PLAN FOR 4WDING SUCCESS
A successful 4WD trip is the result of correct preparation and planning, with vehicle maintenance being a key to great adventures
An engine oil and filter change before a trip is a simple task, but it may be the difference between a success and disaster on your next trip off road, says Nulon.
Serious 4WDing and towing can add significant load to your vehicles powertrain and this creates significant increases in temperature in the functional fluids and lubricants under your bonnet.
Increasing temperatures are caused by a combination of the high engine revs and high torque required with off road driving, combined with the reduction in air flow into the engine bay due to the low vehicle speeds. High ambient air temperatures in hot summer conditions also reduce the ability of your radiator system to keep your engine cool.
Engine oil, and its ability to lubricate and protect all engine components, is directly affected by the temperature of the oil.
The main factor that allows an engine oil to separate moving components with a low friction fluid barrier is the oils viscosity, or in simple terms its flow characteristics. An oil viscosity does however vary with changes in temperature with oil becoming thinner as temperature rises. Therefore, engine oil can offer less protection if there is a significant increase in engine oil temperature.
Adding an engine oil temperature gauge will allow you to monitor your temperatures when your vehicle is under heavy load and adding aftermarket oil coolers offer a solution to managing oil temperature.
Engine oil viscosity is measured using an international standard controlled by the Society Of Automotive Engineers (SAE) so your vehicle handbook will recommend various SAE viscosity grades such as SAE 5W30, SAE 10W40 etc.
The handbook will advise which viscosity grade to use under different ambient operating temperatures from a freezing winter through to the hottest summer. Make sure you consider these ambient conditions when changing your oil prior to your trip.
Like all things in life engine oil does deteriorate over time and a significant increase in oil temperature can accelerate this deterioration. Higher oil temperatures increase the rate of oxidation within the oil which is a key factor that determines the expected life of the oil, or in other words the oil change interval.
Higher quality synthetic engine oils are less prone to oxidation and breakdown at high temperature due to the stability of the synthetic molecules and are the best choice in high load, high temperature applications. Synthetic and semi-synthetic oils also experience less viscosity change with temperature when compared to a mineral oil so are the preferred choice when your vehicle is experiencing heavy loads.
Driving in dusty conditions, or crossing creeks or rivers, also increases the risk of contaminants finding their way into your engine oil. Both fine dust and water have extremely detrimental effects on engine oil performance so after a trip driving in these conditions it’s best to replace the oil and filter once you hit the highway or get back to day to day urban driving.
For simple tips and instructions on how to change the engine oil on your 4WD, Nulon invites you to visit the Nulon YouTube channel to view its DIY videos.