The Harmful Effects of Engine Deposits and What You Can Do About Them
At some point or another, we all notice that something is wrong with our vehicles. Whether it's slow acceleration, poor performance in general, or just the lack of the old "get up and go" feeling it use to have, our cars just don't run like they used to. The reasons for this can be one of many, but typically there is one in particular that plagues us all. Out of all the problems a car might face, engine deposits are just as severe as any car accident, but for the most part are overlooked.
Most drivers won't even think to give this reason a second thought; they just think their car is worn out and trade it for a new one till the problem comes around again. Typically only the enthusiasts among us tend to look at engine deposits as the culprit for their beloved vehicles performance drops. The typical driver doesn't even understand what an engine deposit is. This ignorance can lead to bad things happening to the vehicle.
Engine deposits are what are left over from the process of the engine running. Unless you own one of those fancy battery powered cars, chances are you use an internal combustion engine in your mode of transport. We say mode of transport because this applies to everything that uses this engine type. Regardless of how new or old your engine is, it still follows the same mechanical principal.
Fuel and oxygen are injected into the engine, the valves close, a cylinder comes up, compresses and ignites the mix, and then the left overs are sucked out. This is a fairly old engine design and vehicles from all over the world have been using it for well over 100 years. Cars have used them solidly since the early 1900's and even though technology has evolved, it's still using the same process. By this time you're asking what's this got to do with engine deposits? Well, I'll tell you, if you will be patient.
Engine deposits are the leftovers from the combustion process left inside the engine, typically ignition waste or oil residue. They just start out as small groupings, sometimes too small to see with the naked eye. Who cares? You should. Quality and timely oil changes are the single most important factor in protecting your car's longevity and reliability - and therefore your pocketbook.
Choosing an oil change simply by price and convenience is much like hitting the drive through for a Big Mac Meal Deal: it's quick, satisfying, and cheap (relatively), and you're on your way again. Yes, your car is getting a shot of clean oil and a new filter, but will that new oil hold up to the stress that every day use puts on your engine for the next six months? Could you live on Big Macs for six months? Do you think your body might rebel?
Just like choosing a better-balanced, healthier meal, choosing quality automotive oil takes a little more planning and knowledge. First, read your car's owner's manual. If it tells you to use only synthetic oil, the decision is made for you. If the manufacturer recommends synthetic oil, it is because the car's engine has been precision engineered to require those uniform molecules, and using standard mineral oil can result in problems. Many cars, however, won't be so specific, so you will need to do a little more homework.
First, it is important to understand what oil does for your engine. Oil allows the moving parts within your engine to slide together without creating dangerous friction that causes unnecessary wear and overheating. Traditional motor oils are made from the distillation and refining of mineral crude oil stock, while synthetic oils rearrange these mineral oil molecules into a new product with molecules of a more uniform size and shape and combines them with performance additives that fight off sludge and mineral deposits. This allows the synthetic oil to withstand extreme temperatures and stay clean longer. Most engine wear occurs during start-up and then again at very high temperatures. Therefore, the synthetic oil offers greater protection at both ends of the spectrum. Also, because the synthetic oil resists sludge and mineral breakdown, the length of time between oil changes can be increased dramatically.
Second, one should consider what they expect from their engine oil. If an oil change is all about simply keeping your old clunker on the road for a couple more years, standard oil is probably sufficient. Likewise, if you have just purchased a brand new car and are still in the engine break-in stage (under 5,000 miles), a standard oil is preferable. However, if you are looking to drastically increase the life of your engine, wait longer between oil changes, operate your vehicle in extreme hot or cold temperatures, or get that extra five or ten horsepower out of your car, synthetic oil is the way to go.
Synthetic oil is undeniably a far superior alternative for most of us. Yes, the oil change generally costs twice as much up front, but that oil will last at least two or three times longer, saving money in the long run. In addition to the short-term cost savings, your car will thank you for the enhanced protection and will reward you with a longer life, increased power, and reduced maintenance costs.
R. Morris writes for Good Works Auto Repair, which provides honest, quality auto repair and preventative maintenance in Tempe and Mesa, Arizona.