By Eric Brisbon
The EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) can be viewed as an industry curse or hailed a hero depending on your point of view. However, it is inarguable that engines put off less pollutants, diesels no longer belch black smoke or smell terrible, and fuel economy has climbed without a sacrifice in horsepower. All told, technological advancements have happened, due in large part, by requirements set forth by the EPA.
Meeting those requirements have hit every sector of an automotive powerplant. Material and tribology have become more focused to endure higher mileage, harsh duty cycles, and elimination of many fuel and oil additives used in years past. Low sulfur fuels create issues with lubricity which is especially relevant with today’s high-pressure diesel fuel systems. Elimination of zinc in oils (known as dialkyldithiosphate or ZDDP) which started an exodus years ago, created all kinds of new challenges. This additive is what is used to put the protective layer on engine components but tended to damage catalytic converters, so it had to go.
A quick internet search will yield all kinds of folks destroying brand new cams or bearings within minutes of operation due to improper break in procedures. Even assuming you take the correct steps and add break in lube during assembly, many “instructions”’ will tell you to change the oil after a small break in time. While many of us tried and true gearheads have our own break in procedures, it’s simply easier to launch a new product today than in has been at any time in the past. As mentioned, materials and tribology have made great strides in may facets of addressing this dilemma, however, care must be taken when troubleshooting premature wear or failures on older equipment or remanufactured product.
The buyer selection of motor oils is staggering. The days of simple API grade selection has been overtaken by marketing wizardry. You can buy oils for new, old, tired, high mileage, low mileage, extended interval, specialty duty cycle, high heat, high dust, towing, and I didn’t even throw in synthetics! Many of us old timers just want a 10W-40 and a Budweiser.
The moral to this story is that older engines with remanufactured product require some thought regarding the oil you are using and change intervals. Be sure to do your homework, especially if you are seeing signs of premature wear issues that you have never encountered previously. It could be something as simple as using the wrong oil or perhaps the oil that you are using has had some change made to it for newer applications that your older engines do not appreciate. Also, remember that with your oil a new high-quality filter is a must. Having said that, filtration is another area where some manufacturers have cut corners to enhance margins.
The moral of the story? Do your homework, stay away from cheaper product, be faithful on change intervals and pay attention to what your engine is telling you. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure in keeping your powerplants healthy.