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Know Your Car Basics 101: The Importance of Engine Oil and Oil Maintenance

Engine Oil Car Maintenance Lubricant

Apart from engine oil, which reduces friction and wear in the engine, transmission oil is essential for the smooth operation of gears, while power steering fluid ensures easy and responsive steering. Additionally, brake fluid and coolant also contribute to a vehicle’s overall functionality by maintaining brake pressure and engine temperature, respectively. Photo by Robert Laursoo on Unsplash

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Leaking Oil Sump

One of the issues that was highlighted by my mechanic several years ago was the incorrect size of the nut fixed to the car’s oil sump. He informed me that it was not the original nut as the size was bigger and the mechanic at the authorized service center must have used a bigger nut as the original was leaking due to wear & tear. After some time, this has started to leak despite fixing extra tapes around the nut.

In the end, the mechanic requested me to just change the whole oil sum set as mine was already 13 years old. Thanks to regular maintenance since the day it was purchased, the oil sump was clean from any debris or dirt but it was time for a replacement due to the worn-out nut.

I thought the problem was solved once the replacement was done until I noticed a dark patch on the porch floor. It was not water from the air-conditioner but after a closer investigation, there was a minute leak from the brand-new oil sump itself. Indeed there was a manufacturing defect somewhere but since it was still under warranty, the mechanic replaced it with another brand-new oil sump. This time, he took his .time to ensure there were no other leakages before the car was handed back to me.

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The Role of Engine Oil

Engine oil plays a crucial role in the overall functioning and longevity of a car’s engine. It serves multiple purposes, including lubrication, cooling, cleaning, and sealing.

Lubrication: One of the primary functions of engine oil is to lubricate the moving parts within the engine. It forms a thin film between the various components, such as the pistons, cylinders, and crankshaft, reducing friction and minimizing wear and tear. This lubrication helps the engine operate smoothly and efficiently.

Cooling: Engine oil also helps in dissipating heat generated by the engine. As the oil circulates through the engine, it absorbs heat from the components and carries it away, preventing overheating and potential damage.

Cleaning: Over time, dirt, debris, and contaminants can accumulate within the engine. Engine oil contains detergents and additives that help clean these deposits, preventing them from causing harm to the engine. It keeps the engine clean and ensures optimal performance.

Sealing: Engine oil forms a seal between the piston rings and the cylinder walls, preventing combustion gases from escaping into the crankcase. This seal helps maintain compression and ensures efficient combustion, reducing power loss and improving fuel efficiency.

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Different Grades of Engine Oil

Engine oils are available in different grades, each designed for specific engine types and operating conditions. The two primary specifications used to classify engine oil grades are the Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) viscosity rating and the American Petroleum Institute (API) service rating.

SAE Viscosity Rating: The SAE viscosity rating indicates the oil’s flow characteristics at different temperatures. It consists of two numbers separated by the letter ‘W’ (e.g., 5W-30). The ‘W’ stands for winter, and the first number represents the oil’s viscosity at low temperatures, while the second number represents its viscosity at operating temperatures. Lower numbers indicate lower viscosity or thinner oil, while higher numbers indicate higher viscosity or thicker oil.

API Service Rating: The API service rating classifies oils based on their performance and compatibility with different engine types. The current API service categories for gasoline engines are API SP (for newer vehicles) and API SN (for older vehicles). For diesel engines, the current categories are API CK-4 (for newer vehicles) and API CJ-4 (for older vehicles).

It is important to use the oil grade recommended by the car manufacturer to ensure optimal engine performance and longevity. Using the wrong oil grade can lead to poor lubrication, increased wear, reduced fuel efficiency, and potential engine damage.

Engine oil gradecar vehicle

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The Oil Sump

The oil sump, also known as the oil pan, is a vital component of a car’s engine lubrication system. It is a reservoir located at the bottom of the engine that holds the engine oil when it is not in circulation. The oil sump performs several important functions:

Oil Storage: The primary role of the oil sump is to store a sufficient quantity of engine oil. This ensures that there is always an adequate supply of oil available for lubrication and cooling purposes.

Oil Pickup: The oil sump contains an oil pickup tube that draws oil from the sump and delivers it to the oil pump. The oil pump then circulates the oil throughout the engine, ensuring proper lubrication of all the moving parts.

Heat Dissipation: The oil sump is in direct contact with the engine block, allowing heat to transfer from the engine to the oil. This helps in cooling the oil and preventing it from overheating.

Oil Filter: In many cars, the oil sump also houses the oil filter. The oil filter removes contaminants and impurities from the oil before it is circulated back into the engine, ensuring cleaner oil reaches the components.

Engine Oil Sump Car Maintenance

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Car Oil Maintenance

Regular oil maintenance is essential to keep a car’s engine running smoothly and to prolong its lifespan. Here are some important steps to follow for car oil maintenance:

1. Check Oil Levels: Regularly check the oil levels using the dipstick provided in the engine compartment. Ensure that the oil level is within the recommended range. If it is low, add the appropriate type and amount of oil as per the manufacturer’s instructions.

2. Change Oil Regularly: Follow the recommended oil change intervals specified by the car manufacturer. Generally, it is recommended to change the oil every 5,000 to 7,500 miles or every 6 months, whichever comes first. Regular oil changes help remove contaminants and ensure optimal engine performance.

3. Use the Right Oil: Always use the type and grade of engine oil recommended by the car manufacturer. The correct oil viscosity and specifications are crucial for proper lubrication and performance. Refer to the owner’s manual or consult a professional if you are unsure about the right oil to use.

4. Check for Oil Leaks: Periodically inspect the engine and the area around the oil sump for any signs of oil leaks. Oil leaks can lead to low oil levels and potential engine damage. If you notice any leaks, it is important to have them addressed by a qualified mechanic.

5. Replace Oil Filters: During oil changes, it is essential to replace the oil filter as well. The oil filter traps contaminants and debris, preventing them from circulating in the engine. A clogged or dirty oil filter can restrict oil flow and affect engine performance.

6. Monitor Oil Quality: Keep an eye on the oil’s color and consistency. If the oil appears dark, dirty, or has a burnt smell, it may be a sign that it needs to be changed before the recommended interval. Regularly monitoring the oil quality can help detect any potential issues early on.

7. Follow Extreme Weather Guidelines: In extreme weather conditions, such as very high or low temperatures, it may be necessary to use oil with different viscosity or additives. Consult the owner’s manual or seek professional advice to ensure the oil is suitable for the prevailing weather conditions.

Final Say

Owning a car involves more than just driving skills; it requires a fundamental understanding of the vehicle’s mechanics. This knowledge is crucial for maintaining the car’s longevity and ensuring safety on the road. Regular maintenance tasks such as oil changes, tire rotations, and brake inspections are essential to keep the car running smoothly.

Understanding the signs of wear and tear, such as unusual noises or vibrations, can help car owners identify issues before they become serious problems. Additionally, being aware of the car’s lubrication needs helps in preventing friction and overheating of engine parts.

Keeping up with these aspects of car maintenance not only enhances the driving experience but also contributes to the vehicle’s resale value. Therefore, a responsible car owner should be proactive in learning about their vehicle’s mechanical needs and upkeep requirements.

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