What are the differences between gear oil and motor oil
Knowledge of automotive subtleties helps a lot in practice, not only for those drivers who have a little experience in operating a car, but also for seasoned professionals. Among such important subtleties, undoubtedly, belongs the knowledge of how and by what signs to distinguish gear oil from engine oil.
Is there a difference between motor oil and transmission fluid
To such a question the answer is immediate. Of course there is a difference! Their names themselves speak eloquently about it. Engine oil and transmission fluid, which have, in fact, the same basis, contain different ingredients.
However, you should not definitely check the differences of these additives on the basis of your own car. It can inadvertently come to a very serious failure, which then will have to long and patiently eliminate. This is well known to experienced drivers. So, if a mix-up occurs, the engine will immediately go haywire. The fact that the transmission fluid in the engine will start at the expense of its components to burn out at a tremendous rate, and immediately form all kinds of scale literally on all surfaces, to which it touched, and then clean them will be extremely problematic.
Therefore, zealous proprietors of automobiles are very careful not to mix it up.
Distinguishing features of the engine oil
To know how to distinguish motor oil, it is necessary to proceed from its main functional purpose – to lubricate the power unit, its working units. Such emulsion must maximally, effectively soften the structure of the engine, those of its constituent parts, which are in constant contact during engine operation. It is made on the basis of either synthetic components or mineral, but may have a mixed composition, forming the so-called semi-synthetic fluids. This is done so that the engine oil has the ability to reliably lubricate parts under increased temperature and pressure.
Unlike transmission fluid, engine oil has a higher viscosity, although visually it can be determined only by very experienced mechanics and drivers. There are also differences in color, which can only be determined by professionals.
Differences of transmission fluids
The main task of the transmission fluid is to create a stronger oil film on the parts of the structure. That’s the requirement that defines the key difference between transmission fluid. This is because the parts in the transmission rub with much greater force and receive a much greater mechanical load than in the engine, and if they are abundantly lubricated, they quickly wear out, fail. The composition of such fluid is created taking into account the fact that it will have to work at a gentler temperature regime than the engine oil. And this mode is stable as a rule, without sharp fluctuations, as it is fixed in the car engine.
This is why such fluids are also quite viscous, but still inferior to motor oil in terms of viscosity. The main functional difference is achieved by an additive that differs from that in motor oil and is designed to provide reliable protection against enormous mechanical loads.
How to determine the type of motor oil
What distinguishes engine oil from transmission oil, experts can determine in several effective ways. Naturally, the most reliable way is their laboratory test, in turn, using special equipment and sensors. It is clear that in practice it is quite inconvenient and sometimes simply unrealistic option. Really, you can’t carry special equipment to be able to use it, for example, far from service stations or home garage.
It is much easier and faster to do it by applying folk methods and distinguishing them visually, by color, odor and viscosity, as well as by the use of ordinary water.
It should be noted that this widespread, rather effective method of testing nevertheless does not give a hundred percent guarantee. It is available only to those drivers or car mechanics, who have faced such questions due to their profession. Besides, you should have an excellent sense of smell. Such experts say that the smell of transmission lubricant has a specific tint, like a garlic or sulfurous aroma.
But their diagnosis will only be accurate if the fluid they are testing has previously been stored in a tightly closed container and has not been able to evaporate. If it has had access to open air, the specific odor has probably already evaporated, and it is extremely difficult to determine from the smell alone for what purpose the liquid is intended. Since the cost of error in this case is very high, experts strongly recommend not taking the risk and to try other forms of verification as well.
The option of visual inspection is usually considered to be more effective than an odor assessment. The essence of the test is as follows. Thus, the thumb and index finger of the hand are dipped for a few seconds into the emulsion to be tested. Then they are removed from the liquid and gradually pulled apart. Here it is necessary to pay attention:
- if there is an immediate break in the lubricating film after the fingers are uncoupled – it is definitely for the transmission;
- If after uncoupling the fingers, the film stretches a few millimeters behind them, it is definitely an engine type of oil.
It is also worth noting that this format of checking, as well as the previous one, requires a lot of skills, experience, and a beginner is unlikely to cope with it the first time. Again, due to the fact that the result may be erroneous, there is no reason to fully trust this method.
Testing with water
Traditionally, the water test is considered the most reliable method compared to the visual and smell tests. The algorithm of the test is as follows. A small container with an impressive diameter is used for it. Water is poured into it, the liquid is dripped and the reaction is observed. If the resulting consistency immediately disperses into the water, creating in addition a rainbow pattern, it is definitely a transmission-type oil. There can also be another pattern – the consistency formed like a lens and did not change its appearance for a while. This indicates engine oil.
What happens if you mix up the oils
If the oils are mixed up, it is quite possible that the vehicle will break down. For example, if you mistakenly pour transmission fluid into the engine, the power unit with a very high probability risks of failure at all.
The point is that such a fluid, getting into a new and unfavorable for it environment with high, rigid temperature regime, after a little time will burn out and turn into a sludge, deposited inside the engine walls as a scum. If, on the contrary, engine grease is poured into the gearbox, the consequences will not be so depressing.
We do not advise the experts to experiment with such things, because it is unacceptable to risk the “health” of the car, as well as of a person. In the end, its treatment will be expensive, if it helps at all.
How to distinguish gear oil from engine oil
For sure, all motorists know about what the vehicle needs oil for. However, many of them don’t even know what exactly transmission oil differs from motor oil. The main difference between the two types of oil is their different viscosity. Transmission oil has a much higher degree of viscosity. Well, since both kinds of oil has its purpose and has a number of features, it is necessary to use them properly. Since the gear oil and engine oil are the main consumables for very important elements of the car, it would be extremely unwise to experiment with them.
What is engine oil and why do cars need it?
Engine oil is intended for the lubrication of mechanisms in the engine of the car. Each particular car model requires its own engine oil with certain indicators. Oil classification is based on letters and numbers. Based on these parameters and you can clearly know the characteristics. Engine oil usually consists of a base oil, obtained after oil refining and additives. Engine oil can be mineral, synthetic or semi-synthetic. In order for the car to work properly and its durability is greatly increased, it is necessary to choose those oils that are recommended by the manufacturer of the vehicle.
What is gear oil?
Transmission oil has a higher resistance to high loads. In addition, gear oil has a high viscosity, which means that it perfectly suppresses the noise produced by the working mechanisms, removes heat that occurs during friction, and eliminates the possibility of rapid wear of nodes. Transmission oils must never be mixed due to the high risk of breakdowns. To perform a transmission oil change, the system must be completely drained and cleaned of the old lubricant. When choosing a gear oil, preference should be given to the oils recommended by the manufacturer.
Can I tell the difference?
In order to visually distinguish gear oil from engine oil, it is sufficient to dip two fingers into the oil and then slowly move them apart. The film of engine oil lasts up to 3 mm, while transmission oil’s is literally torn at once. In addition, you can distinguish the compositions by their smell. Transmission formulations may have a garlic or sulfur smell. This cannot be the case with engine oils.
Learn more about the difference between motor oil and transmission oil in this video:
Information on how to distinguish motor oil from transmission oil may be of interest both to drivers and people who are still planning to buy a car. It seems to be much easier: choose a canister with an appropriate label in the store, pour the oil in the proper place, put the canister with the rest of the substance on the shelf in the garage – and no worries!
Engine and gear oils have different characteristics.
But time passes, the amount of unused fuels and lubricants is growing, labels are falling off and gradually people are faced with the need to either get rid of oils or use them for their intended purpose. This is where knowing which substance is in the canister can be useful – oil for engine or for gearbox.
What can a mistake when pouring oil lead to?
Filling up transmission oil will lead to engine damage.
For the inexperienced person all fuels and lubricants look the same, but the ingredients of oils differ significantly. Even a small volume (100-200 ml) of transmission oil poured into the engine can lead to failure of mechanisms. “Blame” in this matter additives (additives) to the substance, which are designed to contribute to the execution of clearly defined tasks: to ensure the operation of mechanisms in conditions of high or low temperatures, not allowing them to wear out.
Transmission oil is not designed to operate at elevated temperatures. Being in an environment where the temperature exceeds 150 o C, the substance begins to burn out. Scale and flakes of burned substance are formed, settling on parts of the engine. If a car owner will catch up and pour out the substance in time, the engine can be saved. Otherwise, an engine may be overhauled.
The same unfortunate consequences await the engine in case of accidental mixing of oils. It is known that when adding oil to the engine, it is not allowed to mix lubricants of different types: for example, synthetic and semi-synthetic, synthetic and mineral, etc. As a result of such manipulations operational characteristics of substances drop sharply, quality worsens that as a result becomes the reason of engine mechanisms failure.
Engine oil has a higher viscosity.
Even the most experienced mechanic is not able to predict the consequences of substances mixing for gearbox and engine. Today there are a large number of brands of both engine and transmission oils. Each manufacturer uses original ingredients, which, if shaken or heated, may cause unexpected chemical reactions.
The simplest that can be assumed is that the substance foams, forms a heavy residue or clots and becomes a paste.
If you pour a little engine grease into the gearbox, not only will the appearance and consistency of the substance change, but also the deterioration of the transmission will be noted. Higher viscosity values of the engine oil will contribute to this.
Some experienced drivers note that in extreme situations, the engine fluid can save the situation: for example, the car has stopped, there is a forest all around, there is no help, there is only transmission oil.
The only way out here is to pour the substance into the engine, drive to populated areas and immediately go to the service station. It will be necessary not only to replace the engine lubrication, but also to carry out its flushing.
How to distinguish between types of oil
Transmission oil will create an iridescent film on the water.
Some mechanics, who have been working with fuels and lubricants for a long time, are not only able to distinguish their purpose, but are also able to name the manufacturer approximately. Unfortunately, ordinary motorists do not have such knowledge. Therefore, it is necessary to remember the 3 main ways, which may be used as a guide, if it is necessary to define the oil kind:
- By smell. Since the composition of gear oil includes a large number of chemical additives, among which may be fluorine, sulfur, phosphorus, molybdenum disulfide, etc., the substance has a very specific smell. Some substances smell like sulfur, others smell like garlic. But do not rely on just one method of determination, because the odor may have weathered from a loose canister or a person does not have a sufficient sense of smell.
- By appearance. It is necessary to put two fingers together and dip them into the unidentified substance. Then slowly separate the fingers. If the oil is engine oil – the film will stretch after your finger for 2-3 mm, if it is transmission oil – it will tear at once. The method should also not be considered very reliable, as sometimes only a very experienced and attentive person can notice the moment of the film breaking.
- With the use of water – the most commonly used method, which does not require much care. Pour a little clean water into a wide container (cup, bowl) and then drop the substance to be determined. A drop that immediately spreads over the surface of the water as an iridescent film will indicate transmission fluid. If the drop acquired the shape of a lens and floats on the surface for a while without changing, it is engine oil.
According to experienced drivers, each of the presented ways can mislead, as a consequence of which the choice of oil will be wrong.
To be sure in trouble-free operation of your car, it is better not to resort to independent determination of the kind of grease, but to buy a new one.
Quality oils are not cheap, but it would cost much more to flush the engine or gearbox, to add new oil, and even to overhaul mechanisms.
Visual ways to distinguish motor oil from transmission oil
At first glance, the ability to distinguish motor oil from transmission oil is not important. After all, it is easy to choose the right material in the store: there are appropriate indications on the canisters, and salespeople will prompt. It remains to choose the brand and pour into the car as intended. However, there is always an unused residue, which stands in the container until you have to refill the oil. It is not always possible to determine the purpose of the fluid from the old packaging. The choice for the driver is either to drain the oil or to find out what type of oil it is.
Why is it important to know the function of the oil?
Visually, all oils look pretty much the same. But fluids for different purposes have different compositions. First of all, they differ in the set of additives, which is determined on the basis of the oil’s working conditions. That is why even a small amount of gear oil that has got into an engine may seriously impair its operation.
Transmission oil has a composition designed for operation at low temperatures. That’s why when it gets into the engine and gets very hot during operation, the oil burns out. This causes combustion products to build up in the engine. If transmission oil is used instead of engine oil for a short time, then it is drained and the engine is flushed, negative consequences are avoided. But if measures are not taken in time, everything will surely end up with an overhaul of the engine.
It would be a gross mistake to not only pour transmission oil into the engine, but also to mix different types of oil. Do not mix fluids with different bases (for example, synthetic and mineral). Even if good oils are mixed, the result will be a material unsuitable for operation.
There are a lot of producers of fuels and lubricants today. Each of them develops its own formulation, giving their products certain properties. No mechanic can say how different oils behave in a mixture. The different components of the lubricants can react both simply by mixing and under the influence of high temperatures. This can be accompanied by fluid foaming, sludge formation and the oil becoming a paste. The result is serious engine damage.
Using engine oil instead of transmission oil also has negative consequences. The main reason here is that the first one is viscous. This is detrimental to the operation of the transmission mechanisms. Also, using engine oil in the transmission leads to a change in its consistency and appearance.
However, there are situations where using oil inappropriately is justified. An example would be when a vehicle has stopped due to a small amount of engine oil in the engine. If it is not necessary to count on a fast help, but there is a canister of transmission oil in the trunk, you can safely pour it into the engine. Then you have to go to the nearest workshop and change the oil. At the same time it is necessary to wash the engine thoroughly.
How to determine the type of oil?
Experienced masters, through whose hands have passed dozens of brands of various oils, assert that they can visually determine not only the purpose of the oil, but also its producer. An ordinary motorist cannot do it. But there are 3 criteria, allowing to distinguish motor oil from transmission oil:
- Smell. Transmission oil has a characteristic smell, due to the presence of a number of chemical elements in it (sulfur, phosphorus, fluorine, etc.). They are part of the additives used in the lubricant. The reliability of this criterion is not high, because with time the smell is lost, and not everyone can boast a keen sense of smell.
- Appearance. It is necessary to check the viscosity of the oil by evaluating the strength of the oil film. Two fingers, folded together, are dipped into the liquid, taken out of it and gently pulled apart. If the oil is engine oil, the film will stretch 2 to 3 mm. If it’s gear oil, it will tear instantly. This criterion also has a disadvantage – it is difficult to catch the moment of the film breaking.
- Behavior on water. The criterion is the most objective. The test consists in evaluating the behavior of an oil drop in water. If you put a drop of transmission oil in water, it will spread with a thin layer at once. If engine oil is used, the drop will keep its rounded shape and float on the surface.
The subjectivity of each criterion is quite high, that is why the specialists do not recommend to rely on them too much.
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