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Oils and Lubrication: Synthetic oils to play a major role in the future

Advancements in engine technology and manufacturers’ desire for cars to be more fuel efficient and produce lower emissions have put pressure on oil companies to produce products to suit.

Lubricants perform a variety of roles but they mainly control friction, keep engine parts clean and reduce noise. They also protect against rust and corrosion, flow under cold conditions, assist with fuel economy and seal combustion pressures.

According to Fuchs Lubricants, components within the oil such as detergent inhibitors and anti-wear agents keep it clean while polymers control low temperature thickening and high temperature thinning. 

More engine specific

Jonathan Ellis, UK business manager for customer lubricants at Shell, says oil is now more engine specific.

Many carmakers are recommending fully synthetic oil because it is thinner and lubricates an engine more effectively; it flows faster than thicker alternatives.

He adds: “From an OEM perspective, environmental pressure has really been at the forefront of technological changes. 

“We are working with OEMs so the lubricating technology is matching the engine technology. With fully synthetic oils the technology is much more advanced and the lubricants are more capable of coping with extreme temperatures and the demands of the modern engine.

“The main difference is fuel economy and reduced wear with semi-synthetic lubricants which salespeople need to convey to customers.”

The introduction of diesel particulate filters in 2006 has also meant a change in oil technology. 

They work by reducing the size of the particulates and stop any of a certain diameter being emitted into the atmosphere.

As a result, specific lubricants have been developed to address the emissions and ensure that they complement the filters by keeping the engine running efficiently.

  • Read this story in full in the 23 Jan 09 issue of AM. To subscribe to AM magazine click here or call 01733 468659.

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