It wasn’t very long ago that just about any type of motor oil could be used in just about any make or model of car. But cars have become so sophisticated lately that they need to use very specific types of motor oil to allow their engines to operate optimally.
If the wrong oil is used now and then, it should not damage the engine. But it is still incumbent upon the owner to read the owner’s manual to find out which type of oil needs to be used in the engine. Even if the wrong oil is used once it may still decrease the car’s fuel efficiency.
The reason that different oils need to be used for different cars is that motor oils are no longer just oil. They now have detergents that clean grit, bits of fuel, acid and water out of the engine. The wrong oil can contribute to a type of varnish that can make parts seize up. New kinds of motor oil not only lubricate the engine but protect it against corrosion. Some of these oils even have antioxidants which protect the parts from damage from the high heat that occurs when the engine is running. Moreover, mixing different types of oil can result in a sort of tarry sludge inside of the engine that can ruin it.
Here are four problems that could happen if the wrong motor oil is frequently put into the engine:
Car Not Starting in Cold Weather
Contemporary motor oils have two numbers instead of one. The first number is followed by a “W” which means winter. It is a measure of the oil’s viscosity, or ability to flow in cold weather. If the number for the cold viscosity for the car is too high for its engine, it won’t turn over during very cold weather.
The second number on the container of motor oil describes the oil’s viscosity during warmer weather. If it is too thick, it weakens the oil when the engine starts. Because the oil has been weakened, it can’t lubricate the moving parts of the engine the way it should and will burn. Since the engine parts haven’t been properly lubricated, the life of the engine is shortened if the too heavy oil is used over and over.
Loud Engine Sounds
A person who has owned a car for a while knows how the engine sounds when it is running well. However, if the owner uses the wrong motor oil over and over, the engine may start to growl or roar when it first starts up. The owner may also hear a ticking sound. These sounds may mean that the moving metal parts in the engine are rubbing against each other. Besides a sign that the wrong oil is being used, a ticking sound may mean that the oil level is low or that the oil has been burnt. If this is indeed the problem, the car needs to be taken to the mechanic as soon as possible.
Visible Engine Exhaust
People may be surprised to learn that late model cars really shouldn’t give off any visible engine exhaust. They see so many cars and trucks on the road with visible engine exhaust that they believe it is normal. By the way, those plumes and clouds that come out of the tail pipe on cold days are nothing but water vapor if the car is healthy.
If smoke is really coming out of the tailpipe, it probably means that the wrong oil is being used and has been burnt. It can also be a sign of old oil that needs to be changed right away. The driver might even be able to smell the oil if it’s burnt.