Motor oil: from whales to petroleum!

Motor oil: from whales to petroleum!

Cars, like any other motorized vehicle, need maintenance and consideration. Proper motor oil is one of the most effective factors for the car motor to function properly as the pumping heart of the car. Usually neglecting this fact can result in irreparable damage to the car.

Motor oils or lubricants are a group of oils which are used in order to reduce heat, friction, erosion and rust in moving parts of the motor which are constantly rubbing against each other.

The history of motor oil dates back to the fourth Century B.C., when humans invented wheel and chariot for the first time. They had to find a way to stop the axles from being partially burned and broken due constant movement. At first, they tried to cool the axles with water and reduce the friction; later on the Egyptians used vegetable oils such as olive oil to do the job.

After that, when metal machines were invented during the middle ages, animal fat such as cow or even whale oil were used as lubricants. Humans eventually found out that these oils spoiled and degraded rapidly, so they don’t have the required durability.

Finally in the 19th Century, after the discovery of oil and advancements in technology and innovations, crude oil based lubricants were produced, which have been the best replacement for the vegetable and animal oils so far.

 As the demand for the cars increased day by day, the demands for the motor oil went up as well.

With scientific advancements in this field, specialists in the US divided motor oils into three basic categories based on their SAE: light, medium and heavy.

Motor oils are graded by car engineers according to their viscosity. These grades range from 0 to 60; generally, grades from 0 to 25 are suitable for cold seasons, while from 30 to 60 are better for hot seasons. For examlpe (SAE10-SAE20-SAE30-SAE40).

Actually, heavy motor oils with higher viscosity have a higher SAE grade, while lighter motor oils have lower SAE grade.

The suitable type of motor oil is chosen according to temperature, type of use and SAE grade; for example, in summer heavier motor oils and in winter lighter motor oils are used.

However, in the last few decades special lubricants are formulated and sold; they have multiple SAE grade features, and are called multi-grade. They are labeled by the letter W, which represents “winter”, followed by two numbers. These numbers show the minimum and maximum viscosity of the motor oil in hot and cold environments. For example W10-40  motor oil, which is lighter, functions better in cold weather; W20-50 motor oil, which is heavier, is used in hot environments.

With its countless tins and cans, the Fisogni Museum preserves an important testimony of the technical and commercial development of these products.

Giti Barghi Khamene

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