By Danny Harwood, Technical Application Specialist Automotive & Energy, Broughton Lubricants
For many people, the question of which engine oil they should use for their vehicle only comes up when they are running low. Certainly, it is vital to choose the right product when you are topping up – mixing oils of different grades or with different additives can cause serious problems, especially if you use an oil that has not been tested for compatibility with your engine. However, it is just as important to ensure that you are using the optimum oil for your vehicle on a day-to-day basis.
Selecting the best possible oil for your vehicle can improve performance, increase efficiency, reduce wear and maintenance needs and cut operating costs. What is more, it is not usually expensive to make the switch, which means that there are significant advantages to doing so and no disadvantages. If you manage a fleet, these benefits will multiply by the number of vehicles and can deliver significant savings over time as a result.
With this said, you should consider each vehicle separately. If you own or operate a fleet containing different models or types of vehicles – HGVs, vans, trucks, or even buses or motorcycles – using the same product for all of them will not deliver the improvements you are seeking. Instead, you should undertake this process for all of your vehicles to maximise performance across your fleet. While it may be more expensive upfront to buy a different engine oil for each vehicle, choosing a product that is optimised for your application will mean that you do not need to use as much, and this will result in savings over time.
Here, the experts from Broughton Lubricants will explain the differences between the range of automotive lubricant products that are available, detail how you can identify the right product for each application, and outline the specific benefits you might expect.
It can be difficult to identify the most suitable oil for your application, because there is a huge range of automotive lubricants available. While an inexperienced observer may think that these products seem very similar to each other, there are significant differences – from the base, which may be mineral oil or synthetic oil, to the unique combinations of additives that help to optimise these oils for different applications. They may be designed to operate at high temperatures, resist wear and corrosion, or provide other properties tailored to specific needs.
For this reason, understanding what your vehicle needs is often the most important starting point. From there, you can work to find the product that fulfils these specifications, or delivers as many of them as possible. You should ask yourself a number of questions to identify your technical requirements and determine your priorities:
- What type of vehicle are you buying for?
- Does it have a petrol/gasoline or diesel engine?
- What are the minimum and maximum temperatures at which your engine may need to run?
- Are there any specific additives that would be beneficial, given your operating conditions?
- Are synthetic oil products suitable for your vehicle, or do you need a mineral-based lubricant?
- What product does your vehicle’s manufacturer recommend?
- Does your vehicle have any unusual performance requirements? i.e. is it a vintage model or a competition vehicle?
Using this approach when investing in a new engine oil, you will be sure to find a product that is optimised to meet your exact requirements. In some cases, you can purchase additives separately and add them to your oil in specific concentrations, which gives you even more control over the performance enhancements your engine fluids can provide.
While the selection of oil products on the market means that you are certain to find a suitable product that meets all of your needs, it can also make this process difficult if you do not know where to start. There are a few ways to narrow down and accelerate your search: you can check which product is recommended by your vehicle’s manufacturer, use an online oil-checker to identify the right product, or speak to an expert about your requirements and ask for advice.
There are advantages to each approach, but you should consider a manufacturer’s suggestion or the results provided by an online tool as a starting point only. Sometimes, the recommended oil may be the best product for your application, but you should still take the time to explore alternatives and shop around, because in most cases there will be an oil available that is better tailored to the demands of your application.
The owner’s manual for your vehicle should recommend a lubricant, which can help you to understand any technical specifications your oil must fulfil. However, for older vehicles, any mentions of any specific products may not be up-to-date. The oil market changes rapidly as products are regularly upgraded, replaced or discontinued. Even if the listed oil is available, it may not deliver the best possible results. You will be sure to get the most up-to-date suggestions from a vehicle look-up tool online, but it will usually return a list of results. Unless you have the right level of technical expertise, you may still struggle to choose.
Speaking to an expert is often the best way to make this decision. A person or business with long-term industry experience will be able to identify direct replacements for discontinued products, or suggest a suitable alternative where a replacement does not exist. They can also discuss the needs of your application, identify the technical specifications you require, and recommend the right combinations of additives to deliver benefits beyond general performance improvements.
When it is time to use your new oil, perform an oil change (or have a mechanic do this for you). Mixing oils of different grades or specifications can cause problems: you will lose traceability for any quality or performance improvements; it may invalidate any OEM (original equipment manufacturer) approval a product has received; and there is a risk that they will separate in the oil reservoir, although this is unlikely. Worse, the additives in different products can counteract each other and negate any benefits your new oil should provide. By following the steps above and making the effort to properly understand what you need from an engine lubricant, you can save money, optimise your vehicle’s performance, and enjoy peace of mind about the health of your vehicle’s engine.