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WHAT DOES OIL DO FOR A CAR’S ENGINE?

WHAT DOES OIL DO FOR A CAR’S ENGINE?

If you are new to cars, don’t worry, we all started somewhere. One of the most important things to understand about your car is how it operates and what the fluids inside the car do. Even if you are not a gearhead by nature, it’s important to understand how your car operates and what you need to do to maintain it.

One of the most important fluids that a car needs is engine oil. Even if you know nothing about cars, it’s probable that you understand your car needs to have oil changes every so often. However, you may not understand why oil is such an important component for a well-functioning machine. If you have ever wondered “why does oil prolong the life of car parts?”, you are not alone. And we are here to help answer your questions.

WHAT DOES MOTOR OIL ACTUALLY DO?

To understand the function of motor oil, it’s first important to at least get a basic understanding of how your engine works. You don’t need to get too technical to really understand what oil does: rather, the most important thing to understand is that there are many moving parts inside your engine. These moving parts not only rub against each other, they also produce a great amount of heat.

Essentially, motor oil acts as the lubricant that allows all of these moving parts inside your engine to rub against each other and not overheat or wear out quickly. If you were to try and drive your car with no motor oil inside of it, very quickly, that heat and friction would cause the engine to weld itself into a useless piece of metal. When this happens to a car engine, the engine seizes or “locks up.” Once an engine is locked up, there’s basically nothing that can be done to fix it. Other than, of course, replacing the entire engine.

Obviously, most motorists want to avoid this, and thus ensure that their car has sufficient motor oil to coat and protect its moving parts against excessive wear.

In addition to the heat generated from all of the moving components of the engine rubbing against each other, engines run off of a process called internal combustion. This process of combustion produces a lot of water vapor, carbon, acids, and several other byproducts.

Way back in the day, engines actually didn’t have an oil pump to help move the oil around the engine. Rather, they used a very rudimentary system of dippers on the crankshaft which would then splash oil upward and cover the moving parts of the engine with oil. (Many lawn mowers still operate this way.)

However, this process is obviously imperfect, and usually would result in a locked up engine after a period of time. Over time the process of oil delivery did improve, but it also took a while for oil filters to start showing up on automobiles; they were still considered an option well into the 1950’s. What a filter does is help remove unwanted particles from the oil, such as carbon and metals. Prior to the addition of oil filters, older engines would need to go through a process known as “de-coking” in order to remove the build-up, which would settle in the oil pan, or anywhere motor oil could pool.

“De-coking” would involve running a mixture of diluted kerosene and oil through the engine as a flush, and hope that it would help remove some of the carbon and sludge buildup. However, this was also not a very precise process or thorough process, and normally wouldn’t do much, if not damage the engine. Thus, prior to modern oils now have detergents to battle this, along with oil filters. In the “good old days”, engines would rarely make it over 100,000 miles without needing to be rebuilt. Anyone who has cracked open an older engine from the 1950’s to the 1970’s usually has a story about “that one engine” that had enough sludge in it that it was a wonder it ever ran at all.

Basically, your car’s engine is a very complex place, and, due to the movement and heat generated by the process of combustion, a very dirty place. Not only does oil lubricate the parts inside of your engine to ensure overheating does not occur, it also helps to keep the engine clean.

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