Oil for a VERY old Engine

jtaylor2005

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107
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Connecticut
I think the UK spec Castrol Classic is low/non-detergent oil. So you might be stuck using non-detergent forever if he was using non-detergent for 17 years. If you put a normal modern API SN/etc detergent oil in, the sludge could start circulating and ruin everything. It would have been a lot smarter on his end to switch it to a conventional API spec oil 17 years ago after the rebuild, as that's what happened in USA after we switched to detergent oil in the 1970s, almost everyone switched to normal detergent oil even in old cars and the reliability went up and there was a lot less sludge. It was common after 50-100K for engines to need a full rebuild and sludge clean out before detergent oils came out, but the changeover caused a lot of problems in vehicles here for people old enough to remember. (I'm not, but have Boomer parents and relatives around in that time...)

You obviously won't know what's in the pan without dropping it, but perhaps check under the valve covers for sludge and make your decision from there. I would also call Castrol and ask their opinion about it, and ask their opinion about running a more modern oil, according to the data sheet, they say that oil is equivalent to an API SF standard oil in the data sheet. I'm not sure about the detergent levels of API SF.
 
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3,158
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Western S.C.
What was originally recommended by the manufacturer?
Most US cars of that era would be happy with 10W-30 (which was new about then, I think) in the winter, and probably in summer, too.
Unfortunately, I neglected to save the owner's manual of my '54 Chevrolet. The manual for 1962 Chevrolet (which used essentially the same standard engine) recommended SAE 20 or 20W or 10W-30 above 32°F (0°C). Between 0°F and 32°, it wanted 10W or 10W-30. And "For sustained high-speed driving when the temperature is above 90°F, SAE 30 or 10W-30 may be used." 1950s cars don't necessarily require super-thick oil.
 
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1,942
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British Columbia, Canada
In western Canada around 1965 the usual oil for usual engines was 10W-30 in summer and 5W-20 in winter. Do keep in mind that our temperatures would (rarely but still occasionally) get down to -40 C or F in winter. And people used a block heater in winter.

It was necessary to change the 5W-20 when it warmed up (outside) though because oil pressure (as indicated by the dash pressure gauges of the era) was a bit lower than it would have been with 10W-30.

And as I've told the story before, one of my friends started his parent's '63 Cadillac that had 10W-30 in the engine in a snowbank on a -40 night. It thumped away alarmingly for several minutes. But it survived.

The temperatures you quote are very similar to where I live now. Most people here use a 5W-30 or 0W-30 on newer vehicles all year round. And a few might use a 0W-40 or 5W-40.
 

Astro14

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There is no good reason to use a monograde or obsolete specification oil in this old car.

Oil was terrible back in 1953*.

That does not mean you must use terrible oil in a 1953 engine.

A modern, detergent, multi grade, even a synthetic, is a much better choice than “what it came with”.

A diesel spec Xw40 will handle the fuel dilution and carbon/soot that results from the inefficiency of carburetor fuel mixing while meeting the original viscosity specification.

Further, the lower cold viscosity of a multi grade will help on cold starts. A monograde 40, for example, is awfully hard on the starter when the temp is below about 70F.

When you’re cranking a carburetor engine with a 6V Lucas starter - this old engine needs all the help it can get.


* It was worse in 1932. And I’m amused by all the recommendations from people who don’t own a carbureted engine, and have never heard of 6V electrics.
 
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727
Location
South Carolina
There is no good reason to use a monograde or obsolete specification oil in this old car.

Oil was terrible back in 1953*.

That does not mean you must use terrible oil in a 1953 engine.

A modern, detergent, multi grade, even a synthetic, is a much better choice than “what it came with”.

A diesel spec Xw40 will handle the fuel dilution and carbon/soot that results from the inefficiency of carburetor fuel mixing while meeting the original viscosity specification.

Further, the lower cold viscosity of a multi grade will help on cold starts. A monograde 40, for example, is awfully hard on the starter when the temp is below about 70F.

When you’re cranking a carburetor engine with a 6V Lucas starter - this old engine needs all the help it can get.


* It was worse in 1932. And I’m amused by all the recommendations from people who don’t own a carbureted engine, and have never heard of 6V electrics.
Ok, then 5w50 instead if 20w50
 

Astro14

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I would have no problem with a synthetic in this. It specified a 20 for cold temps, 30 for normal temps, 40 for hot temps. Probably specified a 10 for arctic conditions

So, a 0W40 sounds about perfect.

But whatever is chosen, cold start performance matters in this, and in most, older engines. That’s why the specific viscosities were mentioned with precise temperature ranges for each.

A modern oil is a godsend for older engines. It’s so much better than what came before.
 
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4,710
I would have no problem with a synthetic in this. It specified a 20 for cold temps, 30 for normal temps, 40 for hot temps. Probably specified a 10 for arctic conditions

So, a 0W40 sounds about perfect.

But whatever is chosen, cold start performance matters in this, and in most, older engines. That’s why the specific viscosities were mentioned with precise temperature ranges for each.

A modern oil is a godsend for older engines. It’s so much better than what came before.

Most older engines DON'T need ZDDP, would that be correct?
 

Astro14

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Most older engines DON'T need ZDDP, would that be correct?
Depends on the engine.

High lift cam with solid or hydraulic flat tappet lifters, absolutely needs it. As the stress on the engine goes down, the need goes down.

My 1932 Packard has roller lifters. It doesn’t need it. But engines from the 1940s and up with OHV engines and flat tappets do need it. That’s why/when ZDDP was developed.
 
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4,710
Perhaps not every engine “needs” ZDDP but every engine can benefit from it. It’s probably the single most significant additive present in modern motor oils.

Though they got rid of it mostly/all because it poisoned catalytic converters, maybe only downside?
 

OVERKILL

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Most older engines DON'T need ZDDP, would that be correct?

ZDDP is an extremely beneficial additive and is probably "required" in anything you want to last that has parts that touch each other. It's the concentration that's the question and different oils have different levels with the currently GF-5/6 stuff and SM/SN/SP all having reduced levels in the energy conserving grades.

When we speak as to reduced levels we mean 600-700ppm of Zinc/Phos, which is still significant, it's just lower than the in the 1,000+ppm found in many of the full-SAPS Euro lubes.
 
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Though they got rid of it mostly/all because it poisoned catalytic converters, maybe only downside?
No they did not get rid of most or all of it. Lower treat levels are just as effective for most engines. You can still purchase oils with higher (1000 to 1200 ppm) levels from ExxonMobil and others.

The phosphorus only poisons the catalyst if it reaches the substrate. If your engine is not consuming a lot of oil then it won’t matter much what oil you use.
 
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4,710
No they did not get rid of most or all of it. Lower treat levels are just as effective for most engines. You can still purchase oils with higher (1000 to 1200 ppm) levels from ExxonMobil and others.

The phosphorus only poisons the catalyst if it reaches the substrate. If your engine is not consuming a lot of oil then it won’t matter much what oil you use.

So the appropriate amount is in any API SN Plus or API SP oil, no additional thought needed? (*as to the formulation of the oil)
 
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