By Mark Powell, Business Unit Director at Broughton Lubricants
Choosing the right engine oil can make a significant difference to the efficiency of a vehicle. If you understand the specific needs of your engine, and have some awareness of the technical specifications you should look for, you can deliver enhanced performance by investing in the right product. Whether you are responsible for a fleet, maintain a classic car or competition vehicle, or simply want to get the best from your engine, understanding some of the nuances of oil and lubricant engineering can ensure you get the best possible results.
First, it is important to establish that different categories of vehicles need different types of oil. Some people are sceptical about the value a higher quality oil can provide, and especially when managing a fleet, it can be tempting to buy a single product and use this for all types of vehicles. While this avoids the need to buy multiple products, it can actually be extremely inefficient and cause you to lose money in the long run.
Motorcycles, trucks and HGVs, buses and other types of vehicles all have different requirements, and trying to use the same lubricant product for each can result in less efficient consumption. While you may only have to buy one lubricant product at a time, your fleet will use more and as a result, you will need to replace this far more frequently than if you have bespoke products for each vehicle type or requirement. The same is true for different makes and models of car, especially if high performance is an important factor.
Why are there so many types of oil?
Thanks to years of development and refinement, modern engine oils are carefully formulated to meet precise requirements, and there are products available that are tailored to each application. This includes the fact that different engines will require oils with different levels of viscosity, so this is one of the first things you will need to consider.
Engine oils contain additives with a variety of functions that offer benefits beyond what the base component (either mineral oil or synthetic oil) can provide. These functions can include amplifying or reducing the inherent properties of the underlying base oil (such as viscosity, corrosiveness or foaming tendency) or adding new properties (such as the ability to operate effectively at extreme temperatures, or tackiness and adhesive agents) to a base oil.
Part of the choice you will need to make is between synthetic and mineral-based oils. Mineral oils tend to flow more slowly through engines, which can lead to increased consumption and lower efficiency, but work very effectively at high temperatures. Synthetic oils, meanwhile, have been refined to remove impurities which means that they are often more stable and can last longer.
Choosing the optimum product for your specific engine means choosing the right combination of additives to deliver maximum performance, and this means that your goal – whether high performance in competition, more environmentally sound operation of an older engine or maximum efficiency across a fleet – will determine the type of oil you should choose as much as the vehicle you are buying for.
How do you know which oil to choose?
Part of the problem when replacing engine oil is that products on the market change so frequently. The process of development is such that new, upgraded products regularly replace older ones and this means that it can be hard to find the correct information for which oil you should choose. For example, you can refer to a Haynes Manual or manufacturer’s recommendations for engine fluids in certain cases, but even when these suggestions are available for older vehicles, the products may not be.
This means that it can be extremely valuable to speak to an expert – they will know if a direct replacement for a product exists, or be able to offer you a similar product based on the technical specifications of the original recommendation. This type of insight is invaluable, especially for fleet managers or those responsible for purchasing products, but who do not have strong technical awareness of how their vehicles operate.
Another option is to use an online tool to check which oil is going to be most suitable for your needs. For classic cars, there are even products designed to imitate older formulations of lubricants that are more suitable for these vintage engines, while still providing the benefits of contemporary additives to offer upgraded performance to vehicles that may be as many as 50 years old or more.
All of this means that there is almost certain to be an appropriate product for your specific application, and with help and guidance, you will be able to find the right oil for your needs. Ultimately, this can improve efficiency and performance, and with the right support, it is not difficult to make the change.