Oil is cheap. So a simple answer would be, “Use the best oil you can buy and change it often”.
But it’s not that simple. Sometime in 2004, the feds ordered the oil companies to start phasing out most of the zinc additive because zinc would destroy the new design catalytic converter. It is now 2008 and the latest and greatest oils (designated class SM) contains little zinc. This change has little effect on modern auto engines since the auto industry has redesigned the valve trains to perform with little zinc additive.
The Model T Ford engine has flat lifters and a valve train and cam that thrives on copious amounts of Zinc additive. The Model T transmission (also lubricated with the engine oil) uses bronze bearing bushings throughout and also thrives with copious amounts of zinc additive. Mechanical engineers tell us the triple gear bronze bushings are outside the design range and only survive if excessive clearance provided. Modern speeds have exacerbated this condition.
Some well meaning Model T folks like to point out that the light valve springs may eliminate the need for the zinc additive. Zinc additive wasn’t available in Henry’s day and just check the excessive wear on the valve train of most any worn Model T engine. The lifters heavily indented by the valve stems and the cam heavily worn. It is not unusual to see both worn as much as 1/16th of an inch. Note this was all done with light valve springs. Just because the zinc additive wasn’t available in Henry’s day doesn’t mean we don’t need it today to guard against excessive wear on our Model T valve trains and transmission bushings.
Any potential problem from low Zinc additive may be resolved by using 3 quarts of 5W 30 motor oil and 1 quart of transmission fluid. The transmission fluid has more than enough Zinc additive to resolve the early wear concerns in both the engine and transmission. Plus the transmission fluid will be good for your bands.
Excellent!! And I just know Seth couldn't be happier! He's been preaching about that brew forever! I think for a T, it makes good sense. I use Rotella T Fleet oil in my regular ('60's--'80's) vehicles, and EOS ZDDP additive as well. I've heard about a lot of fairly late model vehicles having camshaft problems lately...Crane Cams had an article about a huge increase in failure rates in the past couple of years, all due to too little ZDDP in our oil. The new oil is good for Catalytic Converters, and good for the economy, too: cause all the "dirty old cars" to fail, scrap them out, send the metal abroad, and then we can buy brand new Dihawhatsits from the Chinese!. Oh well...they say "change is good"....I guess I'll "change" into my coveralls and go drive the T!!!
How does the 5w30 with 1 qt ATF compare with 15w40 SL?
Santa Fe, NM
For the longest time I used SAE 30 in my T, but I've recently switched to Rotella 10w-40 in both my T and my 65 Coronet which also has solid lifters. The multi-vis oil sure makes the crank easier when cold!!!
Will any transmission fluid work or is one better than another?
Now you've done it Tom!!You've gone and stirred up yet another hornet's nest of opinions and testimonials. Shame on you!!!
Well, it's a Ford. What about Type F?
What extreme pressure additive does ATF add to the oil. It is known as a cleaner, but I still wonder about the above question.
Mr.Fred Houston: I thank you again & again for re-building my transmission in the '26 Runabout.
After running on regular oil for 1K miles on a rebuilt motor, I changed to Mobil One synthetic. I now use Mobil One 5W40 ( SL rated ) Diesel Oil, advertised to have the highest level of ZDDP additive. Aware of the need for anti-wear additives on flat lifter engines I opted for the Mobil One synthetic. Easier hand crank starting & no worries with high temperature oil lubrication.
Thanks again for your help. You're the best !!
Also the General Motors additive " EOS " I've been told has been discontinued. That additive had the ZDDP anti-wear to protect against
flat lifter/cam lobe wear.
Whatever is in the Mobil One 5W40 Diesel Oil also prevents wood liner chatter.
See, didn't stir up anything, not even an answer of any kind.......
Actually, my question about Type F was sort of tongue in cheek, but I really would like to know the answer. I've seen people mention Mercon and Dexron, but I've never seen anyone say if Type F would work or not. My wife has a '67 Mustang that used to have a pretty bad tranny leak, so I have several quarts of Type F around. I got the leak fixed, so I have little need for all the Type F. I have thought about putting it in the TT when it was a quart low, but have never had to guts to do it. I use 10W-30 and have no band chatter, so I really never had any need to put any ATF in there, but the discussion of the zinc has me thinking I should try it. So what do you think about Type F?
Are 30w oils too heavy for the T?
This whole zinc adding hysteria is a waste of time concerning Model T's...Kinda like distributors vs coils...
I find your attitude not in the best interest of the Model T longevity. If you were a registered member, I would find more portinance to your response.
I've been told to stick with 30 weight non-detergent and not to change oil types unless the engine has been rebuilt. Can I drain the oil and go directly to Seth's Brew or should I stick with 30w non-detergent? Thanks, Robert
In the days of Dexron and Type F, the Type F was for Fords. It did not have the slipperiness of Dexron and using Dexron in a Ford automatic would cause slippage very quickly. Most automatic transmission shops used Type F in General Motors transmissions to help them last longer with firmer shifts and less slippage. I was told many years ago that GM wanted Dexron because they did not want the customer to feel the harsh shifts. I have been using Type F in all of older cars for years without any problems and I like the firmness of the transmission with this. Just my humble opinion, your mileage may vary.
Sticking with the same brand of oil was the norm years ago/................ with the advances in oil lubrication I doubt it would hold true. No oil formulation of present is of the same formulation during the Model T days. Modern cars have roller lifters and can use the SM rated oils.
The newer engines require the newer "SM" rated oils....... Gotta read the labels !!!!
Our flat lifter/cam lobe T engines need the extra anti-wear additives developed after the T era for longevity...... for our grandkids to enjoy ( If there's any gasoline around ). You have to read the rating labels on the oil package. "SL" rated oils were the last to have the full compliment of ZDDP anti-wear additive for flat lifter engines.
I for one use a SL rated oil, Mobil One 5W40 Diesel that has the most zinc/phosphorus additive advertised. The engine was rebuilt in 2002, and now has about 3K miles.... cranks easily by hand or electric starter using magneto power.
I'd say "go for it " !! 5W30, 5W40 regular or synthetic.
Once again Fred thanks for the tip on oil. I would never have thought of it & have always used regular motor oil.
Edward R. Levy
There is only reduced ZDDP in some modern oils. The ones to avoid if you are concerned about ZDDP are any synthetic oil, diesel oils made in the past 6 months and in the future, and any oil with the rating of GF4 (or higher) on the label. GF 3 marked oil cans have over 1000 PPM, oils marked GF4 have less than 800 PPM.
Oils that still have the full qoutient of ZDDP are those marked for "High Mileage" cars, and racing oils.
Personally I think sludge is much more of a culprit in failure of Model T engines. Using non detergent oil guarantees that the inside of your engine will be caked with waxy residue and will cause oil to be unable to reach areas needing lubrication. There is no reason to buy or use non detergent motor oil.
Fred I have original cams in two of my cars that measure to be worn very little. They ran at least 42 years before ZDDP was introduced in motor oil.
For the record: the brew that Fred mentions above is not "Seth's Brew" - more of a "Forum Brew" in my opinion because I learned of it here.
Dexron III/Mercon or D/M ATF is petroleum based with in excess of 10,000 ppm ZDDP. Using a whole quart of it per oil change will increase the ZDDP level of the blend some 2,500 ppm.
Diesel engine oils may already contain over 1000 ppm ZDDP.
Racing oils contain some 2500 ppm ZDDP.
What level of ZDDP is "enough"? Will too much hurt anything? Is wear of high contact stress components inversely proportional to ZDDP concentration?
I don't know the answers to these questions but I do run 25% D/M fluid in my car and it hasn't hurt anything that I know of.
One US pint added to diesel engine oil would provide ZDDP levels similar to those in racing oils. Enough? Certainly, if you are comparing to T-era oils that had none.
The subject is a personal preference one and there will be as many lines in the sand as there are opinions.
Seth I don't have a problem if you want to use ATF, that's your deal. All I am saying is that there is a full load of ZDDP in many off the shelf oils available for ordinary prices that accomplish the same thing without having to think about it.
Valvoline, Pennzoil, Quaker State, to name just a few major brands, all have "High Mileage Blend" oils that state on the label "for older cars and trucks". These oils have 1200 PPM of ZDDP, the level specified by the auto makers at the height of the high performance horsepower wars. They are often the cheapest name brand motor oils on the shelf.
Thanks for all the varying opinions to my question. Appears one thing almost all agree on is that the higher zinc levels are good and there are a variety of ways to get it in the crankcase.
I think that is all I wanted to know. Sorry for the contest that got started.
The question, which I'm sure will remain unanswered is, "Is an off-the-shelf motor oil with full load ZDDP as good as motor oil plus ATF at preventing wear in a model T engine?"
If all it takes to prevent wear in a model T engine is 1500 ppm, then yes.
If 3000 ppm is better than 1500 ppm, then no, it isn't as good.
Please don't forget that at the height of the high performance horsepower wars, that engine oils were made to lubricate engines, not engine/transmission packages. Transmissions, if manual were filled with 90 weight gear oil, if automatic were filled with petroleum ATF with lots of ZDDP. Later, even manual transmissions began to use ATF.
If you want an off-the-shelf motor oil for your model T and don't want to mix ATF, then motorcycle oils designed for wet sump pre-catalyst motorcycle engines with transmissions and wet clutches makes more sense to me.
None of the oils at my local Auto Zone have the SL rating (as far as I can tell, and I read the back of each individual type).
A quart of their store brand Dexron III is now cheaper that a quart of Castrol 10W-30, so I can't see that money is an object.
As it turns out the SL rating has nothing to do with the amount of ZDDP in oil. The "S" stands for "Spark" as in spark ignition, meaning the oil is suitable for gasoline powered engines.
The thing to look for is the G rating. This set of standards is to comply with energy conservation standards set by Congress. The rating of GF4 or GF5 shows that ZDDP has been cut to allow for longer life of the catalytic converter. Many of these oils have higher spark ratings too, but the spark rating does not affect the ZDDP content.
It is also important to know that ATF is designed to be used in transmissions, not engines. So ATF may have a lot of ZDDP but it lacks other qualities that are desirable in a motor oil.
A backyard chemist might assume something is a good idea. Motor oil engineers have to prove their good ideas. There is a difference.
I wrote an email to Valvoline asking for their engineer's recommendations for Model T oil use. I will share it when they respond.
For those of you that like the idea of lots of ZDDP, like to change your oil often and are interested in super low cost:
Seth's 10W-25 Red Oil - from Wal-Mart
3 quarts Super Tech 10W-30 (SM) $1.74 each
1 quart Super Tech High Mileage ATF (D/M) $2.18
$7.40 plus tax ($8.04 here)
Maximum ZDDP/dollar in my opinion. If it trashes my engine, I'll let you know.
Your question "Is an off-the-shelf motor oil with full load ZDDP as good as motor oil plus ATF at preventing wear in a model T engine" is the question I sent to the Ashland Oil Company engineer. I am not an oil company engineer and am not qualified to comment on the question. That's why I use motor oil in my motors, and transmission fluid in my automatic transmissions.
According to the GM Parts Direct website, EOS is still available:
Enter part number 88862586
Wow! I got an answer from Mr. T.L Montgomery at Ashland Oil (Valvoline). Here it is:
"To begin with, mixing ATF with the oil is not helping you at all. There isn't enough ZDDP in ATF to boost levels. The oils that we have that have the most ZDDP, and that is generally recommended for most flat tappet and even more aggressive cam applications, is our Valvoline VR1 Racing Oils. These oils have as much ZDDP as any oils that we make, they will be fine for your applications, and they will be fine for the change intervals you have listed."
There you have it.
That's fine with me. No argument here at all. It's your car and you are free to fill it with whatever you like.
I prefer to fill mine with what Fred recommended above except that I use 10W-30 instead of 5W-30. I simply agreed with his recommendation and I stated why I agreed with it.
Fred and I could both be very wrong but it would probably be a long time before we knew it. Both of us obviously feel like mixing ATF with engine oil is not going to cause an allergic reaction inside the engine because it hasn't so far.
We are all entitled to our opinions whether we are lubricant chemists or not and we are free to post them here. I don't see this as any argument that is looking for a victor.
The Valvoline engineer stated there is not enough ZDDP in ATF to make a difference. This is not an opinion.
You guys should do a bit more research before stating something that is not factual. You are welcome to your opinion. Stating that ATF is a good idea because it has a lot of ZDDP is simply not true. That's not stating an opinion, it is being factually wrong.
Got to where I can't remember what I had for breakfast, let alone some other stuff. I do remember that in the 50's (?) that Chrysler (?) in their Plymouth or Dodge cars used a common "sump" for both engine and transmission oil. I just can't remember which or what, but I do remember a guy I worked with that had one griped when he had to change oil, and that was back when it was dirt cheap, but we were lucky to get a $1.00 an hour, $5.00 a day was more like it. Don't remember that there was any hue or cry about running motor oil in an automatic transmission.
You win. My apologies. I read here on this forum and elsewhere that Dexron III/Mercon contained more than 1% ZDDP, or some 10,000 ppm.
I guess it depends on what you read or who you ask.
scroll down to top of page 5 - right before otem 12
"This product contains approximately 0-1.5% of a zinc alkyl dithiophosphate (ZDDP) additive."
In other words there is some amount of ZDDP in the product that is greater than zero or less than 1.5%. I found similar information on the Valvoline MSDS which is why I sent an email to get clarification on the actual amount.
Maybe Mr ZDDP (Seth? LOL) could send an email to Superamerica and ask the same question.
Royce: What is the starburst rating on the high mileage oils you suggested we use. My understanding is, if the rating is SM the oil will have only minimum levels of Zinc?
Here is a copy of the question that I asked Valvoline several months ago and the reply that I received:
My hobby is restoring and driving a 1924 Model T Touring car and a 1926 Model T Tudor. I have always used SAE 30 Valvoline in my engines. My question is with new EPA regulations will there be any effect in my old engines? Poured babbit bearings, bronze bushings etc. I would think that most all oils manufactured today would be better than oils manufactured in the 1920's however there has been some question as to the effects of these new oils in an old engines with lower levels of zinc and other materials in the oil. What is your position? Thanks in advance.
Here is the answer I received:
All Valvoline motor oils are still compatible to older engines, and will not cause any damages. The oil industry per ILSAC had to only decrease the levels of ZDDP (Zinc) in certain viscosity to meet new emission standards. The ILSAC rated oils still have an average of .085 levels of zinc. Testing has shown on standard OEM set ups that used mild camshafts will still get plenty of protection from the new rated oils. There is an exception when it comes to extreme aftermarket applications. If you have a high performance solid lifter set up with an aggressive cam then you will need to use a quality Racing Oil or Fleet Oil for break in and normal usage. These oils have an increased level of Zinc that will range from .14 to .16 and will provide plenty of protection.
The consensus in the industry is that the current chemical limits of the GF-4/SM category are still sufficient to protect all "street" engines, including older flat tappet roller engines. The engine tests required for a GF-4/SM product is just as severe as the older, higher ZDDP allowed category. For the special applications (aggressive cams, high HP racing motors, etc) where the customer needs more ZDDP protection, our NON-GF-4 products still contain the higher levels (such as VR-1 and "not street legal" racing).
Fred, (I copied much of this from Wikipedia.com)
The API "donut" is divided into three parts. The top half-circle lists the API service rating, or performance level. The center of the circle is the viscosity. And the lower half-circle indicates whether the oil has demonstrated certain energy-conserving properties.
The API service classes have two general classifications: S for "Service" (orgininating from Spark ignition) (typical passenger cars and light trucks using gasoline engines) and C for "Commercial" (orginating from Compression ignition) (typical diesel equipment). Note that the API oil classification structure has eliminated specific support for wet-clutch motorcycle applications in their descriptors, and API SJ and newer oils are referred to be specific to automobile and light truck use. Accordingly, motorcycle oils are subject to their own unique standards. The latest API service standard designation is SM for gasoline automobile and light-truck engines. The SM standard refers to a group of laboratory and engine tests, including the latest series for control of high-temperature deposits. Current API service categories include SM, SL and SJ for gasoline engines. All previous service designations are obsolete, although motorcycle oils commonly still use the SF/SG standard. There are seven diesel engine service designations which are current: CJ-4, CI-4 Plus, CI-4, CH-4, CG-4, CF-2, and CF. All others are obsolete. It is possible for an oil to conform to both the gasoline and diesel standards. Engine oil which has been tested and meets the API standards may display the API starburst symbol with the service designation on containers sold to oil users.
Actually the S rating (SI, SJ, SK etc) is unrelated to ZDDP although it is true most SM rated oils have lower just because they are newer. It is actually the "G" rating (G1, G2, G3, G4 etc) marking that signifies the reduced ZDDP content. Often an oil with the marking SM will also have a G3 or G4 rating. But not always. In other cases - diesel type oils for example - there is no SM rating on some of the bulk types.
The lower box is the ILSAC Energy Conservation rating. The International Lubricant Standardization and Approval Committee (ILSAC) latest standard is GF-4 which lowers ZDDP to 800 PPM or less.
Mike - based on what I read and know I totally agree. High performance flat tappet racing camshafts in 6000 RPM V8 engines need high ZDDP because they have relatively soft cast iron camshafts and soft cast iron lifters operating at extreme spring pressures. This is not the case in a Model T. Even the Model T gear box has - again in my opinion - far less stress than one of these cam shafts.
ZDDP won't hurt anything and for sure if it is important and you can afford it then seek it out and use it. EOS is a good source of ZDDP. A 16 can of EOS costing $14 is not cheap though.
Respectfully, Royce, you mentioned that oil engineers produce what is best for cars. That is an incorrect assumption, and those who believe that they work in our best interest are like sheep being led to slaughter.
Oil companies and other manufacturers are choked to death by EPA and other government regulations, and forced to engineer products that are first and foremost designed to satisfy Al Gore types. If it lubricates an engine after all that is done, then they sell it as motor oil.
Same goes with the demise of leaded fuel. As a 50's-60's Buick enthusiast, I along with others were forced to install expensive hardened seats and valves to prevent damage from the missing lead in gasoline. Engineers made the fuel to satisy our glorius government. There was no, and still is no, concern for our vintage engines in the government. Therefore, the major manufacturers can have little concern either since even if they make something that is a fix all, the government won't let them sell it.
Respectfully, I did not say that in any way shape or form.
Royce: I think what I read was that if it has an SM rating, it has minimal Zinc and will not harm the newer catalytic converters.
That's not what I want in my Model T Ford.
Can we identify an ATF that has the high level of Zinc?
I like the Non-Chattering oil from Sears. LOL
Or you could just go to Walmart and get the SF rated ACCEL 10-40 for cars '88 and older.
But then it's a $1.33 a qt. now and we don't want to use cheap oil do we?
I never see much in there at a time but I always pick up a few quarts when I go in.
Actually the SL oils are low on ZDDP, the SM oils are REAL low.
At work we use SL oils and a 1/2 bottle of Crane Cam additive on the broke-in engines.
Sl oils are getting hard to find.
We may no need the additive, but I aint taken no chances.
By browsing through the link given us by Mr ZDDP I found that the diesel oils have as much as 2.2% zinc whereas gas oils have 0.7-1.0% zinc.
Delo and Rotella are rated for diesel and are what I use in all of my cars. This is available from Wal Mart and other similar places.
Anybody know how much zinc is in the racing additives?
The same link gave no specific zinc content except for one which was the same as gas oil. Others show 5-7% non-specific additives.
I have found the above observations on oil to be both interesting & valuable to those of us who wish to provide our engines with the best lubrication possible. The level of details have led me to believe that if we were to devote as much attention to solving conflicts between men & nations there would soon be peace on earth.
For many years I have heard that oil is oil & that as long as its a major brand its all going to do a good job. I now feel more enlightened as to the complexities of the process.
Edward R. Levy
Even more respectfully, Royce () My apologies for mis-quoting you. I wasn't venting at you or disagreeing, but venting frustrations at the big thumb pressing down on all of us My post resulted from reading the following quote and misinterpreting it;
"Motor oil engineers have to prove their good ideas. There is a difference.
I wrote an email to Valvoline asking for their engineer's recommendations for Model T oil use."
Again Royce, not taking sides on the oil issue or even offering an opinion. Just took something you said and found an opportunity to blow off a little steam at the powers that be that need to get their head out of their ass and give the small percentage of vintage auto enthusiasts a break. Sorry for mis-quoting.
I am just trying to make the point that an oil company engineer, or almost anybody for that matter, knows more than I do about this subject. I am limited to looking on their web sites and reading and copying information.
Diesel motor oils packaged for consumer use (quarts) made after January of this year are made with reduced ZDDP because of Federal law. You can still get that much if you buy a 55 gallon drum or in some cases gallon containers.
The key is to look at the API seal and be sure it does NOT say GF3 or GF4 or higher.
The Walmart SuperTech 15W-40 4 qt jug I have in the garage has API Service CI-4 thru CF-4 and CF/SL. Is that OK? It does not have any GF numbers.
I appreciate discussions like this one
That sounds like diesel oil, based on the "C" rating markings meaning commercial, IE diesel powered.
If it is detergent oil in a can in my opinion it is OK for Model T Fords. The oil you bought probably has ZDDP in the above 1000 PPM range based on the lack of GF markings. The SL rating is the older automotive spec that has been superceded for new car warrranties as of 2004. I keep saying probably because only the manufacturer can tell you for sure.
I would not say this makes any difference in a Model T, but if it makes a difference to you then congratulations.