Friday, April 22, 2011

Oil: Why you should probably be using synthetic

One thing that I am frequently asked is should I use synthetic oil or not in a vehicle. In almost every case the answer is yes. I use synthetic in all of my vehicles including the old Bronco II. Synthetic oil in general is better than non synthetic because of:
  • Higher film strength
  • Better resistance to oxidation
  • Better cold flow properties
  • Better stability at higher temperatures
  • Higher detergent content
  • Longer drain interval
  • Lower Friction
I frequently hear two complaints against synthetic oil. The first is that it will make your vehicle leak oil or leak more oil than it currently does. The truth is it isn't the oil that makes it leak it is that it cleans out all the crap that was plugging leaks in your engine. So if you have a vehicle that is older and has dried out gaskets it will probably start leaking. It would have started leaking eventually and gaskets are cheep. The other complaint I hear is that it costs more. This is true but you can go to a longer change which usually makes to total cost per mile the same or less that that when using conventional oil. 

Why is higher film strength better?
Film strength is the force needed to push through the film of oil to have metal to metal contact. This higher this is the better protected from wear parts are

Why is better resistance to oxidation important?
Being better able to resist oxidation prevents the oil from breaking down over time. As oil oxidizes its ability to lubricate goes down as it is no longer oil. For those who don't know oxidation is just like burning, except burring is very rapid oxidation.

Why is better cold flow important?
Cold flow is the ability of something to flow like as liquid when cold. The lower temperature oil flows at the colder a vehicle can operate at. Also being able to flow better a cooler temps allows oil to circulate and flow through the engine faster on start up.

Why is better stability at higher temps important?
Heat can cause oil to break down in to other molecules. Some of these molecules could be solvents that thin the oil, some could be tars, some are gases that just escape. This is similar to what is done in oil refineries when they take crude oil and make different thing out of it.

Why is higher detergent content better?
Some may not think this is a good thing as this is what usually causes your engine to leak oil when switching to synthetics. The truth is that this will clean out the crud and crap that has built up over time. If you have seen the Ford commercial where they have the engine that is filled with black stuff that is sludge. It will build up over time and restrict oil flow or prevent oil from getting to moving metal surfaces. Higher detergent contents help clean this out. This is also the most important reason why changing oil regularly is important.

Why is a longer drain interval better?
This should be simple, you don't spend as much on oil. You also don't consume as much oil. Previously when using standard oil I would typically change oil at 2,500 miles, with synthetic I typically change it at 5,000. I have heard of some people going as much as 12,000 to 15,000 between changes but I just can't seem to force my self to go any were near that long. I have gone as much as 7,000 when I couldn't get to it for about 2 and a half weeks and it didn't look much worse than it does when I change it a 5,000.

Why is lower friction better?
Friction is the amount of energy to move one thing across another. By lowering the friction in your engine it takes less energy to move all the moving parts. This means that you get better fuel economy and also your engine produces more power. It makes your engine more efficient.

When you shouldn't use synthetic oil
There are few cases where I wouldn't recommend using synthetic oil:

  • Your car already leaks oil and it leaks from engines seals not gaskets. If you use synthetic oil you will just leak even more oil.
  • You have an older engine that is worn. Here you will just burn lots more oil than you already do
  • You are doing an initial engine break in

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Maintenance Schedule

One of the best things to do for you car is to follow a maintenance schedule. By doing regular maintenance on you vehicle you keep it running at its best and can also find little issue before they become big issues. Additionally by following a regular maintenace schedule you can greatly exten the life of your vehicle. Almost every vehicle I have ever owned has made it well over 200,000 miles with the exception of my last car which got totaled in an accident at 179,000 miles. I have only had 2 vehicles die and both were cheep junk from the 80's that were in pretty bad shape when I got them but even they made it over 200,000 miles, the others were taken out in accidents but were still running great.

I am frequently asked by people when they should have things done on their vehicle and usually provide the same maintenance schedule I follow. I have attached the schedule here as a Google Docs, OpenOffice, and MS Excel spreadsheets. This schedule is on the aggressive side but will allow for some slack and oopses like not being able to get your oil change right on time.

If you need an office program I would suggest using OpenOffice which is a free open source office suite that is similar to MS Office. You can download OpenOffice here for free: OpenOffice download page