Close your eyes and imagine yourself driving down a highway. Do you feel the wind in your hair and the sun on your face? Can you feel that rush of freedom that comes with being behind the wheel? But have you ever stopped to think about what’s making your car run so smoothly and reliably? That’s where engine oil comes in, and you will soon realize that it’s far from a boring subject.

It was some time ago and I had just attended my first professional lecture on engine oils. I remember being blown away by the complexity and science behind it. Beforehand, I had never given much thought to the oil that keeps my car running. However, once I learned about the different types of oil, the chemicals they contain, and the functions they perform, I was hooked.

I found myself captivated by the impact that good oil has on the performance and lifespan of an engine. And today, I will share some of the eye-opening information that I learned from that lecture. Perhaps you’ll never look at engine oil the same way again.

Motor oil is a special kind of oil that is designed to do several important jobs. One of which, is the reduction of friction and wear on the engine’s moving parts. This is important because the engine is the heart of your car and if it breaks down, then your car won’t work.

In addition, over time engine oil can become dirty and contaminated. Sludge and varnish are sticky substances that can build up in the engine and cause problems. For this reason, motor oil contains special detergents that help clean out these substances and keep your engine running smoothly.

engine oil protecting engine parts

In like manner, motor oil is also designed to neutralize acids that come from fuel and oxidation. When fuel burns in your engine, it produces acids that can damage the engine over time. Therefore, motor oil has special additive that neutralize these acids and protect the engine.

Wear and tear on piston compression rings

As equally important is the improvement motor oil provides to the sealing of the piston rings. Piston rings are small metal rings that help keep the engine’s combustion chamber sealed. This means that the fuel and air mixture that powers the engine will stay where it is meant to be and will not leak out. If the piston rings aren’t working properly, then your engine will not run efficiently.

Additionally, motor oil also helps cool the engine by carrying heat away from the moving parts. A running engine will generate a lot of heat, and if this hear isn’t carried away then the engine can overheat and breakdown.

Where Oil Starts and What it is Mixed With

So, how does motor oil accomplish all of this? Going all the way back to the beginning, it starts as a stock base oil, which comes from refined crude oil. Then, additives are added to make it functional in modern engines. These additives include antiwear additives, detergents, dispersants, antioxidants, antifoamants, pour point depressants, and viscosity index improvers.

These additives are what make modern motor oil so effective at protecting and cleaning your engine. Now, lets take a deep dive into the fascinating world of engine oil additives and discover the remarkable functions they perform to keep your engine running smoothly.

Antiwear additives protect the metal surfaces in an engine by forming a protective film between moving parts, which reduces friction and wear. They also help prevent corrosion and oxidation. Zinc dialkyl dithiophosphate is a common antiwear chemical.

Detergents help remove deposits and neutralize acidic byproducts that can cause corrosion. Calcium and magnesium sulfonates and phenates are the most commonly used detergents.

Dispersants keep contaminants suspended in the oil, preventing them from settling and causing damage to the engine. Surfactant chemical compounds are commonly used dispersants.

Antioxidants reduce the rate of oxidation, helping to maintain the quality of the oil. They are typically made of organic amines and phenols and are commonly used in modern engine oils.

Closeup of beakers with colorful liquid

Antifoamants prevent oil foaming, which occurs when the oil is agitated or aerated while circulating in the engine. Polydimethylsiloxanes are commonly used as antifoamant chemicals.

Pour Point Depressants are chemicals that improve the flow of lubricants at low temperatures, allowing the engine to function properly in colder environments. Common chemicals in Pour Point Depressants are alkylaromatics and aliphatic polymers.

Viscosity Index Improvers make it possible for oil to function at different temperature. This is how we get multi-weight oils like 5w-30 and 0w-20. These polymeric additives improve the viscosity of the oil at different temperatures, ensuring that the engine stays lubricated even in extreme conditions.

Engine Oil Advancements

Engine oil is constantly evolving as car engine get smaller and more advanced with things like direct injection and turbos. As critical as it is to evolve for technology advancements, as equally crucial is the necessity to innovate for the new challenges that arise with modern technology.

For example, a major issue called Low Speed Pre-Ignition (LSPI), can cause big problems like bad engine performance, poor gas milage, and even complete engine failure if not taken care of. So it is pivotal to use the right kind of oil to keep your engine running smoothly!

Today, the most recent standard for oil called GF-6. This standard is meant to improve the fuel economy and performance of engines in passenger cars. It’s divided into two categories: GF-6A and GF-6B is specifically made for motor oil with a weight of 0w-16, which is designed to meet the high standards for fuel economy and engine protection that are required today.

Closeup of oil piston rings animation

All in all, oil plays a critical role in ensuring that our engines operate smoothly and efficiently, maximizing our fuel usage and safeguarding the engine from damage. However, as time passes, oil naturally deteriorates and its effectiveness gradually diminishes. It is absolutely essential to prioritize regular oil changes and filter replacements to eliminate the buildup of harmful contaminants that accumulate in the filter and remain in the old oil. By doing so, we can enjoy the long-lasting and optimal performance of our engines, thereby allowing us to confidently go wherever we need to go.

Thank you for taking the time to read about engine oils and their importance. I hope that my explanation has been helpful and informative. Remember, there’s always more to learn about this fascinating topic, and I encourage you to explore it further. Keep your engine running smoothly and enjoy your future drives!

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