How To Pick The Right Engine Oil

Posted by PI Collaborator on

What’s in your Motor Oil?

Older cars need Zinc, but newer cars don’t. Guess which cars most engine oils are made for.

Well, times are changing and so are the motor oils that are available. Today’s catalyst-equipped cars require oils with far less Zinc Dialkyldithiophosphate (ZDDP commonly called Zinc) than in previous oils. Earlier engine configurations require zinc and phosphates to prevent engine wear. Recently rebuilt engines, that do not require the emissions equipment of the day, still need the same additives as in the past. Particularly flat tappet applications, engines with high valve spring pressures, or those driven in high rpm situations.

Zinc and Phosphates cause the catalytic converters on today’s modern vehicles to fail prematurely. Once this was confirmed, the car manufacturers began lobbying to have these additives removed or decreased in oil. In the last 20 years, makers of oil decreased these chemicals from their formulas, thus preserving the life of the converters. Today’s late model engine configurations with low valve spring pressures and multi-overhead cam designs with roller tappets do not require the amount of wear protection that earlier engines do.

The downside has been the lack of protection given to the earlier engine packages. Newly rebuilt engines using these modern oils began to succumb to premature failure due to the lack of sufficient anti-wear films. In some instances in true high performance rebuilds that demise was right on the engine dyno. Race teams and high performance street engine builders took notice. The hunt for solutions began.

Smaller premium manufacturers recognized the need and began to come to market with solutions. Companies like Royal Purple and Joe Gibbs Driven offer a number of oils directly aimed at correcting the problems. Both companies make specific break in oils with high levels of zinc and phosphorus to protect new parts during the crucial break in period. These oils are the ones you would run either for the first 600 to 800 kms, or when breaking your engine in on a dyno.

After the break-in period, both manufacturers offer high performance street and race oils that provide the maximum film strength required by high performance and modified power plants. These oils are designed to protect your engine; current “regular” oils are designed to protect the emission equipment built into today’s late model cars.

Specialty shops are very knowledgeable on these products and capable of making sure you get the right product for your needs. Remember the price of premium lubrication products is far less than the cost of repairing failed engine components. To get the best possible results from your performance engine be sure you are using the right oils formulated with the critical balance of zinc, phosphorous and detergents. You will be glad you did! •



Breaking in a new motor is like painting a new cinder block wall - the rate of consumption is extremely high because the surface is soaking it up.

BR - Driven Break In Oil - Used by Joe Gibbs Racing to break-in and dyno all their engines. BR protects flat-tappet camshafts and lifters during break-in and it provides excellent ring seal. Provides high levels of Zinc, Phosphorus and Sulphur in a mineral base oil. JG00106



HPS is recommended for vehicles no longer under manufacturer warranty and for those seeking a higher level of performance and protection.

HPS - High Performance Synthetic Oil from Royal Purple

Royal Purple increases horsepower and saves fuel while reducing heat and wear. Fully compatible with other synthetic oils. Royal Purple HPS oils are fortified with a high level of zinc / phosphorus anti-wear additive and a generous dose of Royal Purple’s proprietary Synerlec® additive technology. These unique formulations enable HPS oils to outperform leading synthetic and conventional lubricants in both gasoline and diesel engines.


The Quotable Lake Speed Jr. from Driven

“You can prevent failure without achieving longevity. However, achieving longevity prevents failure. Thus, the goal should be longevity.”

Lake Speed, Jr. – Son of former NASCAR driver and team owner Lake Speed, is a member of the Society of Tribologists & Lubrication Engineers.

He is also highly quotable:

“Why is ATF red? So you know what it is when it leaks.”

“Multi vehicle” just means it’s not a good fit for any of them.”

“Ethanol is not new to NASCAR! We were born from moonshiners!”

“The only test that matters for motor oil are actual engine tests. No bench top test trumps a real fired engine test. Shampoo does great in Timken bearing testers. Do you want to run shampoo in your engine?”

“Only group 4 oils are truly synthetic. You can tell by price. Cheap synthetic is not synthetic.”

“Right oil, right place, right time, right amount. Oil is only one part of the equation.”

Thanks for a great seminar Lake!•

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