The Maintenance Game
 
Have you ever been flipping through the satellite channels late at night and come across a blast from the past. One recent evening I was channel-surfing and landed on the Game Show Network. It was airing an episode of "The Dating Game”—and I think the contestants appearing on it are probably now old enough to be my parents!
 
If you think about it, it’s pretty scary being put in that position. You are on one side of a panel asking questions to three people you’ve never met, let alone caught a glimpse of. Depending on their answers to the questions, you are going to go on a date with one. Imagine picking the frog between two princes without even knowing it!
 
When you arrive at your local auto service center, do you sometimes feel like you’re playing "The Dating Game’s” half-cousin, the Maintenance Game. You are the contestant, choosing one oil to accompany you for several thousand miles and protect one of your most valuable assets. We have great news! The Maintenance Game doesn’t have to be scary. Simply answer these questions, and you’ll be on your way to choosing which motor oil is best for your car and the way you drive.
 
A)  I drive a regular mid-size sedan in generally normal weather conditions in generally normal traffic.
 
B) I drive a pickup or minivan that occasionally sees duty hauling the kids to soccer practice or towing the boat to the lake.
 
C) I drive a high-performance or sports car that I like to work out from time to time—maintaining the posted legal speed limit at all times, of course.
 
D) I drive a luxury car that is my baby. You’re lucky if you get to ride in it don’t even ask to drive! I don’t care what it costs to keep it in perfect condition.
 
E) I drive an older car. It’s got more than a few miles on the odometer, but it’s like a member of the family.
 
Now for the answers.  If you answered A or B Conventional Motor Oil, its name implies, conventional motor oil is petroleum-based oil that has been refined into a base lubricating oil. That oil is then blended with chemicals called additives that serve different functions, with most motor oils having 10 or so separate additives in a single formulation. Additives serve to keep the oil liquid at low temperatures, keep contaminants held in suspension until they can be filtered out or drained out with the old oil, keep engine parts clean, etc. For most drivers, conventional motor oil will do the trick as far as meeting the needs of their vehicle and driving style.
 
If you answered B, Synthetic-Blend Motor Oil.  Like its name implies, synthetic-blend motor oil is a mixture of conventional petroleum base oil and a highly modified synthetic base oil that is specially formulated to achieve certain characteristics. The synthetic base stock packs an extra punch and allows the oil to protect at extremely high temperatures, while enabling it to flow easier at colder temperatures, as well. This technology helps protect the "hot spots” that can occur in your engine and eases the pain of cold-starts. Plus,some formulators create synthetic-blend motor oil with a reinforced additive package that gives users even more protection when temperatures start to rise. Some motor oil companies market synthetic-blend products as "SUV, Truck & Minivan” or "Enhanced Durability” formulations. These products are ideal for vehicles that are worked hard, especially during hot summer temperatures. If you regularly pull a trailer or drive a fully loaded SUV, this type of motor oil is a great choice.
 
If you answered C or D Full-Synthetic Motor Oil  Like synthetic-blends, full-synthetic motor oil features a highly modified synthetic base oil. Unlike the blend, however, full-synthetic motor oil is not blended with conventional petroleum base oil, but instead formulated exclusively with synthetic base stocks.
 
The advantages are many, especially when the thermometer swings to extremes. However, be careful to choose a high-quality, full-synthetic that delivers exceptional performance. The term "synthetic” alone is no guaranty of enhanced performance. The advanced base stock of synthetic oil allows motor oil engineers to customize the additives package to improve the oil’s ability to protect the inside of the engine. For drivers wanting the absolute best for their babies, especially in the categories of durability, cleanliness and protection, or for drivers who tend to work their vehicles extremely hard, synthetic motor oil is the way to go.
 
If you answered E, High-Mileage Motor Oil, motor oil companies have designed special formulations of motor oils with the needs of older vehicles in mind. They’re called high-mileage motor oils, and they’re formulated for vehicles with about 75,000 miles or more on the odometer.
 
High-mileage motor oil protects older vehicles in three ways: 1 - By reconditioning rubber and plastic seals inside the engine that may have become brittle and inflexible with age, 2 - Providing increased protection against volatility and burn-off, and 3 - Helping to better seal the combustion chamber as the rings or valve-guides wear.
 
At the end of the day, these specially formulated high-mileage motor oils work a little harder than conventional motor oils do at meeting the special protective needs older vehicles have, reason enough to opt for them if you drive an older car.
 
The Maintenance Game isn’t nearly as complicated or intimidating for you and your car as one might think. Though there are many unique drivers and vehicles, these days motor oil manufacturers are doing a good job of creating a motor oil specially formulated to meet your needs. Before your next oil change, simply review this quiz, ensuring you pick the Maintenance Game prince and don’t end up spending several thousand miles with a frog.
     
  ~ Vehicle MD, originally published January, 2013


 
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