Michael Mathe
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Now More Than Ever, Quality Motor Oil is Key to Engine Longevity

Driven by higher fuel-economy requirements and increasingly stringent emissions limits, vehicle manufacturers are adding new technology to engines and making advancements to existing systems. The system used to vary the timing of intake and exhaust valves opening and closing is one area receiving lots of attention.

Like people, engines must also "breathe." To combust one gallon of gasoline, an average engine requires approximately 10,000 gallons of air. Getting the most from the fuel-air mixture is vital for top engine performance. This requires precise regulation of valvetrain components, including the camshaft and valves. Valves are opened and closed to control the delivery of fresh air and fuel to the cylinder and to evacuate exhaust gases from the cylinder after burning fuel. The action of the valves is controlled by the camshaft. Valves are pushed open by cams (lobes) and closed by springs. Valve timing is controlled by the shape of the cam lobe and position of the camshaft relative to the crankshaft. In traditional engine designs, the timing of each valve is locked and cannot be changed without physically changing the camshaft. As a result, some engines have camshaft designs that create great low-engine-rpm performance, or others, like old street rods or dragsters, that have very good high-rpm performance. The challenge is creating a system that performs efficiently at both low engine rpm and high engine rpm. Enter variable valve timing systems.

Variable valve timing (VVT) is a decades-old technology that was introduced to overcome the inherent limitations of fixed valvetrain systems. Its use has steadily grown since the late-1990s, and VVT can now be found in nearly all 2011 and later vehicles. VVT permits the opening and closing action of the valves to occur sooner, or be delayed, relative to the position of the piston. This makes it possible to achieve optimal fuel economy and performance at low speeds and when passing someone on the highway. It also results in lower emissions.

There are several VVT systems used by OEMs, and there have been recent advancements in the control of these systems. Many systems use oil-pressure-operated mechanical devices to change valve timing (when the valve opens and closes), valve duration (how long the valve is open) and valve lift (how far the valve opens). For example, the Honda i-VTEC system uses oil pressure to lock the motion of intake valves together via pins and transfers their motion to a different cam profile to adjust for the boost in performance required above 4500 rpm. At low engine speeds, the intake valves are opened slightly to reduce fuel consumption while providing enough torque for acceleration; at high engine speeds the intake valves are opened wide for increased power.

Other systems, such as Toyota's VVT-i, vary the valve motion by adjusting the timing of the camshaft in relation to engine speed. Oil-pressure-actuated devices, commonly called cam phasers, are used to control that motion. Cam phasers allow the valves to open or close earlier or later in relation to the position of the piston. When the intake and exhaust valves are operated by separate camshafts, the timing of those valves can then be changed independently. This makes it possible to increase the time that the intake and exhaust valves are open simultaneously - also known as valve overlap - which is used to help control emissions. Controlling valve overlap allows engines to implement internal exhaust gas recirculation (EGR), which has improved performance over the alternative external-valve EGR technology.

VVT systems are complex arrangements involving many intricate components, and they often involve oil-actuated hydraulic devices to control valve motion. They are generally non-serviceable, and many common problems associated with VVT systems are linked to poor oil or filter performance. Sludge or deposits can plug the solenoid screen or oil galleries and impact the operation of VVT mechanisms. This not only disrupts performance, it can be the first step toward a costly repair bill.

With vehicle manufacturers wringing every bit of efficiency out of systems to meet fuel-economy requirements, using high-quality motor oil of the proper viscosity is extremely important. The consistent flow of clean oil is vital for VVT systems' operation. This means motor oil must have excellent cold-temperature properties to move quickly through the small oil galleries upon startup. It must also have the proper balance of detergents and dispersants to prevent deposits, sludge and varnish that clog hydraulic pathways critical to proper engine operation. AMSOIL synthetic motor oils are engineered for the performance demands of VVT technology and promote component longevity to ensure that the systems function properly. Published, AMSOIL Magazine 05/13. LLC is a large nationwide Dealer of AMSOIL Synthetic Lubricants and is now expanding into your area and surrounding states. If you have a business or are an individual with several vehicles, AMSOIL has several options available that may allow you to purchase AMSOIL products at wholesale prices. We can show you how to save money and extend equipment life with AMSOIL Synthetic Motor Oils, Lubricants, Filters and Fuel Additives. Please visit the AMSOIL Online Store for more information about AMSOIL Products.

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