Why Synthetic Motor Oils Are Recommended for Today's Advanced Automotive Engine Technologies, Part 2
As we said in Part 1 of this report, many of today's high-powered engine designs and advanced technologies have high-performance lubrication needs that make using a fully synthetic motor oil a far better option than relying on a conventional, mineral-based oil.
Last week, we discussed the specific needs of engines whose performance are boosted by turbochargers, which operate at extremely high temperatures, and direct-injected gasoline (GDI) engines. This week, we're discussing how synthetic oils are especially beneficial in hybrid propulsion systems, engines using variable component technologies, and 'clean' diesel technologies.
The main benefits of hybrid cars are their ability to deliver advanced fuel economy and lower emissions, compared to a traditional gasoline engine.
Hybrids are vehicles that use two or more power sources, typically an internal combustion engine and an electric motor. This is the most common combination of technologies used in hybrid passenger vehicles.
With the benefit of two power sources, today's hybrid vehicles are designed to deliver the same performance and drivability one would expect with a traditional gasoline-powered-engine car. In addition, the electric motor power source for hybrid cars helps deliver the economic and environmental benefits of reduced emissions and increased fuel economy.
In terms of maintenance, fully synthetic lubricants, such as Mobil 1, offer the same performance benefits to hybrid vehicles as they do to traditional engines, including, better overall engine protection. They offer the best way to ensure long-term engine cleanliness to help maintain the excellent fuel economy that hybrid engines provide.
Variable Component Technologies
Many of today's new engines incorporate what is called "variable technology." Certain engine components that were traditionally fixed with respect to geometry and/or timing are now designed to adjust, based on the needs of the vehicle. The result is that components like valves, camshafts, turbochargers, oil pumps, etc., automatically adjust to optimize the efficiency, and hence fuel economy, of the engine operation. These variable systems are typically actuated hydraulically, and it is often the engine oil that is used as the hydraulic fluid. Beyond lubricating and protecting engine parts, engine oil now has an additional function and serves as the hydraulic fluid to operate some of these variable systems.
As with any hydraulic fluid, it is extremely important that an excessive amount of air is not entrained in the oil during operation. This can cause the variable component(s) to malfunction, leading to inefficient operation and possible engine problems.
Because engine oil naturally becomes aerated as it functions throughout the engine, there is a strong chance that air will be present in the oil as it returns to the sump. So, using an oil that can quickly release the air prior to it being called upon to operate these variable systems is important. Synthetic motor oils, such as Mobil 1, are well designed to handle engine oil aeration and hence, are ideal for engines with variable valve timing to provide maximum performance and protection.
If your owner's manual states that your vehicle requires synthetic oil, do not step down to mineral oils to save money; doing so could actually damage your engine and possibly shorten the engine's life.
A Wide Range of 'Clean' Diesel Technologies
Today, there are many types of "clean" diesel technologies that are being incorporated into the global automotive marketplace, with leading OEMs, ambitious upstart companies, and enterprising entrepreneurs all developing and advancing various technologies related to the reduction and control of emissions.
The demand for "clean" diesel engines has been on a dramatic upswing, for several reasons.
Many types of diesel engine offer significant fuel economy benefits over gasoline engines. For example, diesel engines that use emission control technologies typically produce less carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases, while running just as well as gasoline-powered cars.
Though the rise in demand for "clean" diesel engines is largely coming from Europe, in response to more stringent European emission requirements, nearly every major OEM is working to expand its diesel offering. In addition, European oil drain intervals typically range from 15,000 kilometers - up to 30,000 km (9,300 miles to 18,600 miles), higher than other parts of the world.
For all diesel engines, there is a higher degree of thermal stress placed on the engine oil, particularly in the piston / cylinder zone. The result is that engine oils must be able to withstand the heat to adequately protect against piston deposits and cylinder wear. Additionally, the increasing use of biofuels has had indirect consequences for the engine oil and the engine protection that it provides. The primary lubricant concern is excessive fuel dilution, as bio-materials have been shown to cause oil to break down more rapidly than usual, which can lead to increased deposits and wear. Fortunately, premium synthetic oils such as Mobil 1 are better equipped to resist degradation, hence keeping diesel engines performing as intended.
In Summary, over the next 10 to 20 years, the technology evolution for engine design is likely continue at an even more rapid rate, further changing the automotive marketplace and putting more emphasis than ever on the value that synthetic motor oils can deliver.
Kevin is an engine oil technical advisor for ExxonMobil Lubricants & Petroleum Specialties Company. He is a member of the Mobil 1 Research Team based at the company's Paulsboro Technology Center in Paulsboro, New Jersey.
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