Now that winter has arrived, it’s a good idea to think about the lubricants you’re using. Even at moderate temperatures, vehicles and tractors operate under a lot of stress. Frigid winter temperatures — as well as sweltering summer temperatures — place even more demands on an engine. What type of oil should you use in each of the seasons?
What oil does
Engines need oil because lubrication helps control friction inside an engine. Oil provides a protective film that coats internal engine surfaces. This film reduces wear by inhibiting metal-to-metal contact between the engine’s moving parts.
Oil provides several additional benefits. It helps lower internal engine temperature, pushes out debris that settles between moving parts, and helps prevent corrosion on engine parts. If you don’t have enough oil — or the right oil — in your engine, a piston may seize, piston rings may stick, or bearings may be damaged. You may be stranded due to engine failure or left holding an expensive repair bill.
Using the engine oil recommendations by the vehicle’s manufacturer will put you in a better position to handle the harsh environments in which your vehicle operates in.
You’ve probably seen oil viscosity classifications, such as 5w20 and 10w30. What do they mean?
Viscosity refers to an oil’s weight — how thin or thick it is. The “w” doesn’t mean “weight.” It stands for “winter.” The number in front of the “W” indicates an oil’s cold-temperature viscosity, or your cold weather startup viscosity. The lower this number is, the thinner the oil is and the better it will flow at low temperatures. For example, a 5W oil will flow better at low temperatures than a thicker oil with a 10W rating. The number after the “W” refers to the oil’s high-temperature viscosity, or operating viscosity. The higher the number after the “W” is, the thicker the oil is and the better it will stay thick enough at high temperatures. Thus, a 5w30 oil is thicker at higher temperatures than a 5w20 oil.
Choosing the right oil
Using an oil with a viscosity that is too heavy for the season may lower your gas mileage and reduce engine life. Using an oil with a viscosity that is too light for the season may lead to excessive mechanical wear and shorten the life of your engine.
In cold winter temperatures, a lightweight oil, such as 0W20, will flow better than a thicker oil. Better oil flow is good for your engine. Likewise, in the heat of summer a heavier-weight oil, such as a 10W30, will flow better than a lighter-weight oil.
But what about spring and fall, when temperatures in many areas are moderate? In general, consider using an oil with a viscosity classification that falls somewhere in the middle range.
Always check your owner’s manual and follow the manufacturer’s recommendations about viscosity. Engines are designed to work with oils with specific weights. Following the vehicle manufacturers recommendations will optimize fuel economy and prolong engine life. If you have questions on fluid consolidation or choosing the right lubricants for your vehicles or equipment, contact Tony Springer at TSpringer@uslube.com or by phone (800) 490-4900 ext. 8823.