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New Automotive Technology and Synthetic Lubricants
Automobile technology has come a long way since I bought my first car back in 1970. Much of it relates to the desire to increase fuel economy and reduce exhaust emissions as much as possible. This eco-friendly technology extends to all facets of the industry from gasoline powered vehicles to flex fuel, diesels and hybrids.
The benefit of these new designs includes not only better fuel economy but faster throttle response and more power. All of this can be generated from smaller, turbocharged engines. Two of the problems with these technological advances however, are the extremely high temperatures and increased loads placed on the components of the entire drive train.
As these designs continue to be refined over time, the use of synthetic lubricants will become more desirable and probably even necessary to the effective lubrication of these vehicles. Many new vehicle manufacturers are now suggesting the use of synthetic lubricants and some even come from the factory with them already installed. Most lubricant manufacturers have at least one class of synthetic lubricant product available to the consumer.
Another reason for the expansion of synthetic lubricants in today’s market is the trend toward longer service intervals. Oil drain intervals are moving away from the long standing 3000 mile benchmark to upwards of 7500 to 10,000 miles. Unless something changes in the refining procedures of conventional mineral based lubricants, synthetics will take over the market because they are much more able to retain their viscosity under extreme heat and load and are able to withstand the extended service intervals without excess oxidation.
We’re not only looking at engine lubricants here. Since synthetic lubricants reduce friction more than conventional mineral based lubricants we’re now seeing them used more frequently in transmissions, transfer cases and differentials. As with the engine oils, we are also beginning to see longer service intervals with the synthetic drive train lubricants.
Regardless of the direction of automotive technology, synthetic lubricants will be seen as a necessary component of new vehicle maintenance due to their ability to meet the modern high load and high temperature demands placed on them by the vehicles of the future. As long as there are moving parts coming in contact with one another some type of lubricant barrier will be necessary to keep them from being destroyed by friction.
As an individual vehicle owner it's important to understand that not all lubricants and especially synthetic ones are created equal. There are many factors that go into the manufacture of a synthetic lubricant. The base stock and additive makeup can vary greatly from one manufacturer to another as does the level of quality control. The best way to insure you are getting
a lubricant that will meet the needs of your vehicle is to go beyond the advertising hype you see on TV or on the bottle of oil. Do some checking by going to the manufacturers website to see if they publish comparison tests against other brands or provide technical information about the various properties of the lubricant that are critical to its ability to protect your vehicles drive train components.
Look for information about the following properties:
1. Viscosity and the ability to maintain the proper viscosity range during use over time.
2. Level of volatility. High volatility leads to higher oil usage and oil thickening over time.
3. Total Base Number. The ability of the lubricant to neutralize acid as the lubricant is in operation over time.
4. The ability of the oil’s additives to reduce or eliminate oxidation as much as possible, since oxidation is one of the factors leading to corrosion of metal components.
5. The ability of the manufacturer to guarantee that each and every container of lubricant meets the standards it advertises and was designed to meet.
As a consumer it's difficult to find this information. I only know of one company that commissions independent testing of its products against the same category of its competitor's products and publishes the results for the consumer to readily view. They also offer a written warranty to cover the performance of their lubricants and filters.
Be an informed consumer. Don't assume that your mechanic is a lubrication specialist. There are many myths about synthetic lubricants that have arisen over the years and many mechanics are guilty of passing them on. As a lubrication specialist myself I've spent many hours studying the properties of lubricants and understand how the chemical and physical aspects of various classes of lubricants affect their performance under varying conditions. That doesn't make me a mechanic. Trust me, you wouldn't want me working on your car.
On the other hand, just because a mechanic is a wizard at fixing your car doesn't mean he understands the chemical and physical properties of lubricants. If you find one that does, great! Otherwise do your research or rely on someone that understands lubrication and follow their recommendations.
My name is Thom Wofford and I am an AMSOIL Direct Jobber and Owner of Freedom Lube, Inc. in Wichita Falls, TX. You can contact me at 940-867-2023 or visit one of my websites at http://www.ultimate-car-care-guide.com or http://www.synthetic-motor-oilsite.com/1145498.
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