From The Bay: Vehicle Maintenance

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Today, often the best choice in using lubricants is going with what the OEM says in the vehicle owner’s manual. 

Oils and lubricants are the number one and probably most important part of keeping a vehicle moving. If not already obvious, the reason certain lubricants and oils were created is to act as an inhibitor, plus maintain and minimize wear and tear on moving parts caused by friction. Each of these oils is directly created with its own blend of scrubbers and additives that aid in the function of creating working parts and in turn, a moving vehicle. It is easy for one to understand why there are different fluids for different drivetrains (motor, transmission, hydraulic) but on the other hand, do people actually comprehend the meaning behind certain weights and reasons for viscosity discrepancies in the functioning of a moving vehicle?

What are you buying?

While you can purchase oil from pretty much any dealership or by going to the local big box automotive parts retailer, the question is, at what point do people actually understand what they are purchasing? The knowledge for certain oils and the key role they play in each particular vehicle is lacking.

Each vehicle has particular specifications for every lubricant that it relies on to run. These specifications for certain lubricants play the most important role because they directly relate to the performance of the oil and whether or not they pass certain tests. Viscosity also plays a huge role in the function of oils in our vehicle as most cars and trucks today require certain synthetic blends and weights of oil.

Gone are the days of multi grade oils and using a thinner oil in winter to avoid sludging and allow for easier startups. Technological advancement, and the fact that tolerances on modern vehicles are now so precise, means they require a specific OE recommended oil and with warning of probable engine or component failure if this particular lubricant isn’t used. This is where we see the synthetic blends and OEM tests that are conducted by vehicle manufacturers giving their stamp of approval for oil use, such as General Motors with Dexos Synthetic.

Marketing versus capability

Many oils bought on the shelves mention various OEMs on the bottles, but lack what this means. Oil companies send their oils out to OEMs for approval and are easily achieved because of meeting older specifications. With today’s vehicles it is important to understand that oil companies are ultimately motivated to sell products. This is where consumers become fixated on marketing yet again. Along with these OEM approvals we are drawn to the fancy labels and marketing slogans such as:

“Racing Formula”
“Synthetic Technologies”
“Long Engine Life”
“Instant Protection”

At this point, consumers can become focused on which brand has most successfully marketed its oils and less focused on whether or not it is the right lubricant for their vehicle. On a very basic level, oil is oil, and while many different grades and brands are stamped with approvals and factory recommended labels, where is the physical proof backing these tests and evidence that one specific oil performs better than its leading competitor?

Perhaps the best piece of advice is to stick with the oil that is required or easily stated in the owner’s manual of a specific vehicle. If your customers have questions about lubricants, you can then be armed with the right information to respond to them.

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