Full synthetic options w/ extra seal conditioners?

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Dec 16, 2017
Hello all! First time poster; medium term lurker. Bit of a long story, but please bear with me. I want to give relevant history for my question to make sense. I have a 1998 Volvo V70 GLT low pressure turbo with about 184k miles on the clock. My family has owned it since new, and now it's mine. I literally grew up with this car, I absolutely love it, and want it to last as long as possible. Engine runs like a top (fingers crossed). ATF changed 12k ago and transmission shifts like new (fingers crossed). Body is in great shape given how much salt it sees, so it's unlikely to die from corrosion anytime soon. Getting to 250k+ would be great. For the first several years, it saw dealer oil changes. I was too young to remember or pay attention to exactly what was done, but from the service schedule I assume 5k intervals with whatever brand 10w-30 dino oil Volvo used during that time period. Later it saw changes at an independent Volvo shop, again dino with twice yearly changes at 4k to 5k. PCV system clogged for the first time at 147k, resulting in a mosquito-killing smoke show and forcing some seepage at seals. System was replaced with no apparent long term issues. At 155k, it developed an intermittent hydraulic lifter noise that slowly got worse, so I took over oil changes. After fighting a losing battle using different high mileage oils, short change intervals, and cleaning additives, the problem was diagnosed as cracked o-rings allowing air to enter the oil at the pickup tube, and others allowing internal pressure bleed off. Offending parts were replaced and lifters instantly went back to normal with the engine seeming no worse off. I continued to use high mileage oils with 3k-ish intervals until last spring when I decided to do a cross country summer road trip from to the west coast and back. Knowing it would see high ambient temps, mountain grades, and possibly a longer than usual drain interval, I chose M1 high mileage 10w-30 which served me well. After almost 6k of mixed highway and city driving, I had it changed with Valvoline Maxlife semi-synthetic 10w-30. Maxlife got dark faster than M1, but did very well on the drive up to Washington State and then back home, also changed at 6k. I likely could have gone longer with so many highway miles and a couple quarts of make up oil each direction, but I wanted to stick close to recommended drain intervals. It has M1 high mileage 5w-30 in it now for winter, but I'm reconsidering my choice going forward. The engine does not appreciably burn oil. Including a leak from an oil cooler line (subsequently fixed), it lost 1qt in 2500 miles during the trip. The only other "leak" I can see is a slight dampness on the turbo compressor housing that has never left any spots on the driveway. In 500 miles since the cooler line fix, the level has not moved on the dipstick at all. It doesn't necessarily need a "thicker" oil to stop excess oil consumption if it doesn't use much to begin with. At the same time, it does have some varnish up top. Here's a look through the fill cap at the cam and lifters on the intake side of #3. [img]https://imgur.com/a/F8TAG[/img] Obviously could use some cleaning up there, so high detergent is way up there on my personal requirements. Engine has a cam cover with built in bearings so a full top end inspection and manual cleaning is not an easy option. I hope/assume other areas of the top end are at least in similar shape. All pressurized oil passages that I can see are essentially spotless, including original oil cooler thermostat and even inside the old leaking cooler lines. Ironic as it is that I drive a fuel-gulping brick on wheels, I'm a stickler for fuel economy. I don't expect anything magical, just the best mpg I can reasonably squeeze out of it without being afraid to put the hammer down when needed. Whatever I chose must perform in a wide range of conditions: cold starts on a ski trip in Vermont to roasting in LA traffic jams; hauling a trailer of garden mulch at low speed to zooming up a desert mountainside with the dummy behind me mad that I'm doing 83 mph instead of 83.5 as I pass a big rig. That pushes me towards synthetic oil, especially if I could get away with changing it once per year (barring any long distance trips), while also fighting varnish and protecting the turbo when I push it hard. At the same time, I know it's old and I understand the seals may not be in awesome shape. I spent a weekend fighting oil cooler lines just so it wouldn't coat the whole underside with oil mist and leave big ugly drip spots every time I park. I don't want it to make a similar (or worse) mess if a synthetic oil finds a weak point to escape. To counter that concern, almost 30k using oils with seal conditioners and high detergents had to have done some good. Varnish is starting to thin where the cams throw oil up top. It used to puff a sizable blue smoke cloud on cold start after sitting because of weak valve stem seals; now barely a wisp comes out, even after a hard highway drive and sitting hours overnight. I read up on Valvoline Synpower with Maxlife Technology, and that looks like it fits my requirements. Full synthetic, standard range viscosity (Resource Conserving rated too), good performance at extreme temps, and with extra detergent and seal conditioners. Pennzoil Platinum high mileage also appears to fit the bill with similar kinds of marketing on their website. Either of those worthwhile to try at the next oil change (sometime in the spring)? Other suggestions you've had good experience with? Problems you foresee with this kind of switch like suddenly leaking like a sieve despite, or because of, the history? Not keen on going back to dino, as it obviously was breaking down and leaving varnish even with sub-5k OCI. TL;DR: 184k mile turbo brick; past 30k on high mileage oil. Short trips, long trips, trailer towing. Looking for full synthetic w/ extra seal conditioners and high detergent.
Based on what you said, I'd go the Mobil 1 high mileage route. It's a very robust oil and should serve you very well. But you can't go wrong with Maxlife (particularly the full syn!) either.
Valvoline has a good reputation with their Maxlife product. Their Advanced Synthetic with Maxlife is considered their top oil by many. I’m a big fan of Valvoline but to be fair any of the major brand names would most likely serve your needs well. Whichever oil you choose give it time to work. The effects are not immediate. Sometimes a couple of oci are needed before you see results.
First, considering the mileage and the previous use of dino, I don't see the color up top as anything to try "fixing". It looks fine to me smile My last Volvo Turbo went 284,000 before it would not pass SMOG tests w/o a new CAT. Car not worth the price (needed tranny work), so I came up short of 300K (goal), but not by much. You can prolly do the same smile I like Maxlife. M1 is sometimes hit and miss for my various engines. Sometimes noisy on cold start, but I know it's good oil. I just don't like clatter ... You can't go wrong with any top brand. Taking care is the key and you are doing that just fine. Volvo's need periodic parts replacement. That's the euro way. Just keep on keepin on laugh
Originally Posted By: TmanP
Based on what you said, I'd go the Mobil 1 high mileage route. It's a very robust oil and should serve you very well. But you can't go wrong with Maxlife (particularly the full syn!) either.
I would, too. In fact, I do. 10w-30 for anything above 0F. Should work fine year-round for you. I have run the FS Maxlife and PP HM in two different vehicles of mine. I get less usage and smoother running with the M1 10w-30HM in both vehicles, and in my parents' vehicles vs. what they used to use (generally dino junk my dad used). With a turbo, it has fewer VIIs to break down vs a 5w, and is adequate down to quite low temps if you look at the data and not the marketing hype. You've already had one positive experience with it (and long-distance highway miles are easy on the oil but harder on consumption than any other type of usage). One of the cars I use this oil with (2002 ES) has 285k on it. It has used this oil with only occasional breaks to sample other high quality synthetics for comparison, for 150k. I runs beautifully and uses about 1/2 qt of oil every 7.5k OCI. yes, that's about 2 ozs of oil consumed every 1k miles on a near 300k miles car. And 80%+ of the miles are 65-70mph highway miles with typically higher consumption profile for an engine. Your car sounds like it's in remarkable shape and I understand the desire to keep things going strong. I'd go back to that oil and not look back, unless you have a ski house at Jay Peak and are there a big chunk of the winter wink .
Thanks for all the replies so far! I understand that I won't see instant cleaning, and that slow dissolving of deposits is better than dislodging clumps. @BrocLuno Was yours one of the P80 (850; first gen S/V70)? Any more info on what transmission problems or symptoms you had? What kind of servicing did it get? To be fair, ANY complex electro-mechanical system is going to wear out and need parts eventually laugh @Oro_O Congrats on a long lived and well running car! I get that 10w-30 is acceptable down to 0F, but the car does see a lot of short winter trips and I wonder if that (plus the even higher viscosity of the HM version) will eat some of my fuel economy while warming up. It slurps enough fuel when cold as it is. And running it on the coldest range of what it specs for 10w30 rubs me the wrong way I guess. shrug But VIIs getting roasted by the turbo is a valid concern. Haven't noticed much difference in sound/smoothness between the previous Castrol GTX semi-syn high mileage, the M1 full syn HM, and the Maxlife semi-syn HM. This engine just seems to take whatever happens and keeps on purring away. Never clatters at startup, idles well, and only gets smoother as it warms. No good data on consumption because of the cooler line leak and the o-ring debacle (which also leaked outside) skewing the numbers for the whole time I've been able to keep track. I expect it leaked at least as much if not more than it burned during my road trip. Not bad for running 2800 at cruise and 3700 climbing grades.
Pennzoil Full Synthetic High Mileage oil has more swell agents then Mobil 1 High Mileage oil. I found that out on my daughters Civic. First use Pennzoil then used Mobil 1 and 2 weeks later I got some leaking from the Mobil 1 changeover. Pennzoil did not leak a drop before.
First use Pennzoil then used Mobil 1 and 2 weeks later I got some leaking from the Mobil 1 changeover
@Mainia Sorry to hear about the bad experience there. How many miles on the Civic? How long did it run the Pennzoil before the switch to M1? Did you get minor seepage or did something really let go and start leaving puddles?
The are some very good synthetic and synthetic blend high mileage oils out there. It won’t hurt to try several different brands and types. Valvoline, Pennzoil, Castrol and Mobil 1. With your Volvo, I would try Castrol GTX High Mileage. It is a blend. Stay with the manufacturer recommended viscosity. Your 5,000 mile oil change interval looks to be working fine.
I have used the GTX High Mileage 10w-30 during my attempts to clean/quiet the lifters and for the subsequent OCI after the permanent repair. I liked it and it worked well, but I do notice it has a bit higher viscosity both at 40C and 100C than a standard oil of that weight. Very similar to what I've seen for nearly all dino or semi-syn high mileage options. A big drive for finding a full synthetic with beefed up adds but standard range viscosity is saving some fuel during short trips where the oil may spend a while at lower temp. The turbo engine is more sensitive to thick oil in terms of economy because it idles relatively high (1100 cold and 870 warm), and it has a higher pressure, higher volume pump. I already built and added a DIY transmission temp gauge, and I'm considering my options for an oil sump temp gauge so I can see if my concerns are valid or not. The advantage of the turbo version is the oil to coolant heat exchanger in the radiator that should be helping warm the oil quicker. That said there's 7 qts in the system and I have seen the coolant temp up at 85C and my IR thermometer says the bottom of the sump is still at 55C after a short trip in cold weather.
Did some research to compare viscosity of a bunch of different oils. I know they will all shear down differently and I would need a UOA to find out how much, but is is interesting to see them all side by side. https://imgur.com/a/KE5a2 The M1 HM (what I've been using) really stands out. Unless there was some error on their website, that is showing a significantly higher KV40 and a KV100 approaching a light 40 weight oil. Trying to compensate for M1's reputation for escaping past previously unnoticed weak seals? Trying to give some extra high temp protection? The back of the bottle lists the HM having better high temp protection compared to the standard M1.
The M1 is the only one of those oils designed to a more robust ACEA A3/B3 spec. The minimum hths for that is 3.5 and that is reflected in what you see. It is designed to protect engines vs. having a bias towards external political or environmental issues.
Check the tightness of every bolt you can get access to. I've been shocked how many engine bolts were somewhat loose on engines with 100k+. Don't HE-MAN it but they should offer some resistance on a socket wrench. Also, use AT-205 + any full synthetic, amazingly effective for a lot of people.
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The full synthetic Valvoline with Maxlife Technology has always run well in many of my newer and also collector cars. The semi syn Maxlife also is an excellent product and it is less money.
I'll look into AT-205. I'm generally wary of stop leak type additives but if it's simply an extra dose of seal conditioner then I'll consider it. Funny you should mention checking for loose bolts. Coming home from work today I noticed an tiny hint of "exhaust" or "burning" smell when stopped at a light. Got home, looked underneath once everything cooled, and found a couple exhaust manifold nuts about 1/4 turn loose. One of them had a slight dampness of oil with coked oil around it, so hopefully that was the cause (and solution) to my burning smell. If not, time to figure out how to seal those threads because that's just about the most annoying and dangerous place to have an oil leak. Murphy's law, fastener edition: A fastener that you want to stay in place to hold critical parts will inevitably back off or snap. A fastener you want removed in the process of a repair will resist all attempts to loosen it, up to and including oxy-acetylene. Very good info on the M1 HM as well. I see those extra specifications now and think it's cool how they were able to cover that too, while most other oils I've looked at do not. I'm glad I had overkill protection when zooming up mountains, after all.
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AT-205 is in almost every fluid in my old truck. Engine, transmission, t-case, diffs, power steering ... not the brakes or the coolant. Could I put it in the coolant? I don't know. The truck does not leak a drop of anything, and it stopped making huge clouds of oil smoke at startup. Now that I've posted this, I fully expect it to develop a massive oil leak of some kind.
The level of varnish/maple syrup coating the top end in your pic won't come off with oil changes. It also won't do much harm at all and I wouldn't bother trying to clean it somehow. Probably won't make any difference to performance at all. If you start adding additives with solvents in them or stuff like that, it could end up opening a car of worms. Just keep driving it and keeping up the maintenance. I won't advise on any oil, everyone else has given many good suggestions.
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