To choose the right type of engine oil is just as important as choosing the right type of fuel. The engine oil is crucial for your engine to function in an efficient way. It helps to minimise costs, keeps your production going and reduces harmful exhaust emissions. This is the first part of two in my article series about oil, where I will describe the engine oil’s components, how to choose the right engine oil and how the engine oil improves the durability of your engine.
Engine oil reduces friction, cools the engine and stops excess heat
Oil is an important component in any piece of machinery. The oil helps with a variety of features favorable for the engine. It lubricates to reduce friction, it helps to cool the engine and stops excess heat. Also, the oil transports away waste and residues that are left after the combustion of the fuel.
Each engine oil is a carefully balanced mixture of chemicals
Engine oil consists of three different components: base stock, viscosity modifier and additives. The base stock, or base fluid, is the basic component of the oil. The base stock goes through a complex, chemical refining process that turns it into a pure product with a specified viscosity value. A viscosity modifier helps to maintain the viscosity of the oil at for example different temperatures. The additives are the chemicals that sometimes are called “the workforce” of the engine oil as they protect the engine and extend the life of the engine oil.
There are hundreds of different types of engine oils and much of the variation comes from the blending of the components in the oil. Each engine oil is a carefully balanced mixture of chemicals. A lot of these chemicals will fight each other if the balance of the mixture is not right. The chemicals have different qualities such as protecting the gears and stopping the oil from forming sludge in the engine. Also, they help to keep the by-products from the combustion process within the oil so the by-products don’t stick to the different components of the engine. That way, the oil works as both detergent and dispersant.
Reduce fuel consumption and wear on the engine’s components
It is crucial to choose the right oil for your engine. The right oil improves the durability of your engine, keeps it clean and protects the engine’s components. Also, the oil reduces the amount of wear on the engine’s components so the engine lasts longer and functions better over time. The best way to ensure your engine operates efficiently is to use a high-quality engine oil and to change the oil regularly. Also, oil analyses help you monitor the condition of your engine oil over time, allowing for preventive maintenance on your engine. Choosing the wrong type of engine oil can lead to negative consequences such as a reduction of your engine’s performance and a higher fuel consumption. In worst case, the wrong type of oil can lead to rubber-like materials forming that will block your engine completely, leading to engine failure.
When choosing oil for your engine, it is important to follow the manufacturer’s recommendations. They are based on industry standards to give your engine a higher level of protection and performance. The manufacturer’s recommendations also allow the controlling software to work in the best possible way. The efficient performance of many engines today is managed by computers and the properties of the lubricants are an important part of the calibration of the system software.
Signs to look for if you suspect you use the wrong type of engine oil
If you suspect that you are using the wrong type of oil, there are a few signs you can look for. One immediate indicator is the iron level within the oil since iron is a clear sign of wear. The iron levels are checked by using an oil analysis program where you take an oil sample and send it to a laboratory for analysis. Signs that you use the wrong oil can also be visible in how the engine performs. It can be revealed in your fuel consumption, since it affects the amount of fuel you use. The wrong oil can over time affect the amount of wear on your engine, allowing you to see signs of burning oil for example on changing colours on the exhaust emissions. You can also see signs of changes in general cost of ownership and during maintenance.
The additives in the oil are adjusted to fit specific engine types
When choosing the right type of oil it is also important to consider what type of engine you have. There are oils specifically designed for heavy-duty diesel engines, engines in passenger cars as well as in motorcycles. The oils differ in additives and formulation depending on for example different engine temperatures, the repetitive and long-term use of the engine, the speed range of the engine and the machine load. Also, different engine types need different amounts of oil. One important aspect of designing modern engines is to reduce the amount of oil required. Since one of the oil functions is to cool the engine, the amount of oil is often determined by the amount of heat that is produced in the engine. If the oil is designed to handle higher temperatures or the temperature of the engine can be reduced, that could highly affect the amount and what type of oil that is required.
Environmental-friendly engine oil contains low amounts of sulphur
Historically, a common component in engine oils has been sulphur since it is very good in protecting gear surfaces. However, we are now moving away from sulphur in oils since it can cause damage to the environment. The engine oil plays a big role when it comes to reducing harmful exhaust emissions. The oil needs to have low amounts of sulphur, a so-called low SAPS oil, for the engine to produce low emissions. Low SAPS oils contain low levels of sulphated ash, phosphorus and sulphur. The reduction of sulphur has caused a lot of challenges when it comes to oil formulation. That means that modern oils are much more technically demanding than the old style oils.
The right oil keeps costs down and maintains high production efficiency
Oil is an important component to keep costs down and maintain high efficiency in a production. At Volvo Penta, we design our own engine oils. We focus on designing oils that benefit our customers’ business by keeping their total cost of ownership down and their machinery working without breakdowns. We take our environmental responsibility very seriously. Therefore, we have implemented certain regulations affecting the chemical content of our engine oils to make sure they live up to current industry best practice. We believe that every component in the engine counts in order for your machine to help you achieve a profitable business. We see the engine oil as an important component in the engine, just like any piston, gear or valve. Therefore, we focus on designing high-quality engine oils that will facilitate the lives for both you and your engine.
This was the first part of two in my articles series about oil. The second part will describe oil upgrades, why they are done and how an upgraded oil can benefit your engine’s performance. Please contact me if you have any questions or visit Volvo Penta’s website for more information. Also, don’t forget to read the blog article Improve your engine’s performance with oil analyses.