When driving along you probably don't give much thought to the hard work going on underneath the hood. This is a good thing. Modern cars are so reliable that we never need worry too much about how they work. In many ways they have become like white goods or appliances that we just use and can always assume they'll work, well, most of the time. However, there are some things we need to know about our car even if it's brand new. There are many things that need to be checked, some every few weeks or so, others can go much longer between maintenance. You can find a full list on Wikipedia, if you search for "car maintenance". In this article we'll look at the car's oil system and how to keep it in good working order.
Oil is pumped around inside your engine to perform three core functions:

  • Cleaning: detergents are added to the oil to help it clean the engine. Other additives are included to prevent corrosion and rust.
  • Cooling: because engine oil works inside the very heart of the engine it gets very hot. This is a good thing as the oil is constantly circulating it means that surplus heat can be removed and this helps to keep the engine cool. The hot oil then has the chance to cool itself down in the oil pan beneath the car.
  • Lubrication: the main purpose of oil is to lubricate moving parts, stopping them from coming into contact with each other by providing a cushion for them to glide over. This also reduces friction and aids efficiency.
Because oil is so important you should make sure that you have the correct amount inside your car. It's worth checking this every month or two. Use the dipstick to check the level. It should be between the marks etched on the bottom of the dipstick and you'll be able to see this when you withdraw the dipstick from the oil sump. It's a good idea to clean the dipstick and then reinserted to get an accurate measure.
It's not worth using an inferior brand of motor oil. The only real discount you can hope to achieve in this area is if you have a cheap oil change coupon and can get quality oil with a reduction on the price.
It is also important to remember we should keep a close eye on all the instruments on the dashboard when we're driving but the oil pressure gauge is particularly important when it comes to informing us there is a problem in our engine (along with the temperature gauge).