THINGS ABOUT EN­GINE OIL YOUR DADDY NEVER TOLD YOU

AD­VANCES IN TECH­NOL­OGY HAVE CHANGED CON­CEPTS RE­GARD­ING LU­BRI­CA­TION

Drag Racer - - Contents - Text by Rod Short Pho­tos Cour­tesy of HPL Oil

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.

ABOVE. Two dif­fer­ent types of fric­tion are slid­ing, as in an en­gine pis­ton, or rolling, such as in a valve train. HPL Rac­ing Oil is care­fully for­mu­lated to han­dle both well. RIGHT. Part of HPL Oil’s lab­o­ra­tory is seen here where ex­ten­sive re­search is...

What makes a good race oil? It all starts with sci­ence. HPL’s syn­thetic lu­bri­cants use molec­u­lar struc­tures en­gi­neered in a process called poly­mer­iza­tion.

Photo by Rod Short.

What’s a real-life en­gine oil tor­ture test? Drag Week 2017 might have been it. In 2017, Joe Barry drove 1,000 miles to five tracks, av­er­aged 7.11 sec­onds at 197.72 mph, run­ning at each one and fin­ished sec­ond over­all run­ning HPL oil.

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