"Wrong" oil in an emergency? - Nickdm
Just tried to check the oil level on my one-month old Volvo D5 for the first time...

Dipstick is a pig to remove: it seems to be a curved dipstick made to fit a curved hole and takes a lot of persuasion to come out! How stupid is that?

The last inch of the dipstick - just below the "flattened" bit with the min/max markings, is also twisted a full 90 degrees for some reason?! anyway, hard to read the oil level but i think I'm on the minimum line. Now, it's 4pm on a Sunday in rural France, and I need to drive 175 motorway miles to Barcelona at 3am in the morning... I'm not going to find somewhere selling the manufacturer spec 0W-30 oil this time of the day. Any huge risk if I put in some Shell Helix synthetic 10W-40 to top it up instead? Surely not going to knacker the engine is it? (No more so than letting it run dry ;-) ).
"Wrong" oil in an emergency? - Simon
Any oil is better than no oil but the correct grade would be the wise choice. If you are sure it is reaching the minimum mark then I wouldn't worry too much, I would leave it until you can get some correct grade oil tomorrow. That is what the minimum mark means, enough oil for the engine to function without damage, so don't panic unduly. Obviously the oil level is going to drop rather than gain but it should easily manage 175 motorway miles without dropping much more at all. It may have been near the minimum mark since it left the factory, as you have never checked it you will never know, but not all cars are filled right to the maximum mark when they are first new. Personally I would leave it until tomorrow and then get some of the correct grade.
"Wrong" oil in an emergency? - Armitage Shanks {p}
175 'gentle' miles should be OK, as Simon says. From now on I bet you will have a litre of the right oil in the boot - won't you?
"Wrong" oil in an emergency? - GregSwain
Doubt it'd make any difference whatsoever - the thinner stuff is recommended for the UK market because it's cold here - I bet if you bought the same car in a warmer climate (Australia maybe?), they'd recommend 10w40. Just won't be the best when starting from cold with the thicker oil. There is no "correct oil" for any given car - different viscosities suit different climates and operating conditions (long runs, short runs etc). As you're only putting less than a litre amongst 5-ish litres of the "correct" oil, it matters even less.
"Wrong" oil in an emergency? - Nickdm
Thanks for the reassurance guys.

Armitage: you're wrong, I don't plan on keeping any kind of oil in the back of the car to rattle around the boot on the one-in-a-million chance I'll need it at the side of the road one dark night. Surely we can trust new vehicles to a certain extent? That's why I keep oil at home and check the level once/month. (The handbook recommends a check every 2500km and I happen to have done 2400!)

Besides, one of the motoring mags in the UK is running an identical D5 long-termer and wrote last month that they couldn't even find any of the manufacturer-spec oil anywhere, so they had and to go to the dealer for it?! How crazy is that?

Only flaw in the logic is 175 "gentle" motorway miles I plan to do?! I usually cruise that stretch of motorway around 100mph, especially in the middle of the night.. :-)
"Wrong" oil in an emergency? - Simon
You should be able to get hold of 0W-30 oil easily enough. You can certainly get it in Castrol or Mobil guise so I would think most manufacterers produce it and supplies should be plentiful wherever you are.

As for keeping a litre of oil in the boot - does anyone really do that anymore? I certainly don't, but I do keep a litre of it in the garage at home for the occasional top-ups. If you are running a modern car and feel the need to keep a litre of oil in the boot for emergencies, then I wouldn't be very confident about owning that brand of car. Modern cars tend to use very little oil in comparison to years ago and as long as you cast your eye over the level from time to time I don't think you will go far wrong.
"Wrong" oil in an emergency? - Simon
I forgot to add that as for what constitutes gentle miles, is subject to opinion. I would class gentle as not revving the engine to the red line and generally being kind to it. As for cruising at 100mph in your current predicament, it should be fine, it won't make hardly any difference to the rate of oil consumption at 100mph over say doing 70mph instead.
"Wrong" oil in an emergency? - Armitage Shanks {p}
Nickdm - whether I am wrong is a matter of opinion not fact. My car has a small 'pocket' in the boot where I keep a fluorecent jacket, a spare bulb pack and a litre of oil and none of it rattles around! It may be a one in a million chance but it has happened to you in 30 days! If you can't find the oil except at a dealer all the more reason to buy some and keep it, at least in the garage, and maybe in the car. If you need it , having it at home doesn't really help!
"Wrong" oil in an emergency? - Lud
Quite right AS. Although there's no need to keep a gallon in the car unless it's like the Ford Scorpio I was in a few months ago which was guzzling oil.

Oil consumption is often higher in new cars before they have bedded down anyway.

Manufacturers try to reassure people that owning a car these days is just like having a team of mechanics to look after it. You don't even need to open the bonnet between services etc., just take it to the garage if one of the warning lights stays on, that sort of thing.

Not true actually, unless you want to join the wailing and gnashing of teeth that we see even in this forum from people who have been too credulous or careless. In the hands of an ordinary motorist that will shorten the life of any car and make hand-wringing and furious dialogue with numb, bored main dealers more likely. .
"Wrong" oil in an emergency? - Pugugly {P}
BMW thoughtfully left 3/4 of a litre in the boot of my car after the last service. Secured in a bottle and a nice little bag with wipes and a cardboard funnel.
"Wrong" oil in an emergency? - Nickdm
But check your invoice Pugugly, bet they charged you for a full litre and just used a quarter.... Bet it wasn't a gift!
"Wrong" oil in an emergency? - Pugugly {P}
They probably did, but its still handy though....
"Wrong" oil in an emergency? - Avant
Audi very considerately provided, free, a litre of oil, also in a nice little case and strapped to the side of the boot, for the specific reason that new cars use a litre or so in the first few thousand miles. It was the only oil my late lamented Audi ever used in 33,000 miles.
"Wrong" oil in an emergency? - Bill Payer
I'd put some of the Shell Helix in - people worry far too much about the grade of oil they use. However do make as sure as possible that you're reading the dipstick correctly - overfilling causes all sorts of problems.
"Wrong" oil in an emergency? - Nickdm
That's actually my main worry, Bill Payer, the dipstick is a joke and almost impossible to use.

I'm going to cave-in and follow Armitage & Lud's advice: add no oil for the time-being (unless the warning light comes on tomorrow), but keep my litre of Shell Helix in the boot just in case! The car will be parked up for most of the rest of this week, and on Friday I'll try to find the "correct" oil...
"Wrong" oil in an emergency? - Aprilia
0W-30 should be readily available in France (I have bought it from the 'Halfords-typre car stores attached to LeClerc supermarkets). One of the main reasons for manufacturers specifying the 0W-30 grade is fuel economy. It helps them increase economy and hence pull down the CO2 rating for the car. Anything from a 0W-30, 5W-30, 10W-30, 5W-40, 10W-40 CH/B4-grade should be fine as a top-up for this engine. Personally I would sooner top it off than leave on minimum. It always wise to have a litre handy in a new car because a new engine will generally use a bit until it settles down. When reading these idiotically-designed dipsticks make sure that the engine has been off for 5 mins. Then lift it out, wipe it, dip it again, and press it against a white tissue - helps no end.
"Wrong" oil in an emergency? - GregSwain
I only ever bother about the correct oil type/grade when I change it - on the rare occasion that I need to top-up (possibly due to not bothering to check the level post-change), the car gets the cheapest rubbish that's lying around the house (Tesco mineral 10w40 at the last count).

Whilst I agree that 0w30 should be easy to come by (my local BP garage sells Castrol Edge 0w30), I do not understand people having an obsession about oil viscosity. The bottom number is only relevant when the engine's cold, and the viscosity of the oil, and therefore its "multigrade-ness", changes as it ages anyway.
"Wrong" oil in an emergency? - Hamsafar
Most handbooks give a range of useable viscosities in a chart, even though they may recommend one in particular in another part of the book.
All cars I have had have had this in the back of the book with all the technical data.
"Wrong" oil in an emergency? - Simon
>>I do not understand people having an obsession about oil viscosity

I think obsession is a too stong a term, but the correct grade of oil can be pretty important. The early Ford Zetec engines (around 1993 onwards) were designed to run on 5W-30 oil, if this wasn't used then it caused running problems. For example when the engine was cold if it wasn't the right grade oil, the hydraulic lifters would stick and cause the engine to cut out, then you spent ages winding the engine over and over until the lifters sorted themselves out. Yes, I've been there and got the T-shirt!
"Wrong" oil in an emergency? - Bill Payer
For example when the engine was cold if it wasn't
the right grade oil, the hydraulic lifters would stick and cause
the engine to cut out, then you spent ages winding the
engine over and over until the lifters sorted themselves out.


I have heard that the oil grade is important on Mondeo's, but if it's a problem in the UK, then what the heck do they do in really cold places, like Scandinavia?
"Wrong" oil in an emergency? - jase1
Something I've often wondered about the different grades of oil, and in particular the various grades mentioned in my car's manual.

The recommended grade for my car is 10W40, however, this goes down in cold weather and up in warmer climates. "Above -10C" it states that 20W40 or even 20W50 is acceptable -- so does that mean that in the summertime (when the probability of the temperature dipping below -10C is pretty remote) I could, technically, top up with the cheap-and-nasty 20W40 oil you can get from the supermarket for next to nothing?

Not that I would use it (the car is only 5 years old and the engine is far too good to skimp in this way) but say when the car is a 15 year old wreck that's burning a litre of oil every 1000 miles, would topping up with cheap oil hurt the car in any way?
"Wrong" oil in an emergency? - jase1
Oh, and one other question -- I have an old tub of 15W40 oil from when I had the Cavalier. It was opened 4 years ago then closed back up again and not used at all over the years. I take it this stuff is now unusable and should be disposed of?
"Wrong" oil in an emergency? - Roger Jones
"Oh, and one other question -- I have an old tub of 15W40 oil from when I had the Cavalier. It was opened 4 years ago then closed back up again and not used at all over the years. I take it this stuff is now unusable and should be disposed of?"

This is what Chris Longhurst's Oil Bible says:

Product and Shelf Life
Base Oils, Process Oils 3 years
Hydraulic Oils, Compressor Oils, General Purpose Lubricating Oils 2 years
Engine Oils and Transmission Oils 3 years
Industrial and Automotive Gear Oils 2 years
Metal Working and Cutting Oils 1 year

That assumes fully protected and sealed storage (best not opened at all from new).

You will find more than you wanted to know about oil here, but the explanations are unusually clear:
www.carbibles.com/engineoil_bible.html
"Wrong" oil in an emergency? - GregSwain
...would topping up with cheap oil hurt the car in
any way?


Never done any harm in my cars. As you say, the recommended oil is 10w40, most likely semi-synth. In a warmer climate, 15w50 will do the job just as well. Common sense dictates that with 4 litres of 10w40 semi-synth sloshing about, putting 250ml of mineral 15w50 won't exactly make a difference. Before people start gasping "mineral oil in a modern car??", semi-synth is only a SEMI synthetic blend, only around 30% synthetic....the rest is mineral.

Forgot to mention before about Ford engines, which have such narrow oil channels that 10w40 or thicker isn't recommended. They're the exception rather than the rule. Generally speaking, anything that normally specifies 10w40 in this country will be fine being topped up with 15w40 or 5w30 or whatever you chuck in.
"Wrong" oil in an emergency? - jase1
Isn't it the case that the synthetic element is the SAE10-equivalent part anyway? So having a little less of this probably isn't going to do any harm -- the rest of the oil is standard SAE40 or SAE50 stuff which is essentially the same thing in both oils.

ISTR that older vehicles might actually benefit from thicker oil as the thinner stuff can seep through tired seals etc and cause mayhem.
"Wrong" oil in an emergency? - 007
>>>BMW thoughtfully left 3/4 of a litre in the boot of my car after the last service. Secured in a bottle and a nice little bag with wipes and a cardboard funnel.>>>

My garage always remembers to oil the steering wheel as well :o)
"Wrong" oil in an emergency? - Lud
My garage always remembers to oil the steering wheel as well
:o)


Casting my mind back, I recall old-fashioned hard-to-clean beige fabric upholstery and linings as being especially attractive to the oily paw....

Merely annoying when you do it yourself, outrageous when done without any attempt to clean it or any apology by 'professionals'.
"Wrong" oil in an emergency? - Nickdm
Well, it looks like my original post was one big false alarm!

I checked the oil last Sunday, 90 mins after a 20 mile run, when I presumed that the car had had time to stand and that all the oil would have returned to the sump. Anyway, I didn't add any oil this week. I checked the level again first thing this morning after the car had been parked-up for 36 hours and it's reading almost full..?!!!

Thank for the useful and informative advice all round!
 

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