High Mileage Oil

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Jun 17, 2003
I have a car that some would consider high mileage (1995 Honda Civic EX 192,000 miles). It has had oil changes every 3000-6000 miles with dino oil except for a recent random one with Amalie Pro-synth blend 20W-50? The car has been maintain properly per Honda and has had no issues. It does however clatter on cold or cool startups for a few minutes. I keep my shifts very low RPM then it goes away once the engine warms.

The car calls for 5W30 oil which typically is not a "high mileage" oil if you go to the sea of oil's at Walmart. The car does not really burn any significant amount of oil, the stick at 5000 miles typically is down maybe half a quart so I don't bother to refill and just change it.

Does the high mileage oil just add seal conditioners to slow leaks or is there something else special about it. Lastly, I see a lot of people adamently for Dino (Price) or Synthetic. Is there is a really good synthetic blend that is better or slightly better than dino but not the $4+ per quart? Lastly my driving conditions are what my manual describes as Normal and their (Honda) prescribed change is 7500 miles.

Long post and I did search for answers but some conflicts.

High mileage oils are just basic conventional oils that are formulated a bit on the thicker side of their respective viscosities, plus they add about 10% esters in the base oil for their slight seal swelling effect (which is very very minor I must add)

The main reason people see reduced consumption is due to their thicker viscosity though. I'm currently running 5w30 Castrol GTX High Mileage in my mom's car so we'll see how it works out when I do a UOA in the fall. It will probably only have about 3k on it. The viscosity of this oil, according to the specs, shows it's almost a 40wt oil, at 11.9 cst.

[ June 19, 2003, 08:48 AM: Message edited by: Patman ]
Engine oil for high-mileage cars
by Paul Williams

Recently my neighbourhood garage owner offered me a used Honda at a great price.

"How many kilometres?" I asked.

"Well, it's been around the block," he said, patting its roof affectionately.

We talked a bit more about the car's overall condition, then I steered the conversation back to mileage. "Just how big is that block, anyway," I asked.

"287,000 kilometres," he said sheepishly.

Now that's a block.

But then again, lots of people are selling and driving cars with well over 100,000 km on the clock. Look in the classifieds and you'll find plenty of cars over 200,000 km. My brother persists in driving a Nissan Sentra that's approaching 400,000 km (but granted, he is weird and generally avoided by the rest of the family).

According to Castrol, makers of many types and grades of motor oil, over three-quarters of the vehicles on the road have more than 120,000 kilometres on the odometer. This qualifies them as high-mileage vehicles. Furthermore, over 60% of cars are more than seven years old.

Castrol technicians point out that as a vehicle gets older, its mechanical performance decreases. They explain that the oil's viscosity is more rapidly compromised, making it too thick when cold, and too thin when hot.

The oil molecules break down more quickly in an older engine, rendering them less able to lubricate. Over time, engine seals deteriorate, gaskets lose their effectiveness and oil consumption increases. The end result is an engine that is no longer capable of functioning at peak efficiency.

The fact that things wear out is nothing new. The change is the number of high mileage vehicles on the road, and the introduction of products targeted to them. Consequently, you'll see a new class of engine oils available specifically for the older car. Most of the motor oil companies are bringing such products to market.

Castrol GTX High Mileage, for instance, is formulated using a combination of premium base oils and semi-synthetic components to offer some protection against oil burn-off. This oil also contains seal conditioners that reduce leakage, and additives that provide protection against engine wear and deposits that reduce compression. The idea is that such an oil can revive and maintain performance, both of which you'd like in an older car.

Valvoline MaxLife is a similar product, recently introduced to market. The manufacturer claims it conditions engine seals, maximizes horsepower, cleans internal engine components, reduces oil consumption, improves cold starts and protects against wear.

These echo the claims made by Castrol, Quaker State and other companies for their products, and cover the same range of problems associated with older engines.

Check out the Valvoline website at valvoline.com and you'll find a useful two-minute video that explains the issues with older engines in more detail.

By the way, Valvoline says don't mix their MaxLife oil with conventional oil. Apparently it's better to use one or the other.

High mileage motor oils cost more than conventional oils, but less than synthetics. Expect to pay $3.99 per litre for Castrol, Valvoline and Quaker State products. This compares to $2.99 or less for conventional oils and up to $6.99 for synthetics.

The high mileage oils available in Canada tend to be either 5-W-30 or 10-W-30, the two most popular grades. Higher performance grades are available in the US.

And just in case you think my weird brother's being a bit optimistic with his high-mileage Nissan, well think again. For some people, high-mileage is a badge of honour.

Volvo has long touted their cars' longevity, and New Yorker Irv Gordon is still the king of high milers in his 1966 Volvo P1800S with 2.9 million kilometres (1.83 million miles) on the odometer (with a lot of help from Volvo, I understand).

Finlander S.E. Makinen is making a strong run in second place in his 1979 Volvo 245GL Diesel. He's at 2.6 million kilometres in a car that's 13 years younger than Mr. Gordon's. However, Canadian Brett Sutherland is not far behind in third place at 2.4 million kilometres in his 1965 Volvo 122S.

Volvo actually has a 100,000-mile club that owners can join. Current results are online at volvoclub.org.uk/high_mileage.htm.

Maybe the used Honda at my local garage is a bargain after all. Heck, it's got over 700,000 km until the odometer resets.

Of course, if your vehicle has serious mechanical problems, no oil will solve them. But for the well-maintained older car, you can't really go wrong by trying a high-mileage oil at your next oil change.
It appears that many owners are going to high mileage oils for no reason other then they have a high mileage engine. If the engine is not consuming a huge amoung of oil, is running fine I don't see a reason to switch. In one car I have used the same 10W30 for over 10 years, using the same amount of oil for the past 5 so why change to a high mileage oil if the original is doing fine? As noted above, most of these oils appear to be marketing gimmicks as well.
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