Motor oil plays a crucial role in the proper functioning and longevity of your vehicle’s engine. Over time, however, motor oil can break down and become less effective. If the oil is very old and dirty it can even contribute to engine damage.
Because motor oil “wears out” during its lifecycle, regular oil changes are critical for maintaining your vehicle’s expected performance and its future value. If you want to maximize engine performance, and most importantly, engine life, don’t skimp on your engine’s most vital lubricant – motor oil.
What does Motor Oil do for an Engine?
Motor oil performs a number of very significant functions for your vehicle’s engine. Among the many “jobs” that motor oil has, here are the most important.
One of the main functions of motor oil is to lubricate the moving parts of an engine. It does this by forming a thin film between metal surfaces, reducing friction and preventing wear and tear. This is vital for preventing engine components from grinding against each other and causing damage due to metal-on-metal contact.
Motor oil helps regulate the temperature of your vehicle’s engine. As the oil circulates, it absorbs heat from the engine components and dissipates it. This cooling effect is essential for preventing the engine from overheating.
In an engine, motor oil creates a seal between the cylinder walls and the pistons. This seal helps prevent combustion gases from leaking into the crankcase, contributing to efficient engine operation.
Motor oil traps and carries away contaminants, such as dirt, debris, and metal particles, that can damage engine parts and cause inefficiency. The detergent and dispersant additives in motor oil help clean and suspend these particles, preventing them from settling on engine components.
These combined effects of motor oil – proper lubrication, temperature regulation, contaminant removal, and cleanliness – contribute to the overall health of the engine. This, in turn, extends the life of the engine, reducing the likelihood of major mechanical failures and the need for expensive repairs or replacements.
In addition, a well-lubricated engine operates more efficiently, leading to better fuel economy. Dirty or old oil can cause the engine to work harder, leading to decreased fuel efficiency. Regular oil changes contribute to maintaining optimal engine performance and fuel efficiency.
What Causes Motor Oil to Break Down?
Oil is pretty temperamental. It starts out slick, but then, before you know it, slick turns into “ick”. What causes motor oil to degrade over time?
The high operating temperature of a vehicle’s engine causes motor oil to break down and lose its viscosity. Viscosity is a measure of how well a fluid flows. Motor oils come in various viscosities that help your engine perform optimally in different temperatures. In general, the older (and dirtier) motor oil gets, the thicker it becomes, and the less it is able to flow effectively through your engine.
Motor oil helps keep your engine clean by suspending contaminants within the oil and preventing contaminants from sticking to engine parts. Over time, dust, metal particles, and other impurities can accumulate in the oil, affecting its performance.
It’s true that “oil and water don’t mix,” especially when it comes to motor oil. Too much moisture in motor oil can lead to corrosion and rust. Common sources of moisture are coolant leaks, condensation, and human error.
The additives in motor oil, such as detergents and dispersants, can become depleted over time. When oil additives are completely exhausted, oil can no longer handle the dirt and metals that are freely floating around, causing the oxidation that creates sludge.
Constant exposure to heat, moisture and contaminants leads to oil degradation (oxidation). The end result? Oil thickening, sludge, deposit formation, and corrosive wear, all of which take a toll on your engine.
Old oil can no longer do its job – protecting your engine against corrosion and wear. Picture your motor oil trying to work its way through hard and sticky sludge that has clogged the oil passageways in your engine. Doesn’t sound very effective, does it? (Not to mention all the havoc these added barriers can inflict on your engine.) Leaving oil in your engine well past the recommended oil change date can result in disastrous conditions and expensive repairs.
How Often Should You Change Your Oil?
As motor oil degrades, it becomes less effective at lubricating, cooling, and cleaning the engine. This is why regular oil changes are necessary. Ignoring or neglecting regular oil changes can lead to decreased fuel efficiency, increased emissions, and, ultimately, engine damage or failure.
The interval between oil changes depends on the age of your vehicle, the conditions you drive in, and the type of oil used. Older vehicles may require more frequent oil changes than newer ones. Driving under severe conditions, including towing heavy loads, stop and go traffic, and temperature extremes, can shorten the life of your oil and require more frequent oil changes. Conventional oil breaks down more quickly than full synthetic oil.
Most newer vehicles have an “Oil Life System” that is designed to constantly monitor your driving conditions and mileage to determine the life expectancy of your oil. These systems don’t determine the actual condition of your oil, but they do track mileage traveled and other factors such as ambient temperature and driving conditions and will activate the oil change light when the measurements indicate it’s time for new oil.
Even though there are several variables to consider, it’s always smart to consult your vehicle manufacturer’s recommendation for oil changes. The manufacturer recommendation found in your owner’s manual typically lists oil change schedules for both normal driving conditions and severe conditions and can help you determine what the best interval should be for your specific vehicle and situation. The manufacturer will also specify what type of oil the vehicle should use.
Keep in mind that if the change oil light in the dashboard is illuminated, this means you should have your oil changed as soon as possible. In addition, most manufacturers recommend an oil change at least once a year for vehicles that aren’t driven frequently.
Remember These Tips When Changing Your Oil
Vehicles with 75,000 miles or more may require a high-mileage motor oil designed to maintain and preserve your engine for the long haul. High-mileage oils may contain additives that help revitalize your engine’s rubber seals so you can minimize physical (external) oil leaks as well as reduce exhaust smoke from internal oil leaks (oil leaking past seals into the combustion chamber). High-mileage oils may also be formulated with higher levels of antioxidant and/or anti-wear additives to provide better protection for older vehicles.
Remember that when it’s time for an oil change, it’s usually time to change your oil filter, as well. The oil filter captures any harmful debris, metal or dirt that’s entered your oil system. The better condition your oil filter is in, the better protected your engine will be. A dirty filter is about as useful as a dirty napkin.
In addition to regular oil and oil filter changes, you should check your vehicle’s oil level at least once a month and top off the oil as needed. It’s important to know what type of oil is currently in your vehicle and refill it with the same type (full synthetic, synthetic blend or conventional) and same weight / viscosity. Ask your oil change provider if they offer free top offs in between oil changes.
Changing your oil regularly is critical to maintaining your engine’s performance, preventing excessive wear, and extending the life of the vehicle. Neglecting regular oil changes can lead to decreased performance, increased fuel consumption, and potentially expensive engine repairs.
Is Your Vehicle Due for an Oil Change?
If your vehicle is due (or overdue!) for an oil change, bring it in to a Costa Oil – 10 Minute Oil Change location near you – no appointment needed!
Costa® engine oils are engineered to meet or exceed industry standards and Original Equipment Manufacturer’s oil specifications for engine protection. They are also enhanced with Costa Oil®, a unique additive designed for greater wear protection and increased fuel economy. With Costa Oil, you’ll have an extra layer of protection flowing through your engine to reduce friction among moving parts.
Our experienced technicians will also change your oil filter and advise you on the condition of your engine air filter (don’t worry, we only recommend a replacement if it’s actually needed!). Plus, we’ll top off your other fluids, clean your battery terminals, and check the air pressure in your tires as part of our 18-point service checklist. We’ll even dispose of your old oil and filter at no additional cost. All without you having to leave your vehicle! Best of all, our service comes with a smile and a thank you – we truly appreciate our customers! Give Costa Oil – 10 Minute Oil Change a try today!
Find your local Costa Oil – 10 Minute Oil Change here! No appointment needed!