The ultimate guide to car oil
Car oil is crucial to your engine, and without it, a whole host of engine systems can be damaged – some irreparably. What is it, what types of car oil are there, what car oil does your vehicle need, how do you check it, and how do you top up and change car oil? Understand it all in our ultimate guide to car oil.
What is car oil?
Car oil lubricates your vehicle’s engine and its parts. Engine components constantly move against one another, generating friction and heat. Left unchecked, this can quickly wear down even the strongest metal components and cause the engine to fail.
Car oils reduce friction between parts, as well as cooling the engine, improving performance and limiting the oxidation and corrosion of metals in the engine, plus a host of other benefits.
Types of car oil
There are three types of car oil types available to motorists:
- Mineral car oils, which are produced by refining crude oil. Ineffective compared to contemporary oils, they are typically used to lubricate classic cars.
- Synthetic car oils are highly refined to remove impurities then re-organised on the molecular level to enhance the capabilities of the oil. They are commonly used with modern vehicles. Synthetic oils also feature additives such as detergents to clean the engine of deposits and anti-foaming agents to stop the formation of bubbles. Learn more about oil additives.
- Semi-synthetic car oils combine mineral and synthetic oils into a mix containing fewer additives than fully synthetic lubricants, but more additives than mineral. They are less expensive, but offer lower performance than fully synthetic oils.
What oil does my car need?
Each vehicle requires a different car oil, designed to meet the requirements of the car’s design, its level of performance, and the conditions it will operate in. These capabilities are noted by the car oil’s grade – learn more about what oil grades mean.
You can find out which grade your vehicle needs by checking your owner’s manual, or use LubAdvisor, which lets you input your registration, search or select your car, then receive detailed information on which car oil is best for your needs.
Why is my car oil light on?
If your dashboard car oil light is illuminated, your car’s oil reserves are low and about to run out, or your oil pressure is low, which may be due to a malfunctioning oil pump – the component that circulates oil within your engine.
If your car oil light is on, you should park and turn off your vehicle’s engine as soon as possible, as driving with low or no oil can quickly damage your engine, leading to costly repairs.
Once you have parked on a level surface, check your oil level and top it up (learn how below) or visit your mechanic as soon as possible.
How to check your car oil
Checking your car's oil level is simple:
- Turn off your car on a level surface and let it run cold.
- Open the bonnet, pull out the dipstick and wipe it clean.
- Fully put the dipstick back in its pipe without forcing, keeping it straight.
- Remove the stick again, checking where the oil level is with regards to the ‘Min’ and ‘Max’ levels on the stick.
- If the level is below ‘Min’, it needs to be topped up. If it’s above ‘Max’, you should remove oil from the system.
How to top up your car oil
If your car oil level is low, you need to top it up. Here’s how to put oil in your car:
- Locate the oil filler cap, located near the engine block and dipstick ring. Consider checking your owner’s manual as the exact location differs between vehicles.
- Remove the cap, then slowly pour a small amount of oil into the tank.
- Check the oil level with the dipstick.
- If the level isn’t above ‘Min’ mark, repeat step two.
- If the level is between ‘Min’ and ‘Max’ marks, refasten the oil filler cap and reinsert the dipstick.
How to change your car oil
Every vehicle needs a car oil change after it has accrued a certain amount of mileage. This is because the oil accumulates deposits and impurities from the engine as you drive and is slowly burnt off over time due to the high temperature of the engine. The result is that old oil isn’t as effective as new and must be replaced to ensure performance and protection.
The frequency of an oil change depends on the vehicle, engine type and many other variables, so check your owner’s manual to find out the correct oil interval for your car.
If you need to change your oil, either visit a mechanic or follow these steps:
- Make sure your car’s engine is cold and parked level.
- Remove the dipstick and oil filler cap.
- Place a drain pan under the oil drain plug. This is located beneath the engine block.
- Remove the plug and allow the car oil to drain out of the engine.
- Once drained, clean the plug, replace the gasket and refasten the oil drain plug.
- Before you refill, it’s a good idea to replace the oil filter.
- Remove the old filter with an oil filter wrench.
- Install the new filter.
- Take the oil pan, putting the oil in a sealed container. You must take this to your local oil bank – putting car oil in the sewer system is illegal.
- Ensure the oil plug is securely screwed.
- Pour new oil into the engine using the steps in the previous section of this article.
- Refasten the filler cap, start the car run it for several minutes to allow the oil to flow throughout the engine.
Total offer a wide range of car oils for motorists. Explore our products.