CHOOSING AN ENGINE OIL: Viscosity is key

In 2013, i imported a 2010 Kia Forte from the United States to use as  a family car since my wife was expecting our second child, thus relying on public transport(‘trotros’and taxis) was no longer a convenient option.When the vehicle arrived, it had to go through the mandatory ‘body works ‘and spraying which most salvage cars( or accident cars, as my Ghana folks prefer to call them) are destined.

With all the necessary formalities regarding vehicle registration completed, yours truly decided it was prudent to change the engine oil.In my driving around the Dansoman area, i noticed a Vulco service centre at Sahara, near the Total Filling Station so i drove in.The place was nice and clean and it even had the look and feel of any lube bay you would find in America.The moment i parked, i was approached by one of mechanics who asked if i needed my oil changed.I replied  in the affirmative, and added that my  car’s engine oil cap specifies SAE 5W-20  viscosity oil.The guy shrugged off my comment with this response”Is your car not a Kia Cerato?,we have oil that we put in most Kias that come here.”With that counter from a mechanic who was i to argue, so i allowed the guy to put 10w-40 viscosity oil into my car.

When I got home, my instinct was telling me that the oil the guy recommended for me was not the oil needed so i began to google-search the recommended oils for the Kia Forte.The search results lead me to the Kia Forte’s Owners Manual in pdf format.And the Owner’s Manual recommended only three oil viscosity numbers;SAE 5W-20, SAE 5W-30 and SAE 10W-30 as pictured below.So the days that followed I began to hunt for the recommended oil.About 2 weeks later I chanced on this shop in East Legon which sold Mobil 1 5W-20 and 5W-30 synthetic oil.Though the price was higher than most of the high viscosity oils sold by Shell,Total and Goil…I was satisfied that I had finally gotten the right oil for my vehicle.

forte

Recommended SAE Viscosity numbers for 2010-2014 Kia Forte

What is Oil Viscosity?

Viscosity is the measurement of a lubricant’s resistance to flow. Simply put, honey has a much higher viscosity than water. It will flow out of a bottle at a much slower rate than water, so honey has the higher resistance to flow.It is considered a lubricant’s most important property. How viscosity reacts to changes in temperature, pressure or speed determines how well the lubricant performs.Synthetic lubricants maintain viscosity during severe operating conditions better than conventional lubricants, providing increased protection and performance.

956258_Honda0W20chart_pnge79b9adb90574f0f6849a8f90db31c03

Engine oil application guide for Honda vehicles

What your mechanic or the shell oil-change guy might not know?

Just as i was advised to put oil with a different viscosity number into my car’s engine, you might have also gone through a similar experience.Usually, the reason cited by these Shell or Total oil-change guys is that, Ghana has a tropical climate so you need thick oil(high viscosity oil) and that  lower viscosity oils are for temperate climates.But here are some facts these individuals might know:

  1. That even in  a temperate country such as the  United States of America, there are places that get hotter than Ghana during summer.As a matter of fact, Death  Valley  in California has recorded temperatures as high as 53.3 degree Celsius in 2012.
  2. Engine oil viscosity is shifting towards lower viscosity in line with Vehicle Manufacturers’ specifications for new engines.For instance, Toyota now recommends oils with  SAE 0W-20 viscosity.
  3. Engine lubricants are evaluated against the American Petroleum Institute (API), SJ, SL, SM, SN, CH-4, CI-4, CI-4 PLUS and CJ-4 as well as International Lubricant Standardization and Approval Committee (ILSAC) GF-3, GF-4 and GF-5, and Cummins, Mack and John Deere requirements.
  4. The oil standards are changing constantly.In 2004, GF-4  lubricants which applies to SAE 0W-20, 5W-20, 0W-30, 5W-30, and 10W-30 viscosity grade oils were introduced.A new set of specifications, GF-5, took effect in October 2010. The industry has one year to convert their oils to GF-5 and in September 2011, ILSAC will no longer offer licensing for GF-4
  5. Your mechanic might be stuck in the 1980s hence the obsession with  SAE 10W-40 oils.

Judging by how complicated the process of choosing engine oil can be, there is only one way to determine that you’re doing the right thing.And that all important action can be summed up by this phrase:” CONSULT YOUR OWNER’S MANUAL.”

Thankfully, it’s 2016, so you don’t have to worry too much  if you don’t have the hard copy of the owner’s manual…because free electronic copies are available to download when  you do a google search of the year, make and model of your vehicle.

Resources:

  1. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Motor_oil
  2. https://www.motorstate.com/oilviscosity.htm
  3. http://www.hondasuv.com/members/archive/index.php/t-1376.html
  4. http://www.sae.org/news/releases/rightoil.htm
  5. http://www.amsoil.com/newsstand/auto-and-light-truck/articles/the-trend-toward-lower-viscosity-oils/
  6. https://www.currentresults.com/Weather-Extremes/US/hottest.php
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