A slippery situation

As vehicle technology develops, so too does the oil that goes into the engine

Published:  20 August, 2014

There is more to oil than simply putting it in the filler cap and making sure the levels are correct. It lubricates, reduces friction and helps an engine to perform at the peak of its power.

Over the last 20 years, the average age of the UK car parc has remained steady at around seven years. However, a seven year-old car in 1994 is very different to a seven year-old car today. Imagine a Mk4 Ford Escort compared to a Mk2 Ford Focus and you will get an idea of the advancements that are coming through the garage doors today.

So, where is the industry heading and what challenges await with the next generation of vehicles that will soon enter the independent garage? Nevil Hall, joint managing director at Miller's Oils, comments: "Smaller engines are prone to less friction, so a lower cylindered engine with less bearings and so forth means there are fewer parts to create friction and therefore makes it more economical.

"The use of turbochargers is really influencing the quality of base oil and the blend of additives in the oil. The turbocharger provides a real challenge and is becoming increasingly prevalent as manufacturers seek to increase power on smaller engines. It's very hot, with an oil temperature north of 200ºC. As we have found, for every ten degrees above 70ºC, the service life of oil is halved. Therefore with the heat from a turbocharger, more is needed to ensure that the engine oil can continue to do its job and do it well. The lubricant is required to carry burnt oil in with itself so it is not deposited in the sump or other sensitive parts. Therefore, there is a need to create additives that help to resist oxidising and when it does; oxidised parts are kept in suspension while the oil, what is left of it, continues to pump around the engine. All this is also coming from a smaller sump, so less oil has to work twice as hard."

You may have seen ACEA grading on oil specifications but what exactly do they mean?

The performance of the oil is broken down in to different categories. A relates to petrol, B for Diesel and C for catalyst compatible or low SAPS (Sulphated Ash, Phosphorus and Sulphur). Many oils graded today are suitable for both petrol and light diesel engines, which mean grades A and B are often combined. C grade oil is used in engines fitted with a DPF.

ACEA A1/B1

ACEA A3/B3

ACEA A3/B4

ACEA A5/B5

ACEA C1

ACEA C2

ACEA C3

ACEA C4

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