Buy the right engine oil

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Buy the right engine oil
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Buy the right engine oil

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MOTORCYCLE Oil Primer: Buying the Right Motor Oil

If you want to find the right engine oil for your car or motorcycle without prior knowledge, you cannot hope for competent advice everywhere. We tried it.

Henning Busse, Thiemo Fleck

04/14/2016

There is hardly a topic that causes as much confusion among motorists and motorcyclists as the question of the right motor oil. As the technology becomes more and more complex, the demands on the oils also increase. Car manufacturers in particular are therefore developing their own in-house standards, which are noted on the labels with special codes. This should make the search for the right product easier.

What sounds consumer-friendly is actually the opposite in practice. Because manufacturers often have more than just one in-house standard. So the labels are full of codes, because the oil producers usually do not offer their products for just one manufacturer. If you don’t happen to have the right oil standard in mind, you’re in a fix when buying. It is therefore advisable to take a look at the vehicle operating instructions beforehand, because the appropriate standard is noted here.

Or you can turn to specialist retailers with confidence, as we did. We were looking for the right lubricant for an old BMW three. First point of contact: a gas station with a gas station attendant service. The professional reaches for the shelf with confidence: “Here is our 5W-40, which is the best for your engine.” But the price of almost 30 euros per liter is too high for us. After all, the BMW is eight years old and has over 100,000 kilometers under its belt. The attendant refers to the oil label in the engine compartment: “You see, the last time the oil was changed, the good 5W-40 was also filled in.” He’s not wrong. We note in the protocol: “understandable advice”.

This is not the case everywhere, behind the wide counter of the nearest gas station, a student rotates between coffee mugs, pastry displays, cigarette rack and tank register: “Yes, there is oil on the shelf outside, take a look at the list.” There is no further help. When asked, the colleague is referred to, but he is only on duty in the afternoon.

Deficits in advice

The result of the consultation in the hardware store around the corner? There is no advisor. The kids who used to be the best at hide and seek obviously work here today. “Yes, the hardware department employee will come to you in a moment”, so the lady at the information desk. He would have better stayed there too. His hint “Under no circumstances should you mix different oils, as this will break down the engine”, is simply wrong. If the viscosity is comparable and the oil standard is even better, a product of a different origin can be used.

Harry Hartkorn, chief application engineer at Liqui Moly, explains what lies behind these standardized parameters: “The viscosity describes how thin or thick an oil is. An ordinary multigrade oil with SAE 15W-40 down to minus 20 ° C can be used. The smaller the first number, the better the flowability, even at very cold temperatures. Modern synthetic low-viscosity oils have a lower value of 0W or 5W, which corresponds to a low temperature suitability of minus 40 or minus 35 ° C and leads to faster lubrication, less wear and a certain fuel saving, especially on short journeys.” The second number? “It indicates how thick the oil is at 100 ° C and thus allows conclusions to be drawn about the reliability of lubrication at high temperatures. The greater the difference between the two figures, the broader the area of ​​application. However, this information does not yet contain any information about the oil quality.”

The hardware store employee does not know which oil the old BMW needs. The assignment list hanging on the shelf remains unaffected – what a shame, it provides information about the prescribed oil quality for the specific model. It is not the viscosity that counts, but the correct manufacturer specification.

The employee of another hardware store knows this from his own experience: He accompanies us to the car without hesitation, looks up the data in the logbook, compares it with the allocation list and recommends the correct oil quality. “Below on the label you can read which manufacturer standards the oil meets”, he explains. Indeed, the required BMW standard “Longlife 04” is printed there along with other specifications. Perfect service.

The next petrol stations, on the other hand, offer a rather sobering picture: competent advice from staff – nonexistent. With the help of the lists on display, however, you can usually find a suitable oil – often at a price of up to 30 euros per liter. Cheap alternatives? There is nothing to be done at the station: “Why don’t you try it at a specialist car accessory store!” Bingo, the employee there has been trained: You can get oil for the BMW here at a price of less than 15 euros per liter. Can it be even cheaper?? “In exceptional cases, for example when refilling with small quantities of less than half a liter, it can”, says the seller. “However, anyone who fills in larger quantities without a suitable manufacturer approval for cost reasons is acting negligently.”

In some modern cars, the oil only needs to be changed every two years or after 30,000 km, depending on the operating conditions. However, this requires special and often expensive long-life oils, which should also be used when refilling. This avoids problems if possible engine damage can be proven to be due to incorrect oil.

The best tip is available at a free petrol station: “Have a look on the internet!”, says the woman behind the counter. In fact, the websites of the large petrol station chains such as Aral, Avia or Shell, as well as the lubricant experts, offer practical online oil guides. After entering a few data from the vehicle registration document, the correct oils from the respective provider can be filtered out. In the meantime, some oil producers even have special smartphone apps – select manufacturer, model, engine and year of manufacture, nothing more is necessary.

Motorcycle: information is important


Buy the right engine oil


Liqui Moly

Some oil producers also offer digital wayfinding in the form of apps.

The online guides and the hotlines are particularly useful when it comes to motorcycle oils. Because every now and then at petrol stations and in the hardware store you get the advice to buy a car engine oil – not a good choice because it does not meet the requirements of a two-wheeler oil. In contrast to a car, many motorcycle engines also use the same oil to lubricate the gearbox and clutch. The JASO-MA standard addresses these requirements.

In the two-wheeler sector, motorcycle accessories providers such as Hein Gericke, Louis and Polo also offer online guides. We are surprised: Oils that cost almost 30 euros per liter at the petrol tank are often available for less than half the price in specialist shops or on the Internet. So it is worthwhile to deal with the question of the right oil at an early stage.

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