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Motor oil and winter: What precautions are needed?

Some answers to your questions By ,

In collaboration with Total Canada

In winter, we tend to worry about damage caused by the cold, but in reality the biggest enemy of your motor oil is heat. (Car alternators/starters need to be replaced with greater frequency in Florida than in Quebec, for example).

What precautions can I take?
If you’re concerned about your engine, start by verifying the viscosity of your motor oil. A viscosity, when cold, of 0W-20/30/40 is a good start. Many vehicles that are 2009 or later models already use 0W-20 oil all during the year.

What about condensation that could degrade the quality of the oil and necessitate more frequent oil changes?
There’s no denying that winter brings with it challenging conditions, but for the most part there’s no need to worry. Except in extreme cases, whatever water is in the oil will evaporate when the vehicle attains its normal temperature (modern car engines operate at higher temperatures than older models).

All the same, winter is tough in Canada. Surely that must affect things?
Motor-oil manufacturers like Total must have their products pass Porsche tests to obtain A40 designation: The engine is cooled to -20°C, using used oil, then driven at 35 km/h at 2,500 RPM over a distance of 1.5 km; the cycle is repeated for a period of 12 hours. At the end of this test, there must be between 7% and 12% water in the oil, and no damage to the engine. A good motor oil is a formidable asset for your car.

What tips should I follow when it comes to starting the engine in winter?
If you’re using good-quality oil, there isn’t much you need to do differently than in summer. You can start the engine and begin driving, slowly at first until the engine reaches its normal temperature. There’s no need to sit with the engine idling, as the best way to warm up the motor is to drive the car. Of course, make sure your windshields are cleared and defrosted before departing.  

It’s a little difficult for consumers to find the right information. What should I do ideally?
Total Canada refers you to your vehicle’s owner’s manual. One thing to keep in mind, however, is that while some manuals consider driving in traffic to be heavy-duty use of your car, with today’s electronically controlled engines that is no longer really the case