Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Why and How does Oil Break Down

The biggest reason oil breaks down is because of HEAT. Although there are many other factors which lead to the breakdown of oil, heat is the most important. Each type of oil that you put in your car has a certain amount of heat tolerance. The temperature to which this oil first gives off vapors is known as the “Flash Point”. This flash point differs between different types and brands of oils. A lower flash point means that that certain type of oil will suffer vaporization loss sooner when exposed to high temperatures and this will lead to oil burn off by hot pistons and cylinders; therefore, reducing the amount of oil in your engine.

Today’s engines are smaller in size and fed less oil than the engines of the past, while they are still expected to put out the same amount of power. This makes the engines run a lot hotter and it puts an increased burden on the oil, causing it to burn up and break down quicker.

Heat breaks down the smaller, lighter molecules of oil first. This can lead to deposits and sludge being left behind and coating your engine that can cause damage. This also only leaves the larger, heavier oil molecules behind to protect your engine. These particles do not flow as well and they tend to blanket your engine’s components, which only increases the heat problem and leads to further oil burn off.

As oil breaks down chemically over time it loses its lubrication properties. Oil thins out over time as it’s certain elements are lost to HEAT and other chemical changes. Oil, therefore, lasts longer in a more moderate climate zone than a hot one.

Summer and Winter Oil Types…
By consulting your car’s owners manual you will see that there are different types of oil that are better in certain conditions. There should even be a climate zone map that would point you in the correct direction as to which oil to use.

There are two basic types of oil:
1) 5W30 (for winter conditions)
2) 10W30 (for summer conditions)

10W30 is intended for very hot conditions, as this is when oil burns up the fastest. 10W30 does not thin out as easily as the 5W30 and it provides ones engine with more lubrication in hot conditions.

For most of Canada it is ok to just use 5W30 all year round if you like. The reason behind this is the fact that you car would never really be exposed to extremely hot conditions that often, except for maybe the odd day in the summer.

It is also a good idea to use 10W30 on older vehicles as it will give them a little more lubrication, especially in the winter. But don’t be surprised if you feel a few more knocks in your engine if you do so in the winter months.


William Bryant said...

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And we'd love to have your articles/blogs as part!

--William Bryant, wbryant [at] bensonspartanburg.com

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