|Oil 101 by
|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
|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
Cost is $12 a unit or 5 or more at $8.50 a bottle INCLUDES
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. firstname.lastname@example.org
|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.
|BY MICHAEL GRANT
|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
|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
|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
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
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?
| 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.
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.