Tips on Motor Oil

New oil: Almost like nectar. (Image from

I went to my neighborhood auto supply store to buy some brake pads for our Getz CRDi. The pads were almost worn to the backing plate, just about right for a 75,000 kilometer mileage car, especially given the fact that the car was tracked just a little bit in the Subic International Raceway and 360-ed in a few slalom events. While I was waiting for the parts man to pull out the pads, I saw a guy buying a liter of single-weight diesel motor oil.

Judging by the API certification of the oil, I thought it would have been best suited to lubricating bicycle chains rather than modern engines. I thought that the guy would put it in a jeepney or an Elf or something like that. But no. Apparently he was a taxi driver, and he had an Accent CRDi as a taxicab. And I was shocked to see that crap crude being poured into such a modern diesel engine that the Accent (and my Getz) share.  I asked the driver, “Why are you putting that type of oil in that car?” “Sir, kulang na kasi ng langis,” he replied. “Saka ito talaga ang gamit namin sa garahe.” (The oil level is low, and this is what we actually use back at the garage.)

I said to him that that oil was not the best one for the car, and that the engine can be destroyed by using the cheap-but-crappy stuff. “Ah, baka nga dahil dun mabilis nauubos ang langis nito.” (Oh, maybe that is why the car is burning motor oil very quickly.) Yeah, his Accent taxi’s engine is gonna die soon. Alas, I was too late.

I realized something, that there are people out there who do not know much about motor oils and the regular oil change, much to the detriment of their vehicle’s overall service life. Therefore, here are some tips to make sure that something as plebeian as an oil change and/or top-up will not mess your car up.

  1. In an oil change, you also change the oil filter. You know that already, right? But just in case you don’t, there you go.
  2. Use the quality of motor oil recommended by the car manufacturer. Take the time to retrieve your vehicle’s manual from the clutter that is your glovebox, crack it open, flip it to the Maintenance or Specifications section, and look at what are the minimum quality standards your manufacturer requires for motor oil. Industry standards are various, and includes certifications by the American Petroleum Institute (API), Japanese Automotive Standards Organization (JASO), and even some car companies draw up their own (ex. BMW, Mercedes-Benz, Volkswagen, Ford). For reference, the Getz/Accent CRDi motor requires lubrication with a minimum API rating of CH4.
  3. Pick the right viscosity. Do you know that oils have different thicknesses? And that modern oils are rated for different weights depending on temperature? Lubricants are required to be thick enough to protect against wear when first starting the engine, yet thin enough to evenly spread around the moving engine parts during operation. The optimum viscosity depends on the climate of the area the car is in. Since we are in a tropical country, a thicker viscosity is recommended by the manufacturer. For the record, the Getz’s owner’s manual  provides a chart of viscosities and temperatures, and it counsels 20W-50 for our clime.
  4. Check the oil level regularly. Or not. Every time you gas up, you can ask the attendant to do this for you. And if the oil does get a touch low, you can even get the guy to get it to level. It’s great to do this if you go to a Shell and force him to top up with the gallon of Havoline in your trunk. But seriously, if topping-up becomes too frequent, that may signal some trouble that your trusted mechanic or auto repair shop should look at.
  5. Changing oil is so easy, you can do it yourself. You don’t need to pay somebody to do this for you. Of course, the cost of tools needed and the inconvenience of scooching under the car to drain oil and remove the filter is a deterrent for many an ordinary motorist. But, really, besides that, nothing is more fulfilling than getting your hands greasy working on your own jalopy. And not blowing the motor up.
Of course this is not an exhaustive list of things to know and watch out for. So here’s another tip. Use Google and research more about oil changes. Just a quick search netted me an awesome site that talks exhaustively about the topic. See: The Engine Oil Bible.
Now you know. And knowing is half the battle. – G.I.Joe

One thought on “Tips on Motor Oil

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