Comparison of Conventional Oils

TC

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In the never ending quest to find the "best" conventional motor oil, I thought I'd compile some numbers on various oil attributes and evaluate them accordingly. All of these numbers were taken from the manufacturers' "product data sheets," and I'm taking it on faith that their numbers are reasonably accurate. I chose not to use data from the virgin oil analyses in these forums. A thread by Greg Bohn poses questions on what can be accurately deduced from such lab testing (Thanks, Greg!). Greg's sample of the same virgin Valvoline oil, sent to three labs, produced some inconsistent results. Examples include: calcium 1,655, 2,149, 2,642; zinc 836, 1,071, 1,382; magnesium 0, 5, 8; TBN 6.43 and 8.7. From commonly found retail brands, I've included the following manufacturers' test criteria: -Degrees F Flash Point "FP" (ASTM D-92) Temperature at which oil begins to vaporize (burn). Can be an indicator of the quality of base stock. Higher numbers are better. -Degrees F Pour Point "PP" (ASTM D-97) Oil fluidity at low temperatures. The lower the number, the better it will flow at cold temps. -Viscosity Index "VI" (ASTM D-2270) Change in viscosity over a given temperature change. A factor in wear prevention. A higher number indicates lesser change -- higher is better. -High Temp/High Shear Viscosity "HT/HS" (ASTM D-4683) Measure of protection under high temperatures. Higher numbers are better. -Total Base Number "TBN" (ASTM D-2896) An oil's reserve alkalinity. A higher number indicates enhanced long-term ability to control acids and other contaminants. -% Sulfated Ash "SA" (ASTM D-874) The residue remaining after an oil is burned. Lower is better. -% Zinc "Z" An extreme pressure, anti-wear additive. More is better, yet more also results in increased combustion chamber deposits. Therefore a balance is necessary, often around 0.11%, more for racing oils. I did not include such criteria as Four Ball Wear Test, % Calcium, % Magnesium, % Phosphorus, etc., since a majority of manufacturers do not provide this info. Motorcraft's spec's refer to SJ oil and are outdated, and Castrol and Shell evidently don't provide data sheets for their conventional oils -- too bad for us dolts who can't be trusted with such info. For anyone who can provide some good insight into the data below, please do so!!! Component numbers below are in order: FP, PP, VI, HT/HS, TBN, SA, Z ***5W-20 SL*** Chevron Supreme: 460F, -27F, 148, ---, 8.3, 0.9%, 0.112% Citgo Supergard: 421F, ---, 154, 2.6, ---, ---, --- Kendall GT-1 High Perf.: 432F, -38F, 150, 2.6, 7.4, 0.90%, 0.11% Mobil Drive Clean: 392F, -26F, 153, ---, ---, ---, --- Pennzoil Multigrade: 445F, -49F, 158, 2.65, ---, ---, --- Phillips TropArtic: 448F, -31F, 156, ---, ---, ---, --- Quaker State Peak Perf.: 445F, -27F, 151, ---, ---, ---, --- Texaco Havoline: (same spec's as Chevron) Union 76 Super: 430F, -33F, 157, 2.7, 8.0, 0.92%, 0.108% Valvoline All-Climate: 428F, -38F, 157, ---, ---, 0.92%, 0.105% COMMENTS ON 5W-20: Chevron, Texaco, Pennzoil, Phillips and Quaker State like the heat, Mobil does not. Pennzoil, Kendall and Valvoline flow well in extreme cold. Chevron and Texaco have a slightly higher TBNs. ***5W-30 SL*** Chevron Supreme: 450F, -33F, 159, ---, 7.4, 0.9%, 0.103% Citgo Supergard: 442F, ---, 154, 3.2, ---, ---, --- Kendall GT-1 High Perf.: 421F, -40F, 152, 3.0, 6.2, 0.80%, 0.10% Mobil Drive Clean: 392F, -38F, 159, ---, ---, ---, --- Pennzoil Multigrade: 420F, -44F, 160, 3.1, ---, ---, --- Phillips TropArtic: 410F, -30F, 155, ---, ---, 0.8%, --- Quaker State Peak Perf.: 405F, -27F, 159, ---, ---, ---, --- Texaco Havoline: (same spec's as Chevron) Union 76 Super: 420F, -38F, 154, 3.1, 6.2, 0.80%, 0.099% Valvoline All-Climate: 403F, -38F, 162, ---, ---, 0.8%, 0.105% COMMENTS ON 5W-30: Chevron, Texaco and Citgo like the heat, Mobil does not. Pennzoil flows well in extreme cold. Chevron and Texaco have relatively high TBNs. ***10W-30 SL*** Chevron Supreme: 450F, -31F, 135, ---, 7.4, 0.9%, 0.103% Citgo Supergard: 451F, ---, 137, 3.0, ---, ---, --- Kendall GT-1 High Perf.: 421F, -29F, 135, 3.1, 6.2, 0.80%, 0.10% Mobil Drive Clean: 392F, -33F, 134, ---, ---, ---, --- Pennzoil Multigrade: 430F, -33F, 140, 3.2, ---, ---, --- Phillips TropArtic: 432F, -33F, 139, ---, ---, 0.8%, --- Quaker State Peak Perf.: 410F, -22F, 139, ---, ---, ---, --- Texaco Havoline: (same spec's as Chevron) Union 76 Super: 420F, -33F, 136, 3.1, 6.2, 0.80%, 0.099% Valvoline All-Climate: 421F, -27F, 135, ---, ---, 0.8%, 0.105% COMMENTS ON 10W-30: Chevron, Texaco and Citgo like the heat, Mobil does not. Quaker State doesn't flow quite as well in extreme cold. Chevron and Texaco have relatively high TBNs. ***10W-40 SL*** Chevron Supreme: 453F, -29F, 148, ---, 7.4, 0.9%, 0.103% Citgo Supergard: 455F, ---, 148, 3.6, ---, ---, --- Kendall GT-1 High Perf.: 419F, -26F, 146, 3.6, 6.2, 0.80%, 0.10% Mobil Drive Clean: 392F, -27F, 147, ---, ---, ---, --- Pennzoil Multigrade: 415F, -33F, 153, 3.7, ---, ---, --- Phillips TropArtic: 424F, -33F, 145, ---, ---, 0.8%, --- Quaker State Peak Perf.: 430F, -22F, 148, ---, ---, ---, --- Texaco Havoline: (same spec's as Chevron) Union 76 Super: 420F, -33F, 147, 3.8, 6.2, 0.80%, 0.099% Valvoline All-Climate: 421F, -27F, 148, ---, ---, 0.8%, 0.105% COMMENTS ON 10W-40: Chevron, Texaco and Citgo like the heat, Mobil does not. Pennzoil and Union 76 have a slight edge in extreme cold. Chevron and Texaco have relatively high TBNs. ***20W-50 SL*** Chevron Supreme: 496F, -20F, 122, ---, 7.4, 0.9%, 0.103% Citgo Supergard: 473F, ---, 121, 4.6, ---, ---, --- Kendall GT-1 High Perf.: 446F, -26F, 124, 4.3, 6.5, 0.85%, 0.11% Mobil Drive Clean: 392F, -17F, 124, ---, ---, ---, --- Pennzoil GT Perf.: 450F, -11F, 130, 5.1, ---, ---, --- Phillips TropArtic: (Not on my spec sheet) Quaker State Peak Perf.: 441F, -6F, 120, ---, ---, ---, --- Texaco Havoline: (same spec's as Chevron) Union 76 Super: (Not on my spec sheet) Valvoline All-Climate: 446F, -11F, 125, ---, ---, 0.8%, 0.105% COMMENTS ON 20W-50: Chevron, Texaco, and Citgo like the heat, Mobil does not. Quaker State doesn't flow quite as well in extreme cold, although no 20W-50 is really a cold weather oil. Pennzoil has good VI and HT/HS numbers. Chevron and Texaco have relatively high TBNs. FINAL COMMENTS: What's my own admittedly controversial opinion on what's the "best" conventional oil? Easy. The differences between the major brands appear to be more subtle than substantial, so for the average Joe to whom "severe service" does not apply, the "best" oil is simply the least expensive name brand, SL-rated, proper weight oil you can find at any given moment. Now how's that for controversy!
 
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The "best" conventional oil...HDEO 15w-40 hands down: Chevron Delo 400 Mobil Delvac 1300 Pennzoil Long-Life Shell Rotella-T [ October 13, 2003, 12:48 AM: Message edited by: Jelly ]
 

TC

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Yes, the "diesel" oils are superior in a number of ways. I was also trying to take cost into account, otherwise the diesel oils and all-out synthetics would win every time. I think the diesel oils are going for about $1.75/qt (???), while I paid 36 cents for Citgo the other day after rebate. So there's price-dependent and price-independent answers to the "best oil" question, both of them correct, depending on the thickness of one's wallet.
 
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The synthetics are over $4/quart, but I just bought a gallon of Pennzoil Long-Life at Wal-Mart for $5.77 (plus tax, of course). That figures out to $1.44/quart...think that's pretty darn good for what your getting. [Big Grin] [ October 13, 2003, 12:47 AM: Message edited by: Jelly ]
 
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Posted above: Joe to whom "severe service" does not apply, the "best" oil is simply the least expensive name brand, SL-rated, proper weight oil you can find at any given moment. Now how's that for controversy! Thats what Consumer reports magazine said in their taxi test 5 years ago!!!! They said they are all the same
 

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Yeah, I actually read through my old copy of the 1996 Consumer Reports test before writing my original post. People love to trash talk that test for some reason ("Taxis aren't street cars" "Taxis have few cold starts" etc.), but I think the magazine made some very good points. You'd think that 60,000 miles on each brand of oil could provide some helpful data, but some people just refuse to believe it. Ken -- Yes, I'd agree that used oil analysis on one's own engine is probably the best way to ultimately select an oil. But I think it likely that most people won't opt for analysis, and simply want empirical data on virgin oils. I don't know that one can make conclusions unless analysis circumstances are similar -- I wouldn't venture that Chevron 10w-30 in my 2002 Mitsubishi engine would necessarily be affected the same as the same oil in someone's 1997 Chevy pickup, so I'd hesitate to let the pickup truck's UOA be the primary factor in choosing oil for the Mitsu.
 
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I think that the cabs were off at night. Not too many cabs on NYC streets after 12 am - just try to find one. It was probably a good test. They (CR) said buy on price, and get an API and energy conserving oil. they also said OK to mix brands and weights.
 
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Thanks TC for putting that all together. I am sure it took a ton of time to dig it all out and put it together. I have been tempted to drop Pennzoil for something cheaper, but strongly feel sticking to one brand is best, and know I can find Pennzoil my next oil change. At least the yellow bottles will be at Wally's. Now that they have changed hands again, I wonder if I can count on the oil continuing to be the same?
 
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Something is amiss here. The freezer test (and I DO apologize for bringing this up again) tells me that Chevron Supreme 10W-30 is absolute POISON in the winter. It's lucky to get -1, let alone -31! The numbers indicate performance on a par with the others, "subtle differences" I think the post said. I say Not So. Sombody needs to tell me more about how these numbers are derived.
 
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SBC350; HD30 is most often sold as a winter grade CF-2. Some have very high flashpoints, very low pour points, and 110-125 VI. These oils are not found on the 69 cent discount shelf.
 

TC

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Cool. Glad this info proved useful to you folks. I had gathered the spec sheets over the last few months anyway, so I went ahead and took only about two hours to compile the info -- no biggie. A couple responses: I believe most of the NYC cab drivers were either carjacked or shot at night, so that explains no cabs there when the sun goes down. (Sorry....bad joke.) Who knows how much shenanigans goes on with the manufacturers' specifications. If Chevron (or anyone else) says "-31F" for a pour point, I'll take it on faith that it's accurate. Luckily, standardized ASTM testing methods apply. But the ol' saying "Trust, but verify" still applies, and much thanks to those folks offering oil analysis services. The Mobil multiweights above all have the same flashpoint (per the Mobil website's spec sheet), which certainly doesn't sound right, but I simply entered what they claimed. Too bad for the people who brought us the Exxon Valdez. I've also included several random 30w POUR POINT numbers for those who evidently covet that particular varietal: -Chevron Delo 400 (diesel): -24F -Shell Rotella (diesel): 0F (zero degrees F) -Chevron Supreme (gas): -27F -Mobil Drive Clean (gas): -6F
 
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Mobil DCO was THE worst oil I have ever used. Burns away like crazy, got me off of Mobil products. [ October 13, 2003, 11:19 PM: Message edited by: TSoA ]
 
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Maybe I'm wrong but isn't flash point the point when the vapor ignites. Fire point is if it continues to burn. Boiing point is usually overlooked and IMO, more important than either. If it ain't boiling, what vapors' flashpoint are we worrying about? Please define pour point. Marshmallow fluff pours if you wait long enough. Another overrated spec. At those temps, oil/block heater should be mandatory. For the other tests, consider the accuracy of the oil company, laboratory, or technician, and you'll notice that almost everything is within a nominal amount of accuracy or tolerance. 10% either way is no big deal, and IMO not worth comparing some of the numbers. Concerning CR, I don't drive a taxi. I don't have heavy duty engine cooling and oil cooling. I do start my vehicle easily 1000 times a year at every imaginable temperature swing available in the Northeast. I'd love to be able to keep my engine at 1 temp 24/7. Taxis don't have the HP per CID like my imports, don't operate at the same RPMS, and usually don't deal with the stress of a manual transmission......... I'll agree with Ken2. UOA is probably the best method so far.
 
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quote:
Originally posted by TC: -Degrees F Flash Point "FP" (ASTM D-92) Temperature at which oil begins to vaporize (burn). Can be an indicator of the quality of base stock. Higher numbers are better. "CAN" be an indicator, but not always certain. -Degrees F Pour Point "PP" (ASTM D-97) Oil fluidity at low temperatures. The lower the number, the better it will flow at cold temps. Cold cranking and pumping limit are better cold weather indicators. -Viscosity Index "VI" (ASTM D-2270) Change in viscosity over a given temperature change. A factor in wear prevention. A higher number indicates lesser change -- higher is better. -High Temp/High Shear Viscosity "HT/HS" (ASTM D-4683) Measure of protection under high temperatures. Higher numbers are better. Missing is shear stability, a very important and hard to find factor. Very important. -Total Base Number "TBN" (ASTM D-2896) An oil's reserve alkalinity. A higher number indicates enhanced long-term ability to control acids and other contaminants. Beginning TBN is not as important as the TBN value after the oil has considerable use on it. Some oils start lower but hold their values better. -% Sulfated Ash "SA" (ASTM D-874) The residue remaining after an oil is burned. Lower is better. Lower is not necessarily better. The Sulfated Ash is the residue after some lab procedures, not from burning. The type of sulfated ash is important--whether it's from abrasive magnesium compounds that can deposit in the ring grooves or from soft, oil-soluble calcium compounds, yet both yield the same lab test result. -% Zinc "Z" An extreme pressure, anti-wear additive. More is better, yet more also results in increased combustion chamber deposits. Therefore a balance is necessary, often around 0.11%, more for racing oils. More in not better. The zinc is part of the zinc dialkyldithiophospate antiwear additive and can be combined with other antiwear additives for less zinc and better protection. The phosphate can poision catalytic converters if it carries over from oil burning or oil volatility.
The best way to pick an oil?...look at the used oil analyses of your engines and the engines of others. Ken [ October 13, 2003, 12:43 PM: Message edited by: Ken2 ]
 
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quote:
Originally posted by TC: In the never ending quest to find the "best" conventional motor oil, I thought I'd compile some numbers on various oil attributes and evaluate them accordingly. All of these numbers were taken from the manufacturers' "product data sheets,"*-*-*-*-*- *-*-"best" oil is simply the least expensive name brand, SL-rated, proper weight oil you can find at any given moment. Now how's that for controversy!
Define Least expensive. I would not use the cost of the container of oil to determine the real cost of the oil. But if you would then fine, you have your system, and we all need to have a game plan, one way or another, and that's better than not, IMO. --- As far as thes numbers: We'll I'll tell you if this were true, the oils I have used can not hold a candle to these top of the line oils... but why have they done better IMO, because it's more than just the numbers. I've seen numbers Jump and Hold for a long long time before they move and they can move slow or fast. Inverse as well. Yes, the VOA's IMO have some% value to the end results, but there are things in some oils that 1. do not show up 2. that when show up look to some as something BAD when in fact they are not. 3. Don't show how the oil will hold up. UOA's, yes are a big plus. But what if you (LIKE I) don't know how to READ one properly? Then they are skewed. Period. They are only then IMO a guage of hot or cold... of wet or dry... when things are perfect, but what if things are not black and white? What if like in my examples I was racking my head (some was valid) to finding my SI leak (had one but not IMO major) and it turned out to most likely be the SI in the oil as an additive for anti-foam? Example: I had a Bypass and started getting HIGH SI. Figured it to be the Hose. Took it off, SI dropped but not to before. Then Noticed a leak in the ValveCover, SI got worse then fixed VC and the SI dropped some. Si rose again, played around with Air cleaner, and dropped some but still higher then the original TREND...Then the SI spiked again, figured do to the REAR seal, and after seal fixed SI on the way down but still much higher than original. Found out TODAY from the LAB that the VOA what they shoot for but don't usually get is around 20ppm SI for most oils (say 18-22)and here I am mixing several of the additives (some less or none) and oils with a very low micron rated bypass filter suddenly removed, which may have been removing these additives based on their micron ratings from the lab. Then after a few hundred miles I pulled a sample at it had Si of 16, well with the by-pass It would be that after say ??? 20-30K not a few hundred. But hey, no one can learn from an oil without a name. Was the original reason my SI went up because of the Hose? Maybe so, maybe the Hose and an OLD [email protected] and maybe other factors too. If my truck was NEW when I removed the hose and there was no Other major problem, I'm sure in fairly short order, I would have found the problem. Have I solved it yet, Well I'm not sure, only more UOA will tell but at least I have another Key to the puzzle. All things being the same If I had any one of several dozen different oils, I may or may not have had the same or similar results based on THEIR oil chemistry. Here, I think with both Lab verified VOA (shoot for numbers) and my results of UOA and the truck problems I have had, I can see how maybe I have been chasing some fiction or shadow of a fiction. Bottom like If I would have went by only the numbers you present, I may have had (I believe) much more wear and problems than I have had, because I've seen good oils with MFG specs not hold up when LOADED-up with these kinda of problems, and I have seen additives and oils that looked not as promising on paper help me get through problems on other cars in the past, where the BETTER oil numbers were not cutting it.
 

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1. You're correct on the definition of flash point -- for sake of simplicity I added the explanatory (although not necessarily accurate) word "burn" to explain the vaporization/oxidization process in layman's terms. 2. I've never seen "Boiling Point" listed on a motor oil spec sheet, so it's not criteria which has any use for purposes of comparison. 3. Flash point most certainly has relevance. From an Amsoil website: "The lower the flash point the greater tendency for the oil to suffer vaporization loss at high temperatures and to burn off on hot cylinder walls and pistons. The flash point can be an indicator of the quality of the base stock used. The higher the flash point the better. 400 F is the minimum to prevent possible high consumption." 4. The Pour Point of an oil is 5 degrees F above the point at which a chilled oil shows no movement at the surface for 5 seconds when inclined. 5. Pour points have relevance even when the ambient temperature is well above 0 degrees F. In consistently cold weather, the pour point depressant additives are used up quickly. As these additives are used up, the pour point of the oil rises. In addition, after the engine heats up the oil is subjected to high temperature conditions that burn off the lighter molecules in the oil, causing it to thicken, further increasing the pour point. 6. With Greg Bohn's lab tests, the three results mentioned (from the same oil sample) had high/low variations from 35%-65%, legitimately posing the question of why bother with analysis if the results are all over the board? (I'm not suggesting that this is my opinion on this matter -- I'm just stating a legitimate concern.) 7. You suggest that taxicab oils have it easy. In fact, as I'm sure you know, constant urban driving is considered "severe service." Speeds are slower, meaning less radiator air flow and therefore hotter temperatures. Potential fuel-in-oil contamination through constant idling. Less opportunities to "open it up" and discharge cylinder deposits. And taxi engines have many more "dry" and "semi-dry" starts each day than civilian cars. You evidently have a high-revving, high HP/Displacement import with a stick shift (so do I). But not everyone does, so I'd suggest the Chevy 4.3L V-6s in CR's test certainly do have something in common with "average Joe's" car. Maybe the oils' environment isn't exactly the same, but is certainly similar, unless one's comparing taxi engines to the flux capacitor DeLorean in "Back to the Future." Robbie: Thanks for your input. For the record, I think VOAs and UOAs are a GOOD idea, and they can both prove very helpful. I was simply stating concern over GB's inconsistent results, nothing more than that. Sorry if I suggested otherwise. UOAs certainly helped you out -- the proof is in the pudding! [ October 14, 2003, 02:50 AM: Message edited by: TC ]
 
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quote:
Originally posted by userfriendly: SBC350; HD30 is most often sold as a winter grade CF-2. Some have very high flashpoints, very low pour points, and 110-125 VI. These oils are not found on the 69 cent discount shelf.
I use it in my lawnmower and it is 1.50 a quart. I don't think that is exactly expensive. But still.......what is different in the formulation.
 
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SBC350; Ok ok so the Blue Jackets beat the Vancouver Canucks last night. Take a scoot over to the Detroit Diesel threads for the low down on CF-2s. The high VIs are achieved by using a high quality base oil and not from VI improvers.
 
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