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Discussion Starter #1
The reduction of Zinc compounds (known as ZDDP) from modern motor oil has been an issue of great concern of recent. There have been some excellent threads on the subject of motor oil and zddp both on this forum and on others. It is clear that oils that still have significant amount of ZDDP in them, such as Brad Penn Grade-1 "green oil" and (more debatable) Valvoline VR-1 racing oil, are beneficial to reducing wear in flat tappet motors.

There are also lengthly discussions on the subject of conventional oil vs. partial synthetic and full synthetic. It is clear from these discussions that oils with synthetic content have an edge over conventional oils in performance (engine power usually increasing) but unclear whether best for everyday use in an older engine, especially one already worn in with conventional oil.

Last, there is plenty of reason to believe that 3rd-party engine oil additives will not be as effective as oil engineered with the additives already incorporated into them.

Finally.. the question! Is ZDDP the only additive in oil that helps the longevity of the flat tappet style engines, or have modern synthetic oils solved this lubrication problem by other means? In short: is the amount of ZDDP in the oil as critically important in the evaluation partial or full synthetic motor oils as it is in the evaluation of conventional oil?

thanks in advance for your input!
Andre
 

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I probably shouldn't, but here goes...

I have seen a LOT of threads on the AlfaBB about this topic recently - but no first hand accounts of cam or tappet failure in Alfa engines (either on the BB or from the hundreds of customers I talk to every week). I am not saying there aren't any, just that I'm not aware of any oil related failures

So, while this issue is definitely important, it may not be a major scare.

Here are a couple of thoughts:

1) The ZDDP "problem" as experienced in other marques has mainly been when breaking in new cams - once the break-in is over oils with low ZDDP don't seem to cause major harm. Also, some of the failures reported elsewhere have been traced to aftermarket cams or followers that were not hard enough.

2) OEM Alfa tappets are very high quality and are hardened.

3) Most good aftermarket Alfa cams are also Nitrided.

Personally, I run Redline 15w50 in my Alfas and sleep well at night. I have Also used Mobil 1 15w50 with good success. When breaking in new cams I use a moly assembly lube but no other additives.

Joe
 

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Discussion Starter #3
Joe, Thanks for the information regarding the hardness of even OEM Alfa components. This does relieve some alarm. But I still have reason to believe that increased wear is a concern, if not for my Allfa then for a number of other classic cars (Fiat, Austin Mini, and type-2 VW bus) in my collection.

Here are my conclusions at this point:
1) The significant reduction of zinc in currently available motor oils is a reality that has alarmed the collector car community as a whole. Problems have been documented in a variety of collector car magazines, though I do not know of any specific to Alfas, I can't imagine that the reduction of zinc is a good thing for our motors. After doing a significant amount of research, it seems there is a simple way to circumvent the potential danger

2) Some investigation will reveal that Valvoline VR-1 20W/50 Racing Oil ($4 a quart and available everywhere) has the same ZDDP content as high-end racing oils and non-street legal oils. This does not seem to be the case for Castrol GTX 20W/50, which is what most Alfa nuts run or were in the past told to run on this forum. Zinc has been greatly reduced in Castrol GTX as of recent. In short, I can't see any reason why any conventional oil users wouldn't jump from Castrol to Valvoline VR-1.

3) For those of us with a little more money to spend, Brad Penn Grade-1 "green" racing oil, is a partial synthetic which is highly recommended. Though inconvenient to have to mail order (available at only a few local shops), it is still reasonably inexpensive. Swepco and Amsoil also has partial synthetics available with a "full dose" of ZDDP.

What is unclear to me is is there a solution in full synthetic oils (either over the counter or mail order) that has ZDDP at levels as high as the VR-1 and Brad Penn, or do synthetic motor oils have different lubrication qualities such that ZDDP is not needed?
 

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...What is unclear to me is is there a solution in full synthetic oils (either over the counter or mail order) that has ZDDP at levels as high as the VR-1 and Brad Penn, or do synthetic motor oils have different lubrication qualities such that ZDDP is not needed?
As Joe mentioned in the beginning of his post, there are a lot threads on this subject, and Castrol's full synthetic 20W-50 has been discussed extensively... Castrol actually states (and prints it on the container) that Syntec 20W-50 it is meant for classic cars.

Perhaps it would be best to continue this discussion in one of the pertinent threads, instead of starting all over in a new one. I really think you would get better participation, especially since this subject can lead to extensive posts...

Best regards,
 

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I am running a mix of Valvoline Racing 20W50 and Shell Rotalla T 15W40 in my Spider. I was told that the downside of Valvoline racing oil is that it is very low in detergents. Rotella T is high in deterrgents and it is also better than most oils for ZDDP.

Ed Prytherch
79 Spider
2 x 88 Verde's
 

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Castrol actually states (and prints it on the container) that Syntec 20W-50 it is meant for classic cars.
Probably not too bad a choice if someone wants to move up on the dino oil scale from a Group II oil since it it not a "true PAO syn" like Redline or Amsoil but actually a highly refined Group III oil.
Peter Verdone Designs - Motorcycle Motor Oil

I've seen the Syntec website ( Castrol USA - Castrol SYNTEC 20w-50 ) blurb for 20w-50 and think it's incorrect that they state that 20w-50 is suitable for so many vehicles in the 62-73 range - IMO, you shouldn't go higher than a 40 weight in most of these instances. I think their blanket statement that the vehicles they list "qualify" is misleading and inappropriate. Very few of these vehicles would list a multi viscosity oil going to 50w as recommended. I couldn't find on their spec sheets the zinc level either - that's something they should clearly show on their ad instead of just stating " Contains increased zinc levels for extra engine wear prevention". Caviet emptor IMO.
 

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Discussion Starter #7
mixing your own oil composition... maybe not the best idea...

Probably not too bad a choice if someone wants to move up on the dino oil scale from a Group II oil since it it not a "true PAO syn" like Redline or Amsoil but actually a highly refined Group III oil.
Peter Verdone Designs - Motorcycle Motor Oil

FWIW, I still use Dino oil in the Alfa and a few Chevy V8's that I have but will start adding Valvoline oil additive at each change to boost the Zinc content.

Poking around, it seems that Synpower has 1700ppm (.17%) ZDDP, where VR-1 has 1300ppm zinc. I think the new standards dropped content by about 50%, so that oils for street use are around 650ppm. If I did my math right, if you have a 5 quart system, you'll need about two bottles of Synpower to get back to the previous levels of ZDDP. My Alfa has a larger sump, that holds over 8 quarts of oil.. that's a lot of additive! Why not just get an oil that already has the correct mix?

But to all of those mixing up oils... including the home-made 1/2 Rotella mix (which also is having ZDDP reduced from it btw).. are we sure that we can do better than the oil engineers at Castrol, Mobil 1, Valvoline, etc can? If I could do better, then why not go and make my own 20W/50 from 20w and 50w oil? The point is that I would trust that the composition processed by a reputable supplier will work better than anything we can mix up at home, including most additives.


Still wondering if there is anything more advanced than ZDDP in modern synthetic oils that will provide better lubrication for flat tappet cams.... anybody?
 

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oil and zinc

Let's go back to basics to settle this for good.

The basic principle of lubrication is to maintain an oil film between moving surfaces. As long as an oil film is present, wear is not possible. On a properly designed engine (there are exceptions!) fed with oil of appropriate viscosity, the oil film will only be absent under one of these two circumstances:

-during start up, before oil has had enough time to reach every moving part;
-under extreme pressure, when oil starts breaking up (which implies that the oil wasn’t appropriate to start with).

If these circumstances didn’t exist, anti wear additives wouldn’t be required. Whenever the oil film is broken, the moving surfaces rub against each other and heat up; ZDDP reacts to heat and sticks to the heated surfaces, building up a protective film. Until then, zinc stays in suspension. This film stays there until more contact occurs. “Anti wear” does not entirely prevent wear, it mostly prevents the contact surfaces from welding together and ripping little pieces away.

One of the key areas where metal to metal contact is likely to occur at start up is at the cam/follower interface. It is a high pressure contact, and far away from the oil pump on an overhead cam engine. Single overhead cams are actually worse than our DOHC Alfa engines, as the cam lobes have little puddles of oil to dip in.

API’s requirements for oil certification are based on performance, not chemistry (other than limiting zinc contents due to catalyst requirements). In the current SM standard for gasoline engine oils, sequence IV-A test addresses anti wear performance at the cam/follower interface. This test is run on a Nissan 2.4 SOHC engine (240SX); it replaced the V-E test based on the Ford 2.3 (Pinto) engine. The anti wear requirements of SM motor oils are actually more stringent than SM specs, which were more severe than SL. This is in spite of the reduction in zinc contents: SM oils use other anti-wear chemistries that work, and some have been around for quite a while - for example in locomotive lubricants.

Also worth mentioning: diesel engine oils such as Shell Rotella or Chevron Delo are not such a good idea on anything but a new engine. They have a much higher detergent contents than gasoline engine oils. Especially if your engine has been fed a regular diet of motor oil with a weak detergent (and I’m finding several evidences that Castrol GTX is such an oil) the diesel stuff will clean out a lot of sludge which may lead to a clogged filter. All this for nothing, as current CJ-4 diesel oils are also on a zinc reduction diet.

Personally I am happy with any SM 10W40 or 20W50 in my Alfa 4. Engine and transmission oils have been submitted to enormous advances over the past 20years.



Hope this helps.
 

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Discussion Starter #9
Dear Yvesmontreal,
I think many readers will appreciate what you have written, thanks for taking the time to provide such a detailed response! It's not easy to find this sort of information, out of curiosity is your background in mechanical engineering and/or are you working in a related field?

No doubt there will be people that will read this that will not believe it... whether true or false, certainly there has been some evidence of reported failures that created an alarm in classic car circles. I have two follow up questions that you or other members might be able to help with that might help further clarify this difficult subject matter:

First question: It seems that both the Ford and Nissan motors you mentioned use overhead cam designs. Is it possible that a pushrod motor might be more adversely effected by the lack of zinc than a overhead cam motor? It would admittedly be odd if the new oil specifications damaged all pushrod engines, especially when you consider the quantity of pushrod cars on the road, including V8 ford mustangs up until 1995. Nonetheless, I ask...

Second question: In the discussion of more advanced modern oils, are most of the improved lubrication you are describing is more reserved to the partial and full synthetics? I know that I am under the impression that "most"(!!) people with old Alfas and such are under the impression that modern engines use seals of significantly different material and design then what older engines used or have available for rebuild, and that it may not be wise to try to run an older car (even if rebuilt) on the full synthetics.

thanks again! Andre

p.s. Montreals are very cool.. wish I had one!
 

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First question: It seems that both the Ford and Nissan motors you mentioned use overhead cam designs. Is it possible that a pushrod motor might be more adversely effected by the lack of zinc than a overhead cam motor? It would admittedly be odd if the new oil specifications damaged all pushrod engines, especially when you consider the quantity of pushrod cars on the road, including V8 ford mustangs up until 1995. Nonetheless, I ask...

Second question: In the discussion of more advanced modern oils, are most of the improved lubrication you are describing is more reserved to the partial and full synthetics? I know that I am under the impression that "most"(!!) people with old Alfas and such are under the impression that modern engines use seals of significantly different material and design then what older engines used or have available for rebuild, and that it may not be wise to try to run an older car (even if rebuilt) on the full synthetics.
first:

SM requirements also include sequence III G tests, which are run on a GM 3.8 pushrod engine. This test also covers cam/follower wear, so recent OHV engines are safe.

The thread PSB refers to initially links a site about cam/follower problems on MG and other pushrod engines. I suspect the problems stated on this site stem from the use of modern high performance cam profiles (high lift rate, hence very high contact pressure) that these engine lubrication systems are unable to cope with. These problems would mean the additives used in current motor oil are slower to react than ZDDP, hence the cam manufacturers recommendation to use a zinc rich lubricant FOR BREAKING IN – implying an initial coating with ZDDP is enough.

It is also mentioned that the ability of the cam followers to rotate is an issue – it reduces or eliminates wear as it prevents repeated contact on the same area of the follower. Alfa DOHC followers do rotate. Since the only British engine I’ve played with in 30 years is the Lotus twincam, a (crude) copy of the Alfa engine, I can’t comment any further.

The site recommends the use of diesel engine oil, then retracts its recommendation. If ZDDP is required for an engine, diesel oils would be a false security as current CJ-4 heavy duty engine oils are also on a zinc diet.

Second:
When I referred to modern oils in my previous post, I had all kinds of motor oils in mind – both mineral and synthetic.

Synthetic merely means “man-made” and has been applied to several kinds of oil. The idea is to produce uniform molecules with constant, stable properties, as opposed to petroleum distillates used to make mineral oil, which contain a variety of hydrocarbon molecules – large, small, linear, circular, etc… The properties of a given mineral oil merely reflects the average properties of the molecular mix it is made of, with less than ideal stability over time, pressure and temperature.

The earliest synthetic oils on the market around 1970 were ester based – a chemical that has nothing to do with petroleum. In motor oil applications, it has pretty much disappeared from the market. Ester based oils could very well have compatibility problems with seals.

Mobil introduced synthetic motor oils a couple years later, based on poly alpha olefins (PAO), which are hyrocarbon molecules synthesised from ethylene – a combustible gas derived from petroleum. Mobil 1 has long been made out of PAO base oil.

Another process is hydro treatment. Hydrocarbon molecules from petroleum distillates are bombarded with hydrogen atoms, which breaks long, unstable molecules and makes the oil more stable and uniform. The resultant base oil is said to approach the properties of PAO at a fraction of the price.

Most of the oils labelled synthetic today are actually made of hydro treated base oils. I’m not even sure all grades of Mobil 1 are still 100% PAO. They used to be very proud of their PAO contents, now the label doesn’t say anything…

Since current “synthetic” motor oils are basically petroleum products, there should be no issues about seal compatibility.
 

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Discussion Starter #12 (Edited)
I've read in other forums people stating that most of the synthetics have a lot more detergent content than conventional oils. The detergents clean out remnants/crustations/goop of conventional oil particles left in your motor, which in worn motors results in leaking gaskets and seals.

This discussion doesn't make a lot of sense to me - I think that only certain racing oils (such as the valvoline's "non-street legal" variant of VR-1) and diesel oils have very high detergent content. I think a more proper interpretation is that synthetic oil is more likely to leak in an older motor from the previous discussion - smaller particle size. I have seen synthetics designed for older (worn) motors on the shelves of the auto parts store, I wonder if these have larger particles? I have had a car with a rather new engine build that started leaking on the garage floor shortly after switching to synthetic, and I was surprised. Oil pressure also increased, which I also didn't understand. I think I will likely switch this non-alfa powered car (ford V8 powered) to a partial synthetic, like the Brad Penn.
 

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If I could do better, then why not go and make my own 20W/50 from 20w and 50w oil?

I don't think a 20w50 oil is just a 20w and 50w mix.
 

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This discussion doesn't make a lot of sense to me - I think that only certain racing oils (such as the valvoline's "non-street legal" variant of VR-1) and diesel oils have very high detergent content.
I think that's backwards - at least regarding the Valvoline Racincg Oil. Again, one of the drawbacks of racing oils is they have very little if any detergents.

I don't think people are saying that synthetic oils have more detergents added in, but rather their base stock (PAO or Ester) has higher natural detergent properties.

Joe
 

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Most of the oils labelled synthetic today are actually made of hydro treated base oils. I’m not even sure all grades of Mobil 1 are still 100% PAO. They used to be very proud of their PAO contents, now the label doesn’t say anything

That's because there is no law on "Synthetic" labeling. IIRC, the only "real" Syn oils are Amsoil and Redline - 100% PAO. All others contain some dino base stock. Again IIRC, when Mobil was 100% PAO they brought a lawsuit against Castrol and their Syntec which is a Group III oil. PAO's are higher like a Group IV and up. They lost the suit hence all oils labeled today as Synthetic are likely Group III's - good oils but not 100% syns (oils that contain no dino base stocks). Basically IMO total wastes are Syn :rolleyes: Blends for what their prices are.
 

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Again IIRC, when Mobil was 100% PAO they brought a lawsuit against Castrol and their Syntec which is a Group III oil.
Basically, yes.

It wasn't a lawsuit per se, rather a complaint against Castrol with an advertising regulatory agency.

Joe
 

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Rather than being concerned with brand of oil used in my 86 Spider, I've always made a point to keep the oil level full, and changed the oil and filter every 3000 miles. I also learned to check valve clearances and adjust as necessary. Taking these steps is guaranteed to extend engine life- not what type oil you use.
 
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