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Is an Engine Oil Cooler Necessary?

CarPart  ·  December 2, 2022

Is an Engine Oil Cooler Necessary?

Cars and engines run pretty hot, so they have a dedicated cooling system to prevent overheating. That system manages the engine’s overall temperature, but what about engine oil cooler kits that you may see as add-ons for your vehicle. Are they necessary?

An engine oil cooler prevents oil from reaching unsafe temperatures because that will cause the oil to lose its viscosity, eventually failing to lubricate and protect the engine’s internal components. Coolers aren’t standard in most cars. They’re only necessary for race cars and vehicles carrying heavy loads.

Engine oil coolers are easy to understand, but this guide will break them down further, so you’ll know what they are, how they work, and whether or not you need one for your vehicle.

Let’s get to it.

What Happens to Engine Oil at High Temperatures?

Before we dive into the topic of engine oil coolers, there’s something everyone must be aware of. Engine oil doesn’t stay the same when it reaches extreme temperatures. Instead, its viscosity (its thickness or density) changes depending on whether the oil is hot or cold.

For instance, if you parked your car outside in winter, the cold weather would cause the oil to thicken. High viscosity means the oil can’t flow smoothly throughout the engine like it’s supposed to.

Thankfully, that’s not too much of a big deal. Once you crank the engine, it’ll make itself hot enough to restore the oil to its optimal condition.

The problem is on the other end of the spectrum—when the engine oil gets too hot. The hotter engine oil becomes, the less viscous it’ll be. 

That’s good because the oil can flow around the engine quickly, but when the engine oil’s viscosity drops too low, it can’t effectively lubricate moving parts, leading to more friction and excess wear.

In other words, overheating engine oil doesn’t fulfil the purpose that we use engine oil for in the first place.

So, overheating engine oil is a concern if you often put your engine under a lot of stress or live in a particularly hot climate like Australia.

That’s where the engine oil cooler comes into play.

What Is an Engine Oil Cooler, and How Does It Work?

As mentioned earlier, the bad news is that overheating engine oil can lead to engine wear, damage, and other problems. That’s especially true if your engine is continuously under stress or becomes a victim of Australia’s high temperatures.

Thankfully, there’s something that can help with that. It’s a component known as the engine oil cooler.

By its name alone, what an engine oil cooler does is a no-brainer. It’s a component you can add to your engine to reduce its oil temperature, helping it maintain optimal viscosity.

Better yet, it uses a very straightforward mechanism and works the same way your radiator does—by circulating engine oil through a smaller radiator so heat can escape into the surrounding air and bring the oil’s temperature down.

The only difference, of course, is that the cooler circulates the engine’s oil instead of coolant or water that circulates in a radiator.

Engine oil coolers have a straightforward build consisting of the following components:

Looking at the list above, it’s clear that an engine oil cooler isn’t complex at all. It functions the same way your radiator does, just that it’s a separate component that only works with your engine and the engine oil.

Is an Engine Oil Cooler Necessary?

An engine oil cooler isn’t a standard feature in many vehicles, especially passenger vehicles. That’s because the engine oil in light cars doesn’t get hot enough to warrant one.

Instead, you’ll usually find them in heavy-duty industrial vehicles like massive trucks that haul a lot of cargo. The oil in those vehicles is prone to overheating due to the stress their engines experience.

Still, there are some scenarios where an engine oil cooler would be necessary.

For example, if you drive a racing vehicle with an engine that runs at high RPMs most of the time, you’ll probably need one.

Drivers in scorching climates might also want to consider an engine oil cooler for similar reasons. Even though they don’t necessarily race or transport cargo, installing a cooler would reduce any possibility of overheating engine oil.

Bottom line: an engine oil cooler is only necessary if your engine oil is prone to becoming so hot that it loses its viscosity and can no longer lubricate or protect its components.

If that’s the case for you, then yes, you should get an engine oil cooler.

Can You Install an Aftermarket Engine Oil Cooler?

Yes, you can get an aftermarket engine oil cooler and install it yourself. All it takes is an online or store purchase of an engine oil cooler kit, plus a quick installation process, and you’re good to go.

As you saw earlier, engine oil cooler kits are very straightforward. That means the installation process is mostly safe to do as a DIY project.

However, remember that you’ll remove the engine oil filter as part of the installation process. Plus, you’ll be attaching fluid hoses to and from the cooler.

Because of that, double- and triple-check every step of the way to prevent an engine oil cooler leak before it happens.

That way, you won’t have to worry about your new cooler being the source of an engine oil leak while driving down the road.

You can find an engine oil cooler kit anywhere that sells aftermarket parts. But if you need help finding a seller in your area, check out the Directory at CarpartAU. You can use it to quickly identify aftermarket parts sellers in your area and grab their contact details so you can start shopping immediately.


By Ray Hasbollah

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