Wow! Another week of no change in fuel prices! This would make it two weeks in a row; since April began, pump prices have been at RM2.20 for RON95 petrol, RM2.40 for RON97 petrol and RM2.18 for Euro2M diesel (10 sen more for the better Euro5 grade). It’s just like the old days when there was no need to wait each week for revisions to be announced because subsidised prices were maintained for long periods.

With the prices this month being maintained for 3 weeks, the average price for the month is the same as the average for March where RON95 petrol is concerned. For RON97 petrol, it is 7 sen lower and for diesel, 2 sen lower.

Dare we hope that these prices will be maintained right up till the Polling Day of the General Elections? After all, the caretaker government has already decided to make that day a public holiday so it will be easier for citizens to go and cast their votes, so maintaining – or even lowering – fuel prices will help those who have to travel long distances to their hometowns.

As for this week’s fuel-saving tip, it’s about the oil you use for the engine. Basically, there are three types of engine oil to choose from – mineral-based which is usually the cheapest, semi-synthetic which gives better lubricating performance, and full synthetic which is regarded as the ‘ultimate’.

For a long time, motorists had only mineral-based oils to use which were fine but as engines became more advanced, lubricating demands also increased because tolerances were finer. In the 1980s, fully synthetic oils began to appear and these offered far superior performance to mineral oils, but they cost much more too.

Because synthetic oils are formulated with chemically modified petroleum components rather than crude oil, they can be given properties which are capable of operating even in very extreme conditions where mineral oil would break down. In fact, Mobil synthetic oil was used in the Space Shuttles as it would provide the necessary performance in space.

Synthetic oils are much more slippery and this means that they can reduce friction inside the engine. Overcoming friction requires some engine power so if it can be reduced, then the power saved can be used to power the car instead. Lower frictional levels also help to improve fuel economy so while you may pay more for the oil, you might gain with more economical running.

Semi-synthetic oils are priced between mineral and full synthetic oils and while they have some characteristics of the full synthetics, they also have some limitations. However, those limitations are unlikely to be an issue for most drivers who do not push their car hard all the time.

If you can, give synthetic oil (like BHPetrol’s SYNGARD 8000) a try and you will feel the difference almost immediately. However, a word of warning: some car companies are strict on the oil used when the vehicle is still under warranty. Therefore, you will have to use the oil they specify or supply during servicing if you don’t want your warranty claim challenged should there be any engine failure.

[Chips Yap]

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