Friction Modifiers = less wear

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Dec 12, 2002
Monterey Park, CA
Recently I was told by 2 oil companies to run dino oil for at least 7000 miles before switching. The reason for this is their oils are so slick it would take forever for rings to seat in. These 2 oils companies are Royal Purple and Redline. I do believe my train of thinking is correct. Their friction modifiers are decreasing wear much more than other synthetics that say it's OK to put it in your new car right away without waiting and may come factory filled with it such as Mobil 1. What do you of my logic!
I honestly don't believe this to be true. If it were the case, we'd see zero wear on oil analysis of those oils. Yet we honestly don't see a difference between dinos and synthetics in terms of wear metals. I plan on running an interval with Castrol GTX in my sister's car and will compare it's wear with both new and old Mobil 1, Syntec and possibly Amsoil too. We'll see how the wear metals look, but honestly I don't expect big differences in that category.

Synthetics are better for long drain intervals, and for cold weather flow, but I maintain my belief that they are not more slippery, nor do they increase horsepower either. I'm dying for someone to prove me wrong though, since I held onto that belief for years.
Patman, I don't think we should allow the simple explanation of "too slippery" to dissuade us from believing the effects. There are way too many engine builders out there who would scoff at our lack of experience with this, and they carry more evidence than our own. I believe the "slippery" thing to be a simplification by oil people, or assumptions by mechanics trying to explain the ring/cylinder glazing they've seen. The fact it happens remains even if we can't explain it.

At this point I suspect (and that's all) it has something to do with dino vs. synth flash points and how the oil holds up in wide/hot cylinder-to-ring vacancies during early run-in. All the explanations I've encountered (with any substance) speak of the first minutes and hours being critical. After that opinions diverge but seem to agree on diminishing returns beyond a thousand miles.

I haven't seen the effects myself beyond diagrams, and I'm surprised nobody here knows more than the old stories, but if you search you'll find repeated advice (some with substance) to avoid synth for break-in. It doesn't appear to be an issue for factory cars; they either have production methods or pre-delivery preparation that avoids the problem. But anyone buying sport-bikes or planning a custom engine would do well to research further, ideally seeking advice of builders experienced in the specific engine setup.

My tired $.02
I still don't believe Oil analysis can find the true wear metals in oil because it's not soluable like the additive metals alredy in the oil. Those wear metals are more likly to settle to the bottom of the pan and on the magnetic drain plug or caught in the filter. Furthermore I have seen with my own eyes my 1984 Suburban than I religiously changed oil every 3000 miles with dino oil, and it still started smoking at 80000 miles. Then I have my friend, the owner of a speed shop that sells Redline. He changes once a year on a specific date the oil, and the filter every 3000 miles. Tows his race car to events, and he has over 300,000 miles on it. No wear, no smoking with only a timing chain change. Isn't that proof of less wear.
Assuming you are comparing the same vehicle and engine, I would say that it is only proof that you got a lemon of an engine. All modern engines should last longer than yours did with regular oil changes regardless of dino or synth.
I'm with most other people who've heard for decades never to use a synthetic oil in a brand new motor ... and then Mobil 1 becomes factory fill in a number of high performance cars.

I'm not sure why Red Line still has this "do not use to break in" warning on their bottles. I think it was Bob who said that Honda's break-in oil is heavily loaded with moly, a potent friction modifier.

So I don't know what to think about this anymore.

pedal, you might be right about the magnetic drain plug showing a lower iron rating than ordinarily might be, but other metals and worn compounds should be unaffected. As for bits caught in the filter or laying at the bottom of the pan, this is true of all engines. So, consider it a constant. The number which shows up in properly done oil analysis is a "relative" number ... and it is still useful.

And I pretty much agree with Giles. That's strong anecdotal evidence you have there ... but certainly not proof of any kind. I've thought for a while that GM hasn't been putting a lot of quality and attention to detail into its pushrod engines ... especially those destined for trucks. They know that the design itself is so robust, it will usually outlast the rest of the vehicle once or twice over. ZR2RANDO had spun a bearing before 100,000 miles and he blaims the "lightweight" 10W30 oil he was using. Like you, I'm pretty sure he was very good about regular oil & filter changes.

wtd was using Mobil 1 in his Chevy truck and was getting miserable oil analysis results even though he was using a modest 5,000 mile interval and the truck was used mostly on the highway. A lot of us blamed the oil at the time, but it may have been a motor with slightly misaligned bores, poor quality bearings, etc ...

--- Bror Jace
There are only 2 places that need less wear. Valve guides and rings. Apparently dino oil can't do as good job here than the "you get what you pay for oils". If you plan to heep your car for a long time, it will save you money in the long run. First you run dino to wear in the guides and rings. Then put the "you get what you pay for oils" to prevent further wear. It's plain as day to me now.
pedaltothemetal, I think the problem with using Redline for a breakin oil might because of the large concentration of moly in it, not because it's synthetic. I wouldn't use it either because of this. But Mobil 1 is now factory fill in many cars including the Corvette and Mercedes so it can't be all too bad for breakin. I switched my factory fill at 1000 miles to M1 synthetic and shall see how it works through analysis.
I think we're oversimplifiying this. The reason that many manufacturers, especially German ones (BMW, MB, VAG), are using synthetic from the start is that the engines are run and "broken in" before they even go into the cars. The factory fill does not need to be changed early and it's not break-in oil. I watched the factory 5W-40 come out of my VW at 5K miles, and there were no metal shavings or other signs of abnormal wear. I put in whatever crap the dealer had (it was free and car was not modified at the time), then went to Mobil 1 at 10K.
No metal shavings...more proof with "you get what you pay for synthetics". Mine had a blob of gray shavings on the end of my magnetic drain plug.
Here is what I said in another thread.

I have my own opinions about the lubricity of dino vs $$$synthetic. In oil analysis it's important to get the TBN to see if there is still life left in if you are doing long drains. Besides that, I believe all other measurements other than the depleting of what was there to start with in the virgin oil anaylis is not accurate. The wear metals from the engine I don't believe to be soluable so what is measure is not all of it. If one were to get an accurate picture, then you have to take apart the engine and gather every metalic particle and then measure them. I have been looking at the testimonials of engine longevity and that's where in my mind determines which oil gives the best wear. I also find wear = friction and friction = temperature. Some testimonials in Redline and Royal Purple convince me that these and others of the "you get what you pay for synthetic group" has something in there that the cheaper oils don't have to prevent wear.
I find these 2 paragraphs from Torco intreging:

Today, there is a wide gap in the performance of oils made for passenger cars and oils made for race cars. This gap has become much wider during the last 5 years of the 1990's...and will continue in the years ahead because of the new global standards driven by political/environment first and protecting the engine second. EPA is more interested in protecting catalytic converters than protecting the engine.
In conclusion a motor oil made for passenger car engines cannot match the performance of a motor oil engineered for racing engines. But that's not all, the wear protection additives and friction modifiers used in passenger car motor oils cannot match the performance of custom made additives engineered to increase horsepower and torque.
OK I have been studying and here is where the proprietary friction modifiers can prevent wear like MOLY. Guess that's why race oils have so much of it.

"There are three types of surface protection that is effective for boundary lubrication----physical absorbed films, chemical absorbed films and chemical reacted films. Petroleum, synthetic and semi-synthetic base oils cannot produce all three of these films. To achieve the benefits of boundary lubrication the base oil must contain additives to increase its polarity to become a physical absorbed film. It needs additives to produce chemical absorbed films and chemical reacted films. Sulfur and phosphorus additives react favorably with iron to produce iron sulfide and iron phosphide. When sulfur and phosphorus are linked to oil soluble metals other than zinc they will form a protective layer of metallic molecules that will fill in the low spots on both sides of the asperities thereby leveling the surface and eliminate its roughness. Depending on which metal is used or combination of metals used a metal alloy can be formed on the surface of iron that will reduce friction and wear. However, boundary lubricants that only reduce wear often fail to reduce friction. This is the case with the most used wear protection additive----zinc dithiophosphate. Zinc attached to iron increases friction by 40% and when deposited on cylinders and ring faces it consumes up to 3% of the energy that produces horsepower and torque output from the engines crankshaft."

This is the explanation of where all the wear come from.

"The cylinder is where the most extreme boundary conditions exist. That's why 75% of all resistance to movement from friction occurs between the piston rings and cylinder. The other 25% occurs between the inner and outer valve springs, valve stems and valve guides, cam lobes and lifters, rockers and push rods and of lesser importance rod and main bearings----because bearings rarely encounter boundary conditions.

The shower of oil thrown off the junction of the crankshaft journal and insert bearing by oil pressure and centrifugal force will reach the piston undercrown, wrist pin and cylinder. Here's where the fluid properties of the oil (viscosity and lubricity) prevents a boundary condition of metal-to-metal contact between piston rings and cylinders. But this only occurs on the down-stroke of the piston. During the up-stroke the piston rings and cylinders are under extreme boundary conditions.
Incoming fuel washes the oil film off of the cylinder during the intake stroke and allows the piston rings to slide on dry iron during the compression stroke. This is repeated when combustion fire, hot gases and super heated steam removes the oil film off of the cylinders during the combustion stroke and allows the rings to slide on dry iron during the exhaust stroke.
The removal of the oil film from cylinder walls occurs from 100 to 150 times per second in a racing engine where RPM's are in the range of 6000 to 9000 or more. At these high crankshaft speeds pistons will travel from 29 to 44 feet per second during the compression and exhaust strokes without the benefit of fluid oil film protection."
My Acura RSX came with special break-in oil from the factory that Honda advises owners not to change till the first scheduled oil change (5kmi to 10Kmi). What is the special ingredient of the break-in oil? Moly- a whopping 980ppm of it!
Jay, exactly. So, the idea that a certain amount of initial wear should happen during break-in doesn't go along with a WHOPPING dose of moly in that break-in oil ... an even more massive than the moly in Red Line Oil.

Oh, and Tenderloin, if you work for Torco or are a Torco dealer, that's fine, but it's customary around here to disclose that in your first few posts. There are a LOT of industry-related people here ... but they are fairly open about the nature of their meal tickets.

Oh, and you might want to do more than post links to Torco PDFs. This is, after all, a discussion board.

--- Bror Jace
What I will do is see how much metal is on my magnetic drain plug after I drain the Royal Purple. If there is less than with dino, then the Royal Purple is causing less wear. I don't trust oil analysis to report true wear metals, only TBN for extended drains.
"But this only occurs on the down-stroke of the piston. During the up-stroke the piston rings and cylinders are under extreme boundary conditions.
Incoming fuel washes the oil film off of the cylinder during the intake stroke and allows the piston rings to slide on dry iron during the compression stroke. This is repeated when combustion fire, hot gases and super heated steam removes the oil film off of the cylinders during the combustion stroke and allows the rings to slide on dry iron during the exhaust stroke.
The removal of the oil film from cylinder walls occurs from 100 to 150 times per second in a racing engine where RPM's are in the range of 6000 to 9000 or more. At these high crankshaft speeds pistons will travel from 29 to 44 feet per second during the...."

This is sensationalist crap. The oil film between ring and liner is 0.25 to 1.25 um depending on stroke cycle. No engine has ever survived a dry ring/liner interface.

Friction modifiers are called "base oils" and "additive chemicals," blended to reduce the coefficient of friction.

Anti-wear (AW)and EP additives prevent rubbing and galling wear.

Some AW are also FM's as well, such as ZDDP, MoTDC (moly) and SnTDC.

For new automobiles, I change out the factory stuff (usually Group III) and put in synthetics at around 100 miles.

For rebuilt automotive engines, or air-cooled engines, use a mileage or hour run-in period of 5,000 miles and 5 hours, respectively.

[ December 28, 2002, 02:25 PM: Message edited by: MolaKule ]
Bror Jace

As I have stated in a previous post to "Bob," I have NO business connection/affliation or any other contact with ANY automotive, oil or in any related company, except as a consumer maintaining my three vehicles.

I am a retired contractor and ex high school baseball coach who dabbles in the stock market for pocket change and something to do....when I am not enjoying my family and other interests.

Oh, I almost forgot. I do enjoy automobiles and what makes them tick. My interest far exceeds my knowledge and when I see someone post a question, and I have read an article on that subject, and that information IMO is better than what I can write on my own, then I post it. BFD!!

The Torco information not only IMO was on topic, but from what I have read in the short time I have been reading this board, Torco and their data/ideas/products have not been discussed much.

Far better IMO to read information from experts in their field, than some other "experts"...... LOL

Here is a link to my posts. Start at the beginning.......;u=00000722

[ December 28, 2002, 11:38 PM: Message edited by: tenderloin ]

Thanks, I recognized Lancaster's writing and wasn't trying to imply you wrote it.

Lancaster has written some stuff that is not quite accurate. His differentiation between friction modifiers and anti-wear additives are unclear. FM's and Anti-Wear additives both operate under boundary conditions, but do so for different purposes.

When anti-wear additives (AW's) are compressed due to high loads (such as ZDDP's and moly's), they go into a glass-like phase and metal surfaces simply slide over these glass-like fluids. ZDDP's go glass-like at lower temps than do the moly's and antimonies.

For Friction Modifiers that are friction reducers, the molecules stick to the surfaces in the form of whiskers which shear-off easily (under boundary conditions) and thus reduce friction. Friction reduction reduces heat and horsepower requirements.

The problem comes about because many AW additives are also FM's and vise versa; these additives are called "multifunctional" additives because they accomplish many functions at the same time.

Modern machining (NC) has all but eliminated the "run-in" period and factory fill oils usually contain both FM's and AW's. I beleive the factory-fill oils and filters should be changed as soon as possible because of the manufacturing or machining "trash" left behind.
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