Motor oil or engine oil is an oil used for lubrication of various internal combustion engines. The main function is to lubricate moving parts; it also cleans, inhibits corrosion, improves sealing, and cools the engine by carrying heat away from moving parts.Motor oils are derived from petroleum-based and non-petroleum-synthesized chemical compounds. Motor oils today are mainly blended by using base oils composed ofhydrocarbons, polyalphaolefins (PAO), and polyinternal olefins (PIO), thus organic compounds consisting entirely of carbon and hydrogen. The base oils of some high-performance motor oils contain up to 20 wt.-% of esters.The Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) has established a numerical code system for grading motor oils according to their viscosity characteristics. SAE viscosity gradings include the following, from low to high viscosity: 0, 5, 10, 15, 20, 25, 30, 40, 50 or 60. The numbers 0, 5, 10, 15 and 25 are suffixed with the letter W, designating their "winter" (not "weight") or cold-start viscosity, at lower temperature. The number 20 comes with or without a W, depending on whether it is being used to denote a cold or hot viscosity grade. The document SAE J300 defines the viscometrics related to these grades.Kinematic viscosity is graded by measuring the time it takes for a standard amount of oil to flow through a standard orifice, at standard temperatures. The longer it takes, the higher the viscosity and thus higher SAE code.Note that the SAE has a separate viscosity rating system for gear, axle, and manual transmission oils, SAE J306, which should not be confused with engine oil viscosity. The higher numbers of a gear oil (e.g. 75W-140) do not mean that it has higher viscosity than an engine oil.
A single-grade engine oil, as defined by SAE J300, cannot use a polymeric Viscosity Index Improver (also referred to as Viscosity Modifier) additive. SAE J300 has established eleven viscosity grades, of which six are considered Winter-grades and given a W designation. The 11 viscosity grades are 0W, 5W, 10W, 15W, 20W, 25W, 20, 30, 40, 50, and 60. These numbers are often referred to as the 'weight' of a motor oil; and single-grade motor oils are often called "straight-weight" oils.
For single winter grade oils, the dynamic viscosity is measured at different cold temperatures, specified in J300 depending on the viscosity grade, in units of mPa·s or the equivalent older non-SI units, centipoise (abbreviated cP), using two different test methods. They are the Cold Cranking Simulator (ASTMD5293) and the Mini-Rotary Viscometer (ASTM D4684). Based on the coldest temperature the oil passes at, that oil is graded as SAE viscosity grade 0W, 5W, 10W, 15W, 20W, or 25W. The lower the viscosity grade, the lower the temperature the oil can pass. For example, if an oil passes at the specifications for 10W and 5W, but fails for 0W, then that oil must be labeled as an SAE 5W. That oil cannot be labeled as either 0W or 10W.
For single non-winter grade oils, the kinematic viscosity is measured at a temperature of 100 °C (212 °F) in units of mm²/s (millimeter squared per second) or the equivalent older non-SI units, centistokes (abbreviated cSt). Based on the range of viscosity the oil falls in at that temperature, the oil is graded as SAE viscosity grade 20, 30, 40, 50, or 60. In addition, for SAE grades 20, 30, and 40, a minimum viscosity measured at 150 °C (302 °F) and at a high-shear rate is also required. The higher the viscosity, the higher the SAE viscosity grade is.
For some applications, such as when the temperature ranges in use are not very wide, single-grade motor oil is satisfactory; for example, lawn mower engines, industrial applications, and vintage or classic cars.
The temperature range the oil is exposed to in most vehicles can be wide, ranging from cold temperatures in the winter before the vehicle is started up, to hot operating temperatures when the vehicle is fully warmed up in hot summer weather. A specific oil will have high viscosity when cold and a lower viscosity at the engine's operating temperature. The difference in viscosities for most single-grade oil is too large between the extremes of temperature. To bring the difference in viscosities closer together, special polymer additives called viscosity index improvers, or VIIs are added to the oil. These additives are used to make the oil a multi-grade motor oil, though it is possible to have a multi-grade oil without the use of VIIs. The idea is to cause the multi-grade oil to have the viscosity of the base grade when cold and the viscosity of the second grade when hot. This enables one type of oil to be used all year. In fact, when multi-grades were initially developed, they were frequently described as all-season oil. The viscosity of a multi-grade oil still varies logarithmically with temperature, but the slope representing the change is lessened. This slope representing the change with temperature depends on the nature and amount of the additives to the base oil.
The SAE designation for multi-grade oils includes two viscosity grades; for example, 10W-30 designates a common multi-grade oil. The two numbers used are individually defined by SAE J300 for single-grade oils. Therefore, an oil labeled as 10W-30 must pass the SAE J300 viscosity grade requirement for both 10W and 30, and all limitations placed on the viscosity grades (for example, a 10W-30 oil must fail the J300 requirements at 5W). Also, if an oil does not contain any VIIs, and can pass as a multi-grade, that oil can be labelled with either of the two SAE viscosity grades. For example, a very simple multi-grade oil that can be easily made with modern base oils without any VII is a 20W-20. This oil can be labeled as 20W-20, 20W, or 20. Note, if any VIIs are used however, then that oil cannot be labeled as a single grade.
The real-world ability of an oil to crank or pump when cold is potentially diminished soon after it is put into service. The motor oil grade and viscosity to be used in a given vehicle is specified by the manufacturer of the vehicle (although some modern European cars now have no viscosity requirement), but can vary from country to country when climatic or fuel efficiency constraints come into play.
The American Petroleum Institute (API) sets minimum for performance standards for lubricants. Motor oil is used for the lubrication, cooling, and cleaning of internal combustion engines. Motor oil may be composed of a lubricant base stock only in the case of non-detergent oil, or a lubricant base stock plus additives to improve the oil's detergency, extreme pressure performance, and ability to inhibit corrosion of engine parts. Lubricant base stocks are categorized into five groups by the API. Group I base stocks are composed of fractionally distilled petroleum which is further refined with solvent extraction processes to improve certain properties such as oxidation resistance and to remove wax. Group II base stocks are composed of fractionally distilled petroleum that has been hydro cracked to further refine and purify it. Group III base stocks have similar characteristics to Group II base stocks, except that Group III base stocks have higher viscosity indexes. Group III base stocks are produced by further hydrocracking of Group II base stocks, or of hydroisomerized slack wax, (a byproduct of the dewaxing process). Group IV base stock are polyalphaolefins (PAOs). Group V is a catch-all group for any base stock not described by Groups I to IV. Examples of group V base stocks include polyol esters, polyalkylene glycols (PAG oils), and perfluoropolyalkylethers (PFPAEs). Groups I and II are commonly referred to as mineral oils, group III is typically referred to as synthetic (except in Germany and Japan, where they must not be called synthetic) and group IV is a synthetic oil. Group V base oils are so diverse that there is no catch-all description.
The API service classes have two general classifications: S for "service/spark ignition" (typical passenger cars and light trucks using gasoline engines), and C for "commercial/compression ignition" (typical diesel equipment). Engine oil which has been tested and meets the API standards may display the API Service Symbol (also known as the "Donut") with the service designation on containers sold to oil users.
The API oil classification structure has eliminated specific support for wet-clutch motorcycle applications in their descriptors, and API SJ and newer oils are referred to be specific to automobile and light truck use. Accordingly, motorcycle oils are subject to their own unique standards.
The latest API service standard designation is SN for gasoline automobile and light-truck engines. The SN standard refers to a group of laboratory and engine tests, including the latest series for control of high-temperature deposits. Current API service categories include SN,SM, SL and SJ for gasoline engines. All previous service designations are obsolete, although motorcycle oils commonly still use the SF/SG standard.
All the current gasoline categories (including the obsolete SH), have placed limitations on the phosphorus content for certain SAE viscosity grades (the xW-20, xW-30) due to the chemical poisoning that phosphorus has on catalytic converters. Phosphorus is a key anti-wear component in motor oil and is usually found in motor oil in the form of Zinc dithiophosphate. Each new API category has placed successively lower phosphorus and zinc limits, and thus has created a controversial issue obsolescing oils needed for older engines, especially engines with sliding (flat/cleave) tappets. API, and ILSAC, which represents most of the worlds major automobile/engine manufactures, states API SM/ILSAC GF-4 is fully backwards compatible, and it is noted that one of the engine tests required for API SM, the Sequence IVA, is a sliding tappet design to test specifically for cam wear protection. However, not everyone is in agreement with backwards compatibility, and in addition, there are special situations, such as "performance" engines or fully race built engines, where the engine protection requirements are above and beyond API/ILSAC requirements. Because of this, there are specialty oils out in the market place with higher than API allowed phosphorus levels. Most engines built before 1985 have the flat/cleave bearing style systems of construction, which is sensitive to reducing zinc and phosphorus. Example; in API SG rated oils, this was at the 1200-1300 ppm level for zincs and phosphorus, where the current SM is under 600 ppm. This reduction in anti-wear chemicals in oil has caused pre-mature failures of camshafts and other high pressure bearings in many older automobiles and has been blamed for pre-mature failure of the oil pump drive/cam position sensor gear that is meshed with camshaft gear in some modern engines.
There are six diesel engine service designations which are current: CJ-4, CI-4, CH-4, CG-4, CF-2, and CF. Some manufacturers continue to use obsolete designations such as CC for small or stationary diesel engines. In addition, API created a separated CI-4 PLUS designation in conjunction with CJ-4 and CI-4 for oils that meet certain extra requirements, and this marking is located in the lower portion of the API Service Symbol "Donut".
It is possible for an oil to conform to both the gasoline and diesel standards. In fact, it is the norm for all diesel rated engine oils to carry the "corresponding" gasoline specification. For example, API CJ-4 will almost always list either SL or SM, API CI-4 with SL, API CH-4 with SJ, and so on.