“by Danny Harwood, Technical Application Specialist, Automotive & Energy, Broughton Lubricants”
There are many engine oils available on the market, and this can make it difficult to determine which is the best product for your application. However, it is important to do so: choosing the right engine oil can deliver performance enhancements, reduce maintenance needs and ultimately enable you to save money in the long term.
Even if you only want to find the right product to top up your engine, and have no interest in improved efficiency, there are several common challenges that can make shopping for oil a confusing prospect. You can often use an online oil checking tool to find a suitable product, or consult the vehicle owner’s handbook for a manufacturer’s recommendation – however, the oil market changes so frequently that these products may have been discontinued, replaced or upgraded, making it harder to find what you need.
Here, the technical advisors at Broughton Lubricants will explain the key differences between engine oils, help you to identify the best type of oil for your vehicle, and guide you through the process of choosing a specific product so that you can feel confident in your purchase.
Start with a recommendation
While your product manufacturer’s recommendation may not be available to purchase – and will not necessarily deliver the best performance improvements – it is a good place to start. The recommended product can help to indicate the minimum technical specifications your lubricant will need to meet, and suggest whether there are certain additives that will benefit your specific application.
If you have strong technical knowledge relating to your needs, you can use this as a starting point. If you need support, it is usually best to seek advice from a technical expert. A specialist with detailed knowledge of the lubricants market will often be able to quickly identify the latest version of an old, discontinued product, and if you are aiming only to top up your engine without any performance improvements, you may be able to end your search here.
A suitable expert will also be able to make recommendations relating to the specifics of your vehicle or its intended use. Whether you use this as a starting point to begin your search, or decide that the recommended product is the right one for you, this can be an extremely useful step in procuring a new engine oil.
Compare different products
With a recommended product, you can start to understand the technical specifications your new engine oil needs to meet. The differences between oil products may be significant and fundamental, or relatively minor; to help ensure you consider suitable options, you should bear in mind some of the most fundamental differences and learn exactly what you need to look for.
These fundamental factors include:
- What type of base oil is used? This might be mineral, synthetic or semi-synthetic oil
- What level of viscosity do you need? This will change with the temperature of the engine, and some applications have very specific requirements in order to function effectively
- Are there additives that could help? Many engine oils contain additives that confer additional properties, such as rust inhibitors or anti-foaming agents
This is important because there are risks associated with choosing the wrong oil. If you choose a product that is not properly optimised, or that has not been sufficiently tested for compatibility with your engine, it could cause damage to your vehicle.
Replace the oil
These risks may be compounded when you come to use the new oil. It is important to perform a full oil change, or to have a mechanic do this for you, because mixing two different products can have negative consequences. The worst-case scenario is that oils can separate inside the reservoir; while this is unlikely, it may be that the additives in the products you choose are incompatible. This can neutralise any benefits and also cause damage to your engine in extreme cases.
It may be best to use a product approved by the original equipment manufacturer (OEM), but by mixing oils together, you may void any OEM approval that would otherwise apply to your oil. For all of these reasons, it is best to avoid mixing oils wherever possible.
If you adhere to these steps and follow our advice, you will not only be able to pick the ideal engine oil for your car or fleet, but you’ll also enjoy optimal performance and efficiency from your engine. This can reduce your vehicle’s maintenance needs and give you peace of mind that it will operate as effectively as possible for the foreseeable future.