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How the right engine oil can save you thousands of dirhams on repairs

A good oil can add years to your car's engine

Gulf News

Dubai: Using the right lubricants can extend your engine’s life and save you thousands of dirhams worth of damage. Yet, many motorists in the UAE do not know what is the right type of oil for their cars or the damage that can be done if it is not changed regularly. “Most people that buy lubricants don’t know what to buy,” said V. Ramesh Rao, general manager at Gulf Oil Middle East Limited.

Choosing the right oil doesn’t just depend on your engine type, you must also consider the climate where you live. Motorists in the UAE, where the climate is hot, should use an oil that is thick, to better lubricate the engine, explains Rao. “If thin oil is used in a hot climate, it won’t lubricate, and that damages the engine,” he said.

The Society of Auto Engineering (SAE) issues weight designations for oils. Motorists in the UAE should use oil with grades of SAE 30 and above, including SAE 40 and SAE 50, he said. The higher the weight (indicated by the number), the better it can perform in hot environments. In Europe, with its cooler weather conditions, motorists use thin oil, normally with a grade of SAE 10, Rao said. However, the lubricant industry is seeing a shift toward multi-viscosity or multi-grade oils, rather than mono-grade. Viscosity measures the thickness of oil and its ability to flow at specific temperatures. Motorists experiencing different weather conditions throughout the year normally use multi-grade oils, which are a blend of different thicknesses, that flow well at both high and low temperatures.

Types of base oil

These multi-grade oils include SAE grades of 5W-30 and 10W-30, which are suitable for temperatures as low as -18 degrees Celsius, according to the American Petroleum Institute (API). The ‘W’ here indicates better winter performance. There are two main types of base oil. Mineral oil, which is almost entirely natural, is normally used in cold temperatures since it offers less lubrication than synthetic oil.

Synthetic oil, which has a heavy chemical composition, outperforms mineral oil when it comes to its ability to handle high and low temperatures, according to Amr Adel, general manager for Middle East, Central Asia and East at Shell Oil. “The advantage of synthetics is that they provide better protection than mineral engine oils over a wider temperature range,” he said. In extreme cold, mineral oil thickens, while synthetic oil retains its texture and does not break, Rao said. Adel recommends motorists use mineral oil with a low [or thin] viscosity grade. “There is a misconception in the market that we must use very high viscosity mineral engine oils and change them [often]. However, the fact is that modern engines have narrower clearances and smaller oil paths and require lower viscosity oils to reach every nook and cranny inside,” he said. Motorists are advised to use good-quality oil, preferably approved by the API. In the UAE, old oils (with obsolete grades) are not removed from the market, said Rao, and poor-quality or old oil can ruin your engine. “The are no safety issues with using the wrong quality of oil, but your engine will be damaged. Maybe not now, but it could be within a year. It can over-heat and there could be problems, like [slow] acceleration, vibrations and starting issues,” Rao said.

Replacing your damaged engine can cost you around Dh20,000, or even more depending on the make and model of your car, he said. While good-quality oil may be a little costlier than an old, low-quality lubricant, it can save you money as it will help keep engine maintenance costs to a minimum, according to Rao.

To keep engines running smoothly, Adel advises motorists to use the type of lubricant specified in the car owner’s manual.

An oil’s viscosity grade (thickness), specifications and service rating, are listed on its label.

Petrol and diesel engines require different lubricating oils. The API, which is responsible for the certification and licensing of engine oils in the US, designates oils for petrol engines in cars, vans, and light trucks with an ‘S’ for service. Those oils to be used in diesel engines in heavy-duty trucks and vehicles are designated ‘C’, for commercial.

Some of the current categories are SN, SM, SL, SJ (for gasoline engines), and CJ-4, C1-4 and CH-4 (for diesel engines), according to the API.


Fact Box

1. Choose between mineral and synthetic oil depending on your car engine and the climate in which you drive.

2. Make sure you use good-quality oil, preferably one that is approved by the American Petroleum Institute.

3. Use a filter to clean the oil and prevent dust from spreading in the engine.

4. Change the oil regularly, every 20,000 to 25,000 km on average

5. Check the car’s owner’s manual for the specifications and viscosity of the right engine oil

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