Break in oil?

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Staff member
May 27, 2002
Guelph, Ontario
I was wondering if anyone knows which car makers are still using a special break in oil? I know VW still uses break in oil, and specifically tells people not to change the oil early. What about Honda? When we bought our 2000 Civic I did the first oil change well before 1000 miles had passed, and if I remember correctly I switched it to Mobil 1 at around 2000 miles. Car has almost 37k on it now and uses no more than 1/8 of a quart every 5000 miles, if even that much, so I'm assuming I did no harm by changing out the factory fill oil so early.
In the good old days, break in oil was a non dertegent oil. You did not want anything to stand in the way of some friction so the rings could seat. Not necessary in todays engines. I to questioned the VW break in oil for my wife's Eurovan. I could not get any direct answers from VW USA, so I contacted VW in Germany. I spoke to a gentleman named Benard and he told me that the factory fill on my Eurovan was Liqui Moly 5W40 synthetic oil. This oil goes by the name of Lubro Moly over here. It is a PAO based synthetic and it does have some moly in it. They also make a 10W40 mineral oil that has a ton of moly in it.
There is nothing special about a "break in " oil. Lubrication is needed in a new motor as well as an older engine and since the new engine is not varnished up or gummed up yet, detergents would not be all the much of a concern. The most common thing about breakin oils is that they don't use a high end friction modifier like moly out the gate without first having run a prev oil first. After it has run without incident or burning oil, then a moly type of oil can be used. This breakin oil has been a myth with mechanics for quite some time and many think there is something special but there isn't. Lubrication is the same, new or used, and to think that the breakin oil doesn't lubricate like any other conventional oil would cause damamge to these new engines.
My new Nissan Frontier's manual (I4) simply says, "Your vehicle came with a high quality oil from the factory. Change the oil at the first scheduled oil change listed in the service schedule," which is 3,579 miles. Kinda of an odd interval, but that's what it says. Now running a synthetic 10W30.
I just don't get the idea of a "break in" oil. What kind of characteristic would you want such an oil to have? The only thing that might make sense is maybe more detergents/dispersants. As the owner of a 2002 VW Passat, I can tell you there's nothing in the owner's manual stating that you shouldn't change the oil too soon. The discussion of break in oils has been beaten to death and back, over on the VWVortex forums. The claims from people that "know" what's in the crankcase from the factory includes; that mystical "break in" oil, some ordinary dino oil, and synthetic. Take yer pick. What I do know, the oil that was in my Passat was the same color as Schaeffer's Sumpreme 7000. By the way. Patman has asked for more analysis reports to be posted. I agree, and in that spirit I'll be posting my last two reports for the Passat using Schaeffer's 5-30. The wear numbers on the last one are almost nil. Back to the topic; does anyone with any authority know what constitutes a break in oil, and what auto manufacturers still use them?
Maybe it's only the TDI VWs that say that in their owners manual, I guess I assumed it was all VWs. My mistake. Definitely post those results! I like what I hear about Shaffers oil, I would definitely try it if I could find it in Canada. I'm not about to mail order it though, having stuff shipped here is just way too costly (for example, my one bottle of Auto-rx ended up costing me $75 CDN thanks to the exchange rate and duty coming across the border) [Frown]
I've always thought a break-in oil was supposed to allow a certain amount of wear to let the rings seat. So, it would assume I don't think one would want any serious amount of zinc or moly in them. In 2000 or 2001 Honda had an announcement on their website that the cars had been filled with a special break-in oil which needed to be left in the car for the first 5,000 miles. Don't change the oil before that time. My father was told a similar thing about his 2000 Mercury Grand Marquis ... don't change the oil before 5,000 miles. All of this seems to have disappeared, however.
Originally posted by Patman: Maybe it's only the TDI VWs that say that in their owners manual, I guess I assumed it was all VWs. My mistake. [Frown]
My TDI doesn't say much about changing early either. First oil change is 5000 miles. But doesn't specifically say not to change it early!! Also noted I don't think it is a "special oil" I do believe it is a group III basestock though
I found this from another website. Comment by Blackstone labs Comments for 2001 Mercury Grand Marquis Factory 5W/20 oil analysis at 176 miles from Blackstone Labs: This is the kind of wear-in oil Honda uses, that reads quite light in viscosity and has a heavy molybdenum additive in it." new engine at 176 miles Molybdenum 210 Boron 82 Calcium 2006 Magnesium 10 Phosphorus 729 Zinc 849 Sus Viscosity @ 100 F 50.6
Dave in MD, do you have the SUS vis at 210F ? I do not like using Saybolt vis! They must be the only lab who still does! Hard to compare. You are showing the "cold side of the vis and not the higher temp end.
Terry, no sorry they only listed the Viscosity at 100F. What I found interesting is that Ford and apparently Honda use Moly in their break in oil. It goes against the theory that break in oil shouldn't have high amounts of anti wear additives.
dave in MD, I found that interesting as well ... especially since Red Line, another big user of moly, recommends that the owner wait 3,000 mils before using their motor oils. [Confused]
Any more information on this? Do manufacturers use special break-in oils? Is the factory fill different oil than your first dealer oil change? Is the engine broken-in to some extent at the factory with special oil?
Varies wildly by brand. Many mfgrs simply use assembly greases with additives like moly and copper in them. Thus they are present in a new engine. Some mfgrs actually run the engine to verify correct assembly. Most spin the engine mechanically without firing it. Others start it at the end of the assembly line and drive it to a storage lot. Some use a chassis dyno. There is no standard. One notable mfgr immediately drives out on their in house track and runs precisely directed tests to verify performance! The simple fact is for most modern engine designs the words "break in" are relics that have no more meaning. The rotating assembly is either right or not and the rings are set in literally minutes, not thousands of miles. The parts you should worry about are the driveline...
Slightly off topic here...on a thread that's over a dozen years old. Anyway, I just put a new engine in my kid's car. The manufacturer of the engine said to break it in with a dino oil and to drop the filter and oil at 500 miles to validate the warranty. I thought the demands were a little extreme, but I guess I will follow them. IMO, with very few modern cars NOT having a flat-tappet cam, I don't think there is a real need for any kind of break-in oil on a modern vehicle.
I thought the "break-in" period was to allow sliding parts to wear in for a better seal and other parts to be " burnished" or better polished. I suspect that there may be some assembly lubes applied to camshaft lobs and other parts to resist galling at first running. It appears that UOAs show wear metals declining as the hours of operation increase but, I guess I was just being naïve or foolish. Ed Hayes
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Originally Posted By: Eddie
I thought the "break-in" period was to allow sliding parts to wear in for a better seal and other parts to be " burnished" or better polished. I guess I was just being naïve or foolish. Ed Hayes
I guess I'm a bit naive too. shrug
Wow, I've never seen a thread this old revived. Since most of my engines are 'dirty builds' thrown together in an open garage with limited dust control, I've always used regular Super Tech dino oil (whatever weight is available, 5w-20 preferably) and a Fram TG filter for the first crank and drive (about 20-ish miles). I'll then drain... yea it sucks to drain nice clean looking oil, but I always retain a small sample. Then it's refill and new filter for the next 3k miles. I always find tiny bits and pieces in the first oil sample too, debris, shavings, etc. I figure it's also good to get the engine assembly gel and oil pump jelly out as both tend to attract particles the longer they sit out in the open.
The current Honda website says to leave the initial fill in there, as it is different than the oil you will replace it with. Here is the quote: "Your Honda engine was delivered with an oil that is specially formulated for new engines that have not yet developed their "natural" wear patterns and may contain minute particles from the manufacturing process. American Honda strongly recommends this special oil be left in the engine long enough for these wear patterns to develop, usually until the first maintenance interval specified in your Owner's Manual, based on your specific driving conditions."
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