Cars and oil go together like peaches and cream. We could not have one without the other, not even discounting electric cars. In some form or another oil is essential to the smooth running of a car and not more so than inside the engine. Oil lubricates the internal moving parts, preventing friction and absorbing heat. Without it, an internal combustion engine will seize up in short order.
The oil in a car’s engine (and to a lesser extent, in the gearbox), over time, will get dirty, thin and exhausted and it will need changing. It says so in the manufacturer’s handbook which recommends regular professional garage car servicing for the vehicle to run at optimum performance. Part of that service is regular oil changes. This is why:
The power to drive the car forward is thanks to the combustion of air and fuel inside the engine; that’s why lubrication is so important. Oil helps to keep the very many internal components of the engine working efficiently, reducing the accumulation of carbon deposits and other contaminants that have made their way into the engine, which may include dirt, dust, metal shavings and the like from collecting on the engine’s internal surfaces. The oil used is not as it comes out of the ground but rather that natural product gets refined and has additives which aid the process of lubrication.
Engines get very hot in use; modern engines especially so. That’s why they are cooled with water and air. Oil too helps pull the heat away from the combustion chambers essentially preventing the engine from having what can be very dramatic seizures which no engine can withstand. Anybody who has had to pay for a replacement power-plant will know how much it costs. That’s the importance of engine oil.
As the oil absorbs the heat and collects the deposits while protecting and keeping the engine running smoothly, it eventually becomes less like fluid and unctuous and ultimately degenerates to appear more like black sludge. No matter the brand or quality (although always using the best is always beneficial), eventually all oil degrades as the additives get used up. That’s why oil, and the filter that keeps it cleaner for longer, should be changed at the stated service intervals. It is even beneficial to change the oil more frequently for vehicles that work harder than is usual.
Over time as described above, the engine oil becomes thick with impurities thus reducing the efficiency of engine lubrication. This in turn causes the motor to have to work harder to produce power. The result of this is a reduction in fuel consumption and an increased chance of other problems.
It is recommended that a car is serviced regularly, but different brands or models have different maintenance intervals, petrol engines and diesel engines differ too so there’s no hard and fast rule: Check the handbook or ask your local servicing garage.
Check For Yourself
Weekly checking of a car’s functions is part of the ownership experience. So to prevent trouble down the road, or worse still beside the road, here are some things that can done in moments.
Check The Oil Level
The ‘how to’ is in the handbook and the level should be checked using the engine’s dipstick – when the engine is cold and the oil has drained to the sump. If it’s below the minimum level, a top-up is needed, but why add good oil to old oil? It doesn’t take long to change the oil in a car, so why not do that?
Colour And Consistency
Fresh oil is light in colour, dirty oil is black. If the oil is black and feels gritty to the touch then that signifies end of life.
The Dreaded White Sludge
While dealing with the above points also take off the oil filler cap and inspect the underside. It should be oily but is there any white sludge? Although this is not a sign of oil exhaustion, it is pertinent because it means that coolant is entering the engine and that requires immediate attention.
The Dashboard Light
The oil light is usually represented by an oil can symbol and is part of the array of warning lights in front of the driver. This light should come on at ignition and go off immediately; if it stays on there’s a problem with the oil system that needs immediate attention from a professional garage.
If for any of the various reasons an owner is unable to do these checks then the local car servicing garage will be happy to attend to it. Oil is the lifeblood of a car; don’t neglect it.