Archive for September 2015

How To Pick The Right Motor Oil For Your Car

How To Pick The Right Motor Oil For Your Car
To pick the appropriate oil for your car’s engine, just follow the star.
By Paul Weissler

Oil Change Grahams

It might seem simple to pick engine oil for your car. You just look for the starburst symbol that indicates the oil has been tested and meets the standards of the American Petroleum Institute (API). In addition, there’s a 2-character service designation on the container. API’s latest service standard is “SL.” SL refers to a group of laboratory and engine tests, including the latest series for control of high-temperature deposits. Your third task is to pick the viscosity (thickness) that’s suitable for the temperatures your vehicle normally operates in (check your owners manual), and you’re done. Well, not quite. There’s a whole lot more to the story than that.

These are the labels you’ll find on every container of reputable motor oil. The API donut on the right tells you if the oil meets the current SL service rating (C for diesel engines). It also provides the SAE (Society of Automotive Engineers) viscosity number and tells you if the oil has passed the Energy Conserving test. The starburst symbol on the left indicates that the oil has passed the tests listed for SL service.

Is oil really the lifeblood of an engine? That’s a long-popular analogy, but it’s really not an accurate description. Blood carries nutrients to cells, but it’s air that carries fuel–the “nutrition”–for an engine. However, without oil to lubricate and cool moving parts, keep them clean and help to seal the pistons in the cylinders, the engine would run for only a matter of seconds–then sieze. So, yes, oil is important.

Oil is so important that we want no less than the best the engine can get–for a good low price, of course. Now, what if you could custom-blend the oil so it had exactly the characteristics you believe that your vehicle needs for the type of driving you do?

Sounds pretty neat, and we were given the opportunity to do just that at the Valvoline lab in Lexington, Ky. When we were finished, we had an oil we thought would be just right for upcoming summer weather in short-trip driving around the New York City area.

That was our one shot at playing lubricant scientist, but the experience produced only enough oil for a top-up. So at the next oil change, we’ll have to pick from an off-the-shelf assortment–like everyone else. But we think we’ll do a better job of selection now, thanks to a short course in engine oil blending from Valvoline Technical Director Thomas Smith. Here’s what we learned.

Viscosity

Viscosity (a fluid’s resistance to flow) is rated at 0° F (represented by the number preceding the “W” [for Winter]) and at 212° F (represented by the second number in the viscosity designation). So 10W-30 oil has less viscosity when cold and hot than does 20W-50. Motor oil thins as it heats and thickens as it cools. So, with the right additives to help it resist thinning too much, an oil can be rated for one viscosity when cold, another when hot. The more resistant it is to thinning, the higher the second number (10W-40 versus 10W-30, for example) and that’s good. Within reason, thicker oil generally seals better and maintains a better film of lubrication between moving parts.

At the low-temperature end, oil has to be resistant to thickening so that it flows more easily to all the moving parts in your engine. Also, if the oil is too thick the engine requires more energy to turn the crankshaft, which is partly submerged in a bath of oil. Excessive thickness can make it harder to start the engine, which reduces fuel economy. A 5W oil is typically what’s recommended for winter use. However, synthetic oils can be formulated to flow even more easily when cold, so they are able to pass tests that meet the 0W rating.

Once the engine is running, the oil heats up. The second number in the viscosity rating–the “40” in 10W-40, for example–tells you that the oil will stay thicker at high temperatures than one with a lower second number–the “30” in 10W-30, for example. What’s really important is that you use the oil viscosity your car’s owner’s manual recommends.

Why So Many Oils?

Look on the shelves in auto parts stores and you’ll see oils labeled for all kinds of specific purposes: high-tech engines, new cars, higher-mileage vehicles, heavy-duty/off-road SUVs. In addition, you’ll see a wide selection of viscosities. If you read your owner’s manual, you’ll know what the car manufacturer recommends for a brand-new vehicle. The manual may include a reference to Energy Conserving oils, which simply means that the oil has passed a lab test against a reference oil. It’s no guarantee of better fuel economy, but most of the leading brands have at least some viscosities that are so labeled. Let’s take a look at the different types.

Premium Conventional Oil: This is the standard new-car oil. All leading brands have one for service level SL, available in several viscosities. The carmakers usually specify a 5W-20 or 5W-30 oil, particularly for lower temperatures, with a 10W-30 oil as optional, particularly for higher ambient temperatures. These three ratings cover just about every light-duty vehicle on the road. Even more important, though, is changing the oil and filter regularly. A 4000 miles/4 months interval is good practice. The absolute minimum is twice a year. If your car has an electronic oil-change indicator on the instrument cluster, don’t exceed its warning.
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Full Synthetic Oil: The oils made for high-tech engines, whether in a Chevy Corvette or Mercedes-Benz, are full synthetics. If these oils pass stringent special tests (indicated by their labeling), it means they have superior, longer-lasting performance in all the critical areas, from viscosity index to protection against deposits. They flow better at low temperatures and maintain peak lubricity at high temperatures. So why shouldn’t everyone use them? Answer: These oils are expensive and not every engine needs them. In fact, there may be some features that your car’s engine needs that the synthetics don’t have. Again, follow your owner’s manual.

Synthetic Blend Oil: These have a dose of synthetic oil mixed with organic oil, and overall are formulated to provide protection for somewhat heavier loads and high temperatures. This generally means they’re less volatile, so they evaporate far less, which reduces oil loss (and increases fuel economy). They’re popular with drivers of pickups/SUVs who want the high-load protection. And they’re a lot less expensive than full synthetics, maybe just pennies more than a premium conventional oil.

Higher Mileage Oil: Today’s vehicles last longer, and if you like the idea of paying off the car and running the mileage well into six figures, you have another oil choice, those formulated for higher-mileage vehicles. Almost two-thirds of the vehicles on the road have more than 75,000 miles on the odometer. So the oil refiners have identified this as an area of customer interest, and have new oils they’re recommending for these vehicles.

When your car or light truck/SUV is somewhat older and has considerably more mileage, you may notice a few oil stains on the garage floor. It’s about this time that you need to add a quart more often than when the vehicle was new. Crankshaft seals may have hardened and lost their flexibility, so they leak (particularly at low temperatures) and may crack. The higher-mileage oils are formulated with seal conditioners that flow into the pores of the seals to restore their shape and increase their flexibility. In most cases, rubber seals are designed to swell just enough to stop leaks. But the oil refiners pick their “reswelling” ingredients carefully. Valvoline showed us the performance data of one good seal conditioner that swelled most seal materials, but actually reduced swelling of one type that tended to swell excessively from the ingredients found in some other engine oils.

You also may have noticed some loss of performance and engine smoothness as a result of engine wear on your higher-mileage vehicle. These higher-mileage oils also have somewhat higher viscosities. (Even if the numbers on the container don’t indicate it, there’s a fairly wide range for each viscosity rating and the higher-mileage oils sit at the top of each range.) They also may have more viscosity-index improvers in them. The result? They seal piston-to-cylinder clearances better, and won’t squeeze out as readily from the larger engine bearing clearances. They also may have a higher dose of antiwear additives to try to slow the wear process.

If you have an older vehicle, all of these features may mean more to you than what you might get from a full synthetic, and at a fraction the price.

Beyond that, there’s plenty more to the oil story. Read on.

Viscosity Index

Resistance to thinning with increasing temperature is called viscosity index. And although a higher second number is good, the oil also has to be robust. That is, it must be able to last for thousands of miles until the next oil change. For example, oil tends to lose viscosity from shear, the sliding motion between close-fitted metal surfaces of moving parts such as bearings. So resistance to viscosity loss (shear stability) is necessary to enable the oil to maintain the lubricating film between those parts.

Unlike antifreeze, 95 percent of which is made up of one base chemical (typically ethylene glycol), petroleum-type engine oil contains a mixture of several different types of base oil, some more expensive than others. Oil companies typically pick from a selection of five groups, each of which is produced in a different way and in different viscosities. The more expensive groups are more highly processed, in some cases with methods that produce a lubricant that can be classified as a synthetic. The so-called full synthetics contain chemicals that may be derived from petroleum but they’re altered so much that they’re not considered natural oil anymore. Our custom blend contained 10 percent polyalphaolefins (PAO), the type of chemical that’s often the primary ingredient in a full synthetic.

The base oil package in any oil makes up anywhere from 70 to 95 percent of the mix, the rest comprised of additives. Does that mean an oil with just 70 percent base oils is better than one with 95 percent. No, because some of the base oils have natural characteristics or ones that derive from their processing, which reduces or eliminates the need for additives. And although some additives make important contributions to lubrication, by themselves don’t necessarily have great lubricity.

The ingredients in an additive package differ in cost, as we said, but price is just one factor. Some work better in certain combinations of base oils, and some of the less-expensive base oils are a good choice for a blend because of the way they perform with popular additives. Bottom line: every motor oil has a recipe. Refiners come up with a list of objectives based on the needs of their customers (the carmakers, for example) and formulate oil to meet those goals as best they can.
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Now, keeping an oil from thinning as it gets hot while it takes a beating from engine operation is one thing. But it’s also important to keep oil from getting too thick. Using premium base oils for low volatility–to prevent evaporation–is one approach. Evaporation of the base oil package not only increases oil consumption, it results in thicker oil (which decreases fuel economy).

Oil Additives

Use of additives is another approach to improving and maintaining oil performance. High engine temperatures combine with moisture, combustion byproducts (including unburned gasoline), rust, corrosion, engine wear particles and oxygen to produce sludge and varnish. The additives not only assist oil in maintaining good lubrication, they also help minimize sludge and varnish, and any damage from their formation. Here are the categories of key additive ingredients and why they’re important:

• Viscosity-index improvers: Reduce the oil’s tendency to thin with increasing temperature.

• Detergents: Unlike the household type, they don’t scrub engine surfaces. They do remove some deposits, primarily solids. But their main purpose is to keep the surfaces clean by inhibiting the formation of high-temperature deposits, rust and corrosion.

• Dispersants: Disperse solid particles, keeping them in solution, so they don’t come together to form sludge, varnish and acids. Some additives work both as detergents and dispersants.

• Antiwear agents: There are times when the lubricating film breaks down, so the antiwear agents have to protect the metal surfaces. A zinc and phosphorus compound called ZDDP is a long-used favorite, along with other phosphorus (and sulphur) compounds. If you musts know, ZDDP stand for zinc diakyl dithiophosphate.

• Friction modifiers: These aren’t the same as antiwear agents. They reduce engine friction and, so, can improve fuel economy. Graphite, molybdenum and other compounds are used.

• Pour-point depressants: Just because the 0° F viscosity rating is low doesn’t mean the oil will flow readily at low temperatures. Oil contains wax particles that can congeal and reduce flow, so these additives are used to prevent it.

• Antioxidants: With engine temperatures being pushed up for better emissions control, the antioxidants are needed to prevent oxidation (and, therefore, thickening) of oil. Some of the additives that perform other functions also serve this purpose, such as the antiwear agents.

• Foam inhibitors: The crankshaft whipping through the oil in the pan causes foaming. Oil foam is not as effective a lubricant as a full-liquid stream, so the inhibitors are used to cause the foam bubbles to collapse.

• Rust/corrosion inhibitors: Protect metal parts from acids and moisture.

More Is Not Better

You can’t necessarily improve an oil by putting in more additives. In fact, you can make things worse. For example, sulphur compounds have antiwear, antioxidation characteristics, but they can reduce fuel economy and affect catalytic converter operation. Too much of a particular detergent could affect the antiwear balance. Too much of a specific dispersant could affect catalyst performance and reduce fuel economy. Antiwear and friction-reducing additives also may have ingredients (such as sulphur) that could affect catalyst performance.

There’s a lot of pressure on the oil industry to reduce sulphur content in oil as well as gasoline. But the industry’s resistance is understandable when you consider the delicate balancing act it must perform with each revolution of your car’s engine.

API SERVICE DESIGNATIONS
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Gasoline EnginesCategory
Status
Service
SL
Current
For all automotive engines presently in use. Introduced July 1, 2001. SL oils are designed to provide better high-temperature deposit control and lower oil consumption. Some of these oils may also meet the latest ILSAC specification and/or qualify as Energy Conserving.
SJ
Current
For 2001 and older automotive engines.
SH
Obsolete
For 1996 and older engines. Valid when preceeded by current C categories.
SG
Obsolete
For 1993 and older engines.
SF
Obsolete
For 1988 and older engines.
SE
Obsolete
For 1979 and older engines.
SD
Obsolete
For 1971 and older engines.
SC
Obsolete
For 1967 and older engines.
SB
Obsolete
For older engines. Use only when specifically recommended by the manufacturer.
SA
Obsolete
For older engines; no performance requirement. Use only when specifically recommended by the manufacturer.

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Diesel EnginesCategory
Status
Service
CH-4
Current
Introduced December 1, 1998. For high-speed, four-stroke engines designed to meet 1998 exhaust emission standards. CH-4 oils are specifically compounded for use with diesel fuels ranging in sulfur content up to 0.5% weight. Can be used in place of CD, CE, CF-4, and CG-4 oils.
CG-4
Current
Introduced in 1995. For severe-duty, high-speed, four-stroke engines using fuel with less than 0.5% weight sulfur. CG-4 oils are required for engines meeting 1994 emission standards. Can be used in place of CD, CE, and CF-4 oils.
CF-4
Current
Introduced in 1990. For high-speed, four-stroke, naturally aspirated and turbocharged engines. Can be used in place of CD and CE oils.
CF-2
Current
Introduced in 1994. For severe-duty, two-stroke engines. Can be used in place of CD-II oils.
CF
Current
Introduced in 1994. For off-road, indirect-injected and other diesel engines including those using fuel with over 0.5% weight sulfur. Can be used in place of CD oils.
CE
Obsolete
Introduced in 1987. For high-speed, four-stroke, naturally aspirated and turbocharged engines. Can be used in place of CC and CD oils.
CD-II
Obsolete
Introduced in 1987. For two-stroke engines.
CD
Obsolete
Introduced in 1955. For certain naturally aspirated and turbocharged engines.
CC
Obsolete
For engines introduced in 1961.
CB
Obsolete
For moderate-duty engines from 1949 to 1960.
CA
Obsolete
For light-duty engines (1940s and 1950s).

Notice: API intentionally omitted “SI” and “SK” from the sequence of categories because the letters are commonly associated with other organizations or systems. This guide is provided as a service to the motoring public courtesy of the American Petroleum Institute. For more information about the API Engine Oil Program, call the American Petroleum Institute at 202-682-8516 or visit its Web site at www.api.org/eolcs.

EPA says Volkswagen intentionally violates clean air standards

VW

The Environmental Protection Agency said Friday that Volkswagen intentionally skirted clean air laws by using a piece of software that enabled about 500,000 of its diesel cars to emit fewer smog-causing pollutants during testing than in real-world driving conditions.

The agency ordered VW to fix the cars at its own expense. The German automaker also faces billions of dollars in fines, although exact amounts were not determined.

The cars, all built in the last seven years, include the VW Jetta, Beetle, Golf and Passat models, as well as the Audi A3. The vehicles all contain a device programmed to detect when they are undergoing official emissions testing, the EPA said. The cars only turn on full emissions control systems during that testing. The controls are turned off during normal driving situations, the EPA said, allowing the cars to emit more than the legal limit of pollutants.

The EPA called the company’s use of the so-called “defeat device” illegal and a threat to public health.

“EPA is committed to making sure that all automakers play by the same rules,” said Cynthia Giles, assistant EPA administrator for enforcement and compliance assurance.

The EPA called on VW to fix the cars’ emissions systems, but said car owners do not need to take any immediate action. The violations do not present a safety hazard and the cars remain legal to drive and sell while Volkswagen comes up with a plan to recall and repair them, the EPA said.

VW, which also owns Audi, said in a statement it is cooperating with the investigation, but declined further comment.

The EPA said VW faces fines of up to $37,500 per vehicle for the violations – a total of more than $18 billion. No final total was announced. California issued a separate compliance order to VW, and officials announced an investigation by the California Air Resources Board.

Despite the seriousness of the violation, the EPA said VW will be given “a reasonable amount of time to develop a plan to complete the repairs,” including both the repair procedure and manufacture of any needed parts.

It could take up to a year to identify corrective actions, develop a recall plan and issue recall notices, the EPA said.

Environmental groups hailed the EPA and California for moving aggressively to enforce clean air laws.

“The charges here are truly appalling: that Volkswagen knowingly installed software that produced much higher smog-forming emissions from diesel vehicles in the real world than in pre-sale tests,” said Frank O’Donnell, president of Clean Air Watch, a Washington-based advocacy group.

O’Donnell accused VW of “cheating not just car buyers but the breathing public.” He said the charges undercut industry rhetoric about “clean diesel” cars.

The Volkswagens likely perform better with the emissions controls defeated than they do with them on, said Aaron Bragman, Detroit bureau chief for the Cars.com automotive shopping and research site. Otherwise, he said, there would be no reason to have a setting that turns on the controls for tests and turns them off for regular driving.

“Obviously it’s changing the way the engine operates somehow that may not be pleasing to consumers,” he said. “It would follow that it would put it into a very different feel in terms of operation of the vehicle.”

But Bragman said other countries may allow different modes for testing and normal driving.

The allegations cover roughly 482,000 diesel passenger cars sold in the United States since 2008. Affected models include:

– Jetta (model years 2009-15)

– Beetle (model years 2009-15)

– Audi A3 (model years 2009-15)

– Golf (model years 2009-15)

– Passat (model years 2014-15)

9 Ways to Prepare Your Car for Winter Weather

prepare you car for winter

9 Ways to Prepare Your Car for Winter Weather

Prepare Your Car For WinterWinterizing your vehicle is a wise idea, says the Car Care Council.  An investment of an hour or two to have your vehicle checked is all it takes to have peace of mind and help avoid the cost and hassle of a breakdown during severe weather.

“The last thing any driver needs is a vehicle that breaks down in cold, harsh winter weather,” said Rich White, executive director, Car Care Council. “A vehicle check before the temperatures drop is a sensible way to avoid the inconvenience of being stranded out in the cold and with the unexpected expense of emergency repairs.”

The Car Care Council recommends the following nine steps for winterizing your vehicle.

  1. Have the battery and charging system checked for optimum performance. Cold weather is hard on batteries.
  2. Clean, flush and put new antifreeze in the cooling system. As a general rule of thumb, this should be done every two years.
  3. Make sure heaters, defrosters and wipers work properly. Consider winter wiper blades and use cold weather washer fluid. As a general rule, wiper blades should be replaced every six months.
  4. Check the tire tread depth and tire pressure. If snow and ice are a problem in your area, consider special tires designed to grip slick roads. During winter, tire pressure should be checked weekly.
  5. Be diligent about changing the oil and filter at recommended intervals. Dirty oil can spell trouble in winter. Consider changing to “winter weight” oil if you live in a cold climate. Have your technician check the fuel, air and transmission filters at the same time.
  6. If you’re due for a tune-up, have it done before winter sets in. Winter magnifies existing problems such as pings, hard starts, sluggish performance or rough idling.
  7. Have the brakes checked. The braking system is the vehicle’s most important safety item.
  8. Have the exhaust system checked for carbon monoxide leaks, which can be especially dangerous during cold weather driving when windows are closed.
  9. Check to see that exterior and interior lights work and headlights are properly aimed.

Watch the Winter Car Care Minute video here!

Motorists should also keep the gas tank at least half full at all times to decrease the chances of moisture forming in the gas lines and possibly freezing. Drivers should check the tire pressure of the spare in the trunk and stock an emergency kit with an ice scraper and snowbrush, jumper cables, flashlight, flares, blanket, extra clothes, candles/matches, bottled water, dry food snacks and needed medication.

The Car Care Council is the source of information for the “Be Car Care Aware” consumer education campaign promoting the benefits of regular vehicle care, maintenance and repair to consumers. For a copy of the council’s Car Care Guide or for more information, visit www.carcare.org.

Porsche and Audi are hoping to challenge Tesla in the luxury electric car market, but Elon Musk can sleep easy for now. Both are still years away from production.

Porsche

Porsche unveiled its first all-electric concept car at the Frankfurt auto show Tuesday. It looks like a futuristic version of the Porsche 911.

The German sports car maker boasts that the four-door Mission E will be able to drive roughly 310 miles on a single charge. The new model should take just 15 minutes to charge to about 80% of its capacity.

That would be significantly faster than market leader Tesla (TSLA), which requires about 30 minutes to reach the same level of charge.

Plus, the Mission E boasts a longer range than Tesla’s Model S. It should run for 250 miles after a 15-minute charge versus 170 miles from a 30-minute charge.

Still, Tesla has a few years to close that gap.

A Porsche spokesperson told CNNMoney that production of the car would be “feasible within the near future,” but noted that it may take five years for battery technology to advance sufficiently.
porsche electric car mission e 1
Porsche’s Mission E concept car is an electric, four-door vehicle that could go head-to-head with Tesla’s Model S.

The concept is part of a bigger push by Porsche parent Volkswagen (VLKAY) into electric vehicles. VW CEO Martin Winterkorn said the group is planning to roll out 20 more electric cars and plug-in hybrids by 2020.

“No commitment to electro-mobility can be any clearer than that,” said Winterkorn, who oversees brands including Audi, Bentley, Lamborghini and Bugatti.

Audi unveiled a new all-electric SUV concept vehicle called the e‑tron quattro last month. It will have the same driving range as the Porsche Mission E, and production will begin in 2018.

Related: My weekend with the world’s richest car collectors

The Mission E will offer features such as gesture-activated controls, eye-tracking controls and some holographic images around the dashboard.
porsche electric car mission e 2
The interior of the Porsche Mission E concept car.

Unlike its competition, the car can also be charged wirelessly.

Porsche said drivers will be able to park over a coil embedded in the floor of their garage and energy will transfer to the battery without cables.

And you can’t talk about Porsche without talking about speed. The car should go from zero to 60 in under 3.5 seconds.
porsche electric car mission e 3
The Porsche Mission E concept car.

10 Statistics That Capture The Dangers of Texting and Driving

texting and driving

On June 8, a report was released stating that Tennessee bus crash that left two young girls and a teacher’s aide dead last December was the result of texting and driving. James Davenport, the driver of the bus, was found dead in his home on June 1.

While this story is tragic, texting and driving is far from unusual. A staggering 49 percent of adults admit to texting and driving, even though 98 percent of adults say they know the practice is unsafe.

Below are 10 statistics that show how dangerous texting and driving really is.

9

 

Number of Americans killed every day from motor vehicle accidents that involved distracted driving, such as using a cellphone, texting or eating.

1 in 4

 

The probability that a motor vehicle crash involved a cellphone.

40%

 

The percentage of teens who say they have been a passenger in a car whose driver used a cellphone in a way that put them in danger.

33%

 

The percentage of U.S. drivers ages 18 to 64 who reported reading or writing text messages while driving in the previous month. In comparison, only 15 percent of drivers from Spain reported texting while driving in the same period.

341,000

 

Number of motor vehicle crashes in 2013 that involved texting.

4X

 

How much using a cellphone while driving increases the risk of a crash.

2

 

Number of seconds a driver can safely glance away from the road while operating a motor vehicle.

5

 

Number of seconds drivers take their eyes off the road to send a text message, on average.

46

 

Number of states (plus Puerto Rico, Guam and the U.S. Virgin Islands) where texting is banned for all drivers, regardless of age.

21 – 24

 

Age group most likely to send a text or email message while driving, according to a 2012 survey.

Seasonal Car Care Tips from Colony Tire

Tire Maintenance