Using the Proper Fluids in Today’s Modern Vehicles
“The Importance of Using the Proper Fluids in Today’s Modern Vehicles”
Part 1: Engine Oil
The automotive industry has changed drastically since I started about 15 years ago. As with everything else in today’s world, the technology used in your car today would have been unthinkable a mere decade ago. Take a look at your phone. Think of the capabilities that phone has, of the computing power it has. Compare that to your $1000 dollar desktop computer that you bought in the year 2000. The phone out performs it in every way. Vehicle’s are no different and in order to properly repair and maintain today’s vehicles, the modern technician has to be educated on the proper procedures, parts, and fluids to be used.
Let’s talk about engine oil. Many of us are familiar with the common oil designations such as 10w-30, 5w-30, etc. 15 years ago if a vehicle called for 5w-30 oil, you put 5w-30 oil in it and that was pretty much the end of it. Some customers may have preferred Castrol over Penzoil, or Chevron over Valvoline. Truth be told, for the most part, it didn’t matter.
So what’s changed? Well first of all, the way the engines are built has changed. Variable valve timing, variable displacement, popularization of turbo chargers, and the expected life span of an engine are some examples. Engines run for a very long time these days when properly maintained. It used to be 100k miles out of an engine wasn’t half bad. These days, 100k miles is just getting warmed up. The oils we use need to lubricate better, last longer, be more resistant to heat, and do all of these things without breaking down and leaving deposits behind. Not to mention, the materials used in the engine components, bearings, seals, etc, need to be compatible with the oil that is put in the engine.
I’ll give two real world examples that I’ve experienced with improper oil use. A turbocharged Volkswagen Jetta that the customer had been taking to a quick lube place since he owned it. They were using conventional oil. VW vehicles use a very specific oil. If you own one you may recognize these numbers. 502.00 503.01 506.00. Those are a few of the specifications for VW/Audi. The conventional oil that the customer was using could not withstand the heat generated by the turbocharger on this engine. As a result, the oil baked, lost some of it’s lubricant properties, and wiped out the bearings in the engine. This didn’t happen overnight. It took quite a few miles before the damage was severe enough to be noticeable, but the damage began as soon as the wrong oil was used in the vehicle.
The second example may be familiar to a person that owns a Hemi engine from the 2000’s. These variable displacement engines used solenoids to cut off oil pressure to the valve lifters causing certain cylinder’s valves to quit operating. Essentially turning an 8 cylinder engine into a 4 cylinder in an attempt to increase fuel mileage. The passageways in the engine, solenoid, and the lifters themselves are very small and susceptible to blockage. When the oil wasn’t maintained properly or the wrong oil was used, small deposits would be formed from the oil breaking down and would find their way into these oil passageways blocking oil pressure to the lifters and causing cylinders to shut down when they weren’t supposed to. I’ve seen this happen a number of times on a few different makes of vehicles.
Moral of the story. Make sure you’re using the proper engine oil, and other fluids, in your vehicle! It can and will cause expensive problems. Check your owner’s manual or ask a qualified technician about which fluids you should be using!