In this article, I’m going to give you a brief introduction of what biodegradable engine oil is, how they’re being used in today’s performance engines, and give you some guidance on whether they’re ultimately worth the investment.
In today’s environmentally conscious society biodegradable resources have become more popular than ever before. And one of the leading pioneers of the biodegradable market is oil and lubricants. But while it’s nice to be able to help save the environment by being conscious of what we use in our engines, at the end of the day we’re dirt bike enthusiasts; so naturally, performance is going to be one of the most important factors.
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What Constitutes a Biodegradable Engine Oil?
First, we need to define the term biodegradable. Biodegradable means that the substance (or object) can be broken down and consumed using bacteria or other living organisms. In other words, if something is biodegradable, it can be reabsorbed into the environment.
As far as biodegradable oil is concerned, there are two major types: animal fats and vegetable oils. And of those two, vegetable oils are by far the more popular types used for biodegradable oil manufacturing.
Vegetable oils have been used as forms of motor oil for several years; however, they didn’t hit the “limelight” until the First World War (and World War II) where, due to oil shortages, vegetable oils were adopted for use as oil, fuel, and various other lubricants.
After the wars were over, its mineral cousins, then petroleum based, and then synthetic oil overshadowed vegetable oil. But now vegetable oil is making a comeback, and here’s why…
The Advantages of Using Biodegradable Oil (Vegetable Oil)
It’s hard to imagine that simple vegetable oil can possess its own set of advantages over other more high performance based oils, but it does. Here are three of its main advantages:
They possess an excellent lubricity. Vegetable oils’ lubricity is much better than mineral oil.
They have a high viscosity. Just like synthetic oil (and synthetic blends), vegetable oil has a high viscosity index, which means that its viscosity index doesn’t change much when it’s either exposed to hot temperatures or cold temperatures.
They have a high flash point. Vegetable oils are much more combustible than mineral oils.
The Disadvantages of Using Biodegradable Engine Oil
Unfortunately, you can’t have the good without the bad. While biodegradable oils do have their own set of advantages, they also have their disadvantages about their counterparts. Here are the two most significant drawbacks of using biodegradable engine oil on your dirt bike.
They oxidize much quicker. Biodegradable oils are one of the fastest oxidizing oils available. And I’m sure you already know that oxidization leads to sludge and gunk build-up. Two things you never want in your engine.
They do poorly at high temperatures. While vegetable oils may have a high viscosity index, they lose fluidity when met with high temperatures.
They are expensive. Current biodegradable engine oils aren’t cheap, rivaling the price of full synthetic options.
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Are Biodegradable Oils Worth The Investment?
While the lure to be environmentally conscious is a strong one, performance still takes top priority for my riding. And for that reason, I would still use either a full synthetic oil or synthetic oil blend before a biodegradable oil, at least for now.
While they do have their fair share of advantages, high oxidization and poor performance in high temperatures are two reasonably big disadvantages. Add to that the current price of biodegradable engine oil, and the fact I still have to dispose of it like any other oil, and it’s just not worth it.
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