by Danny Harwood, Technical Application Specialist, Automotive & Energy, Broughton Lubricants
Choosing the right oil for your vehicle or fleet can not only deliver major improvements in performance, but can also reduce maintenance requirements and decrease how much oil you need to use, lowering costs over the long term. Switching to a new type of oil is usually inexpensive, meaning there are very few drawbacks to doing so. For fleet owners, multiplying these advantages across all vehicles can generate considerable savings and enhancements over time.
Even if you are not looking to make a switch, and merely need to top up your vehicle when the oil runs low, it is crucial to select the right product. Mixing oils of different grades can result in critical issues, especially if the product you use has not been tested for compatibility with your engine. Finding the right oil to meet your needs can ensure your vehicle continues to operate efficiently, or maximise its performance, depending on your particular aims.
Here, the technical specialists at Broughton Lubricants will help you to understand the key differences between the automotive lubricant products on the market, and explain how you can determine the best product for your needs.
Learn what your vehicles need
Choosing the right oil for your vehicle can be difficult because there is a large selection of automotive lubricants available on the market. Oils may differ in terms of their base (which may be mineral, semi-synthetic or fully synthetic oil), their viscosity, and the additives they contain. Additives are designed to confer extra benefits like wear resistance or corrosion protection. Every product combines different technical specifications to ideally suit a different application, so it can be difficult to identify the best one.
However, the size of this range means that you should look at the specific requirements of your vehicle or fleet rather than at products. Start with the minimum technical requirements for your vehicle. You will be able to find these in the relevant Haynes manual or vehicle owner’s handbook. This guide should also provide a recommendation of a specific oil product, and while it is unlikely that this will deliver enhanced performance or cost savings, it will be suitable for topping up your vehicle or general maintenance.
Once you have a list of technical specifications, think about the particular requirements of your application. Additives can deliver a number of key benefits; they might help an oil operate at especially high or low temperatures, which can be useful if your vehicle needs to function effectively in a hot or cold climate. They may also increase oil pressure and engine compression to reduce oil consumption, cutting maintenance requirements and saving you time.
Choose the right oil
By starting with your vehicle’s requirements when choosing a new oil, you can be sure to find the perfect product for your needs. If you manage a fleet that contains different vehicles – i.e., a combination of motorcycles, cars, vans, trucks, HGVs, and buses – you should consider each type separately. It may even be worthwhile to do so for different makes and models of the same vehicle, if you want to ensure maximum efficiency and performance from the product you select. Using the same product in a variety of different vehicles will deliver performance improvements in some, but may cause performance deficiencies in others.
Once you understand your vehicle’s requirements in detail and have chosen any additional enhancements you think would be beneficial, you can narrow down your search. This may still be difficult because of the high number of engine oils on the market; unless you are buying for a vintage or competition vehicle, or your engine has uncommon technical specifications, there may be a lot of products that provide the baseline properties you are seeking.
To make this easier, you can start by using an online oil-checker to find a product suggestion, or speak to an expert for recommendations of products that are tailored to your vehicle’s technical demands. This can also help to mitigate other challenges with procuring oil – namely, that the oil market changes frequently and products are regularly upgraded, replaced or discontinued. This can mean that the product identified in your owner’s manual or recommended by your manufacturer no longer exists – but an experienced technician will be able to highlight a direct replacement or suitable alternative.
Changing your oil
When it comes time to change your oil, perform a proper oil change (or have a mechanic do this for you). It is important that you do not mix different oils together, as this can cause a number of problems; it removes traceability for quality or performance issues, and might void any OEM approval that an oil has earned. The additives in different oils may be incompatible, and could remove the performance enhancements you would otherwise enjoy.
If you are pressed for time or you do not have the technical knowledge to source the best engine oils for your application, you can start by speaking to an expert and save time on your search. Technical specialists will often be able to provide immediate advice on products that will achieve your objectives, and help you to carry out the other steps in this process yourself in the future. It is useful to understand this approach in any case, because it will help to clarify your expectations from your new engine oil and can allow you to repeat the process for a fleet with a large variety of vehicles. By following these steps, you can optimise efficiency, reduce how much oil you need to use, and save money, all while enjoying the reassurance that your vehicle or fleet is operating at peak performance.