dalef62

What type of oil for a babbit bearing engine?

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I know I saw a discussion on engine oil for a babbit bearing engine on here but I can't find it.  I have a 1929 Hupmobile with straight 8 engine and need to change the oil and want to know what type of oil to use.  Should I use detergent or non-detergent oil?  What weight?  The engine has good oil pressure now and the oil doesn't seem to thick.  I know it takes around 10 quarts of oil, and at the present time it has no filter.  

Dalef62

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As far back as I can remember (1947) my Grandfather used Mobiloil single weight.  It has been my daily driver for 59 years. At 500,000+ miles it has just had it's third engine overhaul.  Depending on your mileage I would suggest any S.A.E. #30 detergent oil or 10-30 if you cannot get single weight.  Any oil today is better than what was available when your car was new.  Detergent oil will not loosen or remove sludge that has been deposited in your engine, contrary to many "old wives tales".

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Posted (edited)

All engines today have Babbitt bearings. It is much thinner than in 1929 and probably a different recipe.

 

I would recommend a multigrade, 5W or 10W-30 or 40. The number before the W refers to cold start performance: it behaves as a SAE 5 viscosity oil for example. This means full lubrication begins sooner after start than with a thicker oil: thin oil is easier to pump than thicker oil. SAE 30 or 40 depending on the mileage on the engine.

 

Being a 1929, your owner's manual or instruction book might give a SAE viscosity recommendation because SAE viscosity ratings came out in 1924.

 

There are very many discussions on oil in these fora. The search engine is broken though, so you need to trawl through to find them.

Edited by Spinneyhill (see edit history)

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7 hours ago, dalef62 said:

I know I saw a discussion on engine oil for a babbitt bearing engine on here but I can't find it. 

 

It's there >>> 

 

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I have a 1931 model S.  The engine has 46,000 miles and had the valves replaced & everything else is original.  I have elected to use 30 weight non detergent oil the last 23,000 miles & 19 years.  The car cruses at 50 to 60 on the highway easily.  I know people in the Hupmobile Club who use detergent oil after a rebuild.

 

i suggest you become a member of the Hupmobile Club.  It provides a wealth of information for $31 yearly.  It has a quarterly magazine and prints a newsletter called, Parts Locator, 6 times a year.  

 

Each year the club meets to socialize, exchange technical information, and drive our

Hupmobiles.  For those who live too far away or are not finished with their car, they tour in a modern vehicle.  We expect from 25 to 35 Hupmobiles to attend.   For 2019, we will be in Piqua, Oh for a week and 400 miles starting July 29th.

 

Additionally, there are technical advisors to answer questions and assist in restorations. 

 

 

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Oil with no additives is a very bad idea.

 

It causes increased wear compared to modern oil. It deposits muck throughout the engine, including inside the crankshaft oil ways and in the ring grooves. That muck doesn't come out. If you use modern oil, it all comes out at change time. The muck contains a lot of carbon, which is a combustion product. Any dirt that gets past the air "cleaner", such as they were in those days, may also be in the oil and be deposited around inside the engine. Furthermore, that rubbish oil will quite quickly turn to sludge and oxidise. Sludge is a terrible lubricant and doesn't get pumped around very well because of its high viscosity. The oxidised oil gradually becomes more and more acidic.

 

California has outlawed non-additive (API SA) oil for good reason!

 

In terms of reducing wear, ANY synthetic oil is better than ALL mineral oils. Wear tests show this.

 

 

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Posted (edited)

On a Club week of touring as the break-down vehicle, I got a call that one of the members was stuck up in the hills not far from where all the Club members were staying.

 

When I got there, the engine turned over at a very high rate - higher than normal - but would not start.

 

Using the hand crank I turned the motor by hand. No compression resistance. It was as if there were no spark plugs in.  Towed it back in. Next day started checking and couldn't find out why the loss of compression. Took off the timing chain cover to check cam and chain. Everything was coated with thick, black mayonnaise-like oil sludge.  As we continued to check valves and timing, turning the engine over by hand, it started. Compression had come back as the rings worked their way loose. In talking to the owner he said he was told to only use non-detergent oil because detergent oil would damage the engines in old cars. :huh:

 

What happened. Driving up in the hills with a full load of passengers on a hot night, the aluminum pistons expanded much more than usual (air cooled engine that can't boil over). That jammed the rings into the old sludge buildup behind them in the ring grooves. When the car made it over a hill and started down, the operating temps dropped, the pistons shrank back to normal size, the rings were stuck deep in their grooves with too much clearance and the engine lost compression.

 

That old wives tale about only use non-detergent oil in old engines was debunked over 40 years ago, but it still sticks it's sludgy head up now and then. Only use detergent oil in a motor without a full-flow filter system.  That is, unless you like filling your motor with thick,. black sludge.

 

Paul

Edited by PFitz (see edit history)
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Everything mentioned above about non-detergent oil is TRUE.  I use Shell Rotilla-T  15-40 in all of my old engines  .

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Everyone here is giving good advice. At this point, there's probably no WRONG oil to put in an old car. Modern oils are far superior to what they had when they were new and the requirements of modern cars are such that an ancient, low-RPM, low-compression, seldom-used, gently-driven old car will be just fine on whatever you prefer. Old cars seem to like thicker oils since they have bigger clearances, so a 10W30 or 10W40 should be just fine. Experiment and watch your oil pressure hot and cold to see what it prefers. Your manual might even specify correct oil pressures hot and cold (my '29 Cadillac, for instance, says 12 PSI hot idle and it's dead-on that figure with 40-weight oil in the crankcase).

 

I will say that I prefer single-weight oils if I can get them. Multi-grade oils are based on the lower viscosity oil and use additives to make them act like thicker oils when they're hot. I'm not totally keen on that, although it's probably a non-issue in an old car. I run straight 40-weight in my old cars which gives me good oil pressure and good resistance to thinning out at higher temperatures. The downside is that oil pressure comes up slowly when you start. I use Brad Penn oil (I guess it's Penn Grade 1 or something like that now) which is extremely sticky and clings to the parts after shut down, so I don't worry too much about start-up wear. We had an engineer from Brad Penn lead a seminar here at our shop a few years ago and he dunked a pencil in the oil then tried to hose it off with carb cleaner and it would not give up--I was sold on that demonstration alone. I'm very pleased with that particular oil, but again, if you like a certain brand, there's no reason not to use it.

 

Detergent oils are what you should be using in an old car. They don't have "cleaners" in them that will remove old sludge and clog everything up. No, "detergent" refers to the fact that the oil will hold particles in suspension rather than dropping them out like silt in a river throughout your engine. When you change the oil, those particles come out with the oil rather than staying behind wherever they've settled. On a car without a filter, I would imagine that this is particularly important.

 

It may also be worth noting that all oils, grades, viscosities, and brands (including synthetics) are 100% compatible with each other. If you need something in a pinch, you can use anything you can find without fear of damage.

 

It's also possible that some oils will leak more than others. You might experiment and see which minimizes leaks best, but remember that leaking is an old car's default state. I've always found that pouring oil in the top is a lot easier and cheaper than trying to stop it from coming out the bottom. Remember that even if you find and fix a leak, the car will simply find a new, innovative way to drop oil on the ground.

 

Hope this helps!

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