You probably know the basic winter jobs that need doing to keep your car in decent condition this winter, even if you’re not that thrilled about the idea of actually doing them. (Not many people are!) Changing the fluids is one well-known winter car maintenance tip, especially the oil.
However, here’s what trips a lot of people up – not all engine oils are the same. Don’t assume that the same oil that worked fine for your last car will work equally well for this one, as it could end up being a very costly mistake. You might well want to get a few more years of use out of your car before it ends up in one of our online car auctions!
So then, to avoid that happening, it’s crucial to make sure you use the right oil grade and specification. Here’s what you need to know.
Why is it so important to choose the right oil?
You don’t need a tonne of specialist expertise to know the basic function of oil in your car – basically, it keeps everything lubricated and running smoothly. If your car runs out of oil, things can start scraping together in a very damaging (and often noisy!) way. This can considerably shorten the lifespan of individual components, and maybe even your car as a whole.
Using the wrong oil is a major problem because it’s not going to keep everything properly lubricated in the way it should, which means it’s often on a par with not using any in the first place. It therefore won’t be effectively protecting the car from wear and tear, which means you’ll probably find yourself having to pay for an expensive repair – or even scrapping the car entirely, if you’re particularly unlucky.
Car engine oil is graded according to its viscosity, a term which basically refers to how thick or thin it is. Viscosity changes with temperature (just like certain foods, if you like – honey, for example). All engine oils are multi-grade to ensure that they can continue doing their job properly under a wide range of operating temperatures, and they’ve normally been enhanced with additives to give them one viscosity when it’s cold, and another one when it’s hot. So when you’re looking at oil, you have to get the one that’s the right viscosity for your car.
How can I make sure I’m getting the right oil?
Your car’s handbook is a pretty foolproof guide to list the specifications and grades of oil that are most suitable for your car, so it’s a good idea to double-check it before you buy anything (and definitely before you put it in your engine!).
You can check the oil’s viscosity for hot and cold on its container. It’ll be represented by a code, such as 5W-30 or 5W-40 – two particularly common examples.
Here’s a quick breakdown of that code:
• 5 refers to the viscosity in cold weather
• W stands for Winter (pretty obvious once you know it, that one!)
• 30 or 40 refers to oil flow at higher engine temperatures
As a general rule, 30 is often for newer petrol engines, and 40 is more widely used for older cars or those with diesel engines.
If you drive a fairly new car, there’s a good chance that you’ll need 5W-30, or an equivalent. Newer cars are a little fussier about the type of oil they’ll work with; they’ll need something that’s durable enough to last them for thousands of miles between services, protecting them from corrosion and sludge formation the entire way.
Newer oils are often – but not always – suitable for older engines too, but that only goes one way. Older specification oils like 40s shouldn’t be used in newer cars, as they have the potential to end up responsible for some serious damage. If you’re struggling with the right oil, it’s a good idea to get in touch with the parts department of a manufacturer’s dealer.
Or, if you need any other parts for your car, you might want to consider taking a look at the salvage cars for sale on our own site here at RAW2K! We stock a variety of models from leading manufacturers, including Volkswagen, Renault, Peugeot and Audi, many of which can be stripped down for parts, and others of which can even be quickly repaired and ‘flipped’ for profit. Why not take a look around our site, and see what you can find?