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Automotive Lubricants (Types + How To Choose One)

September 2, 2021

The growing automotive industry has seen an increasing demand for automotive lubricants and transmission fluid options. 

And with so many types of lubricants available, trying to pick one is almost impossible! 

But the real question is, what are automotive lubricants in the first place? 

In this article, we’ll answer this question and look at the various uses of automotive lubricants. We will also guide you on how to choose the right lubricant for your car

This Article Contains: 

Let’s get right into it!

What Are Automotive Lubricants?

An automotive lubricant is responsible for the lubrication of automotive parts to reduce any friction caused in your vehicle. 

It also serves a number of secondary functions. 

It helps clean and cool down the engine parts and prevents rust and corrosion buildup.

Lubricants are either oil-based, solid, plastic, or a combination of the three. The most common lubricants are usually oil or grease, but you may also encounter dry or penetrating lubricants

Before we get into the details, what are these automotive lubricants used for?

What Are Automotive Lubricants Used For?

Automotive lubricants are primarily used for the following functions. They:

However, with the advancements in the automotive lubricants industry, modern industrial lubricants can now serve many other functions.

For example, motor oil is often used to enhance fuel-efficiency, whereas gear oil and gear lubricant is specifically used to lubricate gear parts against high-pressure contact. Some synthetic lubricants can even improve vehicle horsepower with reduced engine drag.   

How well these lubrication systems work will, however, depend on what type you use. 

Let’s take a closer look.

4 Types Of Automotive Lubricants

The increasing demand for automotive lubricants has led the global market to invent many different types of industrial lubricants. These include synthetic as well as traditional lubricants, and they each serve different purposes. 

All of these can be categorized into four major types.   

They are: 

1. Engine Oil And Gear Oil

Engine oil (also known as motor oil) is usually very fluid in texture and has a low viscosity. We usually use conventional oil (also known as mineral oil) or synthetic oil for lubrication. 

Both these oils contain a base oil — generally of crude oil base stock — and additives. 

The additives help enhance the oil quality and increase fuel efficiency since lubricating oil is typically used for engine parts.

For bearings and gearboxes, you may use gear oil as a gear lubricant. 

Gear oil usually has a higher viscosity for better protection against wear. 

Also, don’t get engine oil and brake fluid mixed up. 

They may share a similar amber color, but where the engine oil is a lubricant, brake fluid is a hydraulic fluid and serves a different purpose.

Need to change your motor oil? 

Learn how to change engine oil with this detailed guide

2. Grease

Automotive grease is usually made up of base oil, thickener, and additional additives. 

Grease has a similar function to that of oil, but it is far thicker and stickier in consistency. This quality makes it ideal for gears, linkages, bearings, and chains. 

However, avoid using grease for fast-moving engine parts as they may get stuck.

The increasing demand in the automotive lubricants market also saw the introduction of synthetic grease in the global market. 

This grease is made up of a synthetic lubricant, such as silicone, and can function well under high-demand situations such as mechanical pressure. 

Synthetic grease may also act as a transmission fluid in certain cases and help with high torque transmission. It is also one of the high-performance lubricants that can withstand extreme temperatures. 

3. Penetrating Lubricant

Penetrating lubricant usually contains a very low-viscosity base oil that makes it very fluid and flowy. 

Penetrating lubricant is very refined; therefore, perfect for fast-moving engine parts that would be slowed down by the resistance caused by automotive grease. However, it isn’t very long-lasting and requires frequent reapplications.

It is better suited for loosening bolts, nuts and infiltrating small cracks rather than serving as lubricating oil. For example, it helps break up the rust, like when you need to loosen a corroded bolt off a rotor hub. 

4. Dry Lubricant 

A dry lubricant is composed of a liquid (like water or alcohol) and fine particles of any dry lubricant (like graphite). Available in a spray bottle, the liquid evaporates after a while, leaving behind a thin layer of dry lubrication.

Engine oil and automotive grease often attract a lot of dust due to their fluid nature. They are also prone to oxidation at high temperatures (even synthetic lubricants oxidate after a point). 

On the other hand, dry lubricants are a very convenient and mess-free way to lubricate your car parts. 

This lubricant is best used on small locks, hinges, threaded rods, and engine parts that could otherwise get stuck with grease. 

You now know the four types of lubricants. Each of these conventional and synthetic lubricants serves different purposes. 

So how to pick the right one for your passenger car? 

How To Choose The Right Automotive Lubricant

The growth of the global automotive lubricants market has resulted in tons of lubricant and transmission fluid options. The type of lubricant you choose will ultimately depend on the task at hand and the application requirements. 

Grease would serve better for lubrication of wheel bearings, for example. It would create a stronger, more long-lasting barrier against friction as compared to engine oil.  

Your safest bet is to consult the vehicle manual. 

The right lubricant must meet international standards, including being API, ACEA, JASO, or ILSAC certified. Also, ensure that you pick a lubricant that retains its viscosity through varying temperatures. 

You may also speak to a car mechanic for your lubricating oil needs and car care issues. 

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Final Thoughts 

Proper engine lubrication and maintenance can go a long way in ensuring that your vehicle has a smooth, damage-free ride. It can extend the life of your car engine and substantially reduce any major repair costs in the future. 

With the changing automotive industry and the invention of electric vehicles, high-performance lubricants are very popular in the market. However, irrespective of if you use a solid, semi-solid, or liquid lubricant, frequent maintenance and reapplication are important. 

And above all, be well informed about the type of lubricant you should use for your car, and stick to a proper vehicle care routine. 
Fortunately, for all car repair or maintenance needs, simply contact RepairSmith. Their ASE-certified mechanics will drop by in no time to lend you a hand!