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1956 Buick: Engine Oils


NickG
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G'Day everyone,

 

I have no doubt this has been asked in the past, and I don't wish to start a war, but what is the general consensus surrounding oil recommendations for a 1956 Buick? The Shop Manual states that for temperatures not lower than 10 degrees Fahrenheit, single viscosity SAE 10W or multi-viscosity SAE 10W-30/10W-20 will do the job. Needless to say, this was applicable to a brand-new engine in 1956; however, this particular engine has been rebuilt. With regards to the climate, here in Melbourne, Australia, extreme cold isn't really a problem, so 10 degrees Fahrenheit (-23 degrees Centigrade) is definitely on the safe side. 

 

A few things to add to the dilemma. I now have three '56 Buicks. The Super Sedan and Century Wagon have been in the family since new, but I've added a Roadmaster to the line. The engines in the Century and Roadmaster have not been rebuilt and are as close to original as possible, although the Century's is getting tired. The Super has been rebuilt, about four years ago now. The bloke who rebuilt the engine in the Super recommended Penrite semi-synthetic 10W-40. The Century and Roadmaster run Penrite semi-synthetic 15W-40. So far I haven't had any problems, aside from the usual leaks, but I'd like to get a few opinions.  

 

It's worth noting how the cars will be driven.

The Super is now a daily driver. It'll experience all aspects of modern-day driving - traffic, stop-starting, city driving, all weather, night time, and so on. It now averages ~10,000 kilometres a year.

The Century was a daily driver, but is now limited to weekends. Although, I'll take it to work every so often. 

The Roadmaster will seldom be driven. As an all-original, all-optioned car, It'll be taken out a few times a month. 

 

The Super's engine will be made to work, and considering it was recently rebuilt, it should be up to the task. However, the engine oil is also going to have to work hard. I'm most concerned about the Super; the Roadmaster and Century seem happy on 15W-40, but I'd love to hear what you all think.

 

Sorry for such a long post, but I feel that all of this information is relevant. 

 

Cheers,

Nick 

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Hi Nick,

I see no problem with the oil your rebuilder recommended. I would highly encourage you to use the same oil in all of your older cars. This is just for simplicity and ease of maintenance. I do not like synthetics in my older engines, but in fairness, this is just a personal feeling with absolutely NO real reason. I do know that synthetic gear oils will leak much worse than their non-synthetic equivalents, in transmissions and differentials. They can also cause trouble with syncromesh operation in some transmissions. The reason for this, I have been told by old time transmission rebuilders, is that the synthetic gear oils are simply to slippery and the brass syncro rings do not grab properly.

Ok, you wanted thoughts. These are mine for what they cost you 😇.

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1 hour ago, pontiac1953 said:

i don't see any problems with all three buick engines using the same kind of motor oil, doesn't matter how often they are driven. on the roadmaster which will be driven the least, will be just fine.

Hi pontiac1953, thanks for the input. I'll keep this in mind. 

 

1 hour ago, 37_Roadmaster_C said:

Hi Nick,

I see no problem with the oil your rebuilder recommended. I would highly encourage you to use the same oil in all of your older cars. This is just for simplicity and ease of maintenance. I do not like synthetics in my older engines, but in fairness, this is just a personal feeling with absolutely NO real reason. I do know that synthetic gear oils will leak much worse than their non-synthetic equivalents, in transmissions and differentials. They can also cause trouble with syncromesh operation in some transmissions. The reason for this, I have been told by old time transmission rebuilders, is that the synthetic gear oils are simply to slippery and the brass syncro rings do not grab properly.

Ok, you wanted thoughts. These are mine for what they cost you 😇.

Hi 37_Roadmaster_C, thanks for the great reply. I had no problems with the oil he suggested, I was just after a few opinions. I had thought the same thing, but would the thicker oil be better suited to the engines that haven't been rebuilt? As for simplicity, it makes a world of sense. I tend to agree with you about synthetics; although. semi-synthetic has been okay so far. Interesting to hear about the synthetic gear oils. I'll be keeping this in mind. Thank you very much for your thoughts, I love to hear it. 

 

I'd like to know your thoughts, and others' thoughts, about having a '56 Buick as a daily driver. I was considering posting this as a separate topic, and may do so depending on what people have to say. It's treated me well for so many years, but I'd like to hear what other people think, list their pros and cons, and so on 

 

Cheers,

Nick 

Edited by NickG
Grammatical mistake (see edit history)
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I have always used shell rotella 15-40 oil in my 56 before and after the rebuild.  I like it because it’s heavy duty oil and has zinc in it.

 

Yes, I’m sure people will comment on not needing zinc but it’s in there and I use rotella in all my heavy duty engines.

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12 hours ago, bryankazmer said:

I think the Multi-vis, either 10-40 or 15-40, is a much better choice than a straight 10, especially for your climate.  the cold start oil distribution will be essentially the same as the straight 10, but the higher temperature protection will be better.

Hi bryankazmer, The cold starts aren't too much of a problem down here. We get the occasional cold morning, but nothing compared to your winters. The higher temperature protection is what's mainly required, as it isn't unusual to have 110 degree Fahrenheit days here. Naturally the engine's temperature will be pushed to the limits during those days. Couldn't agree more with the multi-viscosity, it's a must. 

11 hours ago, padgett said:

Am not price sensitive & use 10w-30 High Mileage Mobil 1 in nearly everything (0w-40 in Teutonic cars). Always change filter with oil. Do live in a warmish climate.

Hi padgett, Price isn't too much of a concern here, more than happy to pay more for something if it's going to do a better job. The oil filter is always changed with the oil. What's your change interval for the Mobil 1 High Mileage? 

2 hours ago, 56buickinga said:

I have always used shell rotella 15-40 oil in my 56 before and after the rebuild.  I like it because it’s heavy duty oil and has zinc in it.

 

Yes, I’m sure people will comment on not needing zinc but it’s in there and I use rotella in all my heavy duty engines.

Hi 56buickinga, I can't say I've seen Shell Rotella around here. I tend to agree with you about the zinc additive, I like to use it too.

2 hours ago, plymouthcranbrook said:

I use strictly Farm and Fleet oil in my cars. Old Plymouths get 10-40 dinosaur oil and modern cars get 10-30 synthetic.  Haven’t had an engine problem in fifty years.  All of what is available today is lightyears better than the best in 1956.

Hi plymouthcranbrook, It seems you've got a larger selection of engine oils over there, I haven't come across this brand before. Couldn't agree more, even the cheapest oil is better than the best from fifty years ago. 

1 hour ago, 1956322 said:

For what it’s worth i use valvoline vr1 10-30 year round in my 56 buick..i live in Albuquerque NM and use it daily the engine was rebuilt about 20 years ago

Hi 1956322, is this the semi-synthetic variety? Great to hear you've got a '56 daily driver, how's the engine doing twenty years later? 

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"What's your change interval for the Mobil 1 High Mileage ? "

Used to be very simple - when I saw a 2-3 psi drop in idle oil pressure, I changed the oil and filter. That used to be about 2500-3000 miles. Now since not driving much is "or every year". Get mostly 5 qt jugs.

 

Anyone else remember when a case of oil was 24 quarts ?

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For almost all of the cars listed below,

I was using Shell Rotella 15W-40,

and am in the process of changing over to NAPA Full Synthetic 15W-50 

So Far, So Good,

even in the early stuff, but the '15 Hudson, '30 Packard, and '54 Cadillac have been rebuilt-

The '37 Roadmaster, '41 Cadillac, '65 Corvair, and '88 Corvette are unrestored and engines appear never to have been apart

(same for the '95 Cadillac and Grand Marquis, each with more than 100K miles,

and I use it in my 8.1L engined 2500 Suburban and 2500 Avalanche, each with approx. 117,xxx-180,xxx miles.

Our Excursion 7.3L Diesel with 380,xxx miles uses the 15W-40 Rotella

Edited by Marty Roth (see edit history)
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2 hours ago, 1956322 said:

They offer two different kinds one is just regular conventional dino oil and one is a full synthetic.. i run the conventional one.. no problems at all even on our hottest days or coldest days

Thanks for that. I had thought of the conventional in the past, although the oftener changes were a little off-putting. If it does the job then that's all that matters, and it sounds like it does pretty well 

1 hour ago, padgett said:

"What's your change interval for the Mobil 1 High Mileage ? "

Used to be very simple - when I saw a 2-3 psi drop in idle oil pressure, I changed the oil and filter. That used to be about 2500-3000 miles. Now since not driving much is "or every year". Get mostly 5 qt jugs.

 

Anyone else remember when a case of oil was 24 quarts ?

That's a modest drop in oil pressure and an interesting indicator. 2500-3000 miles sounds about right. I don't let it go for much longer than that. If it's seldom driven, then changing it annually is pretty good. We still get the 20 litre drums here, which come in handy. Particularly so if it doesn't like staying in the engine 

16 minutes ago, Marty Roth said:

For almost all of the cars listed below,

I was using Shell Rotella 15W-40,

and am in the process of changing over to NAPA Full Synthetic 15W-50 

So Far, So Good,

even in the early stuff, but the '15 Hudson, '30 Packard, and '54 Cadillac have been rebuilt-

The '37 Roadmaster, '41 Cadillac, '65 Corvair, and '88 Corvette are unrestored and engines appear never to have been apart

(same for the '95 Cadillac and Grand Marquis, each with more than 100K miles,

and I use it in my 8.1L engined 2500 Suburban and 2500 Avalanche, each with approx. 117,xxx-180,xxx miles.

Our Excursion 7.3L Diesel with 380,xxx miles uses the 15W-40 Rotella

Hi Marty, if you don't mind me asking, what was the reason for the change? I'm not questioning your decision, but I'm interested as to why. Very interesting to hear about the early cars, especially the '15 Hudson. Must be a breeze at oil changing time, the use of one oil must make it easier. 

As a side note, how's the '54 Cadillac on the NAPA Full Synthetic 15W-40? I have a '58 Fleetwood, unrestored, and I'm a bit unnerved at the thought of using a full synthetic. It seems to be working quite well in your case, but I'd love to hear a little more about the Caddy

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