What is Motor Oil?

Historically, motor oil was just a mixture of base oil and additives used to lubricate engine parts, reduce friction, clean, cool, and protect the engine.

However, modern synthetic motor oils are a complex mixture of base oils and additive components designed to perform a variety of tasks:

  • Separating and lubricating moving parts
  • Reducing engine wear
  • Helping to prevent deposits from forming on internal engine components
  • Removing and suspending dirt and contaminants in the oil until these contaminants can be removed at the next oil change
  • Cooling engine parts
  • Enhancing engine fuel efficiency
  • Providing protection across a wide range of temperatures
  • Operating hydraulics in variable valve timing
  • Helping protect the emissions system

In other words, modern synthetic motor oil does a lot more than just lubricate. It's responsible for engine wear protection and engine performance enhancement as well as complete protection of all moving parts.

Engine oil is comprised of two basic components--base oils and additives. The base oils constitute 70-90 percent of the total and are created from natural gas or crude oil, while additives round out the remaining 10-30 percent and can be variety of things.

These additives include among other things:        

  • Dispersants
  • Detergents
  • Anti-wear additives
  • Friction modifiers
  • Antioxidants
  • Anti-foam additives
  • Corrosion inhibitors
  • Viscosity index improvers
  • Pour point depressants

Why is a Motor Oil’s Ability To Clean Important?

Every time your engine runs, by-products from combustion contaminate your engine oil. If the contaminants build up in the oil, they can settle and create sludge and deposits in the engine. Using low quality motor oil, neglecting to change your oil, and maintenance issues can also lead to sludge forming in your engine.

If your engine components and oil passages are dirty, your vehicle performance, efficiency and quality can diminish. Deposits also trap heat inside your engine like an insulating blanket. That is why it is important to use a motor oil like Pennzoil Platinum® that helps keep engines clean.

What are Dispersants?

A dispersant protects your engine’s performance by helping to keep sludge from forming on internal engine parts by suspending contaminants in the oil until they can safety removed at the next oil change keeping your engine cleaner.

What are Detergents?

Detergents operate on high-temperature surfaces, such as the piston-ring area and the piston under-crown, helping to prevent deposits. This protects against engine wear and increases the performance and efficiency of your vehicle. These detergents get consumed over the life of your oil change.

Why are Anti-Wear Additives Important?

High pressure points, like between the camshaft lobe and its follower, can reach over 200,000 pounds per square inch of pressure! The advanced anti-wear additives in Pennzoil Synthetics, like ZDDP or “zinc,” form a protective layer that is thinner than a strand of human hair, yet able to absorb impact at high pressure points inside your engine. This layer protects all of the parts of your engine from wear caused by friction and heat.

Antiwear additives operate under high temperatures and high load conditions, protecting engine parts like camshaft lobes, lifters, piston rings and cylinder walls. Antiwear additives coat these surfaces in a “sacrificial layer” or film, which is consumed as it protects. Without this “sacrificial layer,” metal-to-metal contact would occur. Like detergents, antiwear additives also get consumed over the life of your oil change. This is another reason you should always change your oil at recommended intervals.

What Do Friction Modifiers Do?

Friction modifiers are pretty straightforward -- they reduce friction under high loads and high temperatures. This protects your engine parts from wear and helps maintain peak efficiency, performance, and fuel economy. The effectiveness of these additives diminishes over time as the oil ages.

The Reason Your Oil Needs Antioxidants

Oxidation results from exposure of the oil to oxygen at high temperatures. It’s a bad thing. The results of such exposure can accelerate the breakdown of the oil and contribute to oil thickening, sludge, and deposits. This buildup of grime lowers the performance and efficiency of your vehicle. Antioxidants help slow oxidation in the oil to help keep engines running clean.

Three Reasons Your Oil Needs Anti-Foam Additives

Air bubbles caused by foam create a variety of problems in oil. They make oil harder to pump to vital engine parts, reduce the oil’s lubrication effectiveness, and inhibit the oil’s ability to help keep the engine cool. All of these things hurt a vehicle's performance and efficiency and an oil that has foamed-up can result in serious engine damage. An anti-foam additive helps prevent these problems, specifically at high temperatures.

How Rust and Corrosion Inhibitors Benefit Your Engine

It might sound strange, but internal engine parts can be subject to rust and corrosion. Rust and corrosion inhibitors coat metal surfaces, protecting your engine against these hazards. Rust inhibitors help protect against the reaction of water on metals. Corrosion inhibitors help protect against the reaction of acids on metal.

Understanding the Need for Viscosity Index Improvers

The viscosity index measures an oil’s ability to resist changes in viscosity as temperature changes. Viscosity index improvers utilize polymer additives to help maintain oil viscosity over a wide range of temperatures. The more viscous the oil is, the more easily it coats and completely protects your engine parts from wear. The use of viscosity index improvers allows the formulation of multi-grade engine oils, such as SAE 0W-40 and SAE 5W-30

Pour-Point Depressants are Important. Why?

Pour point depressants help motor oil flow at extremely low temperatures. This is important because motor oil needs to flow well in order to fully cover your engine parts and be able to protect them and maintain its efficiency regardless of temperature. Flow is important in cold engines as oils that are difficult to pump at cold temperatures require additional energy to circulate. This results in added stress on the engine and decreased efficiency.