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Better Performance in the Cold

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Old 02 Jan 2018, 04:48 pm
Macgyverman1123's Avatar
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Location: Raleigh, N.C.
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Thumbs up Better Performance in the Cold

Afternoon folks,

I live in Raleigh, but this past month, we've had some record cold days, dipping into the teens and single digits at night and barely cresting 25 in the daytime. When I got to start my Cruiser in the morning, it does make a good bit more noise than usual and it doesn't turn over as fast as it does in the summer. I haven't had any driveability issues with it related to this, but my question is, is there any way to make this a little easier on my engine?

I always idle for at least 30 seconds before driving off when it's this cold.

Unfortunately, I don't have anywhere to plug in a block heater since I live in an apartment complex.

My owner's manual says that my engine can safely run using either 5W-30 or 10W-30 oil. I usually use 5, but should I consider switching to 10 for these extra cold months?

I use only Pennzoil Ultra Platinum in engines that I care about.

Thanks guys!!!

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Old 02 Jan 2018, 04:55 pm
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Location: Arkansas
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Default Re: Better Performance in the Cold

Using a 10W-30 instead of a 5W-30 is only going to increase the effect you are describing. In many cases, the lower first number is going to be better for cold weather.

I've gone to synthetic 0W-30 or 0W-20 on most of my vehicles year around. Besides being more optimal for engine protection overall, it also helps reduce the valve train chatter after cold startup.
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Old 02 Jan 2018, 05:42 pm
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Default Re: Better Performance in the Cold

i would recommend you stick to the recommended weight, but use a synthetic if you are not. the same weight synthetic pours better at room temperature and below..

IIRC pennzoil was always rumored to contain wax. i'm no chemist and IDK if any of it was true but if you google "pennzoil wax" you'll get the idea.

The Low Temperature Advantage

Why is synthetic engine oil better at low temperatures? Many people over the years have incorrectly assumed that synthetic engine oils must be thinner (lower viscosity) to provide this enhanced performance at very low temperatures. They are dead wrong. Remember from Engine Oils 101 that oils are characterized by their SAE viscosity. A 5W-30 synthetic oil has the same viscosity as a 5W-30 conventional. The reason synthetic oils flow better at low temperatures is because they have no wax molecules in the base oil. Conventional oils on the other hand are basically cleaned up crude oil which has a considerable amount of wax. If you have ever bought paraffin wax or candle wax at the store, it most likely came from the same refinery where conventional base oil was produced. One of the steps to produce conventional oil is to remove the waxy molecules. Unfortunately, it is difficult and expensive to remove every last bit of wax from the oil, so some wax is always present in the finished product.

Since wax will form a crystalline structure at very low temperatures, conventional base oil will actually solidify at about 0F. An additive called pour point depressant will help lower the pour point down to around –30F in the finished conventional product. However, these waxy molecules can contribute to reduced pumping capability, even at temperatures above the pour point.

Since synthetic base oil has no wax molecules, there is no opportunity for wax crystallization. Synthetic engine oils generally have extremely low pour points down to –65F. This is due to the fact that synthetic base oils are made up of essentially one type of molecule. It is a pure substance designed to have excellent flow characteristics.

Good low temperature flow is a huge advantage for engine protection. Most engine wear can occur during the short period when the engine has started and is running but the oil has not come up to operating pressure. Synthetic oils can shorten this period of time and help protect against this type of wear. Additionally, if you live in a very cold climate, where the temperature regularly drops below 0F, synthetic engine oil can be a vital component to allow engine starting and extending the life of your engine.
-40 synthetic vs conventional, both 5w30:

for what it's worth, it was -12f here this morning and i'm still running fine with 10w30 conventional in our caravan. it cranked a little slow and i let it warm up for my pleasure, but otherwise no issues.

Last edited by rob302; 02 Jan 2018 at 06:02 pm.
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Old 02 Jan 2018, 06:25 pm
Macgyverman1123's Avatar
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Default Re: Better Performance in the Cold

Thank you! I use Pennzoil Ultra Platinum, it's a full synthetic, but it is derived from natural gas, not crude oil so it likely contains no wax.
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