If you have doubts about your oil
pressure, you may check the pressure like this with a cold
- Start the engine and let it run for say ten seconds.
- Then turn off the engine and as soon at it has stopped,
quickly turn on just the ignition.
- If the red oil pressure warning light on the panel takes
a few seconds to light, the engine is holding the oil
- The duration for the oil gauge comes from the fact, that
the oil in your Alfa has a long way to run until it
reaches the sender unit.
- I suppose you have your sender just over the starter on
the rear back, far right.
- The sender for the red light is placed rather close to
the oil pump on the exhaust side.
The API (American Petroleum Institute)
has this system.
- S means service class for petrol/Otto engines and C for
commercial class/diesel engines.
- API class Comments
- SA, SB and SC were the original classification which is
no longer in use.
SF For engines until 1989. This quality had an improved
lubricating and cleaning effect than the previous
- SG Introduced in 1989. Improved and better quality than
- SH For engines up to model year 1996 and older
- SJ The modern oil for modern engines. Likely to be the
oil you use today in your brand new Alfa Romeo
- SL Even more improved, launched in 2002 but may be used
in any engine. Be sure to check the viscosity though.
So, this is it. The higher the second
letter, the better and more modern oil you have
The oil is very popular on TV!
The engine oil is a popular event on
the commercial TV. It's being grilled over an open fire and
then expected to be liquid after ten hours in an arctic
We might even have the chance to accompany the oil in the
engine through pistons, valves, bearings and down into the big
black sump. This is in fact only the beginning of the oil in
your engine. It's a cruel world down there in the sump.
We sure expect the engine oil to do a
great deal in our Alfa Romeo engines.
The oil must stand three times the temperature of boiling
water. The oil must be able to lubricate valves that are
accelerating as fast as 1000 g. A human being will get
unconscious at 7 g. The oil must also lubricate pistons that
might reach a speed of over 5000 km per hour. That's fifteen
times as fast as s bullet from a rifle The oil must hold a
film to lubricate the bearings that may reach a pressure
that's 12 times the pressure in your bathroom pipes.
The oil does not look as
gorgeous or as attractive as your car stereo.
But it's down there in your engine,
doing a marvelous job. The oil companies are developing engine
oils and their additives like never before. However, one point
needs to be concerned. Reduced fuel consumption is hardly the
result of changing the engine oil from one make to another.
It's more likely to be the driver himself who effects the
miles per gallon ratio. Drive nice and you'll improve your
There are five important tasks
for the oil.
- To reduce friction.
- To clean the inside of the engine.
- To prevent corrosion inside your engine.
- To cool and reduce the temperature inside the engine.
- Finally to tighten the engine and reduce any leak of
The first item is obvious.
Any contact between the metal surfaces in the engine is
critical. With a cold engine just at its first firing, the oil
additives will take care of the friction. That's why it is so
important in cold climate to use a recommended oil of very
good quality and to have the engine running at low revs for a
while until the oil is warm. The Alfa engine has quite a
considerable volume of oil in the sump and it takes time to
reach its recommended temperature.
Drive your Alfa gently the first
minutes before you use its full potential
The second task is to clean
In fact, your engine is like a washing machine. In the oil
there are additives like tensides like in the washing powder,
to remove any dirt inside the crankcase. Another additive will
hold the dirt fluent until the oil filter hopefully cleans the
Any filth and small dirt like carbon
and metal particles that's being washed down from the liners
by the pistons will be held by the filter. The very small
particles that my pass the filter will give the oil a black
color after a while. Black engine oil is no problem, it is a
result of a good engine oil that is cleaning the engine and
doing its job as expected.
The third task is to prevent
your engine from rust and corrosion.
The combustion process generates water and acids. They are
mixed with the engine oil and become real nasty. In the end
they may cause rust on the metal in the engine. If the rust
wasn't prevented and stopped, the bearing tolerances for
instance would change and cause a damaged crank shaft.
Since the oil contains basic additives
to neutralize the acid, all you need to do is to run your Alfa
real hot for a while, like the Italian tune-up myth. See Pat
Bradens Alfa owner's bible. Once the engine is real hot and
the oil too, the nasty things will evaporate.
This is one of the reasons for a
regular change of engine oil. I always change oil in my Alfas
once a year or after 10 000 kms, which ever comes first. Don't
forget to change the filter too.
The fourth task for the oil is
to cool the engine.
Most of that job is taken care of by the coolant, but inside
the engine the oil has to do this. The pistons are one of the
hottest parts in the engine.
The temperature might reach 300
degrees Celcius there. The oil is also cooling the liners and
the bearings as well as the valves and the head. Hard work to
be done for the friend in the sump. We hardly see anything of
this working oil.
The fifth task is to keep the engine tight.
Again, high temperatures helps the oil to keep the pistons and
rings close to the liners to improve the combustion process.
It must also keep the valves tight in the guides to prevent
oil in the combustion chamber. Imagine that!
What about the oil
If you have access to a temperature
gauge, you will notice that the temperature will increase at
high revs. If the engine is working under pressure, say heavy
load in the trunk or hill climbing, the temp will also
increase. This is no problem with a good quality oil in the
Alfa alloy sump. But what is the normal temperature?
First of all, the oil must not
be too cold.
The more viscous, the longer it takes the oil to reach the
bearings. Did you know that even in the summer it might take
the oil some minutes to reach its full lubricating potential.
That is why you should rather not rev your Alfa too high the
first minutes before the oil is warm.
To have the water and acid to
evaporate, the oil must be somewhere around 100 degrees. If
you drive your Alfa on a short distance without the engine
being warmed up, you may find a light brown foam inside the
oil cap. This is nothing to worry about, some Italian tune up
will solve that problem. The temperature in your Alfa is
probably around 110 to 130 degrees. If you drive it very hard,
an oil cooler might be needed. See your Alfa supplier on my
hot links to get one.
If your Alfa wants some oil
it's OK, but if the consumption is increasing, check the head
and the pistons. The job can be carried out without removing