Driving conditions can get a bit more difficult when the weather reaches extreme temperatures, and it’s no different for your motor oil.
When your vehicle gets too hot or too cold, it can lead to a breakdown. Not a breakdown of your engine as a whole, that is—a fundamental change in the elemental makeup of the motor oil itself. There are other contaminants that can lead to a breakdown as well.
Thankfully, because it’s formulated with high-quality additives and custom-made for the vehicle you drive, synthetic motor oil can help stave off breakdowns in the extreme summer heat, the frigid winter cold, and the moderate times of the year too.
Why and How Does Motor Oil Break Down?
The more your engine runs, the more it accumulates unwanted particulates. General contaminants like dirt, sludge, and dust can get into your oil through your air intake, oil fill caps, or ventilation systems. General engine wear and added contaminants can produce metal particles that are collected in the oil, which can ultimately lead to oil breakdown.
When motor oil becomes contaminated by all these contributing factors, the viscosity increases, causing the oil to move less freely and work less efficiently.
What Happens to Motor Oil in Extreme Heat?
One side effect of the added horsepower of engines is an increase in engine temperature. So whenever engines are subjected to extreme heat, the increased temperature causes oil oxidation, which leads to increased viscosity and thickens the oil, inhibiting the flow.
Another cause of increased viscosity happens on the molecular level. Conventional oils feature impure, irregular molecules. These molecules evaporate as the oil gets hotter, leaving the heavier molecules behind, contributing to a potential oil breakdown.
What Happens to Motor Oil in Extreme Cold?
Motor oil can thicken in extremely cold temperatures as well, albeit for different reasons. Conventional oils contain a wax component called paraffins, which causes the oil to thicken when temperatures drop below freezing. When the oil is thicker in cold temperatures, your engine can take up to five minutes after being started to warm up to a point where it can flow effectively—which means your engine is unprotected during that period of time.
How Does Synthetic Motor Oil Help Prevent Breakdowns?
Synthetic motor oil is a premium option because there’s simply more in it to care for your engine. It all comes down to the base oils (approximately 80 percent of the formulation) and the additives (the other 20 percent).
The base oils in synthetic motor oil are highly refined, which means they are engineered with a specific set of properties to control the physical components of the oil, including the viscosity.
For low temperatures, synthetic base stocks don’t contain the waxy materials that conventional oil does, resulting in increased lubrication and engine protection thanks to lower viscosity. And for high temperatures, synthetic oils contain additives like antioxidants, cleansers, dispersants, rust/corrosion inhibitors, and elements to address extreme pressure and viscosity index. These additives, particularly antioxidants, help prevent sludge and dirt buildup by increasing the oil’s ability to tolerate heat and pressure.
With synthetic motor oil in your engine, you can rest assured that your oil will be flowing smoothly no matter how hot or cold it is outside, and your oil will stay cleaner and clear of sludge, dirt, and other contaminants that could cause a breakdown.
Learn more about Valvoline Advanced Full Synthetic. Advanced protection for your hard-working engine.