18 October 2011|
|Lube City: Oil Guide 101|
Oil. It’s basically the lifeline of your car. You might be able to get by without it, but not for very long unless you believe those infomercials from the mid 90s. What we’re doing today isn’t to try and act like chemists, but start from the basics and work some new oil technology into the mix. The thing with oil is that people take it for granted. Unlike gas that most people have to fill up on every week, you don’t have to deal with oil for a few thousand miles so it just slips your mind. The thing about oil is that it lubricates, and we all know how important lube is when it comes to any moving objects. Not being sexual here. Imagine the hundreds of moving parts inside your engine working frantically to pump out the power that you’re craving for. If they weren’t properly lubed, everything would fuse together and turn into a giant chunk of scrap metal. So what happens? You take it to the local quick lube shop, drop between $20-30 and call it a day. But what are you really getting for your money? Maybe you’ll get lucky and find a place that isn’t trying to get cars in and out as soon as possible or try to upsell you on some unneeded pricey repairs. Your best options are to go in armed with knowledge or to do it yourself, also armed with knowledge. If you have the basic tools and the right amount of space, you can crank your own oil change out in under 20 minutes. That’s faster than you can get a pizza delivered and you don’t have to tip or pay any lame service charge. Just remember to dispose of your oil properly at a local auto parts shop and not in your sink or down the toilet. It might be easier now, but you’ll regret it after the earth explodes.
What type of oil you choose depends on your motor and how you plan to drive it. So some guy with a stock Toyota Corolla commuter car isn’t going to want the same oil as his homie that’s tracking a fixed up Mitsubishi Evo. The main things you want to know are what the numbers like 5w-30 mean. This is actually the most confusing part about oils because you’ll hear different information depending on who you talk to. Most oils that you see now will be multi-viscosity which means it’ll show two numbers. The first one means that it is thinner and flows easier at colder temperatures. That’s basically when you start your engine or after it’s been sitting long enough to cool down. The second number is for the oil’s viscosity and ability to protect your engine at high temperatures. This is when it matters the most because hot metal parts running at high speeds need as much lubrication as possible.
There are a few different types of oils: conventional, synthetic blend, and full synthetic. Full synthetic oils are pretty much what we are dealing with in this story. I’d be lying if I said that I knew all of the technical specs behind synthetic oils because I did awful in my high school chemistry class. Fortunately, the masterminds at the oil manufacturers are way smarter than me. As most of us know, synthetic is something that is created rather than natural. Think of a synthetic fiber like polyester compared to a natural one such as cotton. Synthetics don’t come from crude oil, but rather created from petroleum and a host of other various chemicals. Though a little more costly, full synthetics are less likely to break down in high temperatures and can provide you a little more slacking time between oil changes.
I have a basically stock 2004 Subaru WRX sitting in my garage with over 160,000 miles on the odometer so making sure that the engine is maintained properly is crucial. Routine oil changes with the right products will help prolong the life of the motor while keeping the seals and gaskets from going bad. Daily driven cars with high-mileage motors need the most attention when it comes to maintenance. With the assistance of William Law of DC Sports, we managed to do a series of home driveway oil changes. Though not the most ideal of oil change scenarios, we had time constraints and deadlines to deal with. Oil actually needs to stay in your engine for a while in order to properly clean it and also this could get pricey if you did it the way we did. Especially with these high-end oil brands that we used. I’ve also heard that synthetics aren’t ideal for high-mileage motors, but still believe in these products and their ability to do what they need to in terms of protection. Based on our home testing, we noticed a few things right away: better gas mileage, less noise, smoother idling, and more consistent engine temperatures. Yeah, for the most part you’ll probably benefit from any oil change in the short term. But the products that we used are top notch and specifically engineered for what your engine needs. Not just some random oil to get you by until your next trip to the lube shop.
There’s a lot of gunk inside your engine that gets pushed through while it’s running. Like any other type of filter, the oil filter is designed to keep all those particles from going where they shouldn’t. Some oil companies also offer filters to match and some don’t. In the instances that they don’t, there are options out there for you whether it be OEM or from a company like K&N.
14-17mm socket or wrench depending on car
Oil filter wrench
High Performance Street
Type: Full Synthetic With Synerlec
Filter Available: Yes
Royal Purple has always had the cool factor because it’s, well, purple. Aside from being Lakers colors, I actually like purple. The new High Performance Street line from Royal Purple was pretty much perfect for this story I was writing. It’s almost as if they read my mind, but they didn’t. Just good timing I guess. Royal Purple just launched the HPS and designed it with modified street engines in mind. Come on, that pretty much fits the bill of everyone in the sport compact scene and beyond. From what we’re told, and all we’re told because it’s top secret, there is an additive inside HPS that helps keep the old worn internals of your engine feeling nice and lubed. The Synerlec is said to provide the extra lubrication and protection needed for high lift cams, not that you’d do anything to affect the emission output of your car, right? In fact, it doesn’t just prevent more damage from occurring, the HPS is said to repair some extremely worn areas as well. As for oil filters, you shouldn’t have a problem finding one from Royal Purple. They pride themselves in not using paper in their filters and offer the synthetic micro-glass oil filter for a really wide range of cars or trucks. I had no problem tracking one down for this 2004 Subaru WRX test car.
Type: Full Synthetic
Filter Available: Yes
Quaker State might be one of the oil companies that have been around for quite a while, but that doesn’t stop them from adapting to the times. The Ultimate Durability line was designed with sport compact cars in mind. All those V8 muscle car guys that dub our cars as “rice burners” are just in denial that the small engines in our cars can pump out so much power without guzzling 40 gallons of gas a week. The engineers at Quaker State threw in some extra head activated additives to give the ultimate protection in all driving conditions. That includes your weekend track racing with high revs or the abuse of daily driving in traffic. We tried to find the ideal temperature for this oil, but it has been tested in both extreme cold and heat to perform no matter where on the planet you live. Like the other oils in this story, the Ultimate Durability works overtime to keep your engine internals clean. Match the Ultimate Durability up with a Quaker State oil filter and you’ll be set for the next 7,000-10,000 miles.
Type: Full Synthetic
Filter Available: Yes
The first, and probably most important thing that anyone from Pennzoil about their product that it’s recommended by Ferrari North America to use on their exotic supercars. That should mean that it’s more than enough protection for your fixed up Acura RSX and our Subaru WRX. The Ultra line is the newest addition to the Pennzoil family and has been boasted as the most their most technologically advanced oil ever. Most important on their list is the fact that the cleaning elements inside the Ultra oil helps flush out the nasty sludge that builds up in your motor over the years. I actually did that the other day with some body cleansing, but I’ll spare you the gory details. Just because you follow the guidelines and change your oil routinely, it doesn’t mean that this gunk won’t end up hanging out in your engine. Actually, the Pennzoil people say that it’ll clean your motor back to factory specs. You’ll have to take their word for it unless you decide to strip about your engine, which I’m not about to do before the deadline of this story. A clean engine will increase gas mileage and lifespan of your already beat up motor.
Type: Full Synthetic
Oil Filter Available: Yes
If you’re lazy like most people in this world then trying to keep up with the normal routine of changing your car’s oil, then the AMSoil Signature Series might just be for you. This line is specifically designed to last 25,000 miles or one year (whichever comes first) and that takes a huge load off of your things to do list for a while. OK. Maybe you’re not lazy, but just really busy. The Signature Series from AMSoil can at least give you the peace of mind that your slacking off isn’t going to cost your motor anything in terms of damage. Though you might think that leaving your engine oil unchanged for 25,000 miles is kind of sketchy, the AMSoil people assure us that you will still get the same amount of protection throughout that time as well as improve gas mileage because of reduced friction. I’m not sure about the rest of the world, but I know it gets pretty toasty in California during the summer especially when you’re at the track. Fortunately, high temperatures are where this oil excels and breaking down will never be an issue.
Type: High Performance
Oil Filter Available: No
Used in pretty much every racing series, the Lucas High Performance synthetic motor oil would more than suit the needs for your engine. Beyond just the typical lubrication provided by oils, this one has extra additives to help further reduce friction inside of your motor. You’ll definitely see improved gas mileage and notice less clicking noises coming out of your engine bay. This oil was specifically designed for both on and off track uses and is said to prolong the life of turbo cars, which is crucial considering the excess heat that they create. It’s almost as if Lucas designed this oil for the Subaru WRX that we are using it on…er in.
Type: Full Synthetic
Oil Filter Available: No
To most, ENEOS is not a common household (or garage) name quite yet. As far back as I can remember, which isn’t that far anymore, ENEOS was only known and used by those enthusiasts obsessed by JDM. Now the brand is being more recognized by the public and they have just released the Sustina line made with a technology called W Base. This technology allows the Sustina to provide extra lubrication for your motor at colder temperatures, which in turn will prolong your engine’s life and increase gas mileage. There’s also a ZP additive that keeps cleaning your engine while it’s running to keep your pistons looking and running like new. Depending on where you live in the world, your biggest challenge will be to trying to track down ENEOS oil but it’ll be well worth your time if you do.
Filter Available: No
Redline’s High Performance line of motor oil is said to increase the piston ring seal in your engine, which will lead to more power, longer engine life, and better gas mileage. Out of those three benefits, I can’t think of one that I’d want to give up. Redline tests their oils in different conditions and temperatures so that you can trust that it won’t break down on you when you need it most and that’s usually when you’re stuck somewhere without cellphone reception. Also inside the oil mix are cleansing agents that will help flush out any nasty build up whenever you decide to do your next oil change, which probably won’t be for a while. This oil specifically caters to light trucks and sport compacts so if you have a big meathead truck you might have to search elsewhere to find oil for it. More notable is the 1200ppm of zinc and phosphorous inside of Redline oils that protects from the heat and friction given off inside of our sport compact motors that have overhead cams.
Wrench-Off Oil Filters
For the longest time, it was a pain in the ass trying to find an oil filter for your car. It was either the OE replacement or Fram. Not that there’s anything wrong with those, but it’s always nice to have some variety. Come on, we’re guys over here. Thankfully the people over at K&N, known forever for their air filters, wised up and came out with a line of oil filters. Before we get to the insides of these filters, the most notable difference is that there is a nut on top of it. Or as they like to say, their filters have nuts. This is for the majority of us that forget where our oil filter wrench is or just don’t have one. Hell, even if you had one sometimes the spot you’re trying to reach doesn’t even fit a giant oil filter wrench. The one-inch nut welded to the top of the filter makes it way easier to slip a wrench into a tight area so you can loosen it with ease. Now for the more important fillings that make up the oil filters. K&N uses a unique material that is able to trap out 99% of junk trying to get into your engine while still being able to flow a high rates. The filters are designed to use with synthetic oils, but those aren’t required. The application list is pretty long so the chances of finding your car or truck on there is more likely than not.