Motor Oils, Are They All The Same??
The Final Lap - Sep. 2009 Newsletter ver. 1.0
To all of our patrons and supporters,
I must admit that it's been a long time since the last newsletter and this one is long overdue. I feel that this newsletter has some very good information in it and tells the "truth" behind the advertising curtain that drapes upon so many. This newsletter is going to focus on the subject of motor oils and the "hype" so many fall victim to. And so we begin...
Motor oils, are they all the same? Will most brands of oil suffice for your needs? What makes one brand better than the other? In this long overdue newsletter, I will shed some light on this topic to better help my customers get what's right for their application, the first time.
Motor oils are made up or categorized into 5 groups by the API or Automotive Petroleum Institute. Group 1 are the lowest quality of refining oils or the bottom of the barrel quality as some will call it. These are your "service oils" as I like to call them. These oils are used by establishments such as Jiffy Lube, EZ Lube, Wal-Mart, Sears, etc. Group 2 and Group 3 refining process is getting better and better, that the API is considering merging these two groups together. Group 3 oils or base stocks are majority of what all oils consist of. Here you will find your Castrol, Mobil, Valvoline and their Synthetic blends such as Castrol Syntech, Mobil 1, Eneos, etc. Group 4 are your PAO's (Poly-Alpha Olefin). These consist of rust inhibitors, anti-foaming agents and the like. Lastly, Group 5 oils are your refined and processed Esters. Esters start life as fatty acids in plants and animals, which are then chemically combined into esters, diesters and polyesters. Group 5 are the most expensive of all to produce. However, the esters are polar molecules and have very significant solvent properties - an ester based oil all by itself will do a very decent job at keeping your engine clean. So, companies that are serious about making a superior oil will usually mix some Group 5 oils into their base stocks....as you will soon read.
Like all groups, there are standards and regulations. The API has set standards on how the oils are composed of with "wear contents". Zinc is the number one agent amongst moly and phosphorus when it comes to anti-wear agents. Over the years, the API has lowered the overall criteria for the amount of Zinc in motor oils. When Zinc is burned, it produces sulfur and becomes a catalyst, which harms catalytic converters and our environment. According to the API, the criteria for building a SM rated oil is to contain no less than 600ppm and no greater than 800ppm of Zinc. PPM is short for parts per millionth. In all honesty, the real culprit in this issue is really the Phosphorus, as this is the heat-seeking carrier for the Zinc. If the API could find a different carrier for the Zinc, other than the Phosphorus, then the oils would not have to reduce the amount of Zinc levels at all for the sake of a catalytic conveter. Back to the Zinc. So remember, all API/SM rated oils, basicall all shelf oils or anything you can buy at the local auto parts store will fall into the category of 600ppm minimum, 800ppm maximum of Zinc. Motul oil on the other hand, typically has around 1300 to 1330ppm of Zinc. Torco SR5 oil contains 1350ppm of Zinc. 1350 is the absolute highest level achieveable for the Zinc ppm. Anymore ppm would not harm, but would not help either.
But the oil you buy is fully synthetic, so it must be better right? Yes, synthetics do provide better protection for the engine, than standard oils, but don't be fooled by the term "fully". Many enthusiasts are after a 100% fully synthetic oil, because they want the best protection for their engine. In the "passenger car oil" world, the manufacturer can say their oil is fully synthetic as long as the oil is of a 80/20 mix. 80% must be from Group 3 base stocks and the other 20% from Group 4 and 5 base stocks. However, true 100% fully synthetic oils are strictly made up of ONLY Group 4 and Group 5 base stocks. The percentages of each are not known, as those proprietary percentages are what makes those oils the BEST and perform how they do. This is why you can run them for much longer intervals and why they protect the engine at the crazy temperatures the engine sees during racing. What oils are 100% synthetics you ask? Motul, Torco, Spectro and Swepco to name a few.
Great, so now I gotta spend major bucks just to have good oil? Remember that oil like Motul and Torco are not passenger car oils or off the shelf oils, they are racing oils made specifically for racing environments. By all means, they can still be used in a passenger car and will provide excellent protection, it's just expensive. Knowing this, Torco stepped up to the plate, to come to the aid of those who want the protection, but do not have the budget for expensive oil changes. They have developed a special additive called MPZ. MPZ stands for Moly, Phosphorus, Zinc. The MPZ additive is in all of their oils, and in two specialized oil additives they produce called ZEP (Zinc Engine Protectant) and the Magnetic Friction Reducer w/ MPZ. Both of these additives are the same, but the Magnetic Friction Reducer is aimed at the enthusiast who wants more power, as it promotes increases in HP and torque. When either of these additives are added to your typical API/SM rated motor oil, the levels of Zinc have been seen to rise well beyond 1200ppm! This greatly increases the protection of the engine and its internal components. The MPZ won't turn your oil into Motul or Torco, but it will definitly be better than what you were about to pour into your oil, not to mention deliver the protection you need. Torco did a test with 5 quarts of Penzoil API/SM rated motor oil. They added a bottle of ZEP to the 5 quarts of Penzoil and the Zinc rate skyrocketed from 600ppm to 1330ppm!! That's only 150ppm from Torco's flagship SR5 motor oil. So a great recipie to use for your oil change is any affordable API/SM synthetic oil and a bottle of Torco MPZ or ZEP...nuff said! Perfect for the street and good enough for the weekend track warrior.
So, there you have it, the truth behind the curtain. When you see race cars running around the track with logos of API/SM rated oil, just think...If a racecar was actually running an API/SM rated motor oil(passenger car oil), then frankly, it wouldn't finish the race. Just some food for thought.
Till next time...
Director of Operations