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Motor oil is a lubricant used in internal combustion engines. These include motor or road vehicles such as cars and motorcycles, heavier vehicles such as buses and commercial vehicles, non-road vehicles such as go-karts, snowmobiles, boats (fixed engine installations and outboards), ride-on lawn mowers, large agricultural and construction equipment, trains and aircraft, and static engines such as electrical generators. In engines there are parts which move very closely against each other causing friction which wastes otherwise useful power by converting the energy to heat. Contact between moving surfaces also wears away those parts, which could lead to lower efficiency and degradation of the motor. This increases fuel consumption and decreases power output and can, in extreme cases, lead to total engine failure.

Lubricating oil creates a separating film between surfaces of adjacent moving parts to minimize direct contact between them, decreasing friction, wear, and production of excessive heat, thus protecting the engine. Motor oil also carries away heat from moving parts, which is important because materials tend to become softer and less abrasion-resistant at high temperatures. Some engines have an additional oil cooler for this purpose.
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