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Protection and performance for strained engines: the oil cooler
The oil cooler is an optional additional feature for strained engines, ensuring better lubrication performance of the used oil and increased reliability. Oil coolers are not standard equipment. Installation is rather easy, yet should be considered carefully.
Better lubrication for better driving
An engine consists of hundreds of components, many of them flexible and subject to friction. Without optimal lubrication an engine would destroy itself within a short period of time. The grating components would jam. Also, a poorly lubricated engine would overheat quickly. Oil, therefore, plays an important part in the engine's cooling.
The hotter, the runnier
Mineral oil is a lubricant, its lubricating qualities largely depending on the temperature. Colder lubricating oil is more viscous. Conversely it becomes runnier when heating up. Cold engines require optimal lubrication immediately as well and most oils are sufficiently inviscid. However, this implies that they lose their lubricating effect when the operational temperature is exceeded. Oil which is liquid like water or petrol does not adhere to the gaps between the moving components. The lubricating effect is lost and the moving parts rub together without any protection.
Lubrication needs cooling
Oil does not become runny unless it is strongly heated, which is hardly ever the case in normal operation of a car. Highly strained engines put the oil under excessive stress. Installation of an oil cooler can help maintaining the operational safety.
Oil cooler: its task
An oil cooler keeps the operational temperature of the oil at a constant level when the engine is highly strained. The forced cooling of the oil maintains its viscosity within the parameters of optimal lubrication performance.
Oil cooler: construction
There are two types of oil cooler:
- water-cooled oil cooler
- air-cooled oil cooler
Both components fulfill a similar purpose, but differ greatly in construction. The water-cooled oil cooler consists of a small metal box in which lubrication oil circulation and the engine's cooling circulation meet. Evidently, both circulations are sealed from each other. The coolant brings the hot oil at its optimal operational temperature. The advantage of the water-cooled oil cooler is that it quickly reaches and maintains the operational temperature. Its disadvantage is the cooling performance depending on the coolant temperature. Coolant reaches a temperature until 110 °C. The water-cooled oil cooler can not cool the lubricant below this value. The air-cooled oil cooler is a simple heat exchanger as you find in the radiator or the interior heating. The advantage of the air-cooled oil cooler is its simple construction and its limitless cooling performance. More air streaming through the oil cooler takes more heat along with it. The air-cooled oil cooler is very efficient. As a consequence it slows down the heating of the lubricant up to the operational temperature.
Installation of the oil cooler
Generally, oil cooler installation is very simple. Manufacturers add a detailed description. Be sure to stick to it and the installation can be done even by relatively unexperienced DIY'ers. Handling lubricating oil, however, is a dirty business. Therefore working carefully and environmentally-conscious is obligatory. The replacement of an oil cooler is best combined with an oil change. Be certain to use high-grade oil. This will additionally optimize the oil cooler's performance.
Costs for an oil cooler
Costs for an oil cooler largely depend on type and material. The cheapest oil coolers are air-cooled heat exchangers with plastic housing. Their price begins at ca. 30 EUR (± £27) climbing to ca. 150 EUR (± £135). Only slightly more expensive are oil-coolers with air heat exchanger in an aluminium casing. The same applies to water-cooled oil coolers. The cheapest models start at ca £27, but can easily climb to the tenfold.