You don’t need to be a professional mechanic to acknowledge the fact that a vehicle’s engine has numerous moving parts. When these parts come into contact with each other while in motion, friction occurs, which lowers their efficiency and increases their wear and tear rate. This is the purpose of the oil system in your vehicle, to act as a lubricant and reduce the damaging effect that friction has on your engine.
Components of the Oil System
While there might be slight differences between different manufacturers, the main components that are standard in all vehicles are:
- The Oil Pan/Sump
This is the reservoir that holds the engine oil. The oil that gets into the engine comes from the oil pan, and after it circulates through the engine it returns back to the oil pan ready to its next cycle.
- The Oil Pump
Since gravity is working against the oil circulation, an oil pump is necessary to provide the power that will push the oil and create the required pressure to move it throughout the engine.
- The Pressure Valve
Once the oil is pumped from the sump, it is restricted for a while so that it builds up enough pressure to propel it throughout the engine. Once this pressure is achieved, the pressure valve opens to allow the pressurized oil into the engine.
- The Oil Filter
Once the oil has gone through the engine, it picks up dust, grime and other particles that were hidden within the engine’s crooks and crannies. The oil filter removes these impurities before the oil is recycled back into the engine.
- The Pickup Tube
This is the piping that connects the oil pan/sump with the pressure valve. Once the engine is switched on, the oil pump pushes the oil through the pickup tube on its way towards the engine.
The galleries are a series of holes within the engine that allows the pumped oil to access all the engine components that require lubrication. Thanks to the pressure created by the oil pump, in conjunction with the pressure valve, the oil that enters the engine has sufficient pressure to pass through all the galleries and lubricate the engine’s moving parts.
What is the Purpose of Oil in the Engine?
Engine oil serves three main purposes:
This is the main purpose of engine oil, to lubricate the moving parts within the engine. A well-lubricated engine does not have much friction which reduces the amount of energy that is required to function. This increases engine performance and improves the overall vehicle engine efficiency. Lubrication also reduces the wear and tear that comes naturally when moving engine parts come into contact. The main engine block which houses the pistons and the crankshaft are particularly prone to damage if they are not sufficiently lubricated, this is where a performance oil system come into play removing the unnecessary risk to valuable engine parts.
- Temperature Regulation
One of the ‘side-effects’ of friction within the engine is overheating. A well-lubricated oil system ensures that this friction generated heat is not produced which keeps the engine temperatures cooler. Oil is also an excellent conductor of heat. As the cool oil passes through the engine, it absorbs some of the heat generated in the engine further cooling it.
- Removing Dirt and Debris from the Engine
As the engine moves, it usually collects dust, dirt and other debris. These are usually washed away by the oil as it passes through the small holes and galleries within the engine. The oil filter ensures that this dirt is not returned back to the engine during the next oil cycle, thus keeping the engine clean. Debris buildup within the engine affects the overall efficiency and performance of your vehicle.
Aftermarket Improvements to the Oil System
The aftermarket parts that can improve the performance of your vehicle include:
- Oil Catch Tanks
During the combustion process, the combustion cylinder and piston need to be well-lubricated to function properly. Unfortunately, some of this oil ends up getting mixed with the fuel-air mixture being combusted, adding impurities to the exhaust fumes produced. Without an oil catch tank, this oil will be pushed into the exhaust system and will cause clogging over time. In high-performance vehicles, not only is the combustion rate increased, but any blockage in the exhaust will lead to reduced efficiency. The catch tank stores this oil before it enters into the exhaust system.
- Oil Drain Plugs
When you go for an engine change, the oil that is stored in your sump needs to be drained; this is done via the oil drain plug which is located below the sump. High-performance vehicles usually require a reinforced drain plug that will not cause leakage under heavy use.
- Dry Sump
Most stock cars use a wet sump which stores all the oil being used in the engine. A dry sump utilizes an additional oil reservoir which allows the sump to be much smaller. It is referred to as the ‘dry’ sump since it is completely drained when the oil is being pumped into the engine. Its smaller size allows the engine to sit lower and creates a lower center of gravity that improves handling and cornering at high speeds.
- Oil Coolers
In a high-performance engine, the oil tends to heat up much faster due to the increased power output. Engine coolers are usually installed to keep the oil from getting overheated, and losing its effectiveness. Engine coolers are usually installed to regulate the temperature of heating oil, although there are some that can regulate the transmission oil temperatures as well.