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Choosing the right engine oil

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  • Choosing the right engine oil

    Machines are complex. Motorcycles, even more so. And then there’s the engine, which is really complex. Please bear with us while we try to explain. Engines have hundreds of moving parts, working together to power our motorcycles. Try to imagine the dynamics of 1 of the 8500 revolutions that our motorcycle engine does per minute. And then some high-end motorcycles that can go up to 16000 Revolutions per minute! Therefore, it is safe to say that engines go through a lot of wear and tear. But what is the cause of that? According to what science has taught us, motion is always resisted. Most of the times, the resistance is caused by friction. And therefore friction, the biggest enemies of the engine, must be as less as possible.

    The most common method to reduce friction is the lubrication of the moving parts and that’s the primary motive of engine oil. But that is not the only purpose of engine oil. The oil serves as a layer of protection between the moving parts. It also acts as a dispersant i.e. it holds things like dirt and metal particles suspended in the oil so they can be removed by the oil filter. It also prevents the corrosion of the engine components. The engine oil also regulates the temperature of the hot spots inside an engine that regular coolant passages cannot reach. Since the coolant usually only deals with the hottest parts of the engine, like the cylinders and the cylinder head, there are many internal engine components that depend on the oil for cooling, in addition to lubrication. For example, the transmission and clutch rely heavily on the engine oil for that.

    In case of superbikes, the importance of the right engine oil is paramount because of multiple cylinders in various configurations, huge cubic capacities and therefore large travel of the pistons and high revolutions per minute (rpm). But even in case of smaller motorcycles with single-cylinder engines, when raced on the track, the right engine oil is just as important. So for someone who is looking to take it to the racetrack, the in-depth knowledge of engine oils is important in order to have a better understanding of which engine oil is the best for their motorcycle. Even more so, with the variety of options available in the market.

    Mineral oils are a by-product of petroleum processing. It is the most basic type of engine oil and is recommended for smaller capacity engines which do not impose a lot of mechanical pressure while running. The downside of mineral oils is that they don’t last very long so you need to make sure to replace the oil at recommended intervals.

    Fully synthetic oils are considered to be the best, especially when it comes to choosing an engine oil for race machines. They are constructed out of pure polymers based on factory-made oils and serve a very specific purpose. The main benefit of fully synthetics oils is that they don’t degrade in terms of quality as they are made to have a very long life cycle. They don’t break down as fast as mineral oils or semi-synthetic oils and therefore, are best suited for motorcycles that are to be raced.

    As the name goes, the semi-synthetic oil is a mixture of mineral oils and synthetic oils. Manufacturers have taken the best of both worlds; the high level of protection from mineral oils and high-performance aspects from synthetic oils. If a motorcycle produces a healthy amount of power but is not put under a lot of stress (like the daily commute to work), then semi-synthetic oil is the right choice.

    Another important aspect of engine oils is the grade. Most oils on the shelves today are “Multigrades”, which means that the oil falls into 2 viscosity grades (10W-40, 20W-50 etc.). For example, in 10W-40 engine oil, the W in 10W stands for winter which means that the oil must have a certain maximum viscosity at a low temperature. Lower “W” numbers translate into a better cold start performance because a thinner oil will circulate faster on a cold start, affording better engine protection and therefore lowering long term wear. The 40 in 10W-40 means that the oil must fall within certain viscosity limits at 100°C. The lower the number, the thinner the oil. And here, one looks for a higher grade so that the oil can maintain its viscosity even while battling excessive heat.

    We have been using the Castrol POWER1 series of engine oils for a long time now. Castrol has been around for ages and has been a pillar of support for many racers and races in India. Their prowess at what they do is evident from their presence in MotoGP, the pinnacle of motorcycle racing, taking care of a certain Mr Crutchlow’s LCR Honda. But the real reason behind our faith in Castrol POWER1 is our own firsthand experience.

    Be it our trip around India aboard two R1s back in 2009 or our rather recent 20,000 km trip around Australia aboard a 280 Bhp Ninja H2 and a Ducati Panigale 1299, Castrol POWER1 has been the caretaker of the engines of our motorcycles. The distance we covered, the motorcycles we rode and the weather we dealt with, have been extreme and yet, the engines were never smoother and the throttle response, never better. And our recent trysts with the Buddh International Circuit aboard our BMW S1000RR too were facilitated by the Castrol POWER1 engine oil. Castrol claims the NEW Castrol POWER1 with Power Release Technology beats key competitors on acceleration: 5 Metres ahead in just 30 seconds.* And Castrol POWER1 CRUISE with Power Sustain Technology provides 14% Better Oxidation Resistance** and 5% More Power*** than the key competition.

    So, when we decided to take two TVS Apache RR 310s for a 4000 km trip around India riding to the 4 (and riding on the 3) racetracks of India, we knew we didn’t have to look further than Castrol POWER1. And it comes as no surprise that it came on top of the weather, distance and the extremity of riding on the track. So if one wants to race on the track and have the peace of mind that their engine is in good hands, they can rest assured that Castrol POWER1 is one of the safest pair out there.

    Castrol POWER1 now have a whole range of engine oils available to match all your biking needs. Whether you need a 10W-30, 15W-40, 15W-50, 20W-50 or even a fully synthetic 10W-40 & 10W-50, Castrol POWER1 is available in all grades and you may also find it on Amazon.

    DISCLAIMER: *Based on the results of an acceleration test. The test simulates a 30-second wide-open throttle acceleration from a rolling start, in a single gear, conducted by Castrol using Honda CBR300 engine. At the end, the distance travelled is reported. ** Better oxidation resistance compared to a 15W-50 oil without Power Sustain Technology in a PDSC oxidation test conducted by Castrol. ***Power measured at the end of a 200-hour motorcycle engine test developed by Castrol using a Honda CBR300 engine.