Car Care – Engine Oils

American Petroleum Institute Logo

There are very few critical fluids that a car requires to operate:

  • Transmission Fluid
  • Coolant
  • Engine Oil

In this multi-part edition, we’ll cover specifically the first aspect of Engine Oils we should consider,  in choosing the right one type of Oil (If your trusted workshop will pour in just about anything):

 

We recently got asked a good question about the oils offered by other establishments as well as the major supermarkets and that begged a question to be asked. How do we, as consumers, know when we're getting the right oil for our Audi/VW vehicle?

Am I Getting The Right Type of Oil?

Here’s some tips to help you decide whether the oil being offered is suitable for your Continental vehicle before taking that plunge to commit to buying a carton of oils for the long haul or that tempting servicing package. Engine oils are mildly complicated and each topic requires a post of it’s own. These following topics will tune you into the range of oils required for your car. I’m guessing you’ll be asking about viscosity – Viscosity is the last part of this whole puzzle. Let’s tune you into the correct type of oils before we select the viscosity. IF we’re using the wrong oils, it won’t matter even if the viscosity is correct!

 

API RATING

The American Petroleum Institute’s (API) Rating exists to help consumers identify quality engine oils for their gasoline and diesel-powered vehicles. All we need to do is to look for an API rating on the label. It should preferably be current and suitable for your vehicle. If it’s not, your vehicle WILL NOT be getting any of the newest technological advances (for its time) in oil technology to improve fuel economy, sludge control amongst other benefits, as well as the correct amount of oil additives required.

The latest API service standard designation is SN for gasoline automobile and light-truck engines. The SN standard refers to a group of laboratory and engine tests, including the latest series for control of high-temperature deposits. Current API service categories include SN,SM, SL and SJ for gasoline engines. All previous service designations are obsolete.

Let’s review some of the recent ratings that will be sold in the market.

API SN

Released in October 2010. API SN performance comes with improved fuel economy, turbocharger protection, emission control system compatibility, and protection of engines operating on ethanol-containing fuels up to E85 (Not so common in Singapore).

API SM

Released in September 2004. API SM oils are designed to provide improved oxidation resistance, improved deposit protection, better wear protection, and better low-temperature performance over the life of the oil as compared to API SL/SJ/SH… (SH oils are now obsolete).

For example: Using an API SM (Pre-2010) oil in a Post-2010 vehicle creates a higher potential of causing your vehicle to fault on emissions standards and also damage the catalytic systems.

Another analogy for the above would be offering advanced army rations to your grandmother – There would be no joy there because she must have coconut milk with her bubur hitam dessert!

API Logo

This logo must be don by your Engine Oils logo if it has been approved by the API. If there isn’t one, you’re getting an oil that has NOT been tested to the industry standards. Buyer beware.

API Logos that must be on your Engine Oil

API Logos that must be on your Engine Oil

APPROVAL RATINGS

Audi / Volkswagen / Porsche compatible engine oils will always display a VW rating e.g. VW502 or a VW 505.01 or a VW 504.00/507.00 to indicate that Volkswagen AG has approved the usage of that particular engine oil in the vehicle. You will then have to read your owners manual to discover if that oil is the correct VW rating for your vehicle. Your trusted workshop should be able to tell you which VW rating is suitable.

SHELF LIFE

Oils like table wines, have a shelf life. Thankfully it’s just a little longer than an unopened table wine AND, likewise, there are conditions to be met during storage; We’ll cover this a little later on:

The industry opinion for the shelf life of engine oil is:
– Opened bottle: 3 Months
– Unopened bottle: 3-5 Years

Oil is also very susceptible to heat cycles. If the bottle is left in the car, the engine oil will go through at least one heat cycle daily.

** Food for thought.**
To apply this knowledge immediately. Any API SJ/SL oil has outlived it’s shelf life as we’re in 2015 NOW. Any API SN oil is definitely good unless it’s been manufactured before 2013. Note that the date we purchase it from the shop will have been a long while after the date of manufacture.

STORAGE METHOD

Storage temperatures should be stable. Generally, temperatures below -32degC or above 37degC will cause oil degradation, with REDUCED LUBRICATION CAPABILITIES. Note that Engine oils, like humans, don’t appreciate having a fever!

Beware of moisture as moisture reacts with the additives in the oil to produce insoluble substances that reduce the shelf life. Moisture may also encourage microbial growth in the lubricants. Handle with care

Oil manufacturers recommend an environmental temperature of between 4 degC and 30degC. Should it not be, the motor oil quality may deteriorate, and sludge may be formed if moisture is introduced through handling – This can happen even before it makes it into your cars engine.

Thankfully, your trusted workshop will cycle through their oils pretty quickly, considering they’re a business.

Tonnes of Engine Oils on the rack!

Tonnes of Engine Oils on the rack!

 

IN SUMMARY

Engine oils:

  1. HAVE a SHELF LIFE of 3 months opened and 3 years unopened
  2. ADHERE to an API RATING suitable for your vehicle. SJ/SL were created before 2004. Any oil from SJ/SL have already exceeded 9 years of storage. Please don’t use this on your modern vehicle.
  3. have APPROVAL RATINGS by the manufacturer of YOUR vehicle
  4. must be stored SENSIBLY within 4degC to 30degC.

 

Engine Oils for your Audi / Volkswagen / Porsche / Mercedes Benz / BMW / Skoda

Engine Oils for your Audi / Volkswagen / Porsche / Mercedes Benz / BMW / Skoda