Auto Parts, Lubricants and Vehicle Safety
Which lubricants are used in vehicle maintenance?
When people talk about maintenance, they often only consider engine oil, which represents the biggest volume. But next to it, there are a series of other lubricants specially design to protect the different mechanics' components:
- Automatic transmission oils
- Manual Transmission oil
- Brake fluids,
- Axle oils,
- Steering fluids
- The greases
Why are lubricants important for vehicle maintenance?
Engine oil is the lifeblood of the engine. Its unique combination of properties is balanced to serve the needs of the different types of applications:
Reducing friction is the primary function of a lubricant. The parts move quickly and close to each other, an engine wouldn’t survive for long without a lubricant to 'smoothen things up'.
Cooling is necessary because a combustion engine heats up to high temperatures. Without a lubricant, it would break down from the heat it produces itself!
Cleaning concerns the impurities that exist in an engine. Combustion produces soot and contaminants. Without lubricants, these would form large deposits in the oil passages, restriction
Controlling acids and corrosion is of vital importance for the engine’s lifespan. An engine collects acids. These can cause major damage in the form of corrosion, a decrease in performance or even fatal engine failure.
Managing viscosity will help to ensure stable engine oil performance. The viscosity is the "thickness" of a lubricant. Each type of engine can only use a set of different viscosities, so it is of vital importance to keep the viscosity within those margins.
Controlling the oxidation rate of engine oil will guarantee stable engine performance in-between oil changes. High temperatures cause engine oil to oxidize, changing the original composition of the oil.
Which vehicle components require the application of grease and oil?
The most important part is, of course, the engine and the following parts:
- The turbocharger
- The pistons and liners
- The camshaft
- The Crankshaft
- The Main and rod bearings
- The valve train
But also all the transmissions, the breaks, the hydraulic systems, axles and steering mechanisms, the gearbox, etc.
What are the major differences between oil and grease?
These lubricants are made for totally different applications. A lubricant will be more viscous, in other terms, more liquid than a grease. The high level of viscosity of greases will enable usage in open lubricating applications. Which is not possible with oil. Grease has the capacity to stick to the service where used.
Both products are made of base oil and additives, but a ‘soap’ (e.g. lithium, calcium) will be added to the greases to provide more consistency.
Can the non-mechanically inclined vehicle owner apply both oil and grease? In which scenarios should the usage be left to a qualified mechanic?
Even if changing engine oil may not sound very difficult for any handyman, we recommend you to require the assistance of a qualified mechanics when performing this critical task. As already mentioned, the lubricant is the blood of the car, therefore doing the service does not only mean replacing used oil by new oil but also performing a full diagnostic to understand what is going on in the engine. The expertise, experience and the tooling of professionals will definitely make the difference.
The replacement of transmission oil, brake fluids, and greases, are so complex that it should always be left to professionals.
For the rest, some “other” products like coolants and screen washer can easily be filled by non-mechanics.
Is it a one-type-fits-all or are there different types, grades and characteristics we should be aware of when buying grease and oil?
The world of lubricants becomes more and more complex, as specific engines require specific, advanced lubricants. The time is over when just a few types of motor oil could service 98% of cars.
Every lubricant has his specific application depending on the specification and the viscosity required by the OEM.
Therefore the most important recommendation is to always follow the recommendations of the vehicle manufacturer.
In order to support mechanics professionals and car owners, Wolf Lubricants have developed an online tool available on www.wolflubes.com and an application available on Apple Store and Google Play.
You just need to select your vehicle, and you will see all the lubricants recommended by the OEM.
Would the following be important in the selection of a lubricant?
- Type and Purpose of Use of Vehicle? Passenger vehicle / delivery vehicle / bakkie/ tractor /sports car?
- The terrain where the vehicle is Used? Construction site or in Agriculture?
- Weather conditions? Rain, Mud, Seasonal Changes [Heat v Ice]?
The type of lubricant recommended for your vehicle will vary according to the type of vehicle (Passenger Car, Light Commercial Vehicle, Construction equipment, etc.), the type of the engine (Diesel, Petrol), but also according to the conditions in which the vehicle will be used. For this latter, most of the time more severe use conditions (high temperature, dusty environment, etc.) will lead to shorter service intervals.
What are the risks of using an inferior or incorrect type of oil or grease?
On one side, for new vehicles, you will lose your warranty.
On the other side, you risk insufficient lubrication, excessive oil consumption, low power, excessive fuel consumption, low protection of the components. In other terms, you risk damage or breakdown of your engine.
Where can a vehicle owner gain more information on vehicle lubricants?
Information can be found in various locations:
- Car manual
- OEM website
- Wolf Oil website (www.wolflubes.com)
What is the best advice to consumers on buying grease and oil and using it in vehicle maintenance?
The best advice is to use the always use the oil and/or grease recommended by the vehicle manufacturer. Do not start to experiment.
The second advice is to not compromise with quality. Always prefer brands recommended by the car manufacturer as choosing a low-quality cheap product to save a couple of ZAR often mean postponing the expense and exposing you to engine damage.
What are the benefits of Synthetic oils vs Mineral oils?
Base oils can be segmented into two groups based on how they are obtained:
• mineral base oils, group I and II, are base oils refined from crude oil
• synthetic base oils, group III, which are mineral-based oils refined through hydrocracking, and group IV and V, which are oils purely generated by synthetic or chemical processes
The trend towards more performing lubricants encourages oil blenders to invest even more in their synthetic oil product range. Technical evolutions of the past decade brought engine designs that require more sophisticated oil formulations.
In the past, you could use mineral base oils for basically every type of engine, but the newest engine designs no longer support these. At Wolf, we mostly work with synthetic base oils as they show a significantly better performance on all characteristics.
The benefits of synthetic base oils:
- improved fuel economy and power output
- better resistance to temperature fluctuations and oxidation processes
- cleaner engine surfaces
- superior wear control
- increased drain interval of the finished lubricant
[A word of appreciation to Frederico Alves from Wolf Lubricants for the assistance provided]