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Best engine oil for your car

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Why you should ONLY use OEM approved engine oil especially as long your car is under warranty

Lubricants are car parts that either fit or don’t fit the car. Car manufacturers require you to use original or approved parts and lubricants at all times as long as your car is under warranty. By using a lubricant that is not approved by the manufacturer you will lose your right to a compensation if the engine breaks. In the event of a breakdown of the engine, the car manufacturer most of the time requires a sample of the engine oil and they will quickly identify in an oil laboratory if the used lubricant was approved or not.

Should i buy the engine oil recommended on my oil cap?

Many car manufacturers place the logo of a specific oil brand on their engine oil caps in the engine and mention the oil brand in their vehicle booklets. Castrol in many Land Rovers, Mobil 1 in many Porsches and so on. This is one of the most effective marketing tools of oil brands and a lot of people follow this recommendation.

Pro advice: Why we don’t recommend to follow this first fill lubricant recommendation

Car manufacturers basically sell this product placement for millions of euros to big oil brands for each of their car models. They usually require the oil brand to supply free engine oil for their newly produced cars, the so called “First Fill” and charge a high monetary fee from the oil brand. The engine oil brand therefore commits to a huge upfront investment and expects to profit in the long term from the customers, who will follow this product recommendation in the many following oil changes.

As these marketing partnerships are usually awarded in competitive bidding processes, the bids are very high and require the winner to maximize the margin on the future sales. The engine oil brands are forced to sell the lubricant overpriced while keeping the production costs at a minimum. In the end you as the consumer end up paying a lot of money for this lubricant, which mainly ends up in the pockets of the car manufacturer and the lubricant brand, not in the ingredients.

The lubricant generally meets the OEM requirement for the engine warranty but it is very unlikely that the quality is exceeding the OEM requirement by a lot.

You still need to pay attention when buying the lubricant as the same lubricant can be produced in various factories and in these cases often only one factory is producing the actual recommended lubricant while the others are using the branding for a lower grade product.

What you will miss most of the cases when you stick to the first fill lubricant

Choosing a better lubricant could reduce the friction in the engine, reduce the fuel consumption, reduce the emissions, slow down the aging of the engine, prevent repair costs and increase the oil change interval. Adding up these benefits and savings for a driver who drives more than 10.000km per oil change almost always ends up to be hundreds if not thousands of Euros per year.

OEM branded oils vs. independent oil brands

Car manufacturers buy and sell more and more lubricants with their own branding in their workshops. None of them have their own refineries or blending facilities. These lubricants are produced by the lubricants manufacturers under private label agreements.

Pro advice: Why we usually don’t recommend to use OEM branded lubricants unless they are for very specific applications

The lubricants with the car manufacturer branding are most of the time good as they are developed for a specific application. Some very modern cars -especially hybrid and electric cars- require such specific products, that the car manufacturers have to develop them specifically for their models with lubricant and grease manufacturers. These products make a lot of sense. More generic products like typical engine oils with common viscosities like 5W30 are often products for car manufacturers to generate additional income in the aftermarket. These tend to be very expansive and not engine oils with the best quality for the price you are paying.

Is an OEM approved engine oil automatically the best engine oil for your car?

Choosing an OEM approved engine oil means the car manufacturer tested the engine oil and confirmed that the lubricant meets or exceeds the specific requirements of this specific OEM standard (e.g.: BMW Longlife-01, MB 229.5, VW 502 00). This ensures that you will not loose the warranty for your engine. The OEM quality standard is a minimum benchmark that the lubricant has to meet and there is always room to exceed this quality standard. Therefore not all OEM approved engine oils under the same standard are of same quality and a really good engine oil can be much better than the standard.

Important to consider is that lubricants loose their quality during the application. Their stability is based on the additive package and base oil quality. Good ones will stay the entire oil change interval above the OEM quality requirements while bad ones will only meet the requirements in the beginning and quickly drop below the required properties. This can cause problems to the engine and fast aging of the engine.

Pro advice: Use the OEM approval as a starting point and not as the final criteria

Yes, only use OEM approved lubricants on modern engines but also consider additional factors such as:

  • TBN – Total Base Number: Depending on the fuel quality in your region your engine oil needs a matching TBN Number. The lower the fuel quality, the higher the TBN. Most lubricants are designed for high quality Euro 6 fuels. Many OEM approved engine oils perform very bad with lower grade fuels and have to be changed a lot more often (up to 5 times in a regular interval!).
  • Pour point: This is the freezing temperature of the oil. Add 10 Degrees on this value and compare this temperature with the lowest temperatures in your region. For example an oil with a pour point of -39C should only be used in regions with temperatures above -29C at all times.
  • Flash point: This temperature indicates when the oil will start to burn. A higher temperature is better, especially in sport engines.
  • Evaporation loss: This percentage indicated how fast the engine oil evaporates. The higher the evaporation loss, the more you will have to top up during the oil change interval.

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