Classic Car Oil vs.Over the Counter Available Oils Today

August 3, 2013

Classic Car Oil and Zinc – What We Know

Let’s face it, classic cars and their engines have been around quite a while. They have seen their share of miles and oil. So, what difference does oil type make to your classic car? Well, let’s just say that oil is the blood that helps keep your engine properly lubricated and in good working condition for years. When it comes to oils, today with all the EPA standards and vehicles requirements are quite different than those of 20-25 years ago. Today’s modern engines operate more efficiently on oil that has lower zinc and phosphorous content. Cars with catalytic converters will experience carbon buildup from the zinc additives, so do not use if your car has a catalytic converter. There are not many true classic cars today that have catalytic converters. Older engines (produced before the mid 90’s) need zinc and phosphorous to provide anti-wear agents for proper lubrication of engine componets; whereas, newer engines do not. Engines produced within the past 10 years or so have roller type cams which do not need the extra protection from zinc. Modern oils, however, do not provide enough lubrication during start-up in classic cars to prevent metal-to-metal wear on vital moving parts. This can cause warping and irreparable damage to your classic cars  engine. Your flat tappet cam can go FLAT after running for a relatively short time. We have rebuilt fresh motors with less than a 100 miles on them. After we dissembled these motors we find one or more of the lifters worn down to about 2/3 of their original size. The worn metal is inside your engine and can be evidenced by metal shaving in your oil pan. With just 0.0002 of an inch wear you can experience rapid and castastropic engine damage. And for your information two ten thousandths of an inch is about 1/5 the size of a human hair.

ZDDP and Classic Cars

What is ZDDP? ZDDP is zinc dialkyldithiophosphate. This is an additive that is used to improve dry start protection. These additives contain the anti-wear agents zinc and phosphorous. Because of it’s success with improving lubrication during start up, many camshaft and engine manufacturers are now recommending that ZDDP additives be used during the engine break-in period and added at EVERY oil change.

Choosing the Right Classic Car Oil

With all the information about classic cars and oils, it can be difficult to choose the right oil. Classic cars and performance cars that use flat tappet lifters need oils with higher ZDDP/ZDTP due to an increased need for lubrication in the metal-to-metal contact points especially during the start up phase  So when adding oil to your classic car, it is imperative that oils contain adequate ZDDP/ZDTP. As classic car owners, several options exist on the market today. Additives may be used to increase zinc levels and improve lubrication in classic cars. Another option might be one of the several brands of oil specifically designed for classic cars. These will be labeled “Classic Car Oil”  and contain the appropriate zinc levels for classic car engines. There are other oils offered by several companies labeled  “Racing Oil” that may also have the zinc additives. They can do this because each container states “Not for Street Use".

What we prefer to use a top quality motor oil with the appropriate viscosity and ADD a 4 oz. bottle of ZDDP/Plus at EVERY oil change.

These products are available online or at leading auto parts stores.

If you have any questions regarding what oil or additives might work best in your car, contact our service technician today.

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