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It is important to maintain and service the powertrain of your car to ensure a smooth ride. And it all boils down to the engine oil.

Category: Car Maintenance Advice

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The engine is often the 'heart' of an automobile. Just like how we humans need to keep our heart and mind in the finest of conditions, it is important to maintain and service the powertrain to ensure a smooth ride.

One of, if not the most important aspect of vehicle maintenance, especially under the hood, is engine oil. The quality of the oil largely affects the lifespan of your engine. Some of us might lack the concern to the type of motor oil that goes into our engine, having the common mentality - oil is oil, right?

Types of engine oils

There are three types of engine oils.

Firstly, we have mineral oils that are refined and derived from nature. Mineral oils come from the ground and are created from the oil refining process. They have been around for a long period of time and it's less expensive than synthetic oils.

Secondly, we have synthetic oils that are more expensive because of the chemical engineering involved in laboratories. They still have a base mineral oil, but they've been engineered to allow for more miles to be driven between oil changes, and they often have additives to help keep the oil cleaner for an extended period. It's also more stable at optimum temperatures than mineral oil.

Lastly, we have the semi-synthetic or premium oil which is essentially a mixture of the above mentioned two.

What does it do?

Your engine oil performs as a lubricant under tremendous heat and pressure and prevents friction between all metal surfaces in your engine when grinding together.

It also transfers heat away from the combustion cycle and delays nasty by-products like silica (silicon oxide) and acids. Finally, engine oil minimises the exposure to oxygen and thus reduces oxidation at higher temperatures.

Oils get thinner as they heat up. Single grade oils get too thin when heated for most modern engines.

KiC engine oil coats all surfaces to provide a protected layer which reduces wear and tear 
Grading / Classification / Oil Viscosity

An organisation called the Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) tests all engine oil at roughly 98.9 degrees Celsius, which is the usual temperature an engine operates at. They run the oil through a device to time the oil flow, in seconds, from one end to the other. There are two ways to how oil thickness is measured: single grade and multi-grade.

A SAE 30 classification is single grade oil that takes approximately 30 seconds to flow through the tube. Oil changes its thickness with temperature and the single rating only represents the flow of oil when it's warm. When performing a cold start, oil flows more slowly, hence, there is a need for a multi-grade rating that gives you both a hot and cold rating.

Thus for multi-grade rating 10W-30 classification, the 30 is similar to the single grade rating but the 10W is the rating for cold starts, derived from a standardised rating system developed by the SAE for winter oil use.

While the 'W' itself refers to winter, the numbers represent how long it takes for the oil to flow. The thinner the oil, the smoother it moves through and lubricates parts of your engine. The best engine oils have just about the right viscosity to ensure a smooth flow between components.

When to Change Your Oil

For decades, the basic rule for oil change was every 4,800 km (3,000 miles) or 3 months, whichever came first. Yet with advances in technology, engine design, and advanced engine oils, most modern cars can function farther between oil changes.

Many modern cars can go between 8,000 or 16,000km (5,000 - 10, 000 miles) between oil changes, depending on your driving habits and the model you drive. If you are a heavy driver you might have to change it a sooner than a light-footed driver though.

As cars are fitted with more and more technologies, some modern cars can also function as your assistant in informing you the car's next oil change - like the iDrive system in a BMW.
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