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Advice on buying engine oil: what should you expect?

Dino Eisele
Advice on buying engine oil
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L aura is young, attractive, blond. She is preferred to be served in boutiques and is happy to provide detailed advice. Will that also work at the gas station?

Laura needs oil. For your 3-series BMW. It's supposed to go to the mountains for the weekend. Her friend, she says, advised her to check the oil level beforehand and top it up if necessary. The next station offers a gas station attendant - so why not? As soon as she opens the bonnet, the professional tap master is on the spot and knows immediately about the peculiarities of the 3-series: 'It is not necessary to open the bonnet', he says, 'There is no oil dipstick here, the measurement is done electronically.' The oil level can be accessed in the cockpit without the risk of dirty hands.

Laura on behalf of auto motor und sport

The system reports: Oil level OK. “Take a bottle with you, just to be on the safe side!” Good idea, but which one? The professional reaches for the shelf with great precision: “Here is our 5W-40, this is the best for your engine.” Laura swallows almost 30 euros, isn't that a bit much for a liter of oil? After all, the BMW is already eight years old and has over 100,000 kilometers under its belt.

The gas station attendant refers to the oil label in the engine compartment: “You see, the last time the oil was changed in December, the good 5W-40 was also filled . Our cheaper oils like this 10W-30 are thicker. For example, if you go winter sports and it gets cold, a thinner oil is better for the engine. ”Laura likes to be enlightened and learns that oils with lower viscosity also ensure less wear on cold starts.

You don't want to go to the mountains. On behalf of auto motor und sport , Laura checks the quality of advice when buying oil at petrol stations, in car accessories, as well as in DIY stores and wholesale markets. And she notes in the log: 'Honest, informative and understandable advice.'

There is not good advice everywhere

This is not the case everywhere, behind the wide counter of the nearest gas station, a student rotates between coffee mugs, pastry displays, cigarette racks and the tank register: 'Yes, there is oil on the shelf outside, take a look at the list ...' Not. When asked, the colleague is referred to, but he is only on duty in the afternoon.

The result of the consultation inHardware store around the corner? There is no advisor. The kids who used to be the best at hide and seek obviously work here today. 'Yes, the employee from the hardware department will come to you in a moment,' said the lady at the information counter. He would have better stayed there too. His advice, 'You must never mix different oils, the engine will break down' is simply wrong. With a comparable viscosity and, better still, an identical oil standard, a product of a different origin can be used.

What is behind these standardized parameters, explains Harry Hartkorn, chief application engineer at the German motor oil manufacturer Liqui Moly: 'The viscosity describes how thin or thick an oil is. A normal multigrade engine oil with SAE 15W-40 down to minus 20 degrees Celsius can be used.

This is what the numbers mean

The smaller the first number, the better the flowability, even at very cold temperatures. Modern synthetic low-viscosity oils have a lower value of 0W or 5W, which corresponds to a low temperature suitability of minus 40 or minus 35 degrees, but especially on short trips leads to faster lubrication, less wear and a certain amount of fuel savings. '

And the second number? “It indicates how thick the oil is at 100 ° C and thus allows conclusions to be drawn about the reliability of lubrication at high temperatures. The greater the difference between the two figures, the wider the area of ​​application. However, this information does not yet contain any information about the quality of the oil. ”

The DIY store employee cannot say which oil Laura's BMW needs now. The assignment list hanging on the oil shelf remains unaffected. But that would be the right way to find out which oil quality is prescribed by the vehicle manufacturer for the specific model. It is not the viscosity that counts, but rather the correct manufacturer's specification.

Save money in the specialist automotive trade

Know that the employee of another hardware store from personal experience: quite charming and without hesitation, he accompanies Laura to her car, looks up the data in the logbook, compares it with the allocation list and recommends the right oil quality. 'Here on the label you can read which manufacturer standards the oil meets,' he explains. In fact, the required BMW standard “Long-life 04” is printed there alongside other specifications such as “VW 502 00” or “Ford WSS MC 917 A”. Perfect service, thinks Laura.

The next petrol stations again offer a rather sobering picture: competent advice from the staff - every time a failure. With the help of the lists on display, you can usually find a suitable oil - often at a price of up to 30 euros per liter. Laura asks about cheaper alternatives. At the station is thereNot much to do: 'Try it in the auto accessories store!'

Bingo, the employee there is trained and knows his products: You can get oil for Laura's BMW here for less than 15 euros per liter. Can it be even cheaper? 'In exceptional cases, for example when refilling with small quantities under half a liter once,' says the seller. 'But anyone who fills in larger quantities without the appropriate manufacturer approval for cost reasons is acting negligently.'

Find the right oil on the Internet

In some modern cars, the oil only needs to be changed every two years or after 30,000 km, depending on the operating conditions. However, this requires special and often expensive long-life oils, which should also be used when refilling. This avoids problems if possible engine damage can be proven to be due to the wrong oil.

The best tip for Laura is at a small free petrol station: 'Have a look at the Internet,' says the woman in her mid-fifties behind the counter, completely altruistic. In fact, the websites of the major petrol station chains such as Aral, Avia or Shell as well as those of lubricant experts such as Castrol, Mobil 1 or Liqui Moly offer practical online oil guides. After entering a few data from the vehicle registration document, the correct oils from the respective provider can be filtered out. This is done across providers on the homepage of the Internet tire giant Delticom at www.reifendirekt.de under “Motoröl”.

Laura is surprised: Oils that cost almost 30 euros per liter at the gas station are in specialist shops or on the Internet often for less than half. So it is worthwhile to consider the question of which oil is right for the engine at an early stage. And if you put a small refill bottle of the right quality in your car, you don't have to buy expensive on the way.

Better find out more for yourself

Many salespeople in hardware stores and petrol stations are not convincing when it comes to good advice. Our check shows that. Some are reluctant because engine damage due to the wrong oil can never be completely ruled out - fear of the risk plays a role. But if you know the vehicle or the engine oil specification required by the car manufacturer, you can quickly find the right product yourself in the oil manufacturer's clear assignment lists.

When searching with the practical oil guide on the Internet, it is even sufficient to enter the type -Key numbers of the vehicle registration document. Finally, the standards on the oil can only have to match those required by the car manufacturer.

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