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What Engine Oil Do You Use?


likeold
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I know this can be a personal preference, different engine situations might require different oils but the owners manual says to use a 20 weight oil, I assume they're talking non detergent so I'm trying to get a general consensus on what oil I should use on my recently purchased 1938 Buick Special which has no oil filter. I found a bottle of non detergent SAE 30/100 in the trunk, that seems to be in unusual blend so what do you recommend? I'm not interested in using synthetic oil and want to make sure if I should use a non detergent or detergent oil and what would be a good weight ?

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Haven't changed the oil in my '38 yet as I'm waiting until spring, however, I plan to use conventional 10W-30 just like my other 'old' cars.  NAPA just had their oil on sale (made by Valvoline), so I stocked-up...

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S.A.E 30 or S.A.E 40 (Shell) depending on the climate where you live.  I use it in my 1938 Buick Special Model 41 and 1951 Buick Super Model 56R here in SE Wisconsin.

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3 minutes ago, Fireball8man said:

S.A.E 30 or S.A.E 40 (Shell) depending on the climate where you live.  I use it in my 1938 Buick Special Model 41 and 1951 Buick Super Model 56R here in SE Wisconsin.

I assume that is that a non-detergent SAE 30-40?

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Depending on the condition of the engine, tight or worn that will determine the weight of the oil.


Other than that, any oil today will be light years better than the oil "in the day".  I use regular detergent oil in all of my old iron listed below except my modern cars.  In those I use synthetic because I can buy it for about $2.75/quart at Costco in two five quart bottles.

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Shell Rotella T5 (T5 is synthetic blend, not pure mineral, not pure synthetic) 15-40.  When the temperature in the garage falls below 50 the starter starts complaining.  I'd like to have a 10-40 version of this oil.  For sure the heavier oils are good for a long trip scenario but initial lube when starting up is probably better with something lighter.

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Valvoline Racing non synthetic which has zinc which owners of Babbitt crank bearings love and should use. I have also used Rotella which has become legend in the vintage car world and an excellent choice but the Valvoline has more zinc so my choice. Best tested non synthetic is Kendall which topped the Redline oil lab tests with Castrol at the bottom which I buy as a throw away oil for breaking in fresh rings. 

I recently switched my transmission oil again in the search for the best shifting possible in my 41 Century. I have tried several both synthetic and non and per a suggestion in this forum I investigated the Redline 75/140 NS synthetic specifically formulated for vintage/antique manual syncro transmissions and says so on the back label which is the first time I have ever seen an oil product specify this feature. After using it through the summer season when my hot trans can get balky I would say its far and away the best trans oil I have ever used. From the first shift it was apparent and my worn 2nd gear syncro got a new lease on life. Also unaffected by hot weather. I refilled my Moto Guzzi motorcycle trans with it and its never felt this good from new. 

Edited by Lawrence Helfand (see edit history)
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The folks who rebuilt the engine for our '16 D-45 were very explicit about telling me to stay as far away as possible from any synthetic oil.  They told me that a good grade of mineral oil is what I should be using in this engine.  I was told that a synthetic oil is harmful to a poured bearing (Babbitt).  I told Dave that I was planning on using Havoline 20W50.  His response was - "Excellent Choice".

 

Terry Wiegand

South Hutchinson, Kansas

AACA Life Member #947918

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Synthetic oil bad for Babbitt bearings? Most all bearings in our old cars are Babbitt. Some poured, some plated on shell bearings. I'll claim I'm from Missouri and want to see proof this is an issue.

 

ZDDP was not available until late 40s, and most all poured Babbitt engines were out of production by then (OK, Chevy a few more years). And by the time larger amounts of ZDDP was put in oil, 1960s, all poured Babbitt engine were out of production. ZDDP was for camshaft wear with high pressure valve springs, nothing to do with crankshafts.

 

To LIkeold, use detergent oil. ZDDP was not in oil when your engine was made. Use any 10W30. Light years ahead of what was available in 1938. DO adhere to frequent oil changes since you have no filter, like every 1000 miles, whatever is in your owners manual.

 

Every oil discussion proves opinions are like a$$wiehijrmc., everybody has one, although some people seem to have more!

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I'm concerned on using a detergent oil because I assume but do not know for sure the previous owner used 30-100 non detergent oil because I found an unopened bottle in the trunk with some other parts. Owner is not available to consult with. 

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8 hours ago, Frank DuVal said:

. DO adhere to frequent oil changes since you have no filter, like every 1000 miles, whatever is in your owners manual.

 

 

Funny. I've put 53 miles on my car since getting it started for the first time in 80 years, and I've changed the oil about 5 times. Ha ha ha.

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My 41 Century with 40 thousand miles has used no oil in the 4500 miles I have driven it on local and interstate roads. It has very good oil pressure even at idle on over 90 degree days. The only oil lost was a oil pan gasket leak so I decided a new gasket was in order. I guess I expected to see a clean engine interior but was horrified at the amount of black cake on every surface. I was tempted to start scrapping at it but remembered advice I grew up with about possibly creating a nightmare by disturbing the sludge coating or using detergent oil in an older motor. I cleaned the pan replaced the gasket and installed a new oil pump screen pickup which was thickly coated in sludge. The old engines in general had very poor crankcase venting and sludge even on a non oil burning motor like mine can get nasty. One thing to note is the effect of replacing the dirty and restrictive sump pickup was a slight increase in oil pressure at idle and at speed so my advice is to drop that sump and clean or replace your pickup, leave the crud alone and dont use detergent unless its a freshly rebuilt motor. 

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8 hours ago, Lawrence Helfand said:

My 41 Century with 40 thousand miles has used no oil in the 4500 miles I have driven it on local and interstate roads. It has very good oil pressure even at idle on over 90 degree days. The only oil lost was a oil pan gasket leak so I decided a new gasket was in order. I guess I expected to see a clean engine interior but was horrified at the amount of black cake on every surface. I was tempted to start scrapping at it but remembered advice I grew up with about possibly creating a nightmare by disturbing the sludge coating or using detergent oil in an older motor. I cleaned the pan replaced the gasket and installed a new oil pump screen pickup which was thickly coated in sludge. The old engines in general had very poor crankcase venting and sludge even on a non oil burning motor like mine can get nasty. One thing to note is the effect of replacing the dirty and restrictive sump pickup was a slight increase in oil pressure at idle and at speed so my advice is to drop that sump and clean or replace your pickup, leave the crud alone and don't use detergent unless its a freshly rebuilt motor. 

 

 

That's all I had to hear and my thoughts exactly, I'm sticking with non detergent oil because I don't know the history of this motor. That's all they had in the 30's why change now. Different story if I was starting out with a fresh engine, thanks

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When I was a kid working in a gas station in the 80s I made a comment about like that to my boss in reference to my first car, a 53 model. He started laughing at me. He said "When I started working here in 1956, we already had multi-viscosity detergent oil. It was called "Heavy Duty" and we put it in everything that came through the door. What makes you think that car never had any detergent oil in it?"

 

Your mileage may vary.

 

 

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14 hours ago, likeold said:

I'm concerned on using a detergent oil because I assume but do not know for sure the previous owner used 30-100 non detergent oil because I found an unopened bottle in the trunk with some other parts. Owner is not available to consult with. 

That is too thick  IMHO  20-50 or even 15-40 would be my pick depending on climate.  Too thick an oil doesn't get into the finer cracks when cold.  That's why all modern engines with a timing chain are 5-20 spec. 

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51 minutes ago, Oldtech said:

That is too thick  IMHO  20-50 or even 15-40 would be my pick depending on climate.  Too thick an oil doesn't get into the finer cracks when cold.  That's why all modern engines with a timing chain are 5-20 spec. 

 

I really don't understand what SAE 30 ISO 100 is. All I know it is a non detergent oil. Every time I look it up all I get is straight 30 wt. Is SAE 30 ISO 100 considered a multi grade oil? What is the 100? If so I agree also that 100 is too thick and I would use straight 30 wt if that is the case. Non detergent oil does not seem to come in very many weights or multi grades.

 

I knew this question would get a lot of different responses, always does. I'm trying to get a consensus of what other people are using in there old Buick's with the straight eight, new or old.

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Back in the day when these old engines were being built the tolerances were a whole lot looser than what the new engines have.  I plan to drive my car as late into the Fall as the weather will allow and likewise as early in the Spring.  I don't care if it's 5 or 10 degrees, if there is no snow on the ground I am not afraid to get it out and drive it.  This is the reason I'm going with the 20W50 Havoline.  I want something that is going to hang onto the internal parts in extreme cold or heat.  There is more wear and tear on an engine in the first 30 seconds after start-up than there is in a hundred miles of driving.  Oil, grease, and anti-freeze and their use will cause more arguments and disagreements than Carter's has pills.  I am going to use what I personally feel is best for my machine and everyone else needs to do the same with theirs.  As my Dad used to tell everyone, "You use Havoline Motor Oil or you are wrong!"😀

 

Terry Wiegand

South Hutchinson, Kansas  aka  Doo Dah

AACA Life Member #947918

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Another data point on the use of multi-grade oils in 1910s cars:  A friend from MN had a 1917 Pierce 66 (825 cid out of 6 cyls, 1500 rpm redline for the 5" buckets making a 7" stroke) that he inherited from his father.  My friend drove the wheels off that car (several roundtrips to California at 60 mph included) until selling it in 2010.  M was a chemical engineer and doubted that the Pierce's oil got hot enough to activate the higher viscosities in multi-grade oils.  So he attached sensors to the oil pan with the readout in the driver's compartment, and never got oil temps higher than 118*F even at 60 mph in 90* weather all day.  So for THAT car in the summertime, he ran detergent straight 40-weight (single-viscosity), and lesser viscosity straight weights in the cooler spring and summer.

 

That said, I run Rotella T-4 (all dino) 15W-40 in all my fleet, including the 1918, in the Bay Area's temperate climate.  And like Terry, I want the oil to circulate freely at start-up.

Edited by Grimy
added phrase (see edit history)
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I really like that idea of sensors (temporary and/or permanent).

I am an engineer, I might do the same to monitor oil temps.

I figure why not, I have the sensors and the know-how....could be a fun winter project for me and my kids!

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Anything older than 1980, and anything from the 1980s up with flat tappets ( "slider" cam(s) ) gets Brad Penn. 

 

There's not enough ZDP (Zinc) in modern oils to protect older engine parts from wear.  This is especially a problem for older camshafts and valve train components.

 

 

Edited by Racer-X- (see edit history)
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Okay after a lot of thinking and reading all your post and doing my research the best I can I think I'm convinced as the majority to use a multi weight detergent oil. I found Castrol GTX conventional 20W-50 has a high zinc content, I think I'm going to run with that.

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Good choice, although about a year or more ago, i agonized like you, did a ton of research and for your record, I chose Pennzoil 10w40 high mileage and threw in a little zinc additive.  At 500 miles a year, I’ll be dead before II figure out the results!  (Oh yes, Synthetic might be too thin or fine and seep out from places you wouldn’t expect)

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8 hours ago, 32buick67 said:

I really like that idea of sensors (temporary and/or permanent).

I am an engineer, I might do the same to monitor oil temps.

I figure why not, I have the sensors and the know-how....could be a fun winter project for me and my kids!

 

 I will be WATCHING for the documentation.

 

  Ben

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10 hours ago, Racer-X- said:

Anything older than 1980, and anything from the 1980s up with flat tappets ( "slider" cam(s) ) gets Brad Penn. 

 

There's not enough ZDP (Zinc) in modern oils to protect older engine parts from wear.  This is especially a problem for older camshafts and valve train components.

 

 

 

All of my older cars, 100 years and older including my 1908 Buick Model F have roller lifters. 

 

Any oil today is better than the best oil in the day. Zinc was added as the compression went up an put more pressure on the lifter to cam lobes.

 

I use regular oil on all of my old cars, but have changed to Synthetic on my newer cars.

 

For your information, if you are a member of Costco, you can buy full synthetic oil in two 5 quart containers(in the box) for about $27.00.   $2.70/quart.   It is cheaper than regular oil.  I have changed over to changing all the newer cars with this oil.  The oil is made by the Warren Oil Co in california.  I have a friend that was a Buick engineer doing engine development.  He says that it is good oil and he also uses it.  Since I do not change cars very often, I now buy bulk AC oil filters through Rock Auto for about 1/2 or less than at the local store.  Buy them a dozen at a time in the bulk pack.  A case when available is usually less than three at the store. Leave the new ones in the trunk so I always know where they are.

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On 11/10/2021 at 10:57 PM, Terry Wiegand said:

  This is the reason I'm going with the 20W50 Havoline.  I want something that is going to hang onto the internal parts in extreme cold or heat. 

Then you should be using 10w-30 or so, since it starts pumping through the oil pump earlier than thick oil. Worry about what sticks inside the bearings, not on the outside of the rod.

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10 hours ago, Larry Schramm said:

 

All of my older cars, 100 years and older including my 1908 Buick Model F have roller lifters. 

 

Any oil today is better than the best oil in the day. Zinc was added as the compression went up an put more pressure on the lifter to cam lobes.

 

I use regular oil on all of my old cars, but have changed to Synthetic on my newer cars.

 

For your information, if you are a member of Costco, you can buy full synthetic oil in two 5 quart containers(in the box) for about $27.00.   $2.70/quart.   It is cheaper than regular oil.  I have changed over to changing all the newer cars with this oil.  The oil is made by the Warren Oil Co in california.  I have a friend that was a Buick engineer doing engine development.  He says that it is good oil and he also uses it.  Since I do not change cars very often, I now buy bulk AC oil filters through Rock Auto for about 1/2 or less than at the local store.  Buy them a dozen at a time in the bulk pack.  A case when available is usually less than three at the store. Leave the new ones in the trunk so I always know where they are.

 

 

I found you can even do better at Walmart many synthetic oils about $25 for 5 quarts, Amazon has Valvoline for 23 bucks

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3 hours ago, Ben Bruce aka First Born said:

 

 I like Larry's math better!

 

  Ben

 

 

Your right I did not see the "two" 5 quart containers for $27.00 I always miss the fine print.

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Update:

 

I just went to Costco yesterday to buy some more oil to keep me for a while since I saw "The current price of West Texas Intermediate crude oil as of November 11, 2021 is 81.59 per barrel." and the price has jumped about another 10% to $29.99 per 10 quarts.  Since the election last year the price of this oil has gone up 20%. Ouch. 

Edited by Larry Schramm (see edit history)
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When I get Havoline 20W50 for our modern vehicles it comes 12 quarts to a case.  I have 10 or 11 cases in the shop and this will last me for a good long while since we are not driving nearly as much these days.

 

Terry Wiegand

South Hutchinson, Kansas

AACA Life Member #947918

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Not sure if you know the oil has an expiration date. Even unopened motor oil can go bad I had some that was sitting around for about five years and when I went to dump it out there was a bunch of sludge at the bottom white stuff. Had a whole case that did that had to throw it away.

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