend a little extra money on gas.
For the new Volvo owner we mentioned several factors that could have lowered his MPG to 16 mile per gallon instead of 21 mpg for city driving.
Factors affecting MPG for new vehicles:
- Engine Break-In. A new Volvo engine has to be broken-in in order to perform at optimum or peak performance. This means you have to have at least 5,000 to 10,000 miles on the vehicle for the engine to loosen up and obtain optimal fuel economy.
- How you drive; Quick acceleration and hard braking will affect your fuel economy. According to new EPA tests, aggressive driving can reduce fuel economy by up to 33 percent on the highway and 5 percent around town.
- Excessive idling. Zero miles per gallon; idling will lower your average MPG.
- Frequent short trips. Short trips of 10 miles or less will affect your fuel economy because the engine does not reach optimum operating temperatures.
- Cold weather. Your car needs to warm up in order to operate like it was designed to. Please note that idling your car in the drive way is not the right way to warm up a modern car engine. Idling only increase fuel consumption and pollution. Drive your car gently below 3000 rpm to warm it up.
- Cargo, towing and junk in the trunk only increase drag and reduces fuel economy.
- Electrical accessories. Air conditioning (A/C) requires gas to run the compressor. Operating the A/C on ‘max’ can reduce MPG by between 5-25%.
- EPA recommends using cheaper regular gas for fuel economy but a motorweek magazine road test for a Volvo C30 achieved an average of 22 mpg. To obtain higher MPG Volvo recommends higher octane fuel (gasoline containing deposit control additives). These additives have shown to be effective in keeping injectors and intake valves clean. Thus, consistent use of deposit control gasoline helps ensure good smooth handling and fuel economy.
- New vehicle variation. New cars fresh off the assembly line have slight variations that will give a marked deviation in MPG.
You might also like:
The leading synthetic oil in the market, AMSOIL was first developed by Lieutenant Colonel Albert J. Amatuzio, the President and CEO of AMSOIL INC.
As a jet fighter squadron commander, Lieutenant Colonel Albert J. Amatuzio had the opportunity to witness synthetic lubricants in action.
In Feb. 1994, Al Amatuzio was officially recognized for his outstanding developments by Lubricants World Magazine and was inducted into The Lubricants World Hall of Fame for his pioneering effort in introducing synthetic motor oil in automobile engines.
The key advantage of snythetic oil is it’s superior performance characteristics under duress.
In order to reduce friction and wear on engine components, synthetic oil has to function dependably at severely hot and cold temperature extremes and has the to withstand rigorous and lengthy engine operation without chemical breakdown.
Trucking Companies who log millions of miles on their Diesel engines trust synthetic oil to do the job.
For example, Diesel oil and filtration products are designed to deliver 1,000,000 miles for overland trucks before a complete engine overhaul.
For vehicles, pure synthetics have been known to give car engines a life span of between 300,000 to 400,00miles.
Seven major benefits of synthetic oils over conventional oils are:
- Extended engine life. AMSOIL Synthetic Motor Oil has superior heat and oxidation resistance, controls sludge and extends engine life. Synthetic oil helps engines stay clean.
- Synthetics maximize fuel economy, reduce oil consumption and emissions. AMSOIL has been proven to improve gas mileage. Conventional oil gets thicker and heavier with time due to vaporization. This affects the engine by making it do more work. Thus, contributing to poor circulation, reduced fuel economy and increased oil consumption, wear and emission.
- Improves cold start up. The most wear on your car engine occurs on cold cranking early in the morning when it’s cold outside. The reason being that most of the oil is in the oil pan (sump) at the base of the engine. On cranking the oil is pumped up into the engine. Conventional oils are very thick or highly viscous at cold temperatures as opposed to synthetic oils which have low viscosity at cold tempertures. Synthetics also have a very low pour point, which means that synthetic oils flow freely until they get down to -58 degrees Fahrenheit. Thus, the engine is able to circulate synthetic oil easily on a cold day, cutting down on wear and tear.
- Controls acid formation. Conventional oils contain contaminants such as sulfur. This is due to city driving (short trips of less than 10 miles and stop and go traffic patterns), which prevents the engine from operating at optimum operating temperatures. This means that complete combustion does not take place, and trace amounts of water that are present in the oil are not burned up. The trace amount of water present mixes up with sulfur to form sulfuric acid which corrodes the engine. Synthetic oil does not react with combustion by products and hence does not form into acids.
- Protects against wear. The Four-Ball wear test for evaluating the protection provided by engine oil, has proven than AMSOIL has better anti-wear performance than it’s competitors. Synthetic oil not only extends engine life, but reduces major wear and tear on engine components.
- Promotes engine cleanliness. Synthetic oil reduces engine deposits and as a result increase the engines efficiency. Conventional oil contains gunk (tars and waxes) that falls out of solution and builds up in the engine and reduces engine performance. Synthetics have excellent solvent properties which dissolve residues and combustion by products like carbon.
- Saves money. AMSOIL synthetic oil extends drainage intervals to 25,000 miles while competing conventional oils must be changed every 3000 miles. The argument here is that expensive synthetics save you money because you change your oil less often. However, if your car is still under warranty, and factory scheduled maintenance or under a lease, then synthetic oil is a waste of money in my opnion. Therefore, synthetic oil is only beneficial to high mileage drivers such as Salespeople or Realtors.
- Lubricates. Oil reduces friction to prevent over-heating and damaging wear.
- Cools engine parts that coolant cannot reach.
- Cleans. Your engine oil prevents deposits (tars & waxes) from building up by acting as a solvent. Oil also prevents corrosion inside the engine.
- Seals. Engine oil acts as sealant to prevent harmful carbon residue from getting through the piston rings. Carbon deposits are very hardy and just like diamonds (carbon under intense pressure and heat).
- Suspends. Oil will float carbon residue and other contaminants until the oil filter can filter it out . This is why your oil filter is replaced after an oil change.
Did you know that cold starts cause the most wear in internal combustion engines.
Wear and tear mostly happens at start up because there is no oil flowing in the engine, its all in the sump (oil pan at the base of the engine).
Oil is at it’s peak when it has reached standard operating temperature, this happens after about 10-15 minutes of driving, or 5 minutes after your engine coolant has reached normal operating temperature.
So, treat your car like a best friend and accelerate gently after starting your car on a cold morning, allow it to build up to standard operating temperature.
There Are Four Different Types of Motor Oil Base Stocks:
Each of the four base stock compositions has a significant effect on the overall performance of motor oil. There are four different types of base stock used in the motor oil market today.
Group 1 – Conventional – Mineral oil derived from crude oil
Group 2 – Hydroprocessed – Highly refined mineral oil
Group 3 – Severe hydroprocessed – Ultra refined mineral oil
Group 4 – Full synthetics (chemically derived) – Chemically built Polyalphaolefins (PAO).
Conventional oil vs Synthetic oil: According to the Mobile Oil website
“Conventional oils come from crude oil that is pumped from the ground. Crude oil is made up of a complex mixture of molecules that form chains and rings of different sizes and shapes. Long chains of carbon atoms produce a thick, viscous fluid that flows slowly. Shorter chains produce fluid that flows more readily.
In an oil refinery, crude oil is separated into various fractions. These become the basis for lubricating oils and fuels. Thick tangled masses of carbon chains become asphaltic materials used in roofing tar and road work. Very short chains and ring compounds of carbon are volatile and can be refined to produce gasoline and other products.
While petroleum refining is an advanced science, small amounts of contaminants, such as sulfur and reactive hydrocarbons, cannot be completely removed from petroleum, and may end up in motor oil base stocks.
All motor oils are made up of base oils and additives. In general, fully synthetic motor oils contain non-conventional, high-performance fluids. Synthetic blends usually use some non-conventional, high-performance fluids in combination with conventional oil.”
“Historically, conventional oils lack the performance of synthetic oils in the areas of low-temperature performance and high-temperature oxidation stability. Conventional motor oil is made up of an inconsistent mixture of long and short chains of carbon and hydrogen atoms. In the extreme heat of an engine, short-chain molecules can evaporate, and unstable molecules can oxidize and break down. Conventional oils contain much greater amounts of impurities, such as sulfur, reactive and unstable hydrocarbons, and other undesirable contaminants that cannot be completely removed by conventional refining of crude oil.”
Synthetic oils are lab engineered oils, where each molecule is completely identical to all other molecules. The goal here was to engineer a superior oil with predictable properties and with no contaminants, whatsoever.
Conventional petroleum based oils contain sulfur, hence additives are added. These additives include detergents to neutralize sulfuric acid.
Sulfur combined with trace amount of water combine to form sulfuric acid. This is due to driving habits (short trips) where the combustion process does not reach the required operating temperatures to burn off the trace amounts of water.
Another reason why you require frequent oil changes if you use conventional oil is because these additives become exhausted after 3000 miles. The oil remains stable but contaminated without the detergents.
Synthetics are superior lubricants compared to traditional petroleum oils due to their superior high temperature oxidation resistance, high film strength, very low tendency to form deposits, stable viscosity base, and low temperature flow characteristics.
A pure synthetic like AMSOIL boasts of 25,000 mile drain intervals compared to 3000 mile drain intervals for conventional oil. A synthetic will also give your engine a long lifespan, between 300,000 – 400,000 miles. However, AMSOIL is a very expensive oil in comparison to cheaper petroleum based oils. Always consult your owners manual for recommended oil.
Another disadvantage for synthetics is that old cars (10yrs +) are not compatible with pure synthetics because they might spring oil leaks.
Old vehicles like humans soon develop incontinence. The gunk (tar & wax) in petroleum based oils act as sealants in the seals and gaskets, thus preventing a potential oil leak.
Synthetic are very efficient cleaners and when you introduce a pure synthetic like AMSOIL into an old engine it quickly washes away the gunk;thus, exposing potential leaks.
It is therefore advisable to introduce synthetics early into the life of your vehicle.
This is a closely guarded secret for a combination of conventional or base oil with severely hydro processed or synthetic (PAO) base stocks.
Don’t believe the hype:
Through some clever marketing, oil companies are marketing group 3 oils as “synthetic”.
For some reason, after Mobile sued Castrol (Castrol Syntec Blend) and lost, everyone (oil manufacturers) has agreed that Group III base oils are “synthetic”.
So, make up your own mind if “semi-synthetic” means anything to you at all. The going definition is a combination of mineral oil with severely hydro processed oil or mineral oil with pure synthetic (PAO) base stocks. Check out this mobile oil link.
The oil manufacturers love it, they can charge a premium for mixing a cheap oil with a closely guarded secret proportion (10%-25%) of severely processed grade 3 oil and call it “synthetic” or “synthetic blend”.
The key advantage of synthetic oil is long engine life, up to 300,000 miles or more, but to realize a good return for your investment in expensive oil, you have to be a high mileage driver. A Realtor or salesperson would be best served by synthetic oil.
A cheaper option is to buy a Synthetic Blend. These are oils which are a blend of petroleum oil and no more than 10%-25% synthetic oil. (Do some due diligence to find out if the 10%-15% is actually pure synthetic or severely hydro processed grade 3 mineral oil).
Our dealership uses Castrol Syntec Blend, though not covered under the free Volvo Factory scheduled Maintenance for new cars. This means that the dealership has to pay for the difference in price for using a higher quality oil.
If you like the contents of this website you can leave a small tip. Thank you
I came across an interesting article by Professor Ed Hackett, a chemist at the University of Nevada Desert Research Center. His article is intended to help people like you and me make an informed choice based on more than the advertising hype.
Before we look at the most important properties of engine oil or motor oil, we must first distinguish the difference between petroleum based mineral oil and a truly synthetic oil.
Crude oil is that precious black liquid that we drill for down beneath the bowels of our planet. Some call it dinosaur juice.
Whatever you call it, the price of sweet crude has sky rocketed recently due to turmoil in the Middle East to more than $100 a barrel.
At this rate I might have to ditch my car for the metro bus because the price of gas is through the roof.
Crude oil is shipped to refineries where is it is processed and refined into it’s component parts.
Crude oil is a mixture of gasoline, kerosene, light weight lubricating oil, motor oil, gear oil, tars, paraffins, waxes, asphalt, sand, dirt, and organic material also called aromatics.
Pure Synthetic oil is chemically engineered in a lab. Synthetic oils were originally designed to create a very pure base oil with excellent properties. Starting from the basics, synthetic oil molecules are designed to produce a motor oil with superior properties.
Synthetics have superior solvent properties and as a result they do a very good job of keeping your car engine clean.
Another superior property found in pure synthetics is their ‘superman’ like film strength. For example, high grade petroleum based oils have a ‘film strength’ of about 100 pounds without additives, and about 500 pounds with additives for added strength .
Pure synthetics like AMSOIL engine oils have a ‘film strength’ in excess of 3000 pounds.
Synthetic Blend Oils like Castrol Syntec are a combination of a pure synthetic (30%) and a highly refined petroleum based mineral oil. The reason for blending is to give the oil added body while taking advantage of superior lubricating properties of synthetics.
Synthetic Blends are good for old engines which are not designed to handle pure synthetics and may result in oil leaks. Modern engines are designed to handle either petroleum based mineral oils or pure synthetics, but always refer to your vehicles owner’s manual for the recommended oil.
According to Professor Ed Hackett, six important properties of a motor oil are:
- Viscosity Index (VI)
- Flash point
- Pour point
- % sulfated ash
- % zinc
Viscosity is the most important property for an engine. Viscosity is a measure of the “flow-ability” of an oil or how easily oil pours at a specified temperature. Thicker oils generally have a higher viscosity, and thinner oils a lower viscosity.
If you stick a cheap can of petroleum based oil in the refrigerator to replicate winter conditions and then attempt to pour it out, you will observe how thick it gets.
Now imagine that this was the oil in your oil pan at the base of your engine on a cold Monday morning. On cranking your car engine this oil would be sucked up to lubricate the moving part in the engine.
Can you imagine the engine attempting to turn over with this thick gooey stuff lubricating your motor. This can result in the oil film being torn apart at high rpm. This is an example of a high viscosity oil.
Alternatively, pure synthetic oils maintain low viscosity at low temperatures up to -55 Fahrenheit. But, too low viscosity oil can shear and loose film strength at high temperatures.
So, you need the right balance of properties to meet the needs of your motor at cold and hot temperatures. Multi viscosity engine oils provide the required balance.
How Multi viscosity oils work: Polymers are added to a light base(5W, 10W, 20W), which prevents the oil from thinning as much as it warms up. Popular multi-viscosity grades today include 0W-20, 5W-20, 5W-30, 10W-30, 10W-40 and 20W-50.”W” refers to the oil’s cold temperature viscosity rating, while the second number refers to the oil’s high temperature viscosity rating.
At cold temperatures the polymers are coiled up and allow the oil to flow as their low numbers indicate. As the oil warms up the polymers begin to unwind into long chains that prevent the oil from thinning as much as it normally would.
The result is that at 212 degrees Fahrenheit ( boiling point of water) the oil has thinned only as much as the higher viscosity number indicates.
Viscosity index (VI)
Viscosity Index is an empirical number indicating the rate of change in viscosity of an oil within a given temperature range.
Higher numbers indicate a low change, lower numbers indicate a relatively large change. The higher the number the better. This is one major property of an oil that keeps your bearings happy.
Flash point is the temperature at which an oil gives off vapors that can be ignited with a flame held over the oil.
The lower the flash point the greater tendency for the oil to suffer vaporization loss at high temperatures and to burn off on hot cylinder walls and pistons. The flash point can be an indicator of the quality of the base stock used.
The higher the flash point the better. 400 Fahrenheit is the minimum to prevent possible high consumption.
Pour point is 5 degrees Fahrenheit above the point at which a chilled oil shows no movement at the surface for 5 seconds when inclined. This measurement is especially important for oils used in the winter.
A borderline pumping temperature is given by some manufacturers. This is the temperature at which the oil will pump and maintain adequate oil pressure. The lower the pour point the better.
% Sulfated Ash
% sulfated ash is how much solid material is left when the oil is reacted with sulfuric acid and burned. This is used to quantify the amount of metallic anti-wear and detergent additives in the oil.
Zinc dithiophosphate is a common detergent and antiwear additive that is reflected in this test.
% zinc is the amount of zinc used as an extreme pressure, anti- wear additive. The zinc is only used when there is actual metal to metal contact in the engine.
Hopefully the oil will do its job and this will rarely occur, but if it does, the zinc compounds react with the metal to prevent scuffing and wear. A level of .11% is enough to protect an automobile engine for the extended oil drain interval, under normal use.
From his extensive analysis, professor Ed Hackett came to the conclusion that only synthetic oils offered the most significant differences: due to their superior high temperature oxidation resistance, high film strength, very low tendency to form deposits, stable viscosity base, and low temperature flow characteristics.
He also states that Synthetics are superior lubricants compared to traditional petroleum oils. But you will have to decide if their high cost is justified in your application.
Oil change intervals:
The extended oil drain intervals given by the vehicle manufacturers(typically 7500 miles) and synthetic oil companies(up to 25,000 miles) are for what is called normal service. Normal service is defined as the engine at normal operating temperature, at highway speeds, and in a dust free environment.
Stop and go, city driving, trips of less than 10 miles, or extreme heat or cold puts the oil change interval into the severe service category, which is 3000 miles for most vehicles. Synthetics can be run two to three times the mileage of petroleum oils with no problems.
They do not react to combustion and combustion by-products to the extent that the dead dinosaur juice does. The longer drain intervals possible help take the bite out of the higher cost of the synthetics.
If your car is still under warranty you will have to stick to the recommended drain intervals. These are set for petroleum oils and the manufacturers make no official allowance for the use of synthetics.
Some oil companies, AMSOIL being an example, offer their own engine warranties. If the oils are used in compliance with the company’s recommendations (including extended drain intervals) and a problem is caused by the engine oil, the company will pay for the repairs. Check with the company for specifics of any warranties offered.
Personally, I believe that Synthetics offer long term benefits. Though expensive, synthetics are worth it in the long run because they extend the life of your vehicle’s engine.
Cheap oil should be changed frequently, every 3000 or 3500 miles before the additives begin to fail.
The purpose of oil is to not only lubricate your motor, but to also suspended particles which were small enough to get past the oil filter.
These suspended particles are left over carbon particles from the combustion process; therefore, the oil has to be drained frequently to prevent damage to the motor.
I hope this information will help you make an informed decision on how to select the best oil for your car.