live in a world where more is better. More money in the
bank account, more friends in the Facebook account, we
even know some people with more tattoos than we care to
count. But among all types, horsepower freaks and gearheads
may be the worst. When it comes to horsepower more is
never enough, even if it means sacrificing durability
that describes you, we’re not here to judge. After
all, we’ve been guilty of giving in to horsepower
gluttony ourselves (more than once). But we think we
can help you with a few ways to gain horsepower while
adding durability, too.
big part of Driven Racing Oil’s Lake Speed
Jr’s job is to help engine builders,
racers and even everyday gearheads find the right lubricants
that will help improve their rides. Lake says many of
the mistakes he sees people make are because of a lack
of good information available. Without it people are
forced to depend on what they think they know, the occasional
urban legend and advice from friends—but who knows
where they are getting their information from? Lots
of times it comes down to commonly believed myths and
with little based on real facts. Here are a few myths
we hope to help you avoid in the future.
“Viscosity Equals Protection” Myth
gearheads use motor oil viscosities higher than necessary
simply because it is what they’ve always used.
But engine technology and components are constantly
evolving, and motor oils have evolved along with them.
Because of advanced chemistry, a modern engine oil can
provide superior protection even at lighter weight viscosities,
and that lower viscosity helps free up some horsepower
because the oil pump doesn’t have to work as hard
to move the oil throughout the engine.
I’ve got a lot invested in my ride,” you
say. “I’m more concerned with maximizing
longevity than squeezing out every last ounce of horsepower.
Wouldn’t I be better off still running a modern
synthetic oil with a higher viscosity?” The answer
is probably not.
myth of improving protection by increasing viscosity
can actually be harmful to your engine in some circumstances.
As much as 70 percent of the wear on an engine occurs
at start up. That’s because while the engine has
been off, the oil has an opportunity to drain back into
the pan and away from the areas it needs to be. Obviously,
you want to get oil back to the bearings, the cylinder
walls and all the way up to the valve train as quickly
as possible to bring the protection back where it should
while a thicker, higher viscosity oil does usually provide
a stronger film surface to protect the bearings, that
only applies once the oil is in place and ready to do
its job. But thicker oil is more resistant to flow,
and it takes longer for the oil pump to push it through
the oil galleries to where it needs to be. A thinner,
lower viscosity oil flows more easily right at startup
and gets to those critical areas more quickly. Because
of that, a thinner oil can actually do a great job of
reducing the wear an engine sees when it is first cranked.
that’s not the only way the myth of more viscosity
can hurt both your engine’s performance and protection.
The oil’s viscosity must be properly matched to
the components in order for both to work their best.
“One of the easier and more popular ways to make
more horsepower in modern engines is to use lightweight,
thinner piston rings that have less tension between
the ring and the wall of the cylinder bore,” Speed
you use a motor oil that’s too thick for the application,”
he continues, “one of the problems you can run
into is those low-tension rings won’t be able
to properly wipe the cylinder wall and too much oil
will find its way into the combustion chamber.”
the obvious question becomes how thick is too thick?
Or, how thin is too thin? After much research, Speed
says a good rule of thumb is to monitor the oil pressure
at idle when the engine is up to operating temperature.
Consider 20 pounds of hot oil pressure at idle to be
a safe minimum, so start with your usual oil viscosity
and lower the viscosity at each oil change until you
get to 25 or 30 pounds idle pressure. Just make sure
you use a high-quality oil that won’t lose film
strength under normal operating temperatures.
“More Additives” Myth
common myth is that since most high priced “performance”
oils advertise their super deluxe additives, and many
companies are even selling bottles of motor oil additives
to add to whatever oil you like, then more additives
are always better. You’d better believe this isn’t
true. Additives have to be carefully matched one to
another to make sure they work together as a package.
Speed says there are chemicals in many common additives
that actively counteract the effects of other additives.
So simply dumping a bottle of some additive into your
engine during your next oil change can actually leave
you worse off than if you had done nothing.
choosing a motor oil because it has a higher percentage
of a particular additive can also be counterproductive.
One of the most popular additives–especially for
racers or owners of muscle cars with engines using flat
tappet camshafts and lifters–is Zinc, also known
as ZDDP, because it creates a protective sacrificial
barrier between the camshaft and lifter faces that slowly
wears away. More Zinc in the oil doesn’t mean
more protection; it means that the additive in the oil
will last longer before it is all used up.
are also different types of Zinc additive packages.
Some are designed to work best in diesel engines, some
are less harmful to catalytic converters, and some are
designed to provide simply to provide maximum valve
train protection. Thinking an oil with the highest concentration
of Zinc will provide the most protection is a myth because
not all Zinc additive packages are created equally.
For example, an oil containing 2,000 parts per million
of a Zinc package designed to work well with catalytic
converters may not provide as much protection for your
race car or classic muscle car as a performance oil
with 900 parts per million of a Zinc additive package
optimized for valve train protection.
effectiveness of Zinc in your oil is also affected by
the quality of the base oil the manufacturer uses. Besides
its protective qualities, Zinc is also an anti-oxidant.
Manufacturers of lower-quality motor oil use Zinc to
mask the deficiencies of their base oil which will begin
oxidizing even under normal engine operation. That leaves
the Zinc doing a job besides protecting your cam, which
means that, just like the previous example, even though
the oil may have a higher concentration it won’t
protect your engine as well as a performance oil that
actually has less Zinc but uses a higher quality base
oil that’s not as susceptible to oxidation.
Racing Oil, by the way, uses a brand new fully synthetic
base stock known as “mPAO”. Its extreme
resistance to both oxidation and heat means Driven’s
chemists can use the right additives and in the right
amounts that can make a real difference for performance
of the most critical times in any engine’s life
is when it is first cranked after assembly. This is
the break-in period when all those new parts need to
mate together. The common myth of breaking in a new
engine is that new parts need to “wear”
problem with this myth is that people often don’t
realize that there is a very real difference between
reducing friction and reducing wear,” Speed explains.
“While it sounds like the same thing, it’s
not. ZDDP is a great example. It is very important for
the break in process, especially if you are using a
flat tappet camshaft, to use the right type and amount
of ZDDP because it reduces wear. But ZDDP doesn’t
people have been told not to break in on synthetic oil
because it is too “slippery”. This is because
oils are designed to reduce friction, and your engine
needs friction to get the ZDDP to activate and help
“chemically” mate the parts without wearing
the parts out during the break-in period. Low friction
motor oils, especially synthetics, are designed to reduce
friction which will substantially lengthen the amount
of time required to break in an engine.
an engine is fired for the first and all those parts
begin moving together, the engine is essentially finishing
up the honing process begun by your engine machinist.
As the parts are moving together for the first time,
especially the piston rings moving against the cylinder
bore, they scrub off tiny pieces of metal that are carried
away by the oil. All the things created by your engine
during break-in are bad for your engine. This is why
you want to complete the break-in process as quickly
as possible so that you can change the oil as well as
the filter and flush out all the contaminants as soon
as you can. Too much friction reduction means it takes
longer for the rings to seat and that’s more time
the engine is putting contaminants into the oil. A well-designed
break-in oil prevents excessive wear while quickly mating
the parts. This approach reduces wear and completes
the break-in process faster – something a race
team can appreciate.
there’s also a second break-in myth worth covering
here. Zinc’s main purpose is to protect and reduce
wear. A roller lifter doesn’t experience sliding
friction like a flat tappet so it doesn’t need
nearly as much Zinc. And because of that there’s
a common myth that a good way to break in a new engine
with roller lifters is to use the absolute cheapest
oil you can find.
it is true that a cheap motor oil doesn’t provide
the same lubricity (or “slickness”) that
a higher performance oil will, it also doesn’t
have the right chemistry to provide proper protection,
either. Believe it or not, there is a difference between
lubrication and protection. A good break-in oil is designed
to provide just the right amount of lubrication so that
the rings will seat quickly while protecting the components
from any more wear than necessary.
We’ve worked really hard to formulate our break
in oil so that it provides protection to the engine
but also allows it to break in quickly and properly,”
Speed says. “It is definitely not the same as
our motor oils because it has a very specific purpose.
Chemically, it is very different than our other stuff
“Racing is Always Better” Myth
is true that auto racing is a great testing ground for
new technologies and components. But that doesn’t
mean something created to meet the needs of racers is
also the best thing to meet the requirements of a street
machine. This definitely includes your motor oil. Even
if you have a high-horsepower engine built using a lot
of racing components, that doesn’t mean an oil
formulated for racing will be the best choice. Keith
Jones of Total Seal Piston Rings has a great story concerning
this very scenario. He says, “Whenever we are
talking to a customer or a potential customer, the first
question we always ask is ‘What’s your application?’
perfect example of that is the guy that’s building
a 632-inch big block that makes 1,200 horsepower running
on pump gas,” Jones explains. “And he figures,
‘Hey, it makes 1,200 horsepower, it must be a
race engine,’ but he’s driving it around
town, it hardly ever gets above part throttle and the
oil temp never gets hot enough to boil off any contaminants
in the oil. But since he’s making all that power
he figures he’s got to run a full race oil, which
usually contains very little detergent.
with those conditions he will wind up with a lot of
contaminants in his oil. A race oil is designed to be
changed after every few races, but since he’s
driving on the street he’s going thousands of
miles between oil changes and that contamination eventually
builds up in the crosshatch in the cylinder bores. Next
thing you know he’s got an engine that has a lot
of cylinder blow-by, it’s got oil control problems
and it’s just generally running like a dog.
quite often we’ll get a call from that guy complaining
because he thinks he got a bad set of rings and now
he’s got to tear down his expensive engine and
re-hone the cylinders. He’s mad, and you couldn’t
really blame him if the rings really were the problem–but
there’s really nothing wrong with his motor. I’ll
tell that person to go out and get some high-detergent
oil, like a diesel oil, run it for a couple weeks and
see if his performance improves. And almost every time
they will call me back within a couple of days saying,
‘Hey, the engine is perfect again.’
was nothing wrong with the engine all along,”
Jones says. “The problem was he had the wrong
motor oil for the application and it affected cylinder
sealing. What he needed was a high-quality street oil
like Driven sells that has the proper amount of detergent
to keep the contaminants under control while also having
the capability to provide proper lubrication for a high-horsepower
there you have it. We certainly haven’t hit every
lubrication myth out there, but these four hopefully
will give you a great start on finding the right oil
that is a perfect match for your engine’s needs
and will do a great job of helping you maximize both
performance and longevity.