Mechanically Speaking: I’m a fan of European cars

"It is probably not much of a secret. I like European cars. Especially the German kind."

It is probably not much of a secret. I like European cars. Especially the German kind.

Do they build better cars than everybody else? I doubt it. For me though they build the best driving cars. They also generally respect my six-foot-five inch frame.

If you haven’t driven a German branded car you should try one out. They feel different. They hold the road like your favorite carving skis. They make the Hope Princeton (without semis) just plain fun.

If you choose to own one they do have special needs. Not tending to these needs will likely cause you grief. They can be overly complex and illogical.

First and foremost Euros, especially the Teutonic ones, require special oil. Special oil does not just mean the best synthetic money can buy. They require an engine oil that meets the specifications that each manufacturer developed for the specific engine and application.

The oil specification is likely in the owner’s manual. The owner’s manual will also have a long dissertation on the ramifications of not using the correct engine oil.

So you are not just looking for 5w30 viscosity synthetic. Your BMW may need 5w30 that meets LL01, or LL04 specifications. Your Mercedes will require a special diet of 5w30 that meets their own 229.3 or 229.51 specifications. Your VW/Audi may require a 5w40 but any old 5w40 synthetic will not suffice. VW specifications are 502, 505.01, 504, 507.

See what I mean? Overly complex.

Thank goodness they all seem to publish available service bulletins to help us find the right oils. Make sure you or your service provider is using one of these bulletins to get you the right oil.

Generally speaking Euros require oils that behave differently at higher temperatures. At 150 degrees Celsius they are required to stay thicker than a typical American car oil.

Without that quality, synthetic or not synthetic, the oil will not protect metal parts from scuffing. Premature wear will occur.

Viscosity at 150 Celsius is not the only difference.

The Euros pride themselves in being environmentally friendly. As such they generally have maintenance schedules that allow significantly longer oil change intervals. Therefore the oil is designed to survive these longer intervals. Read the fine print though.

Severe service use (ie: driving in the Kootenays) like shorts trips, continuous freezing temperatures and/or mountainous driving requires more frequent changes.

The salesman that sells you your Euro will go on about the infrequent required services but I can tell you not to fall in that trap. If you want a long service life from your new car stick with a shorter regimen of services.

Ask your mechanic that fixes those cars for a living for professional advice.

Enough about the oil. Time to move on to the oil filter. Believe it or not your Mercedes likely can use two different oil filters. One type will require more frequent replacement than the other. Make sure you know which one you are getting.

Did I mention overly complex?

Trail’s Ron Nutini is a licensed automotive technician and graduate of mechanical engineering from UBC. E-mail:

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