Oil is killing our cars to.

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    I read this awhile back thought it went along the lines of the gas subject, but felt it needed its own forum.

    Oil is Killing
    our Cars

    Keith Ansell,
    Foreign Parts Positively, Inc.

    Oil is Killing our cars Part

    About a year ago I read about the reduction of zinc
    dithiophosphate (ZDDP) in the oils supplied with API approval that could affect
    sliding and high pressure (EP) friction in our cars. The reduction of these
    chemicals in supplied oil was based on the fact that zinc, manganese and/or
    phosphates reduce the effectiveness and eventually damage catalytic converters
    and introduce minute amounts of pollutants into our atmosphere.

    A month or so ago I had a member of the Columbia
    Gorge MG Club bring a totally failed camshaft and lifters back to me that had
    only 900 miles on them!! I immediately contacted the camshaft re-grinder and
    asked how this could happen. They were well aware of this problem as they were
    starting to have many failures of this type. In the past, the lack of a
    molybdenum disulfide camshaft assembly lubricant, at assembly, was about the
    only thing that could create this type of problem. My customer has assembled
    many engines and had lubricated the camshaft properly and followed correct break
    in procedures.

    This got me on the phone to Delta Camshaft, one of
    our major suppliers. Then the bad news came out: It???s today???s ???modern??? API
    (American Petroleum Industry) approved oils that are killing our

    Next call: To another major camshaft
    supplier, both stock and performance (Crane). They now have an additive for
    whatever oil you are using during break-in so that the camshaft and lifters
    won???t fail in an unreasonably short period of time. They also suggest using a
    diesel rated oil on flat tappet engines.

    Next call: To a racing oil manufacturer that
    we use for the race cars (Redline). Their response: ???We are well aware of the
    problem and we still use the correct amounts of those additives in our
    products???. They continued to tell me they are not producing API approved oils so
    they don???t have to test and comply. Their oils were NOT the ???new, improved and
    approved??? ones that destroy flat tappet engines! ???We just build the best
    lubricants possible???. Sounds stupid, doesn???t it, New-Approved but inferior
    products, but it seems to be true for our cars.

    To top this off: Our representative from a
    major supplier of performance and street engine parts (EPWI) stopped by to ???warn

    us??? of the problem of the NEW oils on flat tappet engines. This was a call that
    the representative was making only because of this problem to warn their engine
    builders! ???The reduction of the zinc, manganese and phosphates are causing very
    early destruction of cams and followers???. They are recommending that, for now at
    least, there must be a proper oil additive put in the first oil used on new
    engines, beyond the liberal use of molydisulfide assembly lube. They have been
    told that the first oil is the time the additives are needed but remain
    skeptical that the first change is all that is necessary. Their statement: Use
    diesel rated oils such as Delo or Rotella that are usually available at auto
    stores and gas stations.

    This problem is BIG! American Engine Rebuilder’s
    Association (AERA) Bulletin #TB2333 directly addresses this problem. I had a
    short discussion with their engineer and he agreed with all that I had been

    Next phone call was to a retired engineer from
    Clevite, a major bearing and component manufacturer. First surprise was that he
    restored older British Motor bikes. The second surprise was that he was ???VERY???
    aware of this problem because many of the old bikes had rectangular tappets that
    couldn???t rotate and are having a very large problem with the new oils. He has
    written an article for the British Bike community that verify all the ???bad news???
    we have been finding.

    Comp Cams put out ???#225 Tech Bulletin: Flat Tappet
    Camshafts???. They have both an assembly lube and an oil additive. The telling
    sentence in the bulletin was ???While this additive was originally developed
    specifically for break-in protection, subsequent testing has proven the
    durability benefits of its long term use. This special blend of additives
    promotes proper break-in and protects against premature cam and lifter failure
    by replacing some of the beneficial ingredients that the oil companies have been
    required to remove from the off the???shelf oil???.

    Next question: Now what do we do?

    From the camshaft re-grinders (DeltaCam):
    ???Use oils rated for diesel use???, Delo (Standard Oil product) was named. About
    the same price as other quality petroleum based oils. They are not API
    formulated and have the zinc dithiophosphate we need in weights we are familiar
    with. From the camshaft manufacturer (Crane): ???use our additive??? for at least
    the first 500 miles.

    From General Motors (Chevrolet): add EOS,
    their oil fortifier, to your oil, it???s only about $12.00 for each oil change for
    an 8 ounce can (This problem seems to be something GM has known about for some

    From Redline Oil: Use our street formulated
    synthetics. They have what we need!

    From our major oil distributor: Distributing
    Castro, Redline, Valvoline and Industrial oils: ???After over a week of contacts
    we have verified that the major oil companies are aware of the problem???. ???The
    representatives of the oil companies today are only aware of marketing programs
    and have no knowledge of formulation???. The only major oil companies they were
    aware of for doing anything to address this are Valvoline that is offering an
    ???Off Road 20W-50??? and Redline.

    From Castrol: We are beginning to see a
    pattern emerging on older cars. It may be advantageous to use a non-approved
    lubricant, such as oils that are Diesel rated, 4 Cycle Motorcycle oils and other
    specified diesel oils.

    Last question: So what are we at Foreign
    Parts Positively going to do? After much research we are switching to Redline
    Street rated oils and stocking the Castrol products that are diesel rated.
    Castrol, owned by British Petroleum, is now just a brand name. This is a
    difficult decision as we have been a dealer and great believer in all Castrol
    Products for over 40 years. We have been using Castrol Syntech oil in new
    engines for about 3 years so the cost difference in changing to Redline is
    minimal. The actual cost in operation is also less as the additive package in
    Redline makes a 1-year or up to 18,000 mile change recommended! Yes, it is a
    long change interval but with lowered sulfur levels and the elimination of lead
    and many other chemicals in the fuels there are less contaminants in our oil
    from the fuel, which is the major contributor to oil degradation. We will
    continue to offer the Castrol products but will now only stock the suggested
    diesel oils that they produce.

    Too many things are starting to show up on this
    subject and it has cost us money and time. Be aware that ???New and Improved???, or
    even products we have been using for many years, are destroying our cars as it
    isn???t the same stuff we were getting even a year ago.

    For the cars that use ???engine oil??? in their
    gearboxes this may even pose a problem as these additives that have been removed
    could be very critical in gear wear. We will be using oil specifically
    formulated for Manual Gearboxes with Brass Synchronizers. The only oils we are
    aware of that fit the criteria are from General Motors and Redline.

    If you have any additional input let us know. We
    need to let every flat tappet engine owner, i.e.: every British Car owner know
    that things are changing and we MUST meet the challenge.

    Oil is Killing our cars Part

    Last month???s report on this subject is turning out
    to be just the tip of the iceberg! Many publications have had this subject of
    zinc-dialkyl-dithiophosphate (ZDDP) covered in varying depths over the last few
    months. Some publications have even had conflicting stories when you compare one
    month???s article with their next month???s article! They are all ending up
    supporting our report.

    I have had the good fortune to have the ear of
    quite a few leaders in the industry including some wonderful input from Castrol.
    We have been very reluctant to ???dump??? Castrol, as it has been such a great
    supporter of our cars and industry over the years. Castrol hasn???t really
    abandoned our cars, just shifted to a more mass marketing mode. Many Castrol
    products are not appropriate for our cars today, some still are.

    Now for the latest report:

    #1 Castrol GTX 20W-50 is still good for our cars
    after break-in! 10W-40, 10W-30 and other grades are NOT good. Absolute NOT GOOD
    for any oil (Any Brand) that is marked ???Energy Conserving??? in the API ???Donut??? on
    the bottle, these oils are so low with ZDDP or other additives that they will
    destroy our cams. Virtually all ???Diesel??? rated oils are acceptable.

    #2 Castrol HD 30 is a very good oil for break-in of
    new motors. This oil has one of the largest concentrations of ZDDP and Moly to
    conserve our cams and tappets.

    #3 Only an unusual Castrol Syntec 20W-50 approaches
    the levels of protection we need when we look to the better synthetic
    lubricants. We are attempting to get this oil but will be using Redline 10W-40
    or 10W-30 as these are lighter weights for better performance, flow volume, less
    drag and has the additive package we need.

    #4 The trend today is to lighter weight oils to
    decrease drag, which increases mileage. Most of these seem to be the ???Energy
    Conservation??? oils that we cannot use.

    #5 Redline oil and others are suggesting a
    3,000-mile break-in for new engines! Proper seating of rings, with today???s
    lubricants is taking that long to properly seal. Shifting to synthetics before
    that time will just burn a lot of oil and not run as well as hoped.

    #6 The ???Energy Conservation??? trend was first lead
    by automakers to increase mileage numbers and secondly because the ZDDP and
    other chemicals degrade the catalytic converter after extended miles, increasing
    pollution. We don???t have catalytic converters and the mileage gains are not that
    significant for most of us.

    For you science buffs: ZDDP is a single polar
    molecule that is attracted to Iron based metals. The one polar end tends to
    ???Stand??? the molecule up on the metal surface that it is bonded to by heat and
    friction. This forms a sacrificial layer to protect the base metal of the cam
    and tappet from contacting each other. Only at very high pressures on a flat
    tappet cam is this necessary because the oil is squeezed/wiped from the surface.
    This high pressure is also present on the gudgeon pin (wrist pin) in diesel
    engines, therefore the need for ZDDP in diesel engines.

    Second part of the equation is Molybdenum disulfide
    (Moly). The moly bonds to the zinc adding an additional, very slippery,
    sacrificial layer to the metal. I found out that too much of the moly will
    create problems; lack of this material reduces the effectiveness of the ZDDP.
    The percentage, by weight is from .01 to .02%, not much, but

    Latest conclusions: Running our older,
    broken in engines on Castrol 20W-50 GTX is ok. Break in a new engine for 3,000
    miles on HD 30 Castrol.

    New engines (after break-in) and fairly low mileage
    engines will do best with the Redline 10W- 40 or 10W-30 synthetic.

    -Submitted by Lawrie

    ray102012-09-22 21:19:23



    Paul Mossberg


    Here’s another option…just announced by Hemmings:

    Paul Mossberg
    Former Owner of a 1981 Classic Roadsters Ltd. Duchess (VW)
    2005 Intermeccanica Roadster

    If you own a TDr and are not in the Registry, please go to https://tdreplica.com/forums/topic/mg-td-replica-registry/ and register (you need to copy and paste the link)

    Richard Shear


    I use BRAD PENN OIL ZDDP. The Green oil



         It seems that I sleep much better with my head in the sand.  You guys have me worried (again). 

         I’ve been using Valvoline VR1 10W30 Racing Oil because of its ZDDP content.   I just checked Valvoline web site 
    http://www.valvoline.com/faqs/motor-oil/racing-oil/76 and they seem sensitive to the needs of older engines.  Their VR1, is a conventional oil that is offered in a nice variety of viscosities, still (Sept 2012) contains .13% zinc and .12% phosphorus.  It is my understanding that .12% is the “magic” number that most/all agree is sufficient and proper for our VW engined vehicles….and VR1 is easy to find and not expensive.  I’m willing, even anxious, to change but would like some real reason, not just anecdotal evidence.

         Please understand that my nuclear engineering background does not mean that I know squat about motor oils.  Well, I do know squat, but that’s about all.   I do not own Valvoline stock and am not a salesman.  🙂

    Royal2012-09-23 12:09:38

    Richard Shear


    A flat tappet motor needs ZDDP oil. Many companies make it. I wonder who Hemmings gets their’s from? They don’t make it themselve’s. A good ZDDP oil designed for flat tappet engine’s will work. I did notice that after I changed my oil for the first time , the engine seemed to run much smoother. The prior owner was using standard 40 weight oil.

    edward ericson


    Top cylinder lubrication in an L-4 engine is a different thing than in a flat 4 like ours. With an XPAG engine like the MG TD had, all the cam oil has to pump up and trickle down. The engine was crude and the zddp probably made up for occasional starvation.

    Type 1 VW engines have their cam & lifters in the bottom of the case, effectively in an oil bath. They run low-pressure valve springs and everything in the system rotates. ZDDP is certainly a good idea in these engines but if you run “normal” modern oil they will not fail.

    Again, this is for mostly stock engines built to stock or mildly stouter specifications. If you’re trying to get 140 horses out of these engines (like most of our Speedster brethren attempt to do), you know you need to take extra measures and spend a ton of money.

    Bottom line: don’t worry.

    Robert J.Smith


    Hey ED your bottom line should say Don’t worry be happy 🙂

    Roland Smullen


    greg press


    I agree with gbidick after researching oils Brad penn is a good choice lots of it for sale on ebay. 



    just a little more info on oils


    Tech 101: Zinc in oil and its effects on older engines


    Written by Jim O’Clair




    [Editor’s Note: After the conversation following our introduction of the Hemmings Motor News Motor Oil last month, we turned to our tech guru, Jim O’Clair, for an explanation of the problems classic car owners have when choosing a modern motor oil.]

    There has been a lot of confusion in the last few years about the lowering of zinc and phosphorus levels in modern oils and how these lower levels relate to classic and performance engines using standard flat tappet lifters ??? that is, just about every car built before the Eighties. The concern involves the use of the new lower zinc/phosphorus-content ILSAC (multi-viscosity) oils, readily available on shelves at auto parts stores everywhere, and how compatible they are with these older engines.

    When anyone mentions zinc, they are actually referring to zinc dialkyldithiophosphate, a compound invented by Castrol for use in mineral-based oils or zinc di-thiophosphate (ZDTP), which is normally used in synthetic oils. Both have been used as an anti-wear ingredient in engine oil for many years. The zinc and phosphorus ingredients appear to be most effective when they are used together. ZDDP/ZDTP is one of many additives that are put into conventional motor oil to improve its lubrication qualities. Other ingredients such as boron and molybdenum are also added as lubricant enhancers.

    What was discovered through oil testing by several engine component manufacturers is that many older engines experience a short period of time during engine start-up where critical lubrication is insufficient between metal-to-metal lubrication points when using modern oils with reduced amounts of ZDDP/ZDTP. These same enhancers unfortunately have their downside: The phosphorus in this compound creates carbon buildup in engine bores and valvetrains, and both compounds can also lead to the early demise of catalytic converters. For this reason, the industry has been phasing out zinc and phosphorus levels since 1994, when the American Petroleum Institute???s SH designation became the industry standard, and levels have been further reduced in each subsequent API rating for engine oils. Manufacturers have tried adding more boron to offset the effects of the reduced zinc and phosphorus levels; however, the dry start protection does not measure up to those using more ZDDP/ZDTP. This has opened up a whole new market for zinc/phosphorus additives for oil and many camshaft and engine manufacturers now recommend that an additive be used in initial break-in and for regular use.

    APIsymbols_400All engine oils are rated for viscosity by the SAE as well as additive content by the API; passenger car ratings are two-letter designations that start with ???S.??? Heavy-duty or off-road equipment ratings start with ???C.??? The current API oil rating for passenger cars (gasoline engines) is SM and for trucks (diesel engines) CJ-4. Within these designations, you can determine how much zinc and how many other chemicals are present in the ILSAC (multi-viscosity) oils. These levels do not apply to straight-weight oils. If levels in the ILSAC oils are too high for the API specification, they cannot be rated for the current specification unless the container specifies ???for racing or off-road use only??? or ???for use in classic cars.??? This has caused oil companies to reduce levels of many additives, including zinc and phosphorus, to the required maximum in order to meet the current specification. Listed here are the current specifications for maximum amounts of additives to achieve the API ratings. P is phosphorus, Zn is zinc, and B is boron. Each figure is total parts per million of additives. These can also be roughly expressed in percentages by multiplying by .0001 (1301 PPM = .13 percent, 994 PPM = .099 percent)

    API P Zn B
    SJ 1301 1280 151
    CI-4 1150 1374 83
    SL 994 1182 133
    CJ-4 819 1014 26
    SM 770 939 127

    Most engine and engine component manufacturers recommend zinc and phosphorus content of more than 1,200 PPM for break-in; in fact, many will void warranties on camshafts or crate engines if this minimum is not found in the oil sample you supply when returning broken parts for warranty. For this reason, many manufacturers produce their own zinc additives or oils with supplementary zinc included; GM even offers its own break-in oil with additional ZDDP. With respect to readily available oil, you can see from the chart that, if you can find oil still on the shelf rated SJ or SL, you can use them, but you are right on the cusp of voiding a warranty. New SM oils are just not going to cut it unless they have a zinc additive to boost the rating and one of the zinc supplements should be used with these oils or oils containing additional ZDDP additives are recommended. Some enthusiasts have recommended using commercially rated CI-4 15W40 diesel oil to meet the zinc and phosphorus additive requirement; however, CI-4 is an old specification and hard to locate. You can see that the CJ-4 specification that now supersedes it is well below acceptable levels. Our best recommendation is that you contact your oil supplier for exact additive contents. Many straight-weight oils do not have to meet the ILSAC API specifications to be sold as SM or CJ-4, so this may be an alternative. Classic car oils with elevated levels of ZDDP/ZDTP are also being offered by many suppliers. Regardless, if you are purchasing off-the-shelf oil for your classic car, ILSAC multi-viscosity oils rated SM or CJ-4 should have stated zinc and phosphorus additive supplements for use in older engines or an additional separate additive should be purchased and used with the new oil. As the new API rating SN becomes available in the next year, even more caution should be taken as the levels will be reduced even further.



    edward ericson



    Confession: I have a synthetic with zinc in my car right now. I figure why not? Cheap insurance.

    But really, boys. How big a problem do you think “dry startup” can be in an engine where the lifters are in an oil bath? (the VW flat 4)

    Guys like us, most of us, are running our cars 2000-3000 miles a year–tops! I just changed my oil after about 800 miles since the spring oil change, and I doubt seriously I’ll do another 800 miles before the next change in May or June.

    The worries we should have, the things that really will sideline our cars and maybe cause us harm, have to do with brake hose dry rot, gasoline breakdown, and mice chewing our wires up or making nests inside our cooling tins.

    Expending precious brain cells pondering motor oil chemistry is about as relevant to our hobby as memorizing periodic tables or blueprinting the atomic bomb.

    Put some kind of motor oil in your crank cases and drive it. Check the dipstick before you go anywhere, and put more in if it needs it. After 1500 (3000 for you water-cooled guys) miles–or once a year, which ever is sooner–change the oil and the screen or filter.

    Really. Seriously. That’s all you have to know.



    You’re right on the mark Ed. More happens to our VW based TD that puts them on the sidelines than oil. Usually its gummy fuel or something clogging up the fans and engine tin. I think most of us change our oil at the 1500 or 3000 mile mark anyway. I’ll proably stick with my Penzoil 10W30. Never have had a problem with it. 

    Allen Caron
    VW based 53MGTD - "MoneyPenny"
    "If one thing matters, everything matters" - from the book The Shack

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