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Oil versus SynLube™ Lube−4−Life®

Given our commitment to our customers, we thought it might be valuable to take another in-depth look at what makes motor oil do what it does, to help you understand what makes one motor oil perform differently from another, and what makes SynLube™ Lube−4−Life® a superior lubricant.

INTRODUCTION

The automobile industry is the major user of lubricants.

Engine designs have been continually improved to reduce weight, increase fuel economy, increase power output, and at the same time meet environmental emission guidelines.

Research is ongoing to formulate lubricants to meet the demands of the redesigned engines, as the lubricant formulations of the past years no longer satisfy the current needs.

Present day modern high performance engines, both spark ignition gasoline fueled and compression ignition diesel fueled will meet the government imposed emission requirements only if high performance engine oils are used.

In fact 100% pure petroleum oils which are identified as API SA are not suitable for use in engines made after 1930, and will cause engine damage and form sludge in modern engines in less than 3,000 miles of use.

 

The Basics

Before you can evaluate engine lubricants, you first must look at what specific demands the engine places on any motor oil.

In general, a lubricant must perform nine distinct functions for the efficient operation of the engine.

Nine Functions

  1. Starting the Engine
  2. Prevent Wear
  3. Reduce Fiction
  4. Rust Protection
  5. Keep Engine Clean
  6. Reduce Deposits
  7. Cool Engine Parts
  8. Seal Combustion Gases
  9. Non-Foaming

Allow Easy Starting

The very first thing oil must do is permit the engine to start easily. This sounds deceptively simple but, in fact, it requires that the oil be formulated carefully to allow the engine to turn without excess resistance when cold, yet without compromising lubrication when the engine becomes hot.

Engine oil must be thin enough when first starting the engine to allow for sufficient cranking speed. The oil must then be able to flow immediately to lubricate vital engine components. Most of the engine wear occurs at start-up before the oil can reach all the engine parts.

For favorable low-temperature operating characteristics especially in cold winter climates motor oils with SAE 5W or SAE 0W rating are required. These oils are sufficiently thin for cold starting and thus speed up the oil supply to all the critical lubricating points, soon after the engine is started when cold.

As the engine is heated, the oil must not become too thin and be unable to provide adequate oil film thickness for proper engine lubrication.

The viscosity of the oil is the measure of resistance to flow. It is desirable that it is as low as possible when the lubricant is cold and as high as possible when the lubricant is hot.

Since all lubricants thin out as they are heated up from cold start to normal operating temperature, these two requirements contradict each other and at best a reasonable compromise can be achieved.

The better the lubricant is in this respect, that is the thinner it is when cold, yet not thinning as much when hot, it is said to have a high viscosity index.

Ideal Lubricant

Ideal lubricant would also form a protective coating on engine parts even after the engine is shut down.

This coating could then provide intermediate lubrication as soon as you turn the ignition key.

These first few seconds after cold start and before the oil pump has time to fill the oil galleys, is when the highest percentage of engine wear occurs.

A little prevention goes a long way, but a coating that is too thick or gummy could prevent easy starting.

Petroleum Oil

a.) "Normal"

Conventional Petroleum Oil becomes solid at about −20°F, and at low temperatures becomes too thick to flow, creating excessive drag on engine components.

In contrast, "bright stocks" may stop pouring at temperatures as high as 25°F or 30°F.

Pour Point Depressant Additives must be used to allow Petroleum Oil to flow at lower than "natural" temperatures. However, these additives are quickly depleted and loose their effectiveness.

Typically SAE 5W-30 is the best multi-viscosity oil that can be easily formulated with typical additives.

b.) "Normal"

Conventional Petroleum Oil sticks fairly well to surfaces, and although it may "dry out" it still leaves "waxy" film, which is adequate protection in normal engine use, however a long term storage may be a serious problem.

Synthetic PAO

a.)"Great improvement"

When compared to Conventional Petroleum Oil, many PAO fluids will flow at temperatures as low as −70°F and typically their pour points are in −55°F to −45°F range.

They are less viscous at low temperatures and therefore allow much easier and faster starting.

Synthetic PAO base stocks therefore require little or no pour point depressant.

Synthetic PAO oils have the best low temperature flow characteristics, and are worth the extra cost in northern climates during the winter months.

Typically SAE 5W−40 is the best multi-viscosity oil that can be easily formulated with typical additives.

b.) "Serious problem"

PAO fluids however do not stick to surfaces like Conventional Petroleum Oil and run off in matter of hours, rather than days as is the case with Petroleum Oil.

Therefore at cold start the surfaces are less protected and therefore MORE wear occurs at cold starts than it would with Conventional Petroleum Oil.

Typical wear in Tribological tests is increased by about 20% when PAO is compared to Conventional Petroleum Oil with no Additives.

(Identical viscosity grades of 4 cSt when tested @ 70°F)

Mixing polar compounds with PAO, like some Esters, does to some degree reduce this "run-off" tendency.

SynLube™ Lube-4-Life®

a.) "Improvement"

Because SynLube uses a "synergy" of various synthetic fluids in addition to PAO, it is engineered for easy starts at −50°F.

Typically the required starter current at low temperatures is up to 5 times less than is required for cranking with conventional Petroleum Oil at the same sub-zero temperature.

Easy starting at all temperatures is therefore no problem with SynLube, which is formulated as SAE 5W-50 multi-viscosity oil.

This fact can be easily verified by measuring Starter current at ANY temperature with conventional COLD oil in the engine - then after engine has been operated with SynLube for just few miles, allow the engine to cool of completely and again measure Starter current at the same ambient/oil/coolant temperature.

b.) "Great Improvement"

Because SynLube is a "colloidal" lubricant, the sub-micronic colloids remain on the surfaces and provide for solid film lubrication.

These films remain on surfaces indefinitely, even if the fluid component of SynLube evaporates.

Therefore non-operation and storage for many years is possible with SynLube and no surface damage occurs. Even after long term non-use, engines can be quickly started and immediately placed into service.

 

Proof Example:

FORD Crown Victoria Police Version 2000 V-8 Engine @ 20 original miles (Sept 14, 2000)

OEM FORD 5W-20 oil at 65°F = starter Current Min 118 A Max 172 A (Coolant at 65°F)

SynLube 5W-50 oil at 64°F = starter Current Min 38 A Max 62 A (6 hours cool down, after 3 mile drive) (Coolant temperature 65°F)

Starting current with SynLube is reduced by 67% at minimum and by 63% at maximum. The lower current reduction at maximum can be attributed to better sealing between cylinder walls and piston rings, thus effectively a higher pre-ignition compression pressure is present in the cylinder - therefore more power is required to overcome this higher pressure and more current is required.

In this case the increase in the effective pre-ignition pressure is about 3%.

This was verified by having one spark plug removed and using screw in compression test gauge.

With OEM oil the compression was 152 PSI on #1 cylinder and with SynLube 156 PSI on the same cylinder. Which is equal to just about 3% increase.

(Because engine has to overcome compression during upward piston stroke the starter starting current flow is not constant but varies from Minimum to Maximum during engine rotation)

Fuel Injection relay was removed to prevent engine from starting during the Starter Current test, which was conducted for 15 engine revolutions.

 

Prevent Wear

The engine is now started, and the oil pump is circulating the oil to the engine parts.

The oil must now prevent the metal-to-metal contact that would result in wear to the moving parts.

Once the engine is running, the oil must prevent metal-to-metal contact by establishing a complete and unbroken film of oil on all critical surfaces. This is what lubrication engineers call full-film lubrication.

Just about any liquid can be called on to provide full-film lubrication under hydrodynamic conditions, such as exist between moving parts (think of tires hydroplaning on a wet street).

Full-film lubrication occurs when the moving surfaces are continuously separated by a film of oil. The viscosity of the oil must remain high enough to prevent metal-to-metal contact. Wear will only occur if the surface is scratched by particles thicker then the oil film as well as substantially harder than the bearing surfaces. Crankshaft bearings, connecting rods, camshaft, and piston pins normally operate with full-film lubrication.

It is what happens when the two pieces of metal stop moving (hydrostatic conditions) that interests us (such as when the piston reaches dead center, and the rings stop relative to the cylinder walls).

Anytime there is metal-to-metal contact, such as during starting when it is almost impossible to maintain full-film lubrication, the situation is termed "boundary lubrication". When this occurs, the friction generated between the surfaces can produce enough heat to temporarily fuse metals together. You might say boundary lubrication is a fact of death in engines.

Another good reason to stop this initial wear is that it then makes subsequent wear less of a problem. For example, even a small amount of primary wear will result in rough spots on the mating surfaces and metal particles in the lubricant. Rough spots wear faster than smooth metal, aided by the dislodged wear particles that are roaming around looking for trouble. This is called secondary wear, because it would not have occurred but for the primary wear.

Eliminate the primary wear, and the secondary (and tertiary, etc.) wear problem ceases to exist.

Petroleum Oil

"Normal"

Over 100 years of real life experience with internal combustion engines it was found that the "ideal" motor oil viscosity is equivalent to SAE 30 oil at normal operating temperatures and normal operating speeds. This oil viscosity prevents metal-to-metal contact by establishing a complete and unbroken film of oil on all critical surfaces at oil temperature ranging from 190°F to 220°F and at typical engine speeds in 2,500 to 4,000 RPM range the full-film lubrication is successfully maintained.

At lower speeds such as those encountered in Heavy Duty Diesels, SAE 40 oil is much better, while in high revving motorcycle or racing engines SAE 20 or even a thinner oil is required.

As engine speed increases the viscosity must be reduced and when engine speed is reduced or load increased the viscosity must be increased. The oil viscosity and engine speed therefore have inverse mathematical relationship.

However, metal to metal contact ALWAYS occurs when petroleum oil is used and therefore various additives must be blended into the lubricant to prevent excessive wear during this boundary operation.

These additives are however also depleted over time and can also chemically "etch" the surface. Although some chemical Additives prevent a mechanical wear, they will actually cause a "chemical" wear.

Conventional Petroleum Oil therefore does not eliminate wear, even with Additives, it only reduces it to an "acceptable" level.

Synthetic PAO

"Normal or Better"

When compared to Conventional Petroleum oil, PAO fluids do not posses any properties that improve oil film formation or reduce wear in any way, at best they are equal to petroleum in this respect, and without proper Additives can actually cause MORE mechanical wear than Conventional Petroleum Oil.

They are less viscous at low temperatures and do not thin out, as much at high temperatures, that is they usually have higher Viscosity Index (VI), therefore in temperature extremes, both low and high, they ARE an improvement over Conventional Petroleum Oil.

"Problem"

PAO fluids however do not act easily as solvents for most Additives, and some additives can and do actually drop out of suspension over time.

Either a proper proportion of expensive Esters must be blended into the lubricant to suspend required additives, or more commonly a "Petroleum Carrier Oil" is used to suspend and mix in the additive package.

In fact even in "Fully Synthetic Motor Oils" this Petroleum Carrier oil with Additives is as much as 30% by volume in the finished lubricant - the base stock is 100% synthetic, but the carrier is 100% petroleum = the final blend as much as 23% of Petroleum Oil and 7% of chemical additives; yet the finished product is marketed as "Fully Synthetic"!

SynLube™ Lube-4-Life®

"Improvement"

Because SynLube uses a "synergy" of various synthetic fluids in addition to PAO, it is engineered so that it does not require conventional Additives and NO Petroleum Carrier Oil is used. Since the SynLube has SAE 5W-50 multiviscosity rating it can be used in all climatic conditions and at all engine speeds and loads.

"Great Improvement"

Because SynLube is a "colloidal" lubricant, the sub-micronic colloids remain on the surfaces and provide for solid film lubrication from Zero speed to rotational speeds as high as 250,000 RPM.

These films remain on surfaces indefinitely and even if the fluid component of SynLube evaporates, like for example in Turbochargers.

Therefore full load operation at any speed is possible with SynLube and no surface damage occurs.

Direct metal-to-metal contact almost never occurs with SynLube lubricants.

Minimize Friction

When there is full-film lubrication between all metal parts, the internal friction of the oil becomes a factor in engine operation.

If the oil is too thick, it will resist the efforts of the metal to move relative to the oil, and create drag on the parts.

If it is too thin, the metal will force its way through the oil film and create boundary lubrication.

The thickness of the oil must therefore be balanced to provide the best compromise between these two extremes.

Therefore Oil that has high VISCOSITY INDEX (VI) is preferable to oil with a low VI.

Oil with High VI does not thin out as much at high temperatures, and does not thicken as much as low temperatures, therefore its flow characteristics are much better over a wide temperature range.

It is important to note that the viscosity of the oil changes as it becomes contaminated. Dirt, oxidation and sludge will increase the viscosity of the oil while fuel dilution will reduce the viscosity.

Petroleum Oil

"Normal"

Petroleum Oils range in Viscosity Index from very poor (VI = 0) for Naphthenic California Crude, to relatively good (VI = 100) for Pennsylvania Paraffinic Crude.

Typical base stock that is used for lubricants is near the VI 100 range, and to improve it further Viscosity Index Improvers are used.

These polymers however are not shear stable and loose their effectiveness in service.

This effect is called the Viscosity break down, and is one reason why frequent oil changes are recommended for Conventional Petroleum Oil.

Synthetic PAO

"Normal or Better"

Depending on PAO type and grade the VI is as good as the best of Paraffinic Crudes or is superior. VI for PAO can be as high as 120 or more. Therefore no VI improvers are needed in most formulations, that is good news because same Viscosity Index Improvers that are soluble in Conventional Petroleum just do not mix with PAO and will settle out and separate to a sludge like goo.

SynLube™ Lube-4-Life®

"Improvement"

Because SynLube is a "colloidal" lubricant, the sub-micronic colloids act as a "mechanical" Viscosity Index Improver.

This allows for the liquid portion of the lubricant to be of much lower viscosity, while the blended finished lubricant has much higher "apparent" viscosity.

The internal fluid friction is therefore very low, yet the load carrying capacity of the lubricating film is very high.

As a result VI is 200 or more for SynLube.

This also results in reducing typical engine friction by as much as 50% when compared to Conventional Petroleum Oil.

This in turn reduces the lubricant operating temperatures typically by about 20°F to 25°F.

Protect Against Rust and Corrosion

Even in a perfectly sealed engine with pure fuel, water will get into the engine and condense on engine parts.

How?

For every gallon of gasoline that is burned, a little over a gallon of water is formed as a by-product. Since the formation of this water vapor is part of normal engine operation, it is part of the oil's job to prevent rust.

The engine is open to another form of corrosion, too.

When the oil becomes contaminated with soot particles from the combustion process (especially problematic in Diesel engines with EGR) and is heated beyond a certain point, it turns from its normal alkaline state to an acidic state.

This acid can attack the metal engine parts and cause corrosion unless neutralized quickly.

Petroleum Oil

"Normal"

Conventional Petroleum Oils that are not too pure contain sulfur and other chemicals that actually act as rust and corrosion inhibitors. Highly processed Base Oil like API Group III does however need extra chemical additives to prevent acid formation and corrosion of engine surfaces. In engines that are normally and frequently operated corrosion of the lubricated parts is seldom a problem.

Synthetic PAO

"Not so Good or Bad"

Because synthetically made PAO is so pure it does not contain any "natural" rust and corrosion inhibitors. And because it does not stick to the surface like Conventional Petroleum Oil and runs off easily, engines which are lubricated with PAO and not operated frequently are far more susceptible to rust and corrosion.

Because PAO has poor solvency for anti corrosion and rust additives, they are seldom used in PAO formulations. PAO Oils are therefore a very poor choice for engines that are stored for long periods and not operated frequently.

SynLube™ Lube-4-Life®

"Improvement"

Because SynLube is a "colloidal" lubricant, the sub-micronic colloids act as a "mechanical" barrier and prevent rust formation and corrosion. The graphite colloids are actually attracted to water molecules and when wetted their lubricity actually improves. The colloids are attracted to the surfaces by electrostatic "Van Der Wall" forces. SynLube however also contains other chemicals in solution to prevent not just rust and corrosion of iron containing alloys, but also of white metals and copper alloys. Therefore no matter what is the metallurgical composition of your engine's parts, they will be well protected. These colloidal films remain on surfaces indefinitely and therefore SynLube makes for a great "storage" lubricant, which will protect any engine even when not operated for many years.

Keep Engine Parts Clean

In every internal combustion engine, there are contaminants developed as by-products of the combustion process. These are in addition to other contaminants such as dirt that gets in during frequent oil changes, sand and metal particles that come out of the block, etc. The oil filter is designed to catch the large contaminants, but containing the smaller particles is the job of oil additives that serve as collectors of -- and storage areas for -- anything too small for the oil filter to handle.

Petroleum Oil

"Normal"

Conventional Petroleum Oils that are pure do not provide any protection against contaminants, these would be API SA oils, which are not suitable for modern engine applications. However modern Petroleum oils like the latest API SM category do contain detergents and other chemical additives to "keep contaminants in suspension". The theory is that when the Petroleum oil is changed frequently these contaminants will drain out at each oil change. This is the main reason why extended oil drain service is not recommended with any Conventional Petroleum lubricant.

Synthetic PAO

"Not so Good as believed"

Because PAO has poor solvency for many additives, the Detergents that are used in Conventional Petroleum oils are not as effective in PAO formulations. PAO Oils do not keep contaminants is suspension as well and that may be one reason why they appear "cleaner" for longer periods than Conventional Petroleum oils that tend to get dark after just few hours of use. Because PAO does not offer any real advantage over Conventional Petroleum Oils their producers with but few exceptions do not recommend service intervals any longer than what is recommended for Conventional Petroleum oils. Any high mileage extended service claims are usually amended with recommended oil change time interval that ranges from 6 months to not more than one year.

SynLube™ Lube-4-Life®

"Improvement"

Because SynLube™ Lube−4−Life® is a "system", that includes MicroGlass Oil Filter as well as Oil Filter Magnets, the contaminants are handled separately and differently.

Burn Cleanly

The oil is called upon to lubricate such tricky areas as the cylinder walls and the valve guides and stems, which means that some oil is going to enter the combustion chamber and be burned along with the fuel. If it leaves a residue, piston rings can become stuck, dropping compression and overall engine efficiency. If the oil leaves metallic deposits when it burns, they can clog the electrode on the spark plug and cause misfiring, which will also drop engine efficiency and accelerate the formation of sludge materials. If the oil leaves behind crystalline or abrasive residue when it burns, cylinder walls and bearing surfaces will be slowly but surely machined away as the sharp-edged crystals circulate through the motor.

Of course, a build-up of black carbon on the head of the piston and on the combustion chamber attracts and absorbs heat to a far greater extent than does a clean metal surface. This extra heat can cause detonation, place a higher demand on the engine's cooling system, and hasten oil break-down.

Petroleum Oil

"Normal"

Conventional Petroleum Oils that are pure do not cause too many deposits, as they burn relatively cleanly in the combustion process. However modern Petroleum oils like the latest API SM category do contain many chemical additives which will form deposits in engines with high oil consumption. This is one reason why manufacturers now finally pay attention to oil consumption and why latest engine designs consume "almost" no oil in normal operation.

Synthetic PAO

"Improvement"

Because PAO has smaller and more uniform chemical structure of molecules it burns even cleaner than petroleum oil and is actually sometimes used as an "additive" in both Diesel and Gasoline fuels to improve lubricity of high-pressure fuel injection system components. However in many low cost formulations the same additive packages that are used in Conventional Petroleum oil are also blended into Synthetic PAO oils together with petroleum carrier oil. Therefore both the additive and the carrier oil components may cause deposit and sludge formation. Overall however most PAO formulations are much cleaner than Conventional Petroleum oils. Any high mileage engines with high oil consumption will especially benefit, although the use of such synthetic may be cost prohibitive.

SynLube™ Lube-4-Life®

"Great Improvement"

In SynLube there are no sulfur containing additives that cause "sulfated ash" deposits. The liquid components burn completely and cleanly at 525°F. The PTFE chemically decomposes also at this temperature, into components that do not cause any deposits. The MoS2 disassociates at 750°F at which temperatures the Molybdenum component plates onto Iron Surfaces or forms soluble compounds and finally the Graphite burns at 1275°F into either CO or CO2. In exhaust emission tests conducted to EPA standards the typical exhaust emission levels are reduced by 50% when compared to Conventional Petroleum oil in the same engine.

Keep the Engine Cool

Because only about 60 percent of the engine cooling is handled by the radiator and coolant, the other 40 percent (more in an air-cooled engine) must be taken care of by the engine oil. The combustion process takes place at about 2000°F to 3000°F, which can heat pistons and valves to 1000°F in extreme cases. In pistons, much of this heat travels down the connecting rods and affects the bearings. Since tin and lead, two common bearing materials, soften drastically around 350°F and melt at 450°F and 620°F (respectively), it is important for the oil to transfer excess heat away from the bearings as quickly as possible. In valves, the long, thin valve stem is more easily stretched when hot as the valve spring pulls the valve tight against the seat. Too much stretch, and valve clearances disappear and valves and seats burn.

There are ways of helping the oil keep its cool without resorting to chemistry. Increasing sump capacity increases the length of time the oil gets to cool off before being thrust into the breech again, and the more oil there is the more BTUs it takes to heat it up and keep it hot. Adding an oil cooler allows the oil to more readily lose heat, and can add to the volume of oil in the engine.

Incidentally, installing a high-volume oil pump to cure high oil temperatures actually exacerbates the problem in most engines. A high-volume pump takes more horsepower to run (creating heat), and it over-pressurizes oil passages, which can lead to greater oil consumption as the oil is squirted or flung onto the cylinder walls or past seals.

Petroleum Oil

"Normal"

Conventional Petroleum Oils do not conduct heat too well, and actually most of the increase in oil temperature can be attributed to internal friction in the oil itself as the bulk oil temperature will rise rapidly with engine speed much faster than with engine load. Typical Motor Oil running temperature is about 20°F higher than the coolant temperature. It is however possible to have oil sump temperature in excess of 300°F even when the coolant is in 220°F to 240°F range. In many Air-cooled engines and especially the very small ones used in generators and lawn equipment it is not unusual to see oil temperatures approaching 400°F.

Conventional Petroleum oil deteriorates rapidly at temperatures over 260°F and at 320°F its useful life is only about two hours !

Synthetic PAO

"Improvement"

Because PAO has smaller and more uniform chemical structure of molecules it generally has slightly lower internal friction and therefore engines operated at high speeds will not see as high temperature rise when compared to Conventional Petroleum oil. Generally this reduction in operating temperature is in 10°F to 20°F.

SynLube™ Lube-4-Life®

"Great Improvement"

In SynLube the internal fluid friction in the 5W-50 formulations is actually lower than in 5W-20 Petroleum oil, this results in typical reduction of operating temperatures in 20°F to 30°F range when compared to Conventional Petroleum oil. The Graphite component also conducts heat better than liquid and the MoS2 component absorbs much more heat and faster. As a result the SynLube heats up faster than Conventional Petroleum oil, but also rejects the heat at faster rate. The end result is that the operating temperature is more uniform and extreme oil sump temperatures are seldom seen in engines that use SynLube.

The most noticeable difference is in differentials of Rear Drive vehicles where the oil's peak oil operating temperature has been reduced by as much as 50°F.

Seal the Combustion Chamber

The piston rings and cylinder walls may look smooth to the naked eye, but they are microscopically rough.

The surfaces of the piston rings, ring grooves, and cylinder walls are not completely smooth. This would become evident under a microscope as small hills and valleys. For this reason, the rings can never prevent high combustion and compression pressures from escaping into the low pressure area of the crankcase. This would result in a reduction of engine power and efficiency.

In order to better seal the combustion chamber during the compression and power strokes, a thin film of motor oil must fill in all the little discontinuities. Obviously, it does this in addition to lubricating the contact points between the rings and the cylinder walls.

Motor oil fills in the hills and valleys and greatly improves the seal. Because the oil film is only about 0.001 inches or 0.025 mm thick, it cannot compensate for excessive wear of the rings, ring grooves, or cylinder walls. In a new or rebuilt engine, oil consumption will be relatively high until these surfaces have been smoothed out enough to allow the oil to form a good seal.

Petroleum Oil

"Normal"

Conventional Petroleum Oils do a fairly good job of properly sealing both the pre-ignition compressed gases as well as the high temperature and high-pressure gases burning power stroke burn. The correct viscosity at the operating temperature is however extremely important. The quality of the "seal" is adversely affected both at speeds that are too low or too high, as well as when the oil viscosity is either tool high or too low. This is also one reason why multi-grade Petroleum oils are used in modern engines.

Synthetic PAO

"Improvement"

Because PAO generally has higher viscosity index than Conventional Petroleum oil, it creates more reliable "seal" at both high and low temperature extremes. In normal engine operation however there is no noticeable improvement over Conventional Petroleum oil.

SynLube™ Lube-4-Life®

"Great Improvement"

In SynLube the sealing is greatly improve, in fact by far greater amount than for example by fitting of "gap-less" top rings. The improvement can be noticed by faster and smoother idle, more power and better fuel economy. It can be also measured by compression test equipment. Typically this improvement is in 3% to 10% range, depending on the original engine condition. The better sealing is usually more noticeable in older high mileage engines.

Resist Foaming

As oil is splashed around the engine by the rapidly moving engine parts, foaming can occur. Unfortunately, foam is a poor lubricant and a poorer heat exchanger. Therefore, foaming must be kept to a minimum.

Because of the rapidly moving parts in an engine, oil is constantly being mixed with air. This produces foam which is a lot of air bubbles which may or may not readily collapse. These air bubbles normally rise to the surface and break, but water and other contaminants slow this process.

Foam is not a good conductor of heat, and will impair the cooling of the engine parts. Also, foam does not have the ability to carry much of a load, this results in excessive engine wear.

Foam or entrained air bubbles in the oil will under some conditions implode and cause severe pitting of the affected surfaces.

 

Foam depressant additives are used in the manufacture of automotive lubricants, to reduce the amount of foaming.

Petroleum Oil

"Poor"

Conventional Petroleum Oils do foam fairly easily and especially if they are contaminated. Unfortunately most people never see the amount of foam that sometimes is formed in the crankcase. Very few Conventional Petroleum oil formulations actually contain the proper amount of anti-foam additives and many do not have any at all. Vehicle owners with SUV's on which the front differential is seldom used have many times experienced such severe foaming that the oil leaks out of the breather tubes. This usually happens on vehicles that are seldom operated in the 4x4 mode, and the front differential oil is both oxidized and has absorbed some water. Foaming can occur at speeds that are too low or too high, as well as when the oil viscosity is either too high or too low. This is also one reason why multi-grade Petroleum oils are used in modern engines.

Synthetic PAO

"Better"

PAO generally does not foam as easily as Conventional Petroleum oil does, so most synthetic PAO formulations do not contain any anti-foam additives, this however can be problem in extreme situations in engines that are more prone to cause oil foam formation.

SynLube™ Lube-4-Life®

"Great Improvement"

All SynLube lubricants contain several different anti-foam additives so foaming does not occur even in extreme operating conditions.

Peak Oil operating temperature affects Oil's useful service life.

A pressurized cooling system with a 50/50 water and coolant mixture does not begin to boil until 266°F. In air-cooled motors, only the engine design determines what the operating temperature will be. Modern automobile engineers are exploring the limits of higher engine temperatures in their efforts for better fuel economy and lower pollution.

The drawback is that the rate of oil oxidation doubles for every 18°F increase in temperature. Thus at 254°F, the oil is oxidizing eight times faster than it would at 200°F. When oil oxidizes, two things happen. First, smaller molecules glob together to form bigger molecules. This is the famous "viscosity breakdown" that you hear so much about. Oxidation is joined in its task by sludging, nitration, and polymerization to thicken oil. Second, the oil turns acidic, and this condition can cause corrosion for the very engine parts the oil is supposed to protect.

 

Factors Affecting Oil Performance

The way you drive has a big affect motor oil performance, and thus vehicle's useful service life.

Repeated cold starts can cause excessive fuel dilution. Short trips around town can lead to abnormal water accumulation. Unless the engine frequently reaches its ideal operating temperature (190°F coolant; 220°F motor oil), these volatile contaminates are left to attack engine parts instead of being burned off by engine heat. Even after the engine has reached normal operating temperature, it takes a while for the engine to recover from the abuse of frequent short distance driving.

Driving in hot climates and/or towing and/or other severe duty use of your car can also cause oil oxidation and sludge and deposit build up.

The "ideal" driving condition is constant 45 MPH speed on paved level roads in dust-free areas at 70°F ambient moderate humidity condition - WOW not too many of those driving opportunities exist for most drivers.

That is why the most common and frequent driving conditions are considered as "Severe driving". Unfortunately most vehicle owners do not think themselves as "severe" drivers and just think that what they do every day is "Normal".

 

Base Stocks

Now that you understand a little about what the oil is up against, let us look at what oil engineers have to work with. Most motorists are most familiar with mineral oil base stock lubricants, as they account for close to 94 percent of the motor oil sold in USA today. This was not always the case, however, and the day may come when mineral oils again take the back seat.

Traditional base stocks

In spite of its dominance of modern lubrication, mineral oil was not always the lubricant of choice. Olive oil was used to lubricate wooden planks some 3500 years ago for moving heavy loads. Throughout history, oils made from rapeseed, castor beans, palms, lard, wool grease, and sperm whales have been used. Some of these materials are still in use today, combined with modern additives.

One motor oil, for example, combines a mineral oil base with a percentage of oil from the jojoba plant, along with an additive package. Another manufacturer makes a lubricant for racing cycles with a pure castor bean base. These so-called natural oils are different from mineral oils in that they have oxygen atoms in the molecule in addition to the hydrogen and carbon atoms.

Mineral oil base stocks

Mineral oil base stocks are refined from crude oil, the stuff they pump out of the ground. By varying the temperature and pressure at which the crude oil is processed, refiners can "crack" the crude oil to obtain asphalt or jet fuel, and everything in between.

Crude oils fall into two categories, Paraffinic (as in wax) and Naphthenic. Within each of these two categories are two sub-categories, neutral stock and bright stock. Paraffinic oils have a naturally high viscosity index (see below for an explanation of viscosity index), but are converted into varnish and hard deposits under heat. Naphthenic oils are naturally clean and are clean burning, but have poor viscosity indexes.

Whichever type of crude they start with, after cracking the refiners are left with lighter and heavier weights of base oil. Neutral stock is the thinner component of oil, while bright stock is the thicker component. When compounding petroleum oils, engineers are confronted with balancing the pros and cons of these four diverse elements in order to come up with a usable base stock.

The Conventional Petroleum base stocks that are used for lubricating oil production are further classified by API based on the base oil properties into several "groups"

API Group I, API Group II and API Group III

The Base oil producers then further distinguish between the lower cost and higher cost base oil products by labeling them as API Group II plus, or marketing API Group III as "synthetic". (Read more about this in our article "synthetics")

Petroleum-based lubricants contain very large molecules, and especially suffer from thermal degradation when exposed to high engine temperatures. When this happens, they also form varnish deposits, which stick rings to the pistons and plug up turbo oil passages. Once a petroleum based oil reaches 475°F, it breaks down, turns into tar and varnish and then forms hard deposits that block the oil flow.

 

Synthetic base stocks

Animal, vegetable, and mineral oils are either extracted or refined. But there is another way to obtain a lubricant, and that is to build it from scratch. This is how the synthetics are made.

Historically, synthetics have been around in one form or another for close to 60 years, starting with research into new hydrocarbon liquids in the laboratories of Standard Oil of Indiana in the early 1930s. During WWII, German and Italian scientists developed synthetic lubricants that would allow their machinery to operate in the intense cold of the Russian front. In the late 1940s, British and American scientists realized that the new jet engines would need a special lubricant if they were to fly at all, and synthetics were developed for that application.

But all synthetic base stocks are not alike, either in construction or in behavior. Out of the 18 or more synthetic base stocks, only four are currently of interest to us as internal combustion engine lubricants. Dibasic acid esters (diesters) and monobasic acid esters of polyol (polyol esters) are both of the ester family. Alkylated aromatics (dialkylbenzenes) and olefin oligomers (Polyalphaolefin, or PAO) are of the synthesized hydrocarbon family.

API classifies PAO as API Group IV base stock, and all other "non-conventional oil" no matter if they are synthetic or not as API Group V base stock.

Some companies, notably SHELL and CASTROL market API Group III Petroleum based oil as "synthetic". (Read more about this in our article "synthetics")

Comparing the Base Stocks

As you might have gathered from the discussion thus far, there are several categories of performance that concern oil engineers. The accompanying table shows some typical considerations in judging base stocks. Each of these categories merits our consideration, as well.

Base Stock Relative Performance Chart

 

Petroleum base Ester Ester  Synthesized 
 Hydrocarbon 
 Synthesized 
 Hydrocarbon 
Mineral Oil Dibasic Acid   Polyol   PAO Alykl
Compatibility with motor oil 5.0 3.0 2.0 5.0 5.0
Viscosity Index 2.0 4.0 3.0 3.0 2.0
Pour point 1.0 3.0 3.0 3.0 3.0
Oxidation (average of four tests) 5.0 1.5 1.0 3.0 4.0
Volatility 2.0 5.0 5.0 4.0 3.0
Affect on Paint 5.0 4.0 3.0 5.0 5.0
Seal Swelling 4.0 3.0 1.0 5.0 4.0
Water Stability 5.0 2.0 2.0 5.0 5.0
Rust Prevention 5.0 2.0 2.0 5.0 5.0
Additive compatibility 5.0 2.5 2.0 3.0 5.0
TOTALS 39.0 30.0 24.0 41.0 41.0

 

Compatibility

Of course, all conventional motor oils are compatible with each other, but what about the synthetics? You would never mix synthesized hydrocarbon oil with ester oil without careful testing, but you might be forced to mix either of those with conventional petroleum motor oil in a pinch. If this is an important consideration, then the choice would be either of the synthesized hydrocarbons, like Polyalphaolefin. The esters do not do as well in this category, and some of the early esters turn to jelly when mixed with mineral-based motor oil and a little condensation. If in doubt, consult the manufacturer before you are forced to experiment on your own.

SynLube being chemically inert can be mixed with ANY motor oil be it Conventional Petroleum or Synthetic, however it's long term stability may be compromised and Conventional Petroleum oil will still do its normal thing, that is oxidize and turn to sludge, even when commingled with SynLube.

 

Viscosity Index

Not the same as the viscosity rating, the viscosity index describes how well an oil resists thinning at high temperatures and thickening at low temperatures. It is not so much an absolute rating as it is an indication of how the oil will perform relative to its own viscosity rating. A high viscosity index means the viscosity of the oil will undergo little change due to variances in temperature.

Typical California Naphthenic base stock will have VI=0 and high grade Pennsylvania crude base oil will have VI=100. Most finished Conventional Petroleum oils will have VI in 90 to 125 range.

Synthetic 10W-30 motor oil has VI that is just the same as Conventional Petroleum oil with SAE 10W-30 rating, so the real advantage of synthetic motor oil formulations is the possibility of having final blend products that have SAE 5W-50 viscosity rating, their VI approaches VI=200. It is not possible to make stable SAE 5W-50 motor oil that uses API Group I or Group II base stock. The VI of fresh SynLube SAE 5W-50 motor oil is VI=200.

 

Pour Point

This is the measure of the oil's ability to function when cold. The importance of a low pour point is a prime reason to consider synthetics when the temperature dips. Many Conventional Petroleum base stocks will not flow at below −20°F and most will be solid at −40°F, while some synthetic can flow at temperatures as low as −70°F. SynLube SAE 5W-50 motor oil will flow at −55°F while the SynLube ATF will flow at −70°F.

 

High Temperature and Oxidation Characteristics

There are four different oxidation tests used to evaluate motor oils: ASTM Rotary Bomb, Modified Rotary Bomb, Cigre, and Beaker. As susceptible as conventional motor oil is to oxidation, synthetics are not inherently less susceptible. This would tend to indicate that an oil cooler is a good idea if your oil temperature runs much over 210°F. SynLube however can be used at constant operating temperatures of 320°F and up to the peak operating temperature of 500°F. This eliminates the need for expensive and complex oil cooler installations in most vehicles, which both saves money and improves reliability.

 

Volatility

Volatility is the measure of the amount of oil that "boils off" under heat. It is no surprise that the petroleum motor oil takes a beating on this one. These figures are derived from ASTM D-1160 tests. These tests validate the claim that chemically "pure" base stocks are better, as the distillation curves of the diesters are nearly flat. The frequently quoted Noack Volatility test is another way to measure volatility. SAE 5W−20 motor oil formulated from Conventional Petroleum base stock can have volatility loss of as much as 30% by volume in 2 hour test at 300°F - by comparison SynLube looses only about 2% by volume in the same test. Most Synthetic oil formulations are in 10% to 15% range.

 

Affect on Painted Surfaces

If your car is not painted with an epoxy, it has either an acrylic or lacquer finish, both of which can be susceptible to damage when in contact with oil. Even though you do not normally rub motor oil on your paint, some base stocks are less hazardous in this respect. In this case again, conventional motor oils and the synthesized hydrocarbons are harmless, while the esters have a slight to moderate effect.

SynLube does not damage painted surfaces, and can be washed off with conventional dish washing detergent if accidentally spilled on to most surfaces.

 

Seal Swelling

Most common seal materials in modern engines are compounded to resist either swelling or hardening in contact with conventional motor oils. A lot has been made about synthetics causing gasket material to go soft, creating leaks. There is some truth to this, as the esters, by their very composition, act as plasticizers that can and will soften plastic and some rubber products. One manufacturer claims to have licked this problem, but another with a similar ester base lubricant lists either plastic and rubber products that are not recommended for use in contact with their oil. These include neoprene, SBR rubber, Low Nitrile Buna N, polystyrene, PVC, and ABS. It should be pointed out that neoprene is a common gasket material. This is not to say that conventional motor oils are perfect, as anyone can testify after seeing the effect of motor oil leaked onto suspension bushings. Also the type of additives used in any motor oil formulations no matter if it is synthetic or not can have adverse effects on seals and gaskets. The most critical gasket is the one used on spin-on oil filters, if this one fails all the motor oil is lost in less than a minute and certain engine damage will result. SynLube is inert and therefore neutral to all gasketing materials, it will neither harden, soften shrink nor swell any gaskets. Therefore if your engine is mechanically sound it will remain so, but if it leaks and burns oil it will still do that, SynLube is not a "mechanic in a bottle" and it will not fix any mechanical or sealing defects. However in few instances where slight oil seepage was observed, SynLube due to its improved sealing capability either reduced or eliminated the seepage.

Stability in the Presence of Water

With one gallon of water created as a by-product of the combustion of one gallon of gasoline, you do not need a leak in your cooling system to get moisture in your oil. The oil must remain stable when mixed with water and retain its lubricating qualities after the water evaporates off. Esters are not as good as either conventional motor oils or synthesized hydrocarbons in this regard. When most motor oils are contaminated with too much water they have to be drained and replaced. SynLube however has the unique capability to be mixed with as much as 30% of water by volume and still retain its lubricity and also fully recover when the bulk oil operating temperature exceeds 212°F. It is therefore favored lubricant for seldom-used pleasure boats with automotive type inboard engines.

Rust Inhibition

Oil prevents rust, right? Not necessarily. At least, not all oils do it in the same degree. Conventional oils and synthesized hydrocarbons are better than esters in rust prevention. Under normal circumstances this would not be a factor, but for vehicles that are stored, or for engines that never reach a sustained high temperature (making only short trips during the winter, for example) rust inhibition could become critical.

Because of the colloidal chemistry of SynLube oils the rust formation was never reported even in engines that were not operated for several years and stored outside and exposed to all ambient conditions.

Additive Solubility

This is almost a trick category. Years of research into additives for conventional motor oils have nearly perfected a technology that ester oils cannot fully utilize. However, synthesized hydrocarbons are close enough chemically to take advantage of most conventional additive chemistry. For esters, this problem has been largely overcome in the last several years. For PAOs, lighter base stocks work best, as additives can drop out of suspension if the base stock is too heavy. However the common practice in PAO formulations is to use conventional petroleum oil additive package that is blended into a carrier oil (Petroleum) and then blended into the "fully synthetic" base oil. This results in as much as 30% of petroleum in what is marketed as "fully synthetic motor oil".

An example of the differences can be seen in a Caterpillar 1G test run on four oils including a mineral oil, a dialkylbenzene, a polyolefin, and a diester, all with the same additive package. Results varied wildly. The mineral oil failed the test after 120 hours due to excessive deposit build-up. The dialkylated benzene failed at 360 hours with, among other things, a stuck top piston ring. Polyalphaolefin went the full 480 hours with acceptable carbon formation. So did the diester, but the diester-lubricated engine showed extreme wear on the cam lobes and lifters. Clearly, for these four oils to be equal in performance, each would need a different additive package.

The balance of proper additives and the concentration of colloids in SynLube took 22 years of real life use in real automotive and aircraft engines to finally came up with the "just right" balance. The current formulation was not changes since 1985. Most of the popular motor oils in USA have their formulations changed every 3 to 4 years, just because the additives can not satisfy the latest and more demanding engine tests.

Synthetics vs. Conventional Oils

As you might guess from the example above, the differences between synthetics and conventional oils really begin to show up in actual usage tests, as opposed to strictly laboratory tests. That is why standardized engine tests were developed. Among these are what is known as the SAE Sequence IIIC test.

This rigorous trial is conducted in a blueprinted Oldsmobile engine run 64 hours at 3000 rpm with a heavy load. The oil temperature in the sump is maintained at 300°F. Oil samples are examined every eight hours, and afterwards the engine is torn apart and analyzed for wear. This test measures viscosity increase, piston skirt varnishes, sludge development, ring sticking, lifter sticking, and scuffing and wear of the cam and lifter parts.

Another test known as the Sequence VC measures oil screen clogging, among other things. Test technique L-38 measures bearing metal loss by weighing the bearings before and then again after the test.

All good motor oils pass these tests with room to spare. The synthetics, however, often pass so easily that it seems almost pointless to test them. In fact, many synthetics have been tested at double the time called for in the original tests, and still have passed with flying colors.

Who Uses What?

In the old days, oil engineers took much the same approach to compounding synthetic oils as they had taken with mineral oils; get the best base stock you can and compensate for its weaknesses with additives. Back then, of course, additive technology was not as advanced as it is now, and the insistence on sticking with a pure base stock lead to some disasters and near disasters.

Nowadays, pure synthetic base stocks are almost exclusively the domains of the diesters, as used by AMSOIL and many others. The other synthetic base stocks are almost always blended with something else. This is the case with both the current version of Mobil 1 and Spectro Racing oils, which combine diester and PAO. Although this was not always thought to be the way to blend super oil, oil engineers now know that the trick is to blend diester and PAO in the right proportions and with the right viscosity. Many companies also blend a synthetic (diester or diester/PAO blend) with petroleum base stock, the goal being to compromise between the performance of a synthetic and the cost of a mineral oil.

Interestingly, the most "synthetic" sounding of the oils, Synthoil, is not a synthetic. Synthoil uses a highly refined mineral oil base stock (known as "white oil"), which is then fortified with a proprietary polymer additive. This results in a very hearty lubricant that avoids the compatibility issues that sometimes face true synthetics. Other synthetics like CASTROL "Syntec" are actually made using API Group III base oils which are highly processed petroleum, and same is true for all "synthetic" products that are made by SHELL (Shell, Pennzoil, Quaker-State, Jiffy-Lube)

Typical Oil Additives

Responding to the needs of the modern motor, oil manufacturers have, to a greater or lesser degree, developed oil additives that help boost the performance of the base stock and offset the negative effects of engine operation. For example, straight mineral oil lubricants, no matter how well refined, are mighty poor performers in the engine compartment, and for that reason are almost never used without a whole slew of additives.

As necessary as these additives are, they do have their drawbacks. For example, not all additives are lubricants. They may help the base stock do its job, and may even be vital, but they are not lubricants themselves. If, however, you have a base stock with many of the characteristics of the additive package naturally, you can leave more oil in the final mix and still have a superior lubricant. In some oils, up to 20 percent of the volume is taken up by the additive package.

There are a great many additives, some working to correct more than one problem, but they fall into these general categories:

Pour-Point Depressants

Let us take straight mineral oil as an example again, and look at low temperature performance. A typical mineral oil base stock will cease to flow or pour in the region of 10°F to 25°F. Although this may sound like a low enough temperature for many drivers in the warmer states, you must remember that the oil thickens gradually as it gets colder, so that even at moderate temperatures there might be enough thickening to prevent an engine from cranking fast enough to start easily. In order for these motor oils to be useful in cold climates, they need to flow at much lower temperatures than those at which they will actually be used. For this reason, pour-point depressants are added to the oil base stock. This additive works to restrict the growth of wax crystals in the paraffin base stock. These crystals form when the temperature drops, blocking oil flow. These depressants also aid oil circulation after cold engine starts.

Anti-wear Additives

Wear protection agents both for short distance motoring and for high temperature high-speed operation.

Anti-wear additives are also called anti-scuff additives, friction modifiers, extreme pressure (E.P.) agents, film strength agents, and oiliness agents. They consist of oil soluble compounds with a strong affinity for metal and supplement the lubricating qualities of the oil.

Zinc dithiophosphate is one such additive, although there are many others, some of which will be discussed later. It is interesting to note that some anti-wear additives are temperature-sensitive. For street oil the anti-wear additives need "turn on" at a much lower temperature than those used in racing oil.

Anti-wear additives, along with corrosion and rust inhibitors and oxidation inhibitors, are weak acids. Their presence is indicated by the Total Acid Number (TAN). With TAN, the lower the number, the better. Typical new oil might have a TAN in the range of 2.5 to 3. When the TAN reaches the neighbor hood of 10, it is time to change your oil.

Corrosion and Rust Inhibitors

Corrosion inhibitors actually do two things in the engine. They neutralize corrosion-causing compounds that enter from outside the engine and help fight the tendency of the oil itself to turn acidic.

Corrosion and rust inhibitors can work in either of two ways, depending upon which type they are. They can be oil-soluble chemicals, with a greater affinity for metal than water (forming a barrier), or they can be of the type that surrounds and insulates the individual water and acid molecules. Modern motor oil will contain one or more of these chemical inhibitors.

Oxidation Inhibitors

Also identified as Anti-oxidants, are agents that prevent oxidation of the engine oil and which remain active even at extended oil change intervals.

As petroleum oils oxidize they turn into either organic acids (which attack metals) or oxyhydrocarbons (which cause oil thickening and sludge). Neither by-product is desirable in the engine, hence the need for oxidation stabilizers.

Surprisingly, in oxidation test run on motor oils, mineral oils bested synthesized hydrocarbons and esters in three of the four different tests.

Relative oxidation stability varies, depending on the base stock, but from these tests it can be seen that no single synthetic base oil has a distinct advantage in the oxidation department, and that synthetic base stocks are not necessarily less susceptible to oxidation than mineral oil base stocks.

Anti-oxidants fall into two categories. The first type slows down the rate at which the oxidation takes place, and the second type forms a protective coating on bearing surfaces to shield sensitive metals.

Detergents and Dispersants

Detergents are multifunctional agents with cleaning and cleanliness additives, the function of detergents is to clean engine surfaces and to remove from surface and put into suspension in the motor oil previously formed deposits such as varnish. Obviously the detergent action is most potent in fresh engine oil.

Dispersants are agents that prevent redeposition of the contamination and also prevent to some extent formation of sludge.

One of the first things you learn about engine lubrication is that there seems to be a conspiracy to turn your perfectly good motor oil into sludge. Sludge can loosely be defined as any insoluble material formed as a result either of deterioration of the oil or of contamination of the oil, or both.

Straight mineral oil is defenseless against sludge formation. Detergents and Dispersants are used in combination in modern motor oils, serving to prevent sludge accumulations in the engine.

Motor oil detergents are oil-soluble metals that operate in a manner similar to the water soluble laundry detergents we are all familiar with. Some of the more common detergents are barium, calcium, magnesium, and sodium.

Neither detergents nor dispersants do any lubricating themselves. Therefore, the more detergents in the package, the less lubricant. Also, being metallic in nature, detergents form ash deposits when burned in the combustion chamber.

Dispersants are non-metallic, and are ashless when they burn, although they are quite a bit more expensive than metallic detergents.

While detergents turn on at higher temperatures, fighting varnish and neutralizing acid, dispersants operate at low temperatures. The measure of dispersant and detergent strength in new oil is called the Total Base Number (TBN). It relates the amount (the higher the better) of weak additive alkalinity in the oil.

Typical oil might have a TBN in the range of 5.5 to 6, while a heavy-duty diesel oil might have a TBN in the range of 7.5 to 10, due to the fact that it has to counteract the acids of sulphur present in diesel fuel. There is more to oil that TBN, so a high TBN is not necessarily indicative of better motor oil. On the other hand, once the TBN reaches 1.5 the oil is pretty much shot.

Detergents and dispersants work by trapping floating dirt and sludge particles while they are still small. Although the dirt and sludge are in suspension, it has been demonstrated that oils with detergent and dispersants show remarkably less wear than similar motor oils without them. Any corrosive or abrasive material big enough to score the bearing parts should be caught in the oil (or air) filter.

Since filtration is a whole another story, let us assume that the filter is not the problem, and continue on with the oil itself.

Foam Inhibitors

Watery, frothy oil spells trouble for your engine. Foam inhibitors do just as their name implies; they weaken the surface tension of the air bubbles and cut oil froth. Chemically, a few parts per million of silicones (hydrogen and silicon compounds) are enough to reduce the foaming to acceptable levels.

Viscosity Index Improvers

What happens when you need oil to flow easily on cold mornings, and also pro vide protection when the going gets hot? Your natural impulse might be to take an SAE 10W oil and an SAE 30 oil and mix them to get the oil you want (see SAE viscosity ratings). Unfortunately, what you would wind up with would be closer to an SAE 20 oil than to the SAE 10W-30 you needed, and it would satisfy neither of your requirements.

To make true multi-weight oil, oil companies take SAE 10W bases stock and add Viscosity Index Improvers. V.I. Improvers are special polymeric compounds that reduce the tendency of oil to thin out at higher temperatures. It will still thin out when hot but not as much as if no VI Improvers are present.

Taking our SAE 10W-30 as an example, the V.I. Improver would have little effect at 0°F, and the oil would test out as straight SAE 10W oil. At 212°F, the V.I. Improver would be working, with polymeric action, to make the SAE 10W oil behave like an SAE 30 oil. By selecting the base stock and the type and quantity of synthetic polymers to add as V.I. Improvers, different multi-graded oils can be made. The use of V.I. Improvers allows oils to have wider operating temperatures.

When petroleum oil enters an area of high stress and heavy loading, such as a bearing, the large molecules align themselves creating a path of least resistance. The rest of the petroleum oil follows this path, instead of coating the entire surface. The oil viscosity quickly drops, and the oil begins shearing back to the base number. So the oil starts acting as SAE 10W oil, when you need it the most to behave as SAE 30 oil.

This is called shear stress, and while some of the VI polymers may recover when the load and shear is removed, others are permanently sheared and damaged and the bulk oil thins out, becoming for example SAE 10W-20 oil.

It is interesting to note that under high temperatures and hard use, the base stock gets thicker while the V.I. improver shears down (wears out). What you are left with is thick oil when cold with a very low viscosity index. Thus the oil can become something that can be labeled as SAE 25W-20 oil ! No such oil is produced or marketed for a simple reason it is too thick when cold and too thin when hot, but such theoretical SAE rating actually exists. This is why most multigrade oils need to be changed periodically no matter how good the filtration is.

Choosing an oil

Whether or not you ever develop an understanding of the basic components and manufacturing compromises that go into a quart of oil, it is not difficult to see that neither reading the list of ingredients (if you could get them) or taking the word of some highly-paid celebrity is going to be any guarantee that you are getting the best oil.

Unfortunately, testing the claims made about any oil can be involved and expensive. The Sequence IIID, Sequence VD, and L-38 oil tests cost thousands of dollars. Most oil manufacturers can afford this but most enthusiasts can not. In lieu of empirical data, frequent oil and filter changes (augmented, if possible, by a high performance oil filtration system) using name brand oil and filters will go a long way towards protecting your investment in your car.

Unless you have some sort of hard evidence to back you up, you should always buy API SM or CI rated motor oil...at least, you should until the ratings are upgraded.

This is true even for cars that have been run on non-detergent oil their entire lives, in spite of the rumors that they will self-destruct if introduced willy-nilly to a detergent oil. The argument goes that the detergent oil will knock loose a bunch of sludge that will clog the motor, necessitating an overhaul.

Fact: the detergents are not strong enough to scour the inside of the engine, as myth would have it. Fact: an engine with pockets of sludge is living on borrowed time at best. Fact: testing has shown that less engine wear will result from holding the particles in suspension.

One last thing: Do not try to run your favorite SAE 10W-30 oil in the dead of summer in the California desert, and do not try to run an SAE 30 in a Minnesota winter just because it is a synthetic. Consult your owner's manual for the manufacturer's recommendations; they have done the testing, and are in the best position to know what will give you the best protection and fuel economy. That is if you intend to use just a Conventional Petroleum oil just like 94% other vehicle owners will and do. If however you want something better then any oil that has either or both the W rating that is LOWER and the hi temp rating that is HIGHER, then you have a better oil ! If your owner's manual recommends SAE 10W−30 petroleum oil, do not waste your money on SAE 10W−30 synthetic oil as for the same money you can get SAE 5W-40 synthetic which will perform better under both low and high temperatures !
Actually to get SAE 10W−30 performance out of PAO Synthetic oil, it MUST be mixed with Petroleum "bright stock" to make it that "bad" as just pure PAO Synthetic oil would be SAE 5W-40 when pure, due to the naturally high VI of PAO.

SAE 5W−50 Synthetic without exception is always the BEST choice, but only few companies make such oils, and even fewer market them in USA. SAE 5W-50 is however the favorite high performance choice in Europe.

SynLube - the alternative

Fortunately in USA there is an alternative that is available to consumer, the SynLube™ Lube−4−Life® which when used as recommended will protect any new modern engine for up to 15 years or 150,000 miles.

The need for frequent oil and oil filter changes is reduced or eliminated over the useful service life of all types of vehicles.

Reliability and fuel economy is improved.

Most importantly the total life cost (TLC) per operating mile is actually about half of what most people pay for frequent conventional oil changes and up to five times less expensive than the use of the most popular synthetic oils, which still need to be changed frequently.

The use of SynLube™ Lube−4−Life® saves about $450 to $1,600 per vehicle life when compared to "do-it-for-me" frequent oil change in quick lube outfits like Jiffy-Lube. Additionally it saves about 40 hours of your time, which is not wasted in waiting for the oil change to be performed for you.

And finally because SynLube™ Lube−4−Life® is SAE 5W-50 oil it can be used in all applications and in all climatic conditions.


Happy Syn Drop

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Last modified: 2013-08-17

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