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problems with the non-zinc oil - or is it a problem?


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I have a number of older vehicles, as many of you do. I'm trying to understand the deal with the oil having the zinc removed. At this point, I can find plenty of oil that is old enough that it still meets the old specs. One choice would be to buy enough that I could forget the problem. But - buy several 55 gallon drums worth? Some might think I'm nuts.

I recall back in the 50's, wiped lobes on cams were a common problem. I haven't heard of one in years. I also read that zinc was added about 50 years ago. Coincidence?

I also read in places that high performance cars with hot cams are the most vulnerable. Some say a normal car isn't at much risk.

I also wonder, is my old diesel track loader a problem? And old ford tractor?

Has anyone come up with some good information on this subject? At this point, I'm inclined to buy a ton of oil to last. Seems silly if not needed.

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I use DELO by Chevron (I'm told it stands for Diesel Engine Lubricating Oil - makes sense) or any other diesel rated oil from a reputable manufacturer in all my old iron. I've never had any type of lubrication failure, or evidence of excessive wear.

Brian

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That has been safe up to now. But diesel oil is also changing. If you look at the rating, if it's CJ (for "compression ignition" version J), which is the current latest, it has a lower zinc value. This is new this spring, I think. If it's CI or any earlier letter in the alphabet, it's the old formula. I find both on the shelf now, some even earlier than CI. But, most Rotella seems to be CJ, and some Delo as well.

If it's going to be a problem at all, soon it will be a problem with our good diesel oils as well. I'm still unclear as to whether it's a problem for our old cars or not.

Surely someone will come out with an additive soon to cover it, like they do for leaded gas.

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I agree with austinsailor and am not convinced that it is a real problem, especially if the car is not driven a lot of miles every year.

I have been told that GM sells a 4 oz bottle of additive at their parts counters that works for this. The part number is 12345501 and it runs around $7.00

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I have to wade in on this one.

I am a hot rod guy and the reduction of zinc and other metals in engine oil is a big problem. Austin said the introduction of zinc and the near disappearance of cam failure was not a coincidence. Now with the near elimination of zinc cam failure has reappeared big time. In addition to zinc being reduced in the newest version of diesel oil, GM has stopped selling its EOS (Engine Oil Supplement).

Most all new cars and trucks now have roller lifters so they don't have a problem. The problem is with the flat lifters. The newly formulated oils can't stand up to the pressure between the lifter face and the cam lobe. The cam being the softer of the two fails.

In the hot rod fraternity we have turned to high performance synthetic oils like Redline, Lucas and Royal Purple. Also there are zinc additives made by CD-2 and ZddPlus. Look at ZddPlus website. These products can be found at the big chain parts stores or online at the manufacturer's sites or at jegs.com or summitracing.com.

I would suggest that a $10 bottle of ZDDP additive at each oil change would be cheap insurance for your collector car.

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I use Royal Purple in my Dodge diesel truck, and have in some other vehicles. If Royal Purple is a solution, I find it satisfactory. How do you get information to verify that it has the right stuff? I understand the version of Rotella, etc, but not the synthetics. Should I call Royal Purple and trust their advice as to whether this is the solution?

Sorry to delay my response so long - I've been gone to Mexico on my sailboat. Which has a diesel in it that I'm also worried about. I've got enough Rotella on board to last for the next year, but then I have to worry about it as well. Darned EPA is going to worry us all to death.

You'd think something that is potentially this serious would get a lot of coverage in the media or somewhere.

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Austinsailor, I bacame aware of the zinc issue recently in reading a2-3 month old issue of StreetRodder Mag. I was not aware of it before. I'm building a 270ci Hemi and I intend to use the zinc/phosphorus additives in it, at least until the engine is broken in and has some miles on it. I did the same by using early vintage Rotella oil to breakin a '38 Dodge engine.

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I've been aware of this problem for over a year. Back then I would ask fellow pre-war car club members about it and no one seemed to have heard of the problem. I stocked up on EOS (engine oil supplement) from GM which is high in zinc and phosphorous. Most of the old supplies are gone now. I found dealers who had old stock left. I'm not sure which bottle Ron is referring to but $7 for 4 oz is a colossal rip-off. The EOS I've bought comes in 16 oz bottles and they cost me $6.97 a bottle. While I was buying up a couple of cases I discovered a dealership that had 32 oz cans (older formula) of EOS for $6.41! That's right, twice the additive for less than half the price of the 16 oz. I don't understand how GM priced their stock but I was able to buy 2 cases of the 32 oz cans from 2 different dealerships. There's an ad in Old Cars Weekly from a company that sells ZDDP additive supplements but it's pretty expensive. There have been numerous articles written about this mostly from last summer in various car publications. I believe this is an issue for all cars up to about 1996, if I'm not mistaken. Using the older, higher zinc and phosphorus oils in newer engines can cause catalytic converter failure from what I've been told by a couple of mechanics I know and trust and from a few articles I've read.

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Well, I think I have a plan.

My local oil company has Rotella 30 in CI version, pre-zinc removal, for $7.45 a gallon in 55 gallon drums. Should last me for a couple years, besides being far cheaper than by the quart or gallon. I'll get a drum Monday.

Gene G.

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Check Craigslist. I saw Rotella oil selling by the barrel for less than $7.45 a gallon. One guy was selling it for $5 a gallon locally but I just missed it. If you shop around you can do better than $7.45. Be patient. Any of the older oil classifications has more ZDDP in it so SL should be fine. I believe the change came with the SM classification. I used to buy oil by the case 15 years ago whenever they had specials going. I have over 200 gallons of older oil stocked up. Most are SJ and some SI. I wasn't anticipating this zinc & phosphorus problem. I just got lucky.

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I got the SL rated oil from the Meijer Store (in Ohio) it's like WalMart. it's the store brand motor oil and was about half the price of pennzoil, a year ago when we bought 2 cases. We were using it as an engine oil pan flush 'cause some ant-freeze leaked down into the oil pan of my son's stingray. I'm going to start reading the labels from now on. I read an article I can't find now, but it listed the oils by name that were more beneficial to older engines, all I remember was Quaker State was rated as having the most zinc content of current motor oils.

Larry

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Austin, et al

Zinc additives are made by several companies. Two of the better know are CD-2 (a really old company in the oil additive business) and ZddPlus. The CD-2 zinc additive can be found in most big chain auto parts stores. Google Zddplus for their website where you can order online.

I think most of us that are concerned about cam failure are owners of older cars and engines that are pre catalytic converter so early failure of the cat converter is not an issue.

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Looking at the price of the additive - around $10 for a 4 qt. treatment, plus the cost of the oil, it seems that a 6 qt oil change would be about $24. $2 a qt. at most places for the oil, plus 1 and a half bottles of ZDDPplus at $10 a bottle plus shipping.

So, I think stocking up on several drums of the older formula oil is quite a bargain.

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Hi , A most interesting serial.Now the oil problem is sorted what is the best petrol to put in my 39 Chrysler now it is up and running ie higher or lower octane.? I have had a couple of differing theories offered. I havnt used an additive as the engine has hardened valves I believe. I guess it has been covered many times but maybe things have changed again,thanks, Warwick.

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Warwick

Back in '39 when your Chrysler was new gasoline was about what is is now because those engines are low compression. I even remember white gasoline (unleaded) being sold at stations up into the early '50's. If your engine does not have hardened valve seats you may want to consider using a lead replacement additive

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Thanks Bob,thats very interesting. I have heard similar recollections. The Chrysler has hardened valve seats but I are not sure about my other pre 39s. Is it best to use the higher octane or the lower would you say. I have had differing opinions but am interested in any opinion,tks warwick.

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Warwick:

All Chryco L-head engines from at least 1936 forward had hardened exhaust seat inserts, as unleaded fuel was the norm when the seats were first used. Thankfully, Chrysler never gave them up. To my recollection no other manufacturer used hardened seats until the advent of modern unleaded fuel and the emergence of the valve seat recession problem

In terms of high or low octane fuel, 87 octane is higher than the octane rating of the fuel when the engine was originally built, so there is no value whatsoever in using a higher octane - the engine simply cannot benefit from it.

Brian

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Warwick

Yes, additional octane above the 87 regular is a waste of money on a low compression engine. 91 and 93 octane premium is for high compression engines that knock, that is detonate or explode the air fuel mixture prior the the spark plug firing, on the lower octane fuel.

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  • 1 year later...

On the octane question. Your octane should look like the compression ratio of your engine.

In other words if you have a modern hi perf motor with 9.3:1 compression use the 93 octane hi test.

If you have a run of the mill motor with 8.7:1 compression use 87 octane regular.

Your 1939 flathead Chrysler has a compression ratio of less than 7:1 so 70 octane is fine.

Naturally this is not an exact rule. But today's regular gas has plenty of octane for any flathead engine.

Some people cut their gas with kerosene for real old cars with super low compression. One owner of a 1932 Buick with 4.5:1 reported that he used 1 part kerosene to 3 parts regular gas in his car and drove it thousands of miles towing a trailer on tours.

Owners of low compression prewar cars and motorcycles reported easier starting, smoother idle, cooler running and more pulling power than straight regular gas.

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Some people attribute some of the recent cam and lifter failures to the use of imported (Chinese made) replacement lifters rather than the absence of zinc in the new motor oils. The imported lifters may not have the same quality of steel as US made lifters.

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Canadian

It's a sign of the times, the information technology (IT) age. Seems today to work behind a parts counter you only have to know how to use a computer mouse.

--------------------------------------------

We'll all be drinkin' that free Bubble Up and eatin' that rainbow stew. Merle Haggard 1981

http://www.cmt.com/videos/merle-haggard/26454/rainbow-stew.jhtml

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  • 3 weeks later...

Here is everything you might want to know about the subject. If you want the short answer, when it says you can jump to the summary, feel free. Many have told me they have read 2 or 3 times to completely understand the why's.

I originally wrote it for the Corvair group, but it applies to all flat tappet engines, and even other ones that do not have catalytic converters.

This link will give you a download page for 30+ pages in pdf.

Selection of the Right Motor oil for the Corvair and other Flat Tappet Engines

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  • 4 months later...
...I'm trying to understand the deal with the oil having the zinc removed...Has anyone come up with some good information on this subject? ....

The zinc is NOT being "removed"---it has merely been reduced from the (already) small levels in the oil.

This alleged problem is greatly overstated and very emotional. Unfortunately, the media and internet has done nothing but fan the flames. There is very little on the subject that has been written based on facts--most is anecdotal at best, and blatently false in many cases.

I posted an interesting document on "Oil Myths" from an industry expert. It's in the BCA General forum, posted on 11-17-09. If you are concerned about the effects of reduced zinc in the new oils, I urge you to check it out.

http://forums.aaca.org/f115/motor-oil-zinc-other-myths-272260.html

Edited by 70 Electra
added link to new thread (see edit history)
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