5 Oil Myths Debunked

2020/03/01

Humankind has been using oil for at least 4,000 years, and oil myths go back just as far. Ancient people believed crude oil had medicinal benefits. Around the turn of the 14th century, Marco Polo discovered camel drivers using it to treat mange. Plus, the first Venezuelan oil export was intended as a gout treatment. And if you thought oil myths were limited to skincare products and miracle cures, think again! There are plenty of old mechanics’ wives’ tales that, if taken seriously, would kill your engine in a few thousand miles.

Myth: Heavy oil is better in summer and light oil is better in winter

Fact: Use the oil specified for your year, make, and model. Multigrade 5W-20 oil is already heavier in summer and lighter in winter. Thanks to specific oil additives, 5W-20 flows like 5-weight oil when cold and 20-weight oil when hot. In any case, ambient temperature has very little effect, as engine oil typically runs upwards of 90 degrees Celsius (200 degrees Fahrenheit).

Myth: Engine oil lasts forever

Fact: Engine oil is comprised of at least 70 % petroleum or synthetic base oil, neither of which lasts forever, and up to 30 % additives. In the violent engine environment, oil oxidizes and acidifies, leaving deposits. Oil additives oxidize and evaporate, leaving the base oil behind without the additive’s benefits. Change your oil on time, every time, to keep the system clean and protected.

Myth: Oil is fine if you can’t see or feel any grit or particles

Fact: Particles as fine as 0.005 in can’t be detected by hand, but can still damage bearings, especially in newer engines using 5W-20 and 0W-20 oils. Quality oil filters prevent particles from flowing through the engine lubrication system. Replacing the oil filter every oil change protects against overloading, overpressure, and unfiltered oil running through the engine.

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Myth: You need to change your oil every 5,000 kilometres

Fact: Oil change intervals depends on the vehicle as much as the vehicle’s use. Start with the suggested interval for your year, make, and model, then adjust from there. For vehicles with lots of highway miles, the interval may be 8,000, 12,000, or 16,000 kilometres. For vehicles frequently driven in the city, on short trips or for towing and hauling, follow the severe service schedule, usually 5,000 or 8,000 kilometres. It’s a good idea to get an oil change at least annually if you don’t hit the mileage interval.

Myth: Engine oil is a fine replacement for gear oil

Fact: Because of its lower shear point, engine oil would lead to premature wear in a differential. Engine oil and gear oil have very different properties. Engine oil simply isn’t heavy enough to protect heavy-duty gear mesh in a differential. The oil additives are also different: gear oil sticks while engine oil flows.

Snake oil is alive and well, and engine oil myths persist without solid basis. Don’t fall for these myths and let your engine suffer the consequences. Always get your oil changed on time, use a quality oil filter, and choose the oil recommended by the automaker for your specific vehicle.

By Benjamin Jerew

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