All You Need To Know About Motor Oil

"The Complete Guide to Motor Oil"

For all mechanical vehicles, motor oil is an essential component if the vehicle has to keep running for a long time.

However, motor oil has a lot more to do than just providing lubrication to the engine parts.

Here we delve into the basics of what all the motor oil performs and how. We also discuss the science of creating motor oil and then dive into the different additives that are added to motor oils for various reasons.

Please watch our video which answers the question What is in motor oil and how does it work?. Be sure to keep up with our latest YouTube content and subscribe.

Types Of Motor Oils

But before we get started, it is important to know the two basic types of motor oil which are:

  • Mineral Oil
  • Synthetic Oil

While you might not be aware of these types, you have certainly seen them if you have ever visited an oil change shop.

Mineral oils, with minor changes, are oils that are extracted from natural sources and then refined for use as motor oils.

Synthetic oils on the other hand are specially formulated oils that are created to get the desired results.

Oil Isn’t Just Oil

While the primary function of motor oil is to reduce friction by acting as a lubricant, it also performs a variety of other functions.

As a result, motor oil is more than just oil. It's a lot more than that. If you're not sure what this means, keep reading because in another 5 minutes or so, you'll be far more knowledgeable about engine oil than when you arrived.

Aside from lubricating engine parts, motor oil performs the following functions:

As A Fault Locator

It should be noted that because motor oil is the only component of a mechanical engine that circulates all around, this motor oil is frequently used to identify various engine faults.

Motor oil analysis can also tell you if a specific particle is present in it and which component of the engine is made of that material.

This can be an effective method of locating an engine fault or breakdown within the engine components.

Keeping A Check On Engine Temperature

Most people are unaware that motor oil also serves as a medium for keeping the engine cool.

The vehicle engine continuously generates heat, and the circulating motor oil aids in heat dissipation and thus serves as a coolant.

Remember that in areas where the weather is extremely cold, the relatively warm motor oil circulating through the various engine parts also helps to keep these parts warm.

Keeping The Engine Clean

Motor oil plays another important role in keeping the vehicle’s engine clean.

It accomplishes this by keeping the contaminants dissolved in itself, preventing them from adhering to engine parts.

Acting As A Seal

This may come as a surprise, but motor oil also serves as a seal in various engine components.

One such example is the combustion chamber, where motor oil keeps the piston rings sealed against the cylinder wall. Motor oil performs an important function in this regard.

Role As A Shock Absorber

Because of its shock-absorbing properties, motor oil prolongs the life of engine parts.

This is a great example of how motor oil works hard in the background to keep your vehicle running while you aren't even aware of it.

Helping In Reducing Corrosion

Modern motor oils are anti-corrosive, which means they not only protect against corrosion but also act as a barrier between the engine components and corrosive materials.

Thus, they increase the life of engine components by protecting them from corrosion.

The Science Of Creating Engine Oils

While you might not have expected it, making engine oil is a much more complicated process than it appears.

This is because the motor oil must perform all of the aforementioned functions, and with each motor oil carefully created for a specific set of engines, the science of creating a motor oil is quite intricate.

Motor oil production is a multi-step process that necessitates extensive research and deployment.

Here are the various steps involved in the science of producing motor oil.

Delivery Of The Base Oil

When base oil is delivered to the factory, it comes in consignments of thousands of gallons. The first step is to test a sample of this oil to ensure that it meets the requirements.

Following this, all of the oil from the consignment is transferred to the storage tanks.

In case this process has to be carried out in a cold environment, the oil is first heated up slightly to ensure that it flows properly.

Blending Process

Following the completion of the delivery, the next step is the blending process, in which various types of additives are added to the motor oil.

This procedure is carried out while the weight and volume of the oil and additives are carefully examined.

Every oil, regardless of grade, must go through this process to obtain its properties.

It should also be noted that modern motor oils are not created through trial and error. Rather, each additive is calculated and weighed before being added to ensure uniform properties.

Various Types of Equipment Used In The Blending Process

Different equipment types are used for this purpose which include but are not limited to:

  • Precision metering pumps;
  • Air eliminators

After all of the additives have been added, the oil is circulated for about 15 minutes to ensure proper blending.

Remember that larger companies do not rely on a single machine for all of this; rather, they have many such processes running in parallel to ensure that a large amount of oil is produced at the same time.

However, each of these blending stations is dedicated to a specific oil family, ensuring that cross-contamination of the oils is avoided.

Besides this, the system is regularly cleaned and flushed so that each blend stays pure in its true essence.

Rigorous Testing Of Engine Oils

Such oils have to undergo extensive and rigorous testing so they can stand the test of time and deliver the desired results.

Usually, the process of creating motor oil can be divided into the following testing steps:

Laboratory testing is carried out for analyzing various aspects of the oil. In this step, the results of various additives in the oil are identified and thus examined whether or not the results are according to the requirements;

After this, fired engine tests are performed. In this process, the results of various lubricant formulations on the fuel efficiency of engines are analyzed.

Using the test bench engine helps a lot as various parameters such as fuel flow, engine speed and airflow etc. can be controlled;

After this, a chassis dynamometer is used to evaluate the result of the various additives on the performance of the vehicle;

The final step is a field trial in which a third party is chosen to test the motor oil in real-life situations.

Packaging Of The Oil

After all the blending and the testing have been carried out, the final stage of motor oil is packaging and this is where it is put into the boxes that we see in the markets.

However, even when packing oil, it is ensured that the oil is properly sealed so that no external contaminants can enter it as this will adversely affect the engine’s performance.

This guarantees that the oil you put into your vehicle is pure and thus you get to have the most benefit out of it.

What Does Oil Contain?

Knowing what your engine oil contains is vital if you want to keep your vehicle up and running for a long time.

Viscosity Enhancers

It is worth noting that viscosity is important for engine oils and thus it is one of the key determinants in choosing an engine oil.

For increasing the viscosity of a base motor oil, several polymers are added to low viscosity bases and this produces multi-grade oils. These include:

  • Methyl methacrylate
  • Ethylene-propylene

The unique behaviour of these polymer molecules makes them thin at low temperatures but as the temperature increases, they expand and thus prevent the thinning of oil making it thicker at higher temperatures.

Which Additives Are A Part Of Motor Oils?

The motor oil has several additives which are all added by making use of the blending process mentioned above. Here are some of the additives that are part of these motor oils.

Metal Phenoxides

These are special compounds which give the motor oils their ability to prevent sludge formation and they act as detergents.

Anti-wear agents

One such example of these anti-wear agents is zinc dialkyl dithiophosphate which plays an important role in preventing scuffing.

Antiwear agents present in the motor oils also have antioxidant nature and prevent corrosion from damaging the inner parts of the vehicle engine.

Detergents & Dispersants

Usually, the additives added to motor oils for improving their performance are divided into two main categories which are:

  • Detergents;
  • Dispersants.

The purpose of detergents is to keep the different contaminants from getting stuck to the engine parts.

Dispersants, as their name gives way, keep these contaminants from forming sludge by keeping them dissolved in the motor oil.

So depending upon your requirements, you should choose an engine oil that has all the required additives.

Please let us know in the comments what you thought of this article, and pass on any tips or recommendations you have for choosing a good quality oil for your car.

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