Oil 101 by Robert Kirk

The demand for more efficient automobiles and emissions is arriving at a toll for any who own vintage internal combustion driven vehicles. Tetraethyl lead in gasoline was the first sacrifice and now ZDDP is permitted only at dangerously low levels in motor oil. A recent check of my "corner store" parts place revealed that well over 90% of the oil offered were API rated SM. SM oils are critically lacking (by at least half) sufficient ZDDP for any engine built before 2004. They replaced SL oils in 2000 which replaced SJ in 1995 both of these have only a marginal amount of ZDDP. SG/SH with a 0.12% or 1200 parts per million represent the base levels of ZDDP required for a car built prior to 1995. For those with vehicles from the 1960s, you need to find an oil rated for that period which would carry an API rating of SC/SD. Try finding it. When I looked I found one synthetic which seems to fill the bill at a cost of $8.50/qt.
I have a supremely blended heavy-duty mineral oil base with API ratings of SD, SE, SF, SG, SH, and SJ ratings for about $5-$5.50/ qt. DELIVERED in the continental US. Central Petroleum’s "cen-pe-co" is my brand and the Company has been serving extreme duty engines for 95 years. Problem is they are a regional manufacturer, thus not readily available at the "corner parts" store. The oil is available in 10W-30 and 15W-40 multi viscosity and straight weights (a tad more expensive) of 10, 20, 30 40 and 50. It is heavy with ZDDP, 1600 ppm zinc &1475 ppm phosphate (16% zinc and 0.1475% phosphate).. Minimum order 1 case of 12 qts.
Sufficient ZDDP in new or fresh cam and lifter engines is absolutely CRITICAL. Cen-pe-co Super Racing Oil with 2400 parts per million zinc and 2200 ppm phosphate would work fine for the half hour break in of the motor. It is strongly suggested that a direct application of cam break in paste, and a completely oil primed system be in place prior to start up. Start up and RPM of 1500-2000 should be maintained for the first 20-30 minutes on either a fresh motor or fresh cam/lifter break in. The oil should be replaced immediately with a fresh change, S-3 cen-pe-co recommended, for the first 500 miles when a second complete oil change is in order. The three oil changes include a new filter and adequate drip time of the contaminated oil.
I am also offering another alternative via an additive with concentrated ZDDP. It is marketed by ZDDPlus.
One bottle will treat 4-5 qts.of modern oil with sufficient levels of the ZDDP.
Cost is $12 a unit or 5 or more at $8.50 a bottle INCLUDES FREE SHIPPING.
This is not recommended for a fresh engine or fresh cam/tappet break in.
Both mineral based and synthetics have their respective use. A well developed true synthetic can be very expensive and still not be "correct" for the end user. I offer that a well designed mineral base oil maybe superior to and less expensive in all cases except where a synthetic is demanded. One must also be careful in comparing oils as the real cost factors are driven by the extent and amount of additives in any particular case. That’s a long way of saying don’t make a decision based on the price. "Dandy Can" oils have to off set all the magazine, track and infomercial hype and cost and while expensive cut their corners with their "package". On the other hand, Brand X at a $1 or $2/ qt. simply doesn’t have the additive package of a more expensive oil.
Email me to further discuss either of these alternative solutions.   kirkbrit@yahoo.com

More on the subject::
      ZDDP, zinc dialkyldithiophosphate, has had me doing some extreme research recently sorting old, misguided, incomplete, and in some cases confounding information. I recently spoke with an oil engineer who shared with me interesting facts about ZDDP and mineral vs. synthetic oils. He also referred me to Michael Grant’s quality article on the subject. Blaine Ballentine tells me that his company’s research shows damage occurs almost instantly when a new cam and lifter or freshly rebuild cam and mandatory new lifters, may momentarily weld themselves, resulting in material pulled off the lifter and the rest is short or longer lived failure…it happens in as little as 30 seconds on start up.
      His street car blend API rated SD, SE, SF, SG, SH, and SJ has 1600 ppm zinc and 1475 ppm phosphate and comes in 10W-30, 15W-40, straight weights, 10 20 30 40 50. The S-3 (street) oil is specifically designed for cars that sit idle for prolonged periods. It is designed specifically to cling to parts and prevent rust and associated deterioration during the "idle" period so many vintage vehicles experience.
      His racing oil in viscosity of 10W-30 and 20W-50, and straight weights of 20 30 40 50 60&70, has 2400 parts per million zinc and 2200 ppm phosphate. BTW, it’s the phosphate, which is causing concern with catalytic converters not the heavy metal zinc. All his oils are mineral and NOT synthetic. While Central Petroleum’s Super Race blends are API rated, many racing oils do not meet any API standard. They are instead formulated for engines doing race-severe work, never shutting down and completely purged of "old" oil immediately after a race. It is designed for engines running 6000 rpm more often than not which use and have blow by of, methanol, nitro as well as gas and or diesel fuels.
      He further suggests that it’s much better to use a complete laboratory tested, balanced package rather than trying to modify a balanced package with an additive. The issue is best explained in that formulations’ additives are balanced so they properly attach to the proper surfaces for which they are designed. Not all ZDDP are created equally, in fact there are several different formulas and some may actually promote corrosion.
      The advantages of mineral oil in conventional engines is that it creates a longer lasting film on the critical surfaces, holds up better under extreme pressures of racing (up to 10,000 psi) and benefits to collectors’ cars are a superior rust inhibitor for vehicles seeing little use and or long storage periods. Both oil bases cause engine seals to swell but mineral based oil causes more swell thus a better seal. If broken in with mineral it is possible a switch to synthetic may cause seal failure.
      Mr. Ballentine referred me to Michael Grant’s article on the ZDDP subject. Unmentioned but absolutely essential to new cam/lifter installation; priming the oil system along with a quality cam break in paste are mandatory. Mr. Grant’s 6 month long study was distilled first in a 25-page document (found on the first link) and later in a two-page article found on the second link and quoted in total below. Mr. Ballentine and I agree that Grant’s information seems to address the issue in scholarly fashion, however, we too agree the percentages quoted are on a minimal side. A 0.12% (1200ppm) would be close to a lower limit for vintage flat cam/tappet motors. Something at 1300 or more would be better.
      The key to any choice is finding quality-blended ie. a quality base oil with appropriate additive packages, oil with appropriate API ratings. In the case of race engines, a product which is of sufficient sum and substance and not driven by advertising and marketing schemes aimed more for broad profit margins rather than real solutions. I would also give that caution to those who truly believe somehow that laboratory created formulas are somehow innately superior to mineral-based oils. Don’t get sucked into the "Dandy Can" oil marketing. In any event oil is a lot cheaper than metal.

The Question.
Which oil should I use in my classic car? It’s incredibly important to ask this question. Why? The reduced level of zinc dialkyldithiophosphate (known as ZDDP, ZDP or ZnDTP) in modern motor oil has been linked to increasing numbers of tappet and camshaft failuresin vintage engines.
What Exactly Is the Problem?
The cam/tappet failure problems often begin with a freshly rebuilt engine that starts making expensive-sounding noises. Inspection might reveal that the bottom of one or more tappets is gone. Instead of a smooth, machined surface, the face of the tappet will look like the surface of the moon. If the problem is the camshaft, it will exhibit one or more worn lobes. Just one failed tappet or cam lobe will create a problem, as the damage results from direct metal-to-metal contact. With metal debris in the sump, here is no choice but to tear down and rebuild the engine. Choosing an assembly lube and motor oil is critical in preventing this metal-to-metal contact. Corrosion, which occurs over time when classics are not driven, is another serious issue. Normal motor oil is designed to lubricate, not to coat or protect metal surfaces from corrosion. All oil absorbs moisture from the atmosphere. Running the engine will eliminate this moisture, but leaving a car to sit for extended periods of time will lead to corrosion. Using an oil product that forms a clinging protective film on the exposed metal parts can minimize this problem. If the oil contains special corrosion inhibitors, all the better. Repair shops specializing in British cars have been dealing with these issues for years, and most have developed a combination of parts, machine work, engine prep and lubricants to reduce these problems. Many shops cite assembly lube, oil and the amount of ZDDP in the oil as major concerns.
What Is ZDDP?
Zinc dialkyldithiophosphate is an oil supplement that has served as the primary extreme pressure (EP) ingredient in all quality motor oils for the past 70 years—until recently. What does it do? When exposed to heat and pressure, ZDDP forms a protective film on metal surfaces that prevents parts (cam lobes and tappets, for example) from making metal-to-metal contact.
Why Do I Suddenly Need ZDDP?
ZDDP has been phased out because it damages catalytic converters. Small amounts of zinc and phosphorus in the ZDDP coat the catalytic material, reducing the effective life of the converter. The ZDDP level in motor oil was reduced from 0.15 to 0.12 percent (1,500 to 1,200 PPM) in 1993, and further reduced from 0.08 to 0.06 percent (800 to 600 PPM) in API SM-grade oil in 2004. But is this level enough for an older engine, especially when it isn’t run frequently? And is it enough to protect the cam and lifters in a freshly rebuilt older engine during the critical break-in period? The experience of hundreds of professional engine rebuilders, cam manufacturers and restorers indicates the mandated ZDDP level is not enough. The Engine Builders Association concluded that 75 percent of reported cam/tappet failures were due to the reduction in ZDDP. Association Technical Bulletin 2333R (November 2007) says current engine oils used by engine manufacturers in new car production should not be used for initial flat tappet/camshaft break-in. It recommends adding additional zinc for camshaft and lifter break-in. Most cam manufacturers also have specific instructions regarding assembly lube and break-in oil, citing cam/tappet failures.
So What Should I Do?
The following guidelines can help you prevent cam/tappet failure and protect your engine.

Initial Break-In Period (First 30 minutes):
Use oil with ZDDP at 0.14 to 0.15 percent by weight (1,400 to 1,500 PPM) to provide the additional protection needed to maximize the chances of a successful cam/tappet break-in.

First 500 Miles After Initial Break-In:
After that initial 20- to 30-minute break-in period, change the oil and oil filter. The oil you run after break-in will not need as much ZDDP; 0.10 to 0.12 percent ZDDP will provide protection without risking chemical corrosion.

Second 500 Miles After Initial Break-In:
After the first 500 miles, change the oil and filter again, using oil with the same ZDDP level, 0.10 to 0.12 percent.

After the First 1,000 Miles (Car Driven Infrequently):
If you don’t drive your car once a week for 30 minutes or more with the oil between 170 and 200 degrees, consider using oil formulated specifically for classic cars. This oil has a mixture of additives designed to deal with the moisture, corrosion and acids in engines that sit for extended periods of time. Change your oil every 3,000 miles or every six months, whichever comes first. If you live in an area with high humidity, change the oil and filter four times a year.

After the First 1,000 Miles (Car Driven Frequently):
If you drive your car once a week for 30 minutes or more with the oil between 170 and 200 degrees, you have more options. Driving the car frequently will minimize the amount of acid, water and water vapor in the crankcase, and that will limit the corrosion and subsequent pitting of the cam lobes and lifters. Using 20W-50 API SM oil with 0.08 percent ZDDP can be fine, but if you are more conservative, a ZDDP level of 0.10 to 0.12 percent will provide additional protection. BM
The above article may be seen on page 21 at this site.

The details of Mr. Grants research maybe found at this site.

I include the following only for those who wish to have a starting point to investigate the issue. Contacting manufacturers for direct comment is the best research tool I know. Legitimate makers normally have a tech person available. If they can't or don't answer specifically to the question of the additive, I would simply dismiss ever buying their product for the vehicle in question as in the following dated material:

API ratings:  http://www.aa1car.com/library/API_ratings.pdf

A surprisingly unbiased report regarding types of oils:

Keep in mind that nearly all magazine articles I read are subtle if not blatant promotions for the publisher’s advertisers. Still this brings some clarity to the matter even if it tends to be somewhat promotional.

In talking with various folks trying to gather more fact than fiction I ran into the following as regards Mobil 1 oil. I have Ashland's (Valvoline) Technical Director Thomas R Smith's paper in front of me, wherein it states, "Mobil 1 5W-30 does not meet minimum API SM or ILSAC GF-4 specifications because of its inferior performance in the Sequence IVA wear test."   http://www.imakenews.com/lng/e_article001295961.cfm?x=bdSbqlq,b186n0qP

ILSAC=International Lubricants Standardization and Approval Committee
API=American Petroleum Institute

Each set standards and certify oil blends. It is speculated that were it any other than Exxon Mobile the "splash" would be MUCH greater. The facts stand and Exxon/Mobile have to date done nothing but challenge Valvoline for proof. That (the proof) went public year’s end 2008.

API SM (ILSAC GF-4) have minimal ZDDP which appears insufficient for freshly built flat cam engines.
The apparent proven allegation that Mobile 1 fails to meet its own specification may be of a concern to its users.

Just because it says synthetic is it?   http://faq.f650.com/FAQs/OilFAQ.htm
Synthetic vs. Mineral Oil
Back in 1998, Mobil filed suit against Castrol for falsely advertising Syntec oil as synthetic, when in fact it contained a highly hydroprocessed mineral (Dino) oil instead of a chemically synthesized basestock. Due to the amount that the mineral oil had been chemically changed, the judge decided that Mobil lost that suit. As a result (except in Germany), any oil containing this highly hydroprocessed mineral (Dino) oil (currently called Group III basestock by the American Petroleum Institute) can market themselves as a synthetic oil. Since the original synthetic basestock (polyalphaolefin or PAO) costs approximately 3 times as much as the Group III basestock, most of the oil blenders switched to the Group III basestock, which significantly increased their profit margins (the price of synthetic oils didn't drop, as I recall, to accommodate this cheaper basestock, which makes up >70% of a bottle of oil). In Europe, blenders still need to use some PAO in order to meet the toughest ACEA specs. In the US, Mobil 1, Amsoil, Red Line and Royal Purple are the only ones I am SURE OF still using PAO*. If you can get a material safety data sheet (MSDS) for the oil you are interested in, look for PAO or polymer or oligomer of 1-decene as a component for a tip-off. Synthetic blends contain some amount (not defined, as far as I know) of synthetic basestock. The small amount of viscosity modifier present in most multi-grade oils probably fulfils this requirement, making synthetic blends another profit centre for the oil blenders.
Blending Oils
PAO-based and mineral oil-based oils are compatible. There are a few synthetics that are not (these are ester-based oils, not suitable for or sold for everyday driving). Again, check the MSDS. However, there are at least 4 different companies that provide the additive packages that are blended into oils. Mixing these 4 different additive technologies can be bad (at least long-term). I am assuming that if you stay with the same brand/company's oil (Synth vs. Dino) there shouldn't be too much problem, but mixing oils is not a good practice.
Synthetic basestocks
There are 4 major PAO producers**: BP Chemical (merchant supplier), Chevron-Phillips Chemical (merchant supplier), Neste (European merchant supplier), Exxon-Mobil (mostly internal use by Mobil). Of course, most of the big oil companies (and a few others) produce the highly hydroprocessed mineral (Dino) oil synthetic.

(*This may not be true in all cases of Royal Purple
**The list is longer than 4

If you have read this far I would add in closing you are obviously concerned. There are laboratories across the US capable of analizing your used oil to report on the condition of the particular oil and your motor. This is only one I found and I have no connection. The practice has been common for fleet managers for many years but is now offered to the general public.