Oil Chronicles: Prolonging Engine Life
Will using the best available oil prolong engine life?
We all understand the consequences of running an engine out of oil, or out of oil effectiveness. Some of us have experienced those consequences: nasty noises, broken parts, ventilated blocks, blue smoke, long walks home, budget-busting bills.
But what about the other end of that car-care spectrum? Can investing in the best possible oil (and changing it as recommended) actually extend an engine's life beyond its design expectation? "Oil is the lifeblood of the engine," says Quaker State Technology manager Jeff Hsu, "A proper oil can prolong engine life by reducing wear, so it can keep the engine from wearing out prematurely , make your engine last longer."
Wear can occur anywhere there is metal-to-metal contact. That means direct interaction between solid metal surfaces -- in crankshaft and camshaft bearings, piston rings on cylinder walls, valve stems in cylinder heads. "You have reciprocating action, colliding action, gear-mesh rotation," Hsu explains, "and one thing motor oil does is get in between these metal-to-metal parts to reduce wear to prolong engine life. It's the primary area where consumers can directly influence the health and longevity of their engines."
He warns, however, that you don't always know what you're getting: "Every oil looks brand new on the shelf and has all the proper credentials listed on it. But will it actually carry out the needed protection, and the longevity of protection, against wear, rust and viscosity loss until the day you drain it? You want constant value and constant protection, a straight line from start to finish, not one with peaks and valleys where it falls off, and you don't know when it will fall off."
He explains that Quaker State does extensive oil durability testing. For example, its engineers test used oil that has been through very tough duty cycles in fleet vehicles in New York City. "We ask fleet managers to give us their used Quaker State oil after they drain it," he says, "then subject it to new-engine testing to verify that it still has the protection it had when new."
Hsu adds that Quaker State offers a product called Defy, a high-mileage engine oil formulated with extra zinc. "Zinc is used as an antioxidant and anti-wear, and it's heat-activated," he explains. "It keeps the oil from thickening, but its primary task is anti-wear. It gets between high-wear metal-to-metal surfaces, creates a barrier between them and keeps wear from happening."
Regardless of your brand preference, he emphasizes that it's always best to use the proper oil recommended by the automaker, and a "well-positioned" oil that has had its durability proven.
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