How Does the Check Oil Light Work?

Practically everyone who drives a car knows that regular oil changes are vital to keep the engine in good working order. As oil ages, it loses its protective properties, and can sometimes become contaminated with dirt or metal particulates – which abrade the engine’s internal components and can actually cause damage in operation!

But how often is “regular”, anyway? That’s going to depend on how often and under what conditions you drive your car. The conventional wisdom is that a change every 3,000 miles is best – but if you’re driving under less strenuous conditions than the norm, this could result in you wasting your money.

That’s why more and more cars are now equipped with a “check oil light” – a simple dashboard signal that tells you when you’re in need of an oil change. But how does it know? In other words, what is it inside the engine that’s triggering the check oil light to turn on in the first place?

Most drivers, with healthy cynicism, assume the light is simply reading the odometer and turning itself on at regular mileage intervals. You may be pleasantly surprised to find out that that’s not the case – and that the technological gimmick of the check oil light is actually quite clever.

Check oil lights work in one of two ways, depending on the make and model of your car. The first is the ‘algorithm’ method – where the car’s on-board sensors take into account a combination of factors, like mileage, engine load,  and temperature variations recorded as you drive, to determine if it’s likely that your oil needs changing.

Factors like this matter, because oil degrades differently in different environments. If you’re driving in the city, your car will change speed and accelerate at a much more variable rate than steady driving on the motorway. Speedy acceleration puts quite a lot of stress on the engine and, consequently, the oil – so sporty drivers and “boy racers” may find they have shorter intervals between oil changes. Hot climates vs. cold climates can also play a significant role.

The powertrain control module, or PCM, receives this data, and tries to determine remaining engine oil life based on its built-in algorithm. The odometer is still the main factor, but it’s adjusted up and down based on temperature and engine load statistics recorded by the car’s on-board sensors. When your engine oil runs up against the PCM’s projections, you may start receiving warnings to change your oil soon – or, after you procrastinate on that for a while, to change it right away!

The second method is ‘direct measurement’. This approach uses less guesswork: rather than trying to estimate how long your oil has left based on how and where you’ve been driving, the car is equipped with sensors that can actually sample the oil, testing it for the presence of water, soot concentration, electrical conductivity, and viscosity. This combination of tests is pretty rigorous, and can discover contaminated oil, or oil that’s simply past its best, without much trouble.

A General Motors study found that drivers who use either system have, on average, 2-3 fewer oil changes per year. So they can make a real difference – with accurate measuring, you’re liable to get two or three thousand more miles of smooth running out of each oil change. You’ll also know when your driving conditions are aging oil faster than the average.

It’s worth checking if your car has either of these two systems – or, when you’re shopping for a new car, whether your favourites have them! While they’re not going to estimate your oil’s lifespan down to the mile, they’re far better than sticking to the old reliable “3,000” miles rule of thumb.

Another way to ensure your oil lasts longer in the engine is to use an oil additive – like Syntec4 Oil Booster 90. Oil Booster 90 creates a super tough thin lubricating film that, after two hours in the engine, can reduce friction by up to 90%. In addition, its lubrication package actually conditions the metal, reducing its coefficient of friction. This has a multiplicative effect on oil life – and makes for quieter running, less oil burning, and improved fuel efficiency.

Prevent Fuel Waxing This Winter

With Winter in full swing, it may be time to start thinking about the cold flow capability of your fuel.

If you’re in agriculture, industry, or haulage, or supplying customers who are, you likely already know that cold weather waxing can turn your fuel supply into an active liability. What ought to be the lifeblood of your business is instead clogging engines, causing choking and stop-starting, and keeping some vehicles from starting up at all. Progress on the roads, in the fields, or with the excavator comes to a dead stop as you struggle to negotiate with the fact that you’ve just paid a significant outlay for fuel that the cold weather has made nearly unusable.

Red diesel is especially at risk from cold weather. Thanks to the mixed quality of what’s on offer in the modern market, waxing points in off-road diesel are sneaking higher every year. That means it’s not just good sense to consider an anti-wax solution: it might actually be necessary for off-road operators to do so if they don’t want to lose a significant chunk of their winter profits to unusable fuel and lost productivity.

For distributors, too, the benefits are obvious. Treated fuel offers your customers a necessary operational safeguard, and the added costs are very minimal, especially when compared to the massive potential for profit. An anti-waxing component gives your fuel the winning edge, elevating it to the quality of a premium product while keeping it at a standard product’s price point. It’s something your customers need, and that you can benefit from. Ultimately, it ends up being a winning proposition for both parties.

How Waxing Happens

All diesel fuel contains some paraffin. This is desirable and necessary: the high cetane content of paraffin makes for more efficient burning during normal use, resulting in better mileage and more even performance. When temperatures drop, however, paraffin freezes, forming stiff crystals of wax that block the fuel line, clog the combustion process, cause choking and stop-starting, and ultimately starve the engine of fuel entirely – leading to breakdowns and dead stops in the middle of what should have been a profitable day’s work.

Once fuel waxing has occurred, it can’t easily be reversed. That means waxed fuel stays waxed, and is effectively unusable. And it doesn’t just occur in vehicle tanks: if storage conditions are cold enough, fuel in storage tanks suffers from waxing too. Above-ground storage is especially vulnerable, and more so if it’s not fitted with insulation.

The result of waxing in the storage tank is blocked offtake lines, a wax sediment forming on the tank bottom – and potentially thousands of pounds’ worth of effectively unusable fuel. For most off-road operators, it’s a nightmare scenario.

How Syntec4 Wax Killa Treats Itwax-killa-transparent-png

Syntec4 Wax Killa is a specialised detergent that prevents paraffin from waxing at low temperatures by making sure the paraffin in diesel fuel stays separate, and fluid, no matter how cold it gets. It can be added to fuel in storage or in the vehicle tank, and works at its full efficiency with all types of diesel fuel, no matter their bio content.

For even better performance, operators can use Wax Killa’s sister product Glacier Extreme – a cetane-improving fuel treatment that brings off-road diesel up to a premium road quality specification. Glacier Extreme has all the properties of Wax Killa included in its formula, and also boasts water controlling, lubrication improving, and fuel life extending properties. For working hard in cold weather, it’s hard to find a better assistant.

Whether you choose to use Syntec4 products or not, though, it’s always worth considering the dangers of fuel waxing, and the profit opportunities that come with tackling the problem head-on.

Whether it means more work getting done on time, a healthy trade in additised fuel, or protection against losses on fuel you can’t use, the benefits are varied. The potential for better business (and thicker margins) is there – it’s just waiting for industry professionals to reach out and grab it.

Why You Should Enhance Your Off-Road Diesel

Frequently, people tell us that they’d love the smoother running that comes with enhanced off-road fuel, but that they can’t afford the extra few pennies per litre. And, from their perspective, that makes sense: after all, many businesses run on narrow margins, farms especially. They view the better fuel as a luxury, something that makes their day-to-day job easier, but doesn’t make an impact on their profit margins.

This couldn’t be farther from the truth. The fact is, additised fuel pays dividends. Once you look at the statistics, it’s impossible to say that the savvy buyer shouldn’t be additising their off-road diesel in 2018.

First off, there’s the save on maintenance and components. Operators are used to tractors, construction vehicles, and other off-road equipment being able to run on the cheapest fuel available and come out the other end relatively unscathed. The fact is, that’s just not the case with this new generation of ethyl alcohol and fish oil-contaminated red diesel: if allowed to run unchecked, it’ll do real damage over time to various parts of the engine, particularly the fuel injectors. Experienced off-road operators don’t need to be told that injectors can cost thousands of pounds apiece to replace – and some statistics we’re seeing say that if you run a tractor or a piece of construction equipment on the sub-standard off-road fuel that’s all over the marketplace right now, you can expect to be replacing them yearly.

In the last few years, Caterpillar have launched a company specifically devoted to testing fuel quality as a part of equipment warranty claims. If they find that the fuel used in the damaged vehicle was sub-standard – and it almost always is – they reject the warranty. So far this year they’ve carried out in the area of 22,000 fuel warranty checks.

In 95% of cases, Caterpillar were absolved of responsibility to replace damaged parts, simply due to the fact that the vehicle had been running on fuel that fell below their minimum standard. That’s upwards of 20,000 agri and construction operators who have had to pay out of pocket for thousands of pounds worth of part replacement due to a problem they couldn’t have anticipated.

That’s a significant potential savings for spending an extra penny or two on fuel. And it’s not just “peace of mind” – it’s a real, actionable way to prevent the financial blow of early part replacement. But let’s also talk about the next point: fuel efficiency.


Additised fuel runs more efficiently to start with. That’s a proven fact, and already well-accepted in the industry, but many people don’t think it’s enough. After all, if you use less fuel per hour of work, but spend slightly more on fuel per day, don’t those two things balance out?

The truth is, there’s a little more to it than that. It’s true that additised fuel offers a base-level efficiency increase, and that all things being equal, you’ll use less of it per Hp/h than the alternative. But the larger efficiency gain comes from all the other jobs a high quality additive can perform in the engine.

The right kind of additive will clean up combustion, minimising soot and emissions, and lowering the incidence of DPF clogging. It’ll lubricate pistons and injectors as it runs, making for a smoother conversion of fuel to energy. It controls water, meaning less “choking” and stop-starting as you’re trying to get a day’s work done. Syntec4’s products are also treated to prevent corrosion. Fuel that runs in a clean engine, all statistics show, is fuel that offers a higher rate of conversion from money spent to active work.

We offer one product, Vulcan Gas Oil Max, that gives up to a 6% efficiency boost from its combustion catalyst alone. That stacks on top of the core 10+% boost it delivers by raising the cetane number. Are you spending less than 116% of your normal fuel spend to have your off-road diesel treated with a product like Vulcan? Chances are, the cost is more like 101% or 102% – and that means you’re already making a savings.

There are even more benefits to treated fuel, too. But we’ll discuss those in a future article. For now, consider this a primer on why you might consider additisation – and why it might be the smartest financial move you could possibly make for your fuel solution.