Skip to main content

Low-viscosity doesn’t mean low quality

Low-viscosity doesn’t mean low quality

As motor oil viscosity continues to decrease, base oil and additive quality become more important.

Michael Meuli | VICE PRESIDENT, TECHNICAL DEVELOPMENT

Despite uncertainty surrounding future CAFÉ standards, fuel economy remains the biggest driver of innovation in the auto industry. One strategy for increasing fuel economy involves reducing energy lost to friction. Using lower-viscosity lubricants, which reduce pumping losses and flow easier at startup, helps automakers accomplish this goal. Just as we’ve become accustomed to 0W-20 oils, 0W-16 oil has entered the market and is recommended for the 2018 Toyota Camry and Honda Fit. People are wondering how much lower viscosity can go.

That’s because excessively low lubricant viscosity can reduce wear protection. Some people fear the fuel economy gains of modern low-viscosity oils aren’t worth the potential loss of wear protection. You should be familiar with the relationship between lubricant viscosity and wear protection, but it bears repeating.

Motor oil must develop a durable fluid film that separates engine components so they don’t rub together and wear out. As a rule of thumb, the higher the oil’s viscosity, the thicker the fluid film – and the better the wear protection.

That being the case, you might think it advantageous to throw out your 0W-20 motor oil and use 15W-50 instead. That’s a bad idea, and here’s why.

Modern engines are built with tighter clearances between parts than their predecessors. Let’s take the GM* 3.8L engines we test in our mechanical lab as an example. The clearances between the crankshaft journals and main bearings can be as low as .0007 inches. That’s thinner than a sheet of paper (about .004 inches).

During operation, oil continuously flows through tiny ports in the crankshaft journals to lubricate the journal/ bearing interfaces. It should form a strong, consistent oil film on which the crankshaft journals float as they spin, preventing them from touching the bearings. This is called hydrodynamic lubrication. Oil that’s too thick for the engine, however, may not flow fast enough to fill the clearances, allowing the high spots on metal surfaces to contact. This is called boundary lubrication.

In this case, using a higher viscosity oil than what’s recommended in your modern engine would lead to increased wear. Adding insult to injury, it would reduce fuel economy and increase operating temperatures as well.

Viscosity that’s too low, however, can have the opposite effect. Since viscosity is related to film thickness, low-viscosity oil may not develop an adequate fluid film to keep metal components separated, leading to wear. If bad enough, parts will eventually weld together and destroy the engine.

You can see how modern engines have put oil formulators into a bind. How do we formulate low-viscosity oils that maximize fuel economy while also providing good wear protection in today’s stressful engines?

In a word, quality.

Although oil film thickness is related to lubricant viscosity, film strength is a function of base oil and additive quality. We start with high-quality synthetic base oils that offer naturally high resistance to heat and chemical breakdown.

The challenge, however, is that lower viscosity oils tend to be more volatile, meaning they burn off more easily when exposed to high heat. If you ever look at a motor oil’s NOACK Volatility, you’ll notice volatility tends to increase as the oil viscosity decreases. This is of particular importance since most new vehicles are equipped with turbocharged engines, which generate increased heat. High volatility can lead to excessive oil consumption, which causes the oil to thicken, making it harder to pump through the engine and reducing fuel economy. Oil that has thickened can also lead to deposits and disrupt the additive balance.

That’s why only synthetic base oils can be used to formulate a 0W-16 motor oil. Conventional base oils are too volatile to meet requirements of low-viscosity oil.

Additives, too, play a vital role in low viscosity oils. We talked about boundary lubrication earlier. When in a boundary lubrication situation, protecting against metal-to-metal contact falls on the motor oil’s anti-wear additives, more so than with higher viscosity oils. The additives form a sacrificial barrier on metal parts that absorbs contact and protects the metal surfaces.

Motor oil quality has always been important, but modern low-viscosity oils underscore the point. That’s good news for Dealers selling the best oil on the market.

To help you reach this market, we introduced new OE 0W-16 Synthetic Motor Oil (OES) last month. We’ll monitor demand for 0W-16 oils and introduce additional formulations if demand dictates.

In the meantime, brace yourself for 0W-8 motor oil, which is already being tested in Japan.

The Cost of Owning a Diesel – This Product is Not an Option

Diesel Fuel Additives – Not an Option in Diesel Ownership

Years of reviewing the effects of modern diesel fuel, mechanical issues, costs and designs of injectors, pumps, failures keeps the topic of the misunderstood fuel additive fresh in mind.

Impressive In The Field

As an AMSOIL dealer, one product I rank in the top three where overly positive feedback is almost always given at each sale is our Diesel Injector Clean (and lubricant).  Of course many of those sales were started because I suggested to the customer to try our brand over whatever else they were using. And the majority of the time the customer was not using any at all! But the results seem to be instant thus the higher level of feedback.

Diesel Fuel Additives at Stan Houston's

Display at Stan Houston’s on 12th st – Diesel Fuel Additives and synthetic oils.

What To Expect

I could list all the sales info, product points to know, etc. but you can easily find all that in the product listing or technical data sheet (printable PDF). I wanted to state some of the instant feedback and some savings you can expect!

  • Increased mileage beyond any averages AMSOIL claims. I hear 2 to 3 more MPG’s although that’s not advertised.
  • Quieter engine
  • Regens cut in half – That alone is worth it! Unique to AMSOIL’s formula.
  • More power under load – You’ll notice more with the Cetane Boost
  • Solved sluggishness when passing
  • Skip past expected injector failure mileage to next to none
  • RV’s – amazingly easier starts on seldom used engines
  • Longer fuel filter performance
  • Less water buildup in tank

Lubricity

This is the reason it’s not optional. Not AMSOIL but the industry says you need a lubricant added to every tank of fuel.
AMSOIL recently posted about folks using 2-stroke oil in the fuel. They admitted it worked but only offers a fraction of the lubricant needed especially in modern injectors which rely on products with years of development. The results can be in the thousands saved on repair or replacement costs.

A fuel additive supplier who visited at one of our AMSOIL dealer conventions made it clear. He used a 2015 Chevy Durmax diesel for example. He said in 10 year ownership you will ether spend on average $750 on fuel additives or $6000 to $10,000 in injector repair.

Much of the failure is because the fuel or the over the counter additive doesn’t address corrosion within the injector. The wear resulting which is not visible without a microscope can be devastating to your engines efficiency. The injectors these days usually only have 1 to 2 microns of space around them so you cannot afford even the slightest  dirt causing wear or corrosion from a lack of proper additive.

Best way to buy in Sioux Falls

I keep a healthy supply at my shop at Exit 73 and also at Stan Houston’s on W. 12th St.

The best way to buy is get one 16 oz. bottle and the half gallon as the refill. The savings with the half-gallon is like buying four 160-ounce bottles but paying for three. A sight window is on all bottles assisting with the proper dosage.  And the best part is one ounce (1OZ) treats five gallons! It’s a great bargain even at full retail.

Of course you can buy through our website – AMSOIL Diesel Injector Clean Product Code ADF.

We also have 5-gallon sizes for OTR Trucking operations and a small 8 ounce bottle (Case of 6) for passenger car diesels.

 

 

Don’t Let Extreme Heat Sideline Your Motorcycle

An Oil to Resist Thinning from Extreme Heat and Mechanical Activity

Extreme summer heat combined with slow-moving rally or parade traffic can pose big problems for you and your motorcycle.

As heat intensifies, motor oil loses viscosity and becomes thinner. The oil can become so thin that the engine loses oil pressure, causing the oil-pressure gauge to bottom out. You may hear increased valvetrain and gear noise as parts clatter together. A good rider knows not to ride with no oil pressure, so he or she will shut down the bike and sit alongside the highway (or push the bike) until the engine cools enough to restore oil pressure.

Decreased airflow stresses oil

Air-cooled V-twins get plenty hot on their own, but riding in slow moving traffic makes it worse. Crawling along barely above idle doesn’t generate enough airflow to cool the engine. Add to that the blazing sun reflecting off the asphalt, and it’s a recipe for trouble. In extreme dyno testing designed to create heat, we’ve seen cylinder temperatures in a 2012 Harley-Davidson* Street Bob* as high as 383°F (195°C).

It’s up to the motor oil to protect the engine despite the intense heat; however, oil becomes thinner as it heats up. If it becomes too thin, it can fail to form a lubricant film of enough thickness and strength to prevent metal components from contacting during engine operation and wearing out. Once the lubricant film fails, it falls on the anti-wear additives to prevent wear. They form a sacrificial layer on components to keep them from contacting. But additives are designed to deplete with time and use. Once they wear out, your engine isn’t protected in this scenario.

Heat breaks down oil faster

The rate at which oil oxidizes, or chemically breaks down, doubles for every 18°F (10°C) increase in lubricant temperature. Oxidation occurs when oxygen molecules attack oil molecules and result in a chemical reaction that leads to harmful byproducts, like sludge and varnish. The faster the oil oxidizes, the sooner it wears out and requires changing.

Ride Hard. Run Cool.®

AMSOIL Synthetic V-Twin Motorcycle Oil uses high-quality synthetic base oils that naturally resist thinning due to extreme heat and mechanical activity better than conventional base oils. As a result, it forms a thick, strong lubricating film on engine components despite the intense heat. Although any oil will become thinner in extreme heat, riders who use AMSOIL Synthetic V-Twin Motorcycle Oil won’t see their oil-pressure gauges bottom out, providing the confidence they need to keep riding after others have shut down their bikes and started pushing.

Find AMSOIL Products for My Bike

*All trademarked names and images are the property of their respective owners and may be registered marks in some countries. No affiliation or endorsement claim, express or implied, is made by their use. All products advertised here are developed by AMSOIL for use in the applications shown.

Can Your Motor Oil Handle the Seven Responsibilities of a Lubricant?

Can Your Motor Oil Handle the Seven Responsibilities of a Lubricant?

Most motorists understand the primary functions of motor oil: reduce friction and wear. However, motor oil and other lubricants must do more to protect your vehicles and equipment. With engines and equipment becoming more powerful and sophisticated, it takes a properly formulated, well-balanced lubricant to carry out these seven critical functions.


• Minimize Friction

Lubricants reduce contact between components, minimizing friction and wear.

• Clean

Lubricants maintain internal cleanliness by suspending contaminants within the fluid or by preventing the contaminants from adhering to components. Base oils possess a varying degree of solvency that assists in maintaining internal cleanliness. Solvency is the ability of a fluid to dissolve a solid, liquid or gas. While the solvency of the oil is important, detergents and dispersants play a key role. Detergents are additives that prevent contaminants from adhering to components, especially hot components such as pistons or piston rings. Dispersants are additives that keep contaminants suspended in the fluid. Dispersants act as a solvent, helping the oil maintain cleanliness and prevent sludge formation.

• Cool

Reducing friction minimizes heat in moving parts, which lowers the overall operating temperature of the equipment. Lubricants also absorb heat from contact surface areas and transport it to a location to be safely dispersed, such as the oil sump. Heat-transfer ability tends to be a trait of the base oil’s thickness – lighter oils tend to transfer heat more readily.

• Seal

Lubricants act as a dynamic seal in locations like piston rings and cylinder contact areas to prevent contamination.

• Dampen Shock

A lubricant can cushion the blow of mechanical shock. A highly functional lubricant film can resist rupture and absorb and disperse these energy spikes over a broad contact area. As the mechanical shock to components is dampened, wear and damaging forces are minimized, extending the component’s overall operating life.

• Protect

A lubricant must have the ability to prevent or minimize internal component corrosion. Lubricants accomplish this either by chemically neutralizing corrosive products or by forming a barrier between the components and the corrosive material.

• Transfer Energy

Because lubricants are incompressible, they can act as an energy-transfer medium, such as in hydraulic equipment or valve lifters in an automotive engine.

Lubricants do far more than simply protect against wear. High-quality lubricants – like AMSOIL synthetic lubricants – are formulated to excel in each of these critical areas, ensuring you get the most out of your vehicles and equipment.

The 3000 Mile Oil Drain Fails To Address The Real Issue

The 3000 Miles Oil Change Interval Doesn’t Address Oil Quality

When people say to me they change their oil at 3000 so not to take any chances that dirt could be causing damage or the oil could be getting “bad”, I say to them, why not change every 50 miles then?? I’m sure the oil is still good but as you said, why take a chance?

Let’s look at the top reasons for engine failure which relate to the oil.

#1 is lack of lubrication. Nothing to do with dirt but a poor quality non-synthetic even low quality synthetic made from Group III base stocks (There are over 80 different quality levels for a Group III oil thus lower prices – this does not fit the scientific definition of synthetic) can and will leave deposits OR lose viscosity early on both causing lack of lubrication.
#2 – Overheating – Often the damage done after a engine overheats is caused by the heat being too intense for the oil to hold its properties. An AMSOIL product would have prevented this especially in air cooled (V-Twin bikes or marine) and in the new trend of turbocharged engines. The coming LSPI issue will demand the oil be at least a 100% synthetic quality. It’s designed for temperatures beyond these issues.
So changing oil every day will not prevent the above. Any overheating event or the list of reasons which cause a lack of lubrication cannot be addressed by the 3000 mile oil change. Only by the quality of the oil. AMSOIL also adds performance and for the difference in price per quart is less than the cost of a cup of today’s coffee so the solution for protecting your investment is here!! And has been for 45 years.

Quality Oil Filtration is a Must but still only part of the issue

I couldn’t find the study as I was writing this but Federal Mogul published research that “dirt” in oil was actually a minor part of failure while things relating to lubricant quality were. Acids or loss of TBN was a much more severe issue. Corrosion and storage was a far greater contributor to reduction in engine efficiency and ultimately failure.

Mild quality oil filters solve the dirt issue for up to 10,000 miles but you still need an oil which can fight contaminants caused by fuel or advanced wear over the years (such as starting with a used vehicle which you don’t know the history of). AMSOIL addresses the contaminants with their advanced additive packages and are willing to cover that with a guarantee.

How do you know?

Note while that AMSOIL does back their oil for longer intervals, this is clearly stated for engines which are in normal operating condition and have not been modified. For modified engines, neglected ones or those with a good number of miles over 100,000 they do list severe service categories or one can always get our KIT-02 oil analysis kit and go from there.

Just use better oil and find out what you are missing!

AMSOIL use will tilt the scales of a nations fleet replacement statistics. Imagine that. Just from changing brands of oil.

The 3000 mile oil change interval excuse is much like arguing one brand of cigarettes is more healthy than another.
Use AMSOIL and unlock the full potential of your drive train!! Find out what others already know – AMSOIL is all about performance!
Ches Cain – AMSOIL Direct Jobber