Motor Oils: What If You Use The Wrong One?

Published: 03rd January 2012
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Oil's just oil, right? Well no, it isn't, and putting the wrong motor oils in vehicles can contribute to all sorts of costly consequences. Whether you drive a 15-year-old Vauxhall, a Pagani Zonda or a 1960s MGB, the right lubricant choice helps optimise the seven critical engine factors identified as important by oil experts:

• Wear protection (at the heart of what motor oils are about)

• Long oil life

• Performance under extreme operating conditions

• Engine cleanliness

• Power protection

• Fuel economy - your choice of engine oils can make a difference

• Thermal control

With these optimised, your vehicle's engine and transmission will be cared for as well as possible and you'll minimise the negative consequences of incorrect oil. Consequences such as these:-

Mechanical damage - motor oils matter

The obvious consequence, as anyone with the tiniest understanding of physics will know, is a worn engine. But the consequences can go way beyond engine or gearbox wear and reduced engine life. Mechanical damage related to poor choice of engine and gear oils can bring other unplanned costs and hassles.

Even if yours is a reliable-but-old 1990s oil-guzzler, skimping on quality lubricant to save cash may still prove a false economy when engine failure due to clogged breathers and filters, poor lubrication or damaged big-ends means having to buy another vehicle sooner than planned.

Engine oils and reduced fuel economy

With many manufacturers now specifying 5W-20 oils for increased fuel economy, there's more scope for getting things wrong. Manufacturers' and oil companies' engineers spend millions formulating the perfect lubricant for different vehicles. You ignore their recommendations at your peril.

Possible invalidation of manufacturer's warranty

The notion that manufacturers' warranties will be invalidated if you don't use the brands of engine oils they suggest may not be correct. But failing to use their recommended oil specification is. Whether you use Texaco, Shell, Exol or another make of automotive oils should be neither here nor there - but using a 10W-30 when the book says 0W-30, or using conventional oil when you should be choosing synthetic motor oils, could be asking for trouble.

Lost productivity and reputation

As car drivers, we've all experienced the hassle resulting from a mechanical failure - whether lubricant-related or not. It's bad enough if the problem makes us late for work or necessitates a costly garage visit. But what if you're a fleet operator running hundreds of vehicles. For your drivers, mechanical failures due to incorrect engine oils could mean lost business, sullied company reputation and other indirect costs. And then, of course, there's the risk of lowered residuals when the vehicle is disposed of. Suddenly, skimping on motor oils over the years could reveal itself as a very poor business decision…

Lower residual values

The motor trade knows what it wants when it's auction time and that five-year-old executive express finally leaves fleet service. That's when good maintenance can pay off with a higher auction price. And with today's challenging economy, getting the best possible disposal price has never been more important. Why jeopardise residuals for the sake of skimping on motor oils during the vehicle's life. It just doesn't make sense.

Avoid costly problems: talk to the oil experts

Although choosing the correct gearbox and engine oils for your vehicle can appear to be a minefield, it needn't be. As ever, the advice is to read the owner's manual (or get your fleet drivers to do so - no mean feat in itself), use a trustworthy garage and choose oil wisely based on the maker's specification. Last but not least, take advantage of the wealth of advice available online or on the phone from leading lubricant manufacturers such as Exol Lubricants Ltd. That's what they are there for - they don't just make motor oils!


The selection of the correct motor oils and lubrication fluids is a vital part of the maintenance of any motor car. Graham Baylis is working with one of the best experts in the field, Exol Lubricants. They have a wealth of information on the use and storage of motor oils, lubricants and other automotive fluids. See

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