THE SINGLE MOST IMPORTANT thing a motor oil does for your engine, is prevent wear. Everything else it does for your engine, comes AFTER that. So, at the beginning of 2012, I began Tribology Research using motor oil “Wear Testing” equipment, to get to the truth about the wear prevention capabilities of motor oil. And for those not familiar with the terminology, Tribology means the study of friction, lubrication, and wear between moving surfaces.
I'm a total perfectionist when it comes to technical issues. And those who know me personally, know that I would never jeopardize my reputation or my integrity, by posting data that would turn the Hobby/Industry on its ear, unless I was absolutely sure about the data I put out there. Of course I've always known my carefully generated data was completely accurate, but now my data has been validated by a total of three other independent Industry sources. They are as follows:
1. Well known and respected Engineer and Tech Author David Vizard, whose own test data, largely based on real world engine dyno testing, has concluded that more zinc in motor oil can be damaging, more zinc does not provide today's best wear protection, and that using zinc as the primary anti-wear component, is outdated technology.
2. The GM Oil Report titled, "Oil Myths from GM Techlink", concluded that high levels of zinc are damaging and that more zinc does not provide more wear protection.
3. A motor oil research article written by Ed Hackett titled, "More than you ever wanted to know about Motor Oil", concluded that more zinc does not provide more wear protection, it only provides longer wear protection.
Those who are familiar with my test data, know that my test results came up with the exact same results stated by all three of those independent sources. So, this is an example where motor oil “Dynamic Wear Testing Under Load” using an oil tester, engine dyno testing and proper motor oil research using only the facts, from a total of four (including my own) independent sources, all converged to agree and come to the same exact conclusion. Back-up validation proof, doesn't get any better than this, in the world we live in. In fact, in most cases in the Hotrod and Racing Industry, if you ask 10 people a question, you will get 10 different answers.
So, with all those sources in total agreement, that should provide more than enough proof to anyone who questioned my test data, that my data is absolutely correct. And that questioning any one of those sources, questions them all.
The motor oil testing I performed to generate my “Wear Protection Ranking List”, is worst case torture testing using oil testing equipment (and for the record, it is NOT a “One Armed Bandit” tester), which subjects the oil to far more severe loading than even the most wicked flat tappet race engine ever could. The test equipment is NOT intended to duplicate an engine’s internal components. On the contrary, the test equipment is specifically designed to cause an oil to reach its failure point, in order to determine what its capability limit it is. And every oil I test is brought to its failure point, that’s how it works. The difference in the failure points, is what we compare.
But, a running engine is designed to last indefinitely, and of course, they do not generally cause an oil to reach its failure point. So, due to the complete difference in design, the pressures in my test are completely different, and cannot be compared directly to an engine’s lobe/lifter interface pressure. That would be comparing apples to oranges, which makes no sense. My testing is so severe, that the oil fails at an earlier point. And that is why my test data psi values may appear lower than you might expect to see in some running engines. Keep in mind, I’m comparing OIL AGAINST OIL, and the procedure used is exactly the same for each oil tested. For better or worse, each oil stands on its own merit. And if oil A produces twice the psi value of oil B in my testing, then oil A will also offer twice the wear protection capability of oil B, in a running engine.
The “dynamic wear testing under load” I use, is intentionally designed to find the SPECIFIC LIMIT of each individual oil’s “Load carrying capacity/film strength”, at a representative operational temperature of 230*F. Or in other words, to determine each oil’s “wear protection capability” psi value, which can be compared to any other oil tested on the same equipment. The results that come out of my testing are NOT my opinion, and they are NOT my theory. They are the FACTS that come out of the Physics and Chemistry involved in the tests.
Performing “dynamic wear testing under load”, is the ONLY TYPE OF TESTING that will provide accurate data regarding an oil’s film strength. Dynamically testing motor oil under load, is the same concept as dynamically testing an engine under load on a dyno. That is the only way to truly find accurate performance data of a motor oil, or of an engine.
And obtaining accurate oil film strength data is ABSOLUTELY THE ONLY WAY to determine an oil’s wear protection capability, because an oil’s film strength is the last line of defense against metal to metal contact. In order to reach metal to metal contact, and subsequent wear or damage, you MUST penetrate the film strength of the oil. And oil thicker than a mere film becomes liquid oil. Of course liquids are NOT compressible, which is how hydraulics work. Since liquids cannot be compressed, ALL oils provide THE SAME wear protection when they are in liquid form, no matter if they cost $1.00 per quart or $20.00 per quart. So, oil film strength testing is the GOLD STANDARD for determining how capable an oil is at preventing wear, and how different oils directly compare to each other. In other words, the ONLY THING that separates one oil’s ability to prevent wear from another oil’s ability to prevent wear, is the difference in their individual film strength capabilities.
But, testing motor oil in a running engine CANNOT determine the EXACT SPECIFIC wear protection LIMIT of an oil, which is necessary, in order to make an accurate comparison between various oils. So, attempting to test various motor oils for comparison in a running engine, provides no meaningful data, other than perhaps that a given oil did not cause a failure in that particular engine combo. If you were to test say a half a dozen different oils in your engine combo, and you had no problems with any of them, how can you tell how they rank against each other? It’s a proven fact that all oils do not provide the same wear protection capability. That means you have no way of knowing which of those 6 oils provides you with the highest level of protection. Therefore, motor oil testing in a running engine, is a waste of time, effort and money, when it comes to gathering accurate data for comparison between various oils. And that is precisely why I perform all my testing with motor oil test equipment, rather than in an engine.
Many, many Industries worldwide use test equipment to determine the actual capability of their products, before they are put to use by consumers. Using the test results that come out of my testing, allows us to see exactly how various oils compare head to head, under the exact same conditions, regarding their individual wear protection capabilities. Since my oil testing COMPARES various oils under worst case conditions, absolutely no further testing is required in a running engine. If oils rank higher in my “Wear Protection Ranking List” than the oil you currently use, those higher ranked oils will provide a HIGHER LEVEL OF WEAR PROTECTION than your current oil. It’s really that simple. This is NOT Rocket Science.
If folks see that the oil they prefer to use does not rank all that high on my “Wear Protection Ranking List”, and they have not had a problem using it, then they don’t need to stop using it. I’ve never said that at all. And I have never said that any oil failed my testing, nor have I ever said that any oil is bad. I’ve only said that some oils provide a higher level of wear protection than others, and that most folks would probably want the best protection they can get. For the folks who have had good success with whatever oil they use, that means they are not exceeding the capability of that oil. If they continue to stay below that oil’s capability limit, they will never have a problem. But, if they want to choose a better oil, for extra wear protection insurance in case things ever start going south, all they have to do is look at my ranking list and choose a higher ranked oil. The HIGHER the psi value, the BETTER the Wear Protection.
It should also be noted that I do NOT get paid by any Oil Company, nor by any Motor Oil Retailer, nor do I sell anything myself. So, I have no vested interest in what oil people choose to run. Therefore, all the data here is totally independent, unbiased, and is reported exactly how the test results came out. I have no agenda here, other than simply sharing the FACTS with like-minded gear heads.
And you will NOT find this many oils tested on the exact same equipment, using the exact same procedure, using the exact same real world representative oil temperature, by the exact same operator, anywhere else. Therefore, this is the best apples to apples motor oil comparison you will ever find.
The “Wear Protection” test data here DIRECTLY APPLIES to flat tappet lobe/lifter interfaces (no matter how wicked the engine), distributor gear/cam gear interfaces, mechanical fuel pump pushrod tip/cam eccentric interfaces, and all highly loaded engine interfaces.
Now, on with the oil data that is the subject of this posting. Amsoil 30wt Break-In Oil, is the latest Break-In Oil I've tested. Here is the Lab Test data that came back from Professional Lab, ALS Tribology in Sparks, Nevada:
Amsoil 30wt Break-In Oil
conventional (lab tested 2013)
Silicon = 6 ppm (anti-foaming agent in new oil, but in used oil, certain gasket materials and dirt can also add to this number)
Boron = 15 ppm (detergent/dispersant, anti-deposit buildup/anti-sludge)
Magnesium = 9 ppm (detergent/dispersant, anti-deposit buildup/anti-sludge)
Calcium = 1587 ppm (detergent/dispersant, anti-deposit buildup/anti-sludge)
Barium = 0 ppm (detergent/dispersant, anti-deposit buildup/anti-sludge)
Zinc = 2051 ppm (anti-wear)
Phos = 1917 ppm (anti-wear)
Moly = 0 ppm (anti-wear)
Potassium = 4 ppm (anti-freeze corrosion inhibitor)
Sodium = 0 ppm (anti-freeze corrosion inhibitor)
TBN = 6.5 (Total Base Number) This is an acid neutralizer to prevent corrosion. Most gasoline engine motor oils start with TBN around 8 or 9.
Viscosity (cSt at 100*C) = 11.4 (cSt range for SAE 30 is 9.3 to 12.4) And cSt (centistokes) in general terms, represents an oil’s thickness.
My "Dynamic Wear Testing Under Load", which determines the specific wear protection limit of an oil by testing its "Load Carrying Capacity/Film Strength", found that this oil was capable of producing 78,192 psi. This puts it at the lower end of the GOOD WEAR PROTECTION category. Below is how it ranked among the other traditional high zinc Break-In Oils I've tested.
The HIGHER the psi number, the BETTER the wear protection.
1. Amsoil 30 wt Break-In Oil, conventional
“Load Carrying Capacity/Film Strength” = 78,192 psi (good wear protection)
zinc = 2051 ppm
2. Edelbrock 30 wt Break-In Oil, conventional
“Load Carrying Capacity/Film Strength” = 69,160 psi (modest wear protection)
zinc = 1545 ppm
3. Royal Purple 10W30 Break-In Oil, conventional
“Load Carrying Capacity/Film Strength” = 62,931 psi (modest wear protection)
zinc = 1170 ppm
4. Comp Cams 10W30 Break-In Oil, conventional
“Load Carrying Capacity/Film Strength” = 51,749 psi (undesirable wear protection)
zinc = 3004 ppm
5. Lucas 30 wt Break-In Oil, conventional
“Load Carrying Capacity/Film Strength” = 49,455 psi (undesirable wear protection)
zinc = 4483 ppm
Break-In by definition means some level of initial wear, however small that may be, so that the parts can seat-in, wear-in, run-in, or break-in, whichever term you prefer. Of course the desired end result is that critical components have nicely mated/matched contact interfaces.
The hype for these oils, claims that they are formulated to facilitate that initial break-in wear, which means they could only provide “low or modest” wear prevention capability. But then at the same time, they also claim to provide outstanding wear protection, which means that they would have to provide “good or outstanding” wear prevention capability. These contradictory claims are simply false propaganda, because an oil cannot be formulated to specifically ALLOW wear and at the same time be formulated to specifically PREVENT wear. In fact, it is an oxymoron to claim that they can do BOTH things at the SAME time. So, that is just Oil Company Marketing at work. You cannot rely on what the Oil Companies say, and in my experience, motor oils are among the worst products on the market for making false advertising claims. And that was one of the primary reasons I started doing my own testing, so that I could find out the truth about motor oil wear protection capabilities.
The truth is, these traditional high zinc Break-In oils are formulated to do one thing, not two. These oils rank between number 53 and number 98 for their wear protection capability, out of the 98 total oils I’ve wear tested so far. And if you omit the highest ranked Amsoil Break-In oil which is far more capable than the other Break-In oils, the rest only rank between 74 and 98. So, if you are expecting outstanding wear protection during break-in, you will be very disappointed with these oils. Because they are not formulated to prevent wear, even though some are flooded with zinc. They are formulated to allow the parts to quickly “wear in”, which is totally unnecessary. Because you simply cannot stop parts from wearing-in on their own, no matter what oil you run.
And we’ve seen that for many years with factory filled synthetic 5W30 Mobil 1 in countless thousands of brand new Domestic and Import vehicles, that always seat their rings and break-in just fine. Of course they also come with a warranty. And that modern API certified low zinc 5W30 Mobil 1 is one of the top ranked oils regarding wear protection capability. In addition to that, the Ford GT Sports Car from a few years back, as well as Ford's current Supercharged Shelby GT500 Mustangs, come factory filled with full synthetic 5W50 Motorcraft oil, which is also a top ranked modern API certified low zinc oil, in terms of wear protection. All that proves you DO NOT have to avoid excellent wear protecting oils during Break-In.
Also, Tech Author David Vizard's Break-In System, uses low zinc Oil Extreme’s exclusive Calcium Petroleum Sulfonate technology which greatly improves an oil’s wear protection capability. After following his recommended break-in procedure using his Oil Extreme Break-In additive, he says you will see an increase of 8-11 extra HP. So, that oil product with excellent wear protection capability, also does not prevent ring seating or other proper Break-In.
So, those are very good real world examples showing that superior low zinc oils that have excellent wear protection capability, work great for Break-In. And that if you have a properly built engine, there is absolutely no need what so ever, to use traditional high zinc Break-In oils that are only formulated to “allow” wear. That makes those traditional high zinc Break-in Oils, little more than snake oil. Buyer beware.
In addition to that, using aftermarket zinc additives SIGNIFICANTLY REDUCES an oil’s wear protection capability, contrary to what you’ve always been told (more on that below). So, never use them, especially during Break-In. An oil’s wear protection capability is determined by its base oil and its additive package “as a whole”, not just by how much zinc is present.
Depending on the engine combo involved, you may have been able to use low wear protection traditional high zinc Break-In oils, with or without aftermarket zinc additives, if you followed a careful Break-In procedure. However, we do still sometimes see wiped lobes, when doing this.
But, engines are best served by using the far better oils that have excellent wear protection capability (no matter how much zinc is in them) during Break-In. If folks use these superior oils, and avoid traditional high zinc, low wear protection capability Break-In oils and avoid aftermarket zinc additives which actually REDUCE an oil’s wear protection capability, worries about flat tappet Break-In procedures could become a thing of the past.
Most guys I know personally, run roller motors these days. But, I do have one local buddy who still runs a flat tappet motor. Several years ago, he built a 500 HP, 383 SBC for his ’69 Corvette Hotrod/daily driver. It has a Comp Cams solid flat tappet cam in it. He followed this advice and used conventional API certified 5W30 Castrol GTX the entire time. It was used for first fire, Break-In and daily driving. That oil produced 95,392 psi in my wear testing, which puts it in the OUTSTANDING wear protection category. He never lost any sleep over some elaborate Break-In procedure. He never put any additives in the oil, he never removed the inner valves springs, and he never did anything super special for a Break-In procedure. All he did was fire it up, run it at about 2,000 rpm for 20 minutes, varying the rpm here and there, changed the oil and started driving it like he stole it. Now, several years and 25,000 miles later, he has never had one issue with his cam or lifters. Here’s what was in the Castrol GTX he used:
zinc = 830 ppm
phos = 791 ppm
moly = 1 ppm
Sure his car is not a bad boy dedicated race car, but it is another example of excellent results in a Street/Strip type solid flat tappet motor using a modern low zinc, API certified oil, that has excellent wear protection capability. No special Break-In oil and no zinc additives were required. So, the above recommendation worked for him, it works for the OEM’s, it works for Engineer and Tech Author David Vizard, and it can work for you too.
If you’d like to see my entire 98 oil “Wear Protection Ranking List”, along with additional motor oil tech info, here’s a link:
For those interested, I have the following motor oil tests coming up:
The testing of three more Diesel oils, is underway.
And testing the following oils with “Oil Extreme Concentrate” added to them, is planned:
1. 5W30 Pennzoil Ultra, API SM, which is currently ranked number 1 out of all 98 oils I’ve tested so far.
2. 5W30 Royal Purple XPR, which is currently ranked 60th out of all 98 oils I’ve tested so far.
3. 10W30 Brad Penn, Penn Grade 1, which is currently ranked 70th out of all 98 oils I’ve tested so far.
4. 10W30 Lucas Hot Rod & Classic Hi-Performance Oil, which is currently ranked 85th out of all 98 oils I’ve tested so far.
5. 10W30 Comp Cams Muscle Car & Street Rod Oil, which is currently ranked 87th out of all 98 oils oils I’ve tested so far.
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