Oil you need to know: a guide to engine lubricantsadmin
Of all the various lubricants needed to make a race car run smoothly, few are more important than engine oil. And when you think of the pressure the average motorsport engine comes under, that’s hardly surprising.
So you can’t use standard motor oil in racing engines
Why it matters
Engine oil is, of course, a lubricant, and it’s particularly needed in a racing engine in which parts are moving so fast. It stops the various components from scraping against each other.
You may not also realise that oil is a coolant, taking away heat as it builds up in the engine, and carrying it to a cooler which acts as a radiator.
At the same time, oil picks up dirt and debris that may have collected and gets rid of it via the oil filter. Modern oils may also incorporate chemicals which help clean an engine’s inner workings so that everything stays grime-free and in tip-top condition.
So checking oil every few weeks should be part of your regular maintenance routine for your motorsport vehicle.
Typically, you’ll need to change it every 3,000 to 5,000 miles, perhaps less in a competition engine.
Getting oil choice right
Different engines need different lubricants, and yours will need a particular oil thickness for optimal performance. In fact, today’s oils have become increasingly thin, as modern engines have less friction, but much will depend on the size of the spaces between the engine’s moving components, and the temperature under which it operates.
Check manufacturer’s guidelines and your vehicle’s handbook to learn more, particularly regarding the weight of your lubricant.
Oil by numbers
Clearly, there are many leading brands of engine oil, including Castrol, Mobil 1 and others.
In product codes, the number refers to viscosity, or how easily (or otherwise) the lubricant flows. The W stands for winter, and the number before it refers to how well it flows in the cold. The lower the number, the colder the temperature at which the oil still flows.
The number after the W refers to flow rate when both the engine and oil are warm, i.e. the engine’s operating temperature.
The higher the number following the W, the thicker the oil. While thinner lubricant flows better, you may want the better protection of a thicker oil in a high-performance engine. Again, refer to what the manufacturer recommends.
Semi or fully synthetic?
Production processes for synthetic oils are more complex, with the manufacturer having more control over performance, even at molecular level.
And it’s now possible to have synthetic oils which work well across a wider range of temperatures than was previously possible.
Those lubricants which have lower ‘W’ grades are often fully synthetic, since they can perform well at lower temperatures.
Thicker oils may contain both synthetic and non-synthetic lubricants in a blend.
Given the choice, you may find a completely synthetic product lasts longer, and even works better. They also typically pour more easily at lower temperatures, and resist oxidation more in hotter temperatures, and stay cleaner for longer, while also offer superior wear protection and lubrication.
That said, today’s semi-synthetic lubricants are far from terrible performers. Indeed, they often contain a fully synthetic lubricant as part of the blend.
How important is brand?
It’s always worth going for quality when you consider the cost of the potential consequences of the alternative – a full engine rebuild. Bear that in mind if you’re tempted by cheaper brands.
Look for a package of additives in your lubricant which will help clean the engine while running, reduce friction and corrosion, increase the oil’s lifespan and even help protect against cold starts.
The better the additive package, the better the lubricant overall, and racing oil tends to be heavily fortified with these packages.
What we offer at Race Paddock
At Race Paddock, we offer a broad line-up of racing engine oils from all the top brands and big industry names, designed for a wide range of two and four-stroke diesel and petrol engines in different makes and models of car, all at outstanding prices. Our oils come in a variety of viscosity levels, too.
Still got questions about your motorsport oil? Talk to use today for informed, specialist advice.