Magazine Cover - Classic Cars For Sale - 1000s of Classic Car Reviews, How To Service & Maintenance Guides

Classic Car Dedicated Lubricants

Classic Car Dedicated Lubricants Published: 28th Feb 2018 - 0 Comments - Be the first, contribute now!

Classic Car Dedicated Lubricants
Classic Car Dedicated Lubricants
Classic Car Dedicated Lubricants
Classic Car Dedicated Lubricants
Classic Car Dedicated Lubricants
Classic Car Dedicated Lubricants
Classic Car Dedicated Lubricants
Classic Car Dedicated Lubricants
Classic Car Dedicated Lubricants
Classic Car Dedicated Lubricants
The latest issue of Classic Cars For Sale is on sale now - Pick up your copy from all good newsagents including WHSmith or click here to subscribe now

Subscribe to Classic Motoring Magazine and save over 20%

Subscribe NOW

Available at all good newsagents including WHSmith

As a major oil brand relaunches itself into a classic oil scene, we show why these dedicated lubricants are vital for oldies… and how you can kill your classic with kindness by using something that’s far too good for its own good

It’s strange but true; a modern, highly advanced and highly expensive super-duper engine oil in your old classic may do your pride and joy more harm than good!

It used to be so simple back in the good old days: If you needed engine oil you simply popped down to your local motorists’ shop and bought, usually Castrol GTX or Duckhams Q. But with more than 100 different brands and blends of engine oil on sale today, it’s oh so easy to use the wrong oil and sentence your engine to a slow lingering death.

Use the incorrect grade of spark plug and your engine may be toast in a few miles. Select the wrong engine oil and you won’t notice any difference – until the big bang. Yet we’re still doing it. According to Comma, a traditional 10W/40 grade oil remains the most popular pick, accounting for 42 per cent of sales, despite the fact that only 12 per cent of engines now require this oil grade. Admittedly, we’re talking more about moderns here but it shows that many are still in the dark and confused about oil.

Do we care? Maybe not the average motorist but classic owners do because apart from the fact that they’re enthusiasts, they also appreciate that a quality classic oil is protecting their prized investment and the most expensive component apart from the bodywork.

As an example, Porsche introduced its own line of classic engine oils (20W/50 and 10W/60) in 2015 dedicated to classic Porsche engines, which up to the 1970s required a special singlegrade oil. Classic Motoroil is suited for the higher-temperature air-cooled units plus, and, unlike modern synthetic types, it won’t dredge up latent nasties or damage oil seals and so lead to leaks.

The classic oil market is thriving and is about to intensify with the recent news that Duckhams is back on the scene. If you are a certain vintage too, you’ll remember the name well and how with motorists became almost tribal in selecting choice of brew.

An all British company, the relaunch is due to a group of British born entrepreneurs buying the brand and the company (Alexander Duckham & Co) from BP (which also owned Castrol) and are keen to ensure it stays independent. The oil is to be blended, distributed and developed here in the UK as well.

Initially its brews are available direct from; Q20w-50 (suitable for engines made from 1950-’89) and a pair of SAE 30 and 40 monogrades for earlier units, but during this year transmission oils and greases will be rolled out, as will engine oils for moderns. With no distributor costs Duckhams is pricing a 5L pack of Q20w-50 at £29.99 delivered.

Being a latecomer to the party, Duckhams has been able to study what’s around and create the optimum blend. “Although we have a huge amount of expertise for the Q20w-50 and are keen to create the nearest product as possible to the Duckhams we all knew and trusted in the 70s/80s, the reality is that the demands of oils in the modern day are slightly different.

Therefore, we have taken the very best of what we know works but added to that modern technology and additives that will give us the performance we need to provide for cherished engines,” says Duckhams.

Why go classic?

On the face of it, you’d rightly think that the newer, more advanced lube then the better but this is not so because, after certain advanced specifications and formulations, it won’t protect your classic’s engine any better – in fact, perhaps the opposite is more true.

The very latest oils major on emission control and are blended as such. For example, to prolong the life of a catalytic converter, today’s oils have cut down on the zinc (ZDDP- zinc dithiophosphate) contingent – fine for cats except, as it’s a known anti-wear agent, reduction can lead to excessive piston ring and camshaft wear.

Conversely, a plain budget 20w/50 may well have been formulated when the MGB was in the showrooms but now its specs and quality are lacking to what’s demanded half a century on.

A classic oil strikes the perfect balance for classic lovers, providing current standards of quality, twinned with traditionally refined formulations for the eras these oils were intended for. The traditional ‘multi-grade’ that’s now the default pick came about largely thanks to the original Mini, because its transversely mounted engine used the same oil to also lubricate the transmission, making straight ‘mono grade’ oils unsuitable.

Before this, straight oil grades were the norm and had to be changed to suit the seasons, with a lighter ‘20’ or ‘30’ grade for winter and a thicker lube for the summer when the going gets hot.

Referring back to our earlier comments concerning oils right for their engine designs and eras, classics dating back to the ’40s may be better off with ‘monograde’ and some air-cooled VW owners will use nothing else still. Also, certain engines shouldn’t use an oil which contains detergents.

While not half as complicated as mainstream choices, you do now need to speak to a classic oil specialist (Penrite, Millers Oils, Morris Lubricants, Valvoline, Castrol, etc) to see what is right for your vehicle.

Mineral vs synthetic

Man-made synthetic lubricants have the benefit of being far more flexible than natural oils. It largely depends what level of protection you want although using motorsportbased oils for the vast majority of road-going classics can be a waste of time and money.

A case in point are motorsport oils which have a higher performance and robustness over a plain classic oil of the same viscosity. Without question, they will certainly be better, but one is probably paying for features that are not really required for road driving. Furthermore, synthetic oils may not suit a fair number of pre-1970’s oldies; for a start, unless you opt for a classic type, they invariably will be of a lighter and thinner make up, and on old power units, possessing their wider production tolerances, this will lead to low oil pressure readings and probably excessive consumption. Similarly, by design, synthetic oils possess a dredging effect, and will disturb old latent residue in the engine, which after all these years, is better left alone.

If you insist, then it’s a wise policy to purge the oilways out with a special flushing oil first of all.

Grease is the word?

Don’t think that the innocent tub of grease has been left in a time warp either. Its role hasn’t changed much over the years and that’s chiefly it’s to lubricate a component where a normal oil is deemed ‘too liquid’ to serve as a lubricant.

Just like evolving engines, higher speeds and hotter working temperatures meant more advanced greases had to be developed to cope, mainly to stop them overheating and so melting under pressure from areas such as wheel bearings and brakes, the latter where the introduction of discs and their evolution really upped the centigrade.

Greases also have to meet certain standards and this is largely policed by the Lubricating Grease Institute (LGI) where a lettering system identifies its make up and constituency and since 1990, the US has tried to certify performance specs via its NLGI – National Lubricating Grease Institute – which is rather like API oil standards.

That said, you don’t need to ditch that half used tin of LM grease that you borrowed from your dad years ago and never returned (that’s how he got it-ed) either as it will do the job equally as well as a brand ‘new’ tub in many instances. Indeed, advanced greases such as synthetic types are largely unsuitable for motor vehicle use.

However, all greases aren’t the same. As examples a Lithium based, high melting point grease is specifically designed as a wheel bearing grease for use over a wide range of temperatures where as a Moly grease is better served for king pins and bushes, shackles and suspension trunnions, bevel worm and peg steering boxes. Grease can ‘separate’ in the tin and needs mixing, just a stir will do it before you use it.

Small gesture from Castrol that’s greatly appreciated

Latest news from Castrol is that many of its oils are now available in 1-litre top up packs. We applaud the move and wonder so many others haven’t cottoned on before: after all, motorists rarely buy modern oils in full-size packs, plus it’s easier to keep in the boot and take with you – important as classic oils aren’t exactly available off the shelf. Castrol Classic Oils comprise engine and gear oils in a range of viscosities, enabling owners to use the correct oil as specified by the vehicle manufacturer and shown in the vehicle handbook. The range also includes gear oils, greases with a variety of specific uses, plus imperial measure pouring jugs in half, pint and quart sizes. Plus oils can be bought in w o r k s h o p - sized 20 Litre drums.

Caring for those cogs

Classic transmission oils are becoming as popular as the engine types due to their specific nature. In common with engine oils, modern, finer tolerance transmission systems demand a new freer-flowing type of lubricant but unlike engine oils, a modern gear or transmission oil is usually quite okay for classic uses and this includes oldies which previously used engine oils to care for the cogs.

EP (Extreme Pressure) oils only appeared in the late 1950s which is why a good many manufacturers stipulated a straight engine oil before a gradual change over to EP 80 or 90. Since the 1980s there’s been a ‘multigrade’ transmission oil as well as a gradual switch to semi and fully synthetics which can have a working range rating of 75W/90, for example.

There’s no real reason why modern gear oils can’t be used in an MGB or Ford 2000E transmission and the lighter lube may yield a crisper change although noise levels may increase as a consequence.

Conversely, older vintage transmissions invariably need specific oils for their internals; some old units with bronze bearings don’t like modern GL5 oils for example.

At the other end of the performance spectrum, special high pressure oils are needed for limited slip differentials and one example comes from Castrol where its SAF-XJ is a fully synthetic 75W-140 hypoid gear oil, formulated for use in both conventional and limited slip differentials –

Top tips on choosing the right oil

Tip 1: If choosing an oil grade to best suit specific temperature conditions you can go lower on the ‘W’ number to get things flowing more quickly in the extreme cold, but since the engine’s internal temperatures are unchanged once up to operating temperature, the end viscosity can remain unchanged.

Almost a third of engine wear occurs during start up and in cold weather this is magnified many fold. Especially for older engines, ZDDP levels, which represent the proportion of Zinc in the formula, are invaluable in assisting the reduction of wear. In Duckhams’ oil ranges, the ZDDP level is optimally tuned to create a ‘plating effect’ that works to bond the oil to the metal surfaces, at a thickness of around two microns. This creates a sacrificial wear barrier that receives the start up friction.

Tip 2: Even with modern oil formulations and additives it is still wise on those very cold mornings to allow the engine to warm up to operating temperature at idle speed before driving off. Historic vehicles may not be in such regular use during the winter months, or may even be in hibernation entirely and additional risks to the engine are found within impurities that have built up as a result of the combustion process, hanging about on the metal faces.

Used oil contains lacquers, acids, condensation and other nasty bi-products of combustion that lead to corrosion. If an engine is in regular use, then these impurities are constantly being burnt off, but can pose a real issue during longterm periods of inactivity.

Tip 3: If your vehicle is to be used less frequently or stored away completely for the winter period then change the oil before this hibernation period to ensure that a fresh oil is protecting your engine, free from impurities, throughout winter.

The advantages of additives?

Oil additives is a hoary old subject because their use is as much down to emotion and a placebo effect as much as anything else. We’re not going to enter into the argument except to say that in our personal experience additives have worked to a degree. As an example, when we tried Engine Restorer & Lubricant, marketed by Ametech, in an old MGB, some years back, it genuinely did seem to run smoother and quieter for a while – an opinion expressed by those who drove it – and we’re sure that many of you have tried additives in, say, transmissions giving similar effect. What you shouldn’t do, unlike many motorists do, is to use an additive as a substitute for a good oil to save a few quid – and even additive specialists will agree on this point.

Apart from normal oils you can also choose special lubes for fast road or motorsport use (some which are even synthetic-based). Also you can specify brews to help run an engine in after a rebuild or if it is to lay idle for long periods. Running-in oils are generally of low quality lacking the traditional antiwear agents to encourage a speedy bedding down process. Conservation oils, like Millers’ Classic Preservation Oil, contain a vapour that coats the internals and safeguards the unit against storage damage.

User Comments

This review has 0 comments - Be the first!

Leave a comment

Keep it polite and on topic. Your email address will not be published. Please do not advertise products, all posts of this nature will be removed. We do not stock or supply any of these products, we independently review these products.

Latest Issue Cover - Click here to subscribe

Subscribe to Classic Motoring Magazine and save over 25%