THINGS ABOUT ENGINE OIL YOUR DADDY NEVER TOLD YOU
ADVANCES IN TECHNOLOGY HAVE CHANGED CONCEPTS REGARDING LUBRICATION
Technology has Changed Concepts Regarding Lubrication
MANY PEOPLE TAKE ENGINE OIL FOR GRANTED. They don’t change it until the engine light comes on, and then they go to the cheapest place to have it changed or look for the least expensive brand when they’re buying off the shelf.
That might be okay for many, but for race engines, it just won't do. Spare us a few minutes and we'll share what people (especially racers) should know about engine oils.
ALTERNATIVES TAILORED FOR YOU
Not long ago, drag racers had to choose their engine oils from petroleum-based consumer products. These might have passed all of the API (American Petroleum Institute) standards, but they fell short once inside competition engines. The introduction of synthetics improved overall quality, but passenger car oils are still blended with emissions and fuel economy in mind.
As engines became more powerful, builders and crew chiefs faced the fact that race oil really needed to be different. Stronger base films, different viscosities and higher quality additives were needed to support the higher loads and operating temperatures associated with racing. Performance oils also began to evolve for different engine and fuel combinations ranging from street/strip cars to Top Fuel. Today's NHRA Pro Stocks, for instance, benefit from extreme lightweight oils such as a 0W3, while a Funny Car might run a straight 70-weight.
Today the racing world is blessed to have competition-proven lubrication products from companies such as HPL Oil. As such, many of the best available choices from the past have seen time pass them by. Successful racers need uncompromising products that mass marketers simply haven't provided.
Just as on-the-track performance can depend on a racer’s lubrication choice, a successful racing oil depends upon the blender’s skill. Molecular science, mechanical engineering and chemistry are all deployed to create an optimal balance of base oils and additives for a race oil to work.
FORMULATING AS A SCIENCE
Race oils aren't created equally, however. Just as on-the-track performance can depend on a racer's lubrication choice, a successful racing oil depends upon the blender's skill. Molecular science, mechanical engineering and chemistry are all deployed to create an optimal balance of base oils and additives for a race oil to work.
Blenders take into consideration the problems that come with high rpms, extreme loads and quickly rising temperatures, while also assessing film versus boundary lubrication. Critical wear areas, including engine bearings, camshafts, cylinder bores and pushrod tips, need to be balanced against oxidation, contamination and fuel dilution issues while maintaining a low enough viscosity to minimize power losses.
Temperature range, viscosity and wear are all factors that not only blenders consider, but users should also. Engine oil can actually aid, not hinder, engine life and performance. Additionally, some street/strip machines and even all-out competition cars aren't run on a regular basis, so they can see long drain intervals. This can mean dry start-up, storage, oxidation and water contamination, so more than mere performance considerations should be evaluated.
Knowledge about the different kinds of oil, experience in different types of motorsports, as well as close relationships with the best engine builders shows up in the results you get. That carries over to distributors as well, and it's important to ask questions to match the right oil to the correct race application.
It's a safe bet that most off-the-shelf engine oil mass merchandisers and Internet jockeys can't adequately address these concerns.
JUICING UP AN OIL
Additives are important in that they also tailor an engine oil to racing's unique environment. They can include viscosity improvers, dispersants, detergents, antiwear additives, extreme pressure additives, rust inhibitors and anti-foaming agents.
Simply said, viscosity improvers are added to help provide a balance between thickeners and shear stability agents in the oil. Polarized dispersants attract and envelope combustion soot, then keep it suspended so the oil filter can do its job of cleaning. Detergents help neutralize acids and control deposits. Anti-wear agents, such as ZDDP, provide anti-wear and antioxidation properties. Extreme pressure agents help prevent metal-to-metal welding
and tearing. Because of the high solubility of water in alcohol-based fuels, rust inhibitors help combat water produced during engine operation.
Most additives, however, are sacrificial in nature, meaning they can be used up. Combine this with the gradual process of oil oxidation, contamination and viscosity change over time, and what's in your wet or dry sump system can lose its lubricating qualities, even if the base oil itself is still in relatively good shape.
Some racers try to reverse this by adding aftermarket additives to their engine oil. Premier engine builders emphasize, however, that racers should never add aftermarket additives to their oil. Additives from different suppliers don't always mix and can form globs of oil that can plug passageways and filters. Different additives can also work against each other. Even if solubility isn't a problem, the intricate chemical balances that blenders spend careers to perfect can be trashed easily by adding other chemicals.
Aftermarket lubricant additives may not always meet specifications. There have been many cases when contaminated product, incorrect product labeling and damaged containers have been delivered. That's exactly why many formulators keep samples of their oil stocks from each batch to compare against any complaints, warranty issues or lawsuits. Besides, if you must buy an aftermarket additive for your race engine's oil, are you really buying the correct oil in the first place?
TOPPING IT OFF
There's much to know about engine oil, and even more about racing oil, which is why even time-honored choices are worth reevaluating from time to time. Space limitations kept us from exploring this as much as we'd like to here, but visit us on the web, call or drop in on us at Facebook for racing updates, product information and more.
Aftermarket lubricant additives may not always meet specifications. There have been many cases when contaminated product, incorrect product labeling and damaged containers have been delivered.
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