Why do engines need oil?

If petrol or diesel is an engine’s ‘food,’ oil is its blood. Without oil, any engine will be living on borrowed time – and may only last a few short miles before it expires in dramatic style. But if it’s so important, why do so many of us not even give it a second thought?

To help bring you up to speed on the importance of engine oil, we’ve prepared a handy guide containing all of the essential information you need to know. Let’s get started!

It keeps your engine’s components happy

If you’ve ever seen what an engine looks like on the inside, you’ll know just how many moving parts they contain. From the valves to the pistons and camshafts, an engine has dozens of metal components which, especially as the revs rise, have to move and rotate extremely rapidly.

Engine oil smothers each of these components, allowing them to glide smoothly against one another and preventing metal-to-metal contact. Metal-to-metal contact would generate friction and, in turn, heat, so oil not only protects the components against wear but helps keep them cool.

That’s not all it does, either. It helps keep the engine’s many moving parts clean and corrosion-free, the dirt and grime it collects being caught by the engine’s oil filter. That’s why it’s vital to change the oil filter at the same time as the oil: they work together to keep everything running smoothly.

It improves efficiency

Friction doesn’t just mean heat and wear – it means that more force is required to keep the engine’s internal components moving. Without engine oil, your engine would have to work much harder to get your car up to speed, blunting performance and fuel economy. Choosing a good quality engine oil can pay off big time in the long run, as you could save on fuel bills and keep your engine in better shape, minimising the likelihood of repairs being needed.

Choosing the right oil

Engine oil isn’t a universal product; different engines prefer different grades, some of which are thicker than others, so it’s important to check which oil your car’s manufacturer recommends for your specific car.

Because engine oil gets thinner as it heats up, manufacturers will typically recommend using thicker oils if you live in a hot country, and thinner grades if you don’t.

Changing your oil

Whether you’ve got a new or used car, your engine will need its oil changing in accordance with manufacturer recommendations. Some engines can go much longer than others without an oil change, the general rule of thumb being that older cars (and higher-performance models) require fresh oil much more often. An Audi A4 for example generally requires 5w30 or 5w40 fully synthetic oil.

As we mentioned above, the engine oil filter will need to be replaced along with the oil. Changing one without the other won’t help your engine out very much – your new oil will soon become dirty if it’s paired with an old oil filter!

Oil changes aren’t expensive, but help protect your engine and keep it firing on all cylinders (literally) for years and years, making them a total no-brainer.

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