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This was printed in one of the trade publications that I get, I asked for permission to post this here for all to read. Hopefully it will reduce the concerns we have about the reduced zinc concentration in oils currently available.

Where Has All the Zinc Gone?

by John Holle
Working in the technical arena of the lubricants business, much of my time is spent training and answering questions centering on engine oil, transmission fluids, gear lubricants, etc. One subject that continually comes up involves the amount of zinc in motor oils. The questions regarding how much zinc is in motor oil are generally from enthusiasts and/or owners of high-performance engines. There are quite a few myths and legends circulating on this subject. Let’s review some of the frequently asked questions and where they might have originated.

Question: What is the limit on Zinc?

Answer: Currently there is no limit on the amount of “zinc” in engine oils. The reason there is some confusion on zinc limits is due to the anti-wear additive zinc dialkyl dithiophosphate (ZDDP). Zinc dialkyl dithiophosphate is a very effective anti-wear additive. However, there is a limit on the amount of ZDDP that can be used when formulating GF-4 oils because ZDDP does contain phosphorus.

Question: Why did the government make the oil manufacturers take the zinc out of engine oil?

Answer: The government is not involved, and there are no limits on zinc in engine oil. The automobile manufacturers, working with oil companies and additive companies determine what they need as far as engine oil performance in engines. The automobile manufacturers, oil and additive companies also consider input from technical societies, independent laboratories and consumers — in addition to other factors — to help determine the need for engine oil performance. In 2004 ILSAC GF-4 engine oils were introduced. GF-4 oils have a chemical limit of 0.08 percent phosphorous maximum. This was a 20 percent reduction compared to GF-3 oil, which had a maximum limit of 0.10 percent. The reduced phosphorus limit was imposed due to concerns about how these additives interact with the emission control equipment on the cars. Older engines that may develop higher oil consumption may eventually start to expose the emission control equipment, specifically the catalytic converter and the oxygen sensors, to higher levels of phosphorous. This could make the converter and the oxygen sensors less effective thus raising the exhaust emission output, and nobody wants that.

Question: Can GF-4 oil protect my older, stock high performance engine?

Answer: In a word, Yes. GF-4 oils are formulated to protect new and older stock engines. The reduction of ZDDP does NOT translate into increased wear. In fact, the standard industry engine tests that measure valve train wear for which oils are required to pass have gotten tougher to get GF-4 approval.

Question: Can GF-4 oils provide the wear protection required for high performance cams and valve trains?

Answer: There is some concern among performance engine builders and mechanics if GF-4 oils can provide enough wear protection. Valve train components such as camshafts, followers, rocker arms, etc, are areas that are sensitive to wear protection. In other parts of the engine, oil typically prevents wear by providing a hydrodynamic boundary between moving parts. This means that the oil gets between the parts and tries to prevent them from coming into contact with one another. In high-pressure areas, like the cam lobe and follower where the oil boundary cannot prevent metal-to-metal contact, anti-wear additives step in. These anti-wear additives react with the metal surfaces creating a sacrificial chemical coating. This coating is strong enough to keep the parts separated to help reduce wear.
However, before you point the finger at GF-4 oils as the cause of accelerated wear and camshaft failures in newly rebuilt stock engines, these oils are able to pass the current engine wear tests chosen from the American Petroleum Institute. In addition, we are not aware of widespread wear problems with the use of GF-4 oils on all new stock vehicles for the past three years. Many new cars being produced today have very high pressures in the valve train area, and GF-4 oils have provided more than adequate protection.

Question: What are my options for rebuilt, high performance street or race engines?

Answer: If you have a combination of aftermarket aggressive camshafts, stiffer valve springs and sliding followers, then GF-4 oils may not offer enough protection. However, there are high performance motor oils that may offer appropriate wear protection levels for old cars or high performance engines. There are engine oils designed specifically for high performance engines that contain high amounts of ZDDP.

Question: Can using a diesel-rated engine oil give my engine added protection?

Answer: Some aftermarket camshaft manufacturers are recommending the use of diesel engine oils to help reduce the chance of a camshaft failure due to insufficient anti-wear additives. While diesel engine oils can contain higher levels of anti-wear additives and can potentially provide additional protection, there are some issues to consider. Most auto manufacturers have not recommended an SAE 15W-40 oil for use in their engines for quite some time. SAE 15W-40 oils will not provide the fuel economy or oil flow for a vehicle that was designed to use an SAE 5W-20 or SAE 5W-30 motor oil.

The list of questions and answers above about zinc and anti-wear performance is comprehensive. The information discussed can help guide the consumer to feel comfortable with making the right choices about lubrication. It has been over three years since GF-4 oils have been introduced into the market, yet there are still opportunities for learning about the great capabilities of the motor oil.

John Holle is a field technical service manager at SOPUS Products. He provides customer technical support for Pennzoil and Quaker State automotive lubricants and consumer products. SOPUS Products is a leader in the marketing of lubricants, coolants and related services to consumer and business customers.
 

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This article pretty much confirms what I found out elsewhere. The newer formulation oils with lower zinc additives is fine for modern cars and even older cars, when you consider that they mean cars that are ten or fifteen years old. Almost all of these cars will have roller camshaft valvetrains, and so the lower zinc levels should cause no harm.

When you get to the "really" old cars, like our classic Mustangs with the "sliding followers", as he called it, the lower zinc level oils may not provide sufficient wear protection. Since all my cars use non-roller lifters, I am going to stick with the older formulation oils or use a zinc additive package.
 

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In the bulk of the report the author fails to differentiate between roller lifters and flat tappet lifters. This is apparent when he refers to wear tests on modern engines, and represents that the latest oils pass them with flying colors. Because no modern engines of which I am aware use flat tappet lifters, these wear test results are completely irrelevant to the flat tappet issue.

The author more or less redeems himself, albeit in a veiled way, when he mentions "sliding followers." This is a term I have never heard before, but which is an apparent reference to flat tappets. Here's the quote:

"If you have a combination of aftermarket aggressive camshafts, stiffer valve springs and sliding followers, then GF-4 oils may not offer enough protection. However, there are high performance motor oils that may offer appropriate wear protection levels for old cars or high performance engines. There are engine oils designed specifically for high performance engines that contain high amounts of ZDDP."

With that paragraph the author negates the applicability to flat tappets of all the rest of his report. What I get is, yes, to use most modern off-the-shelf GF-4 oils is to risk the destruction of your flat tappet cams and lifters, at least if you use high performance cams and the stiff springs that high performance cams require. Only the Joe Gibb oils, and the Brad Penn oils, and the additives like EOS and STP red and Comp break-in additive -- only all the crutches that most of us already know about -- will give you the level of ZDDP that your flat tappets require.
 

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I'll still be pouring a bottle of EOS with my Shell Rotella since i'm running an agressive flat tappet cam . I've been doing that since the beginning anyways...Whatever my engine builder says...goes.
 

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180 Out said:
In the bulk of the report the author fails to differentiate between roller lifters and flat tappet lifters. This is apparent when he refers to wear tests on modern engines, and represents that the latest oils pass them with flying colors. Because no modern engines of which I am aware use flat tappet lifters, these wear test results are completely irrelevant to the flat tappet issue.
Exactly! This article confirms today's formulations are great for roller cams. I plan on running Comp Break in Lube for now as it is easier to get than EOS.

EOS is a GM product similar to Comp Cam's Break-in lube. You get it from your GM dealer although I though I read it wasn't available any longer.
 

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Thanks for clearing that up. All this time I thought it was a government involvement mandate. Not so, I see.
 

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And now for the GypsyR translation/satire/sarcastic sort of thingy:

Working in the technical arena of the lubricants business, much of my time is spent training and answering questions centering on engine oil, transmission fluids, gear lubricants, etc. (Hmmm, is he an "engineer"? Qualified to techspeak?) One subject that continually comes up involves the amount of zinc in motor oils. The questions regarding how much zinc is in motor oil are generally from enthusiasts and/or owners of high-performance engines. (The people actually building their own engines want to know technically how much XXX is in the oil? Or are they asking why the hell are they lately getting such a higher incidence of cam lobe wipeout when breaking in a non-roller cam?) There are quite a few myths and legends circulating on this subject. (People aren't experiencing increased incidences of flat cam lobes?) Let’s review some of the frequently asked questions and where they might have originated.
Question: What is the limit on Zinc? (Somebody actually asked that? What for? What use is the answer to us? Well OK, impressive sounding numbers are always handy in a discussion I guess. Never mind their relevance.)............
Question: Why did the government make the oil manufacturers take the zinc out of engine oil?

Answer: The government is not involved, and there are no limits on zinc in engine oil. (The EPA does not mandate emission levels of new vehicles have to meet. We and the vehicle manufacturers decided to change the oil formulations to reduce vehicle emissions out of the goodness of our little hearts.) (Err, and it couldn't be that phosphorus levels and ZDDP levels are so closely linked that a mandate to reduce phosphorous levels simply also has the effect of reducing zinc levels and we can't help that? You could just say that.) The automobile manufacturers, working with oil companies (great guys, famous philanthropists they are.) and additive companies determine what they need as far as engine oil performance in engines. (And to meet EPA emissions requirements maybe? Oh yeah, the EPA has NOTHING to do with this. I forgot.) The automobile manufacturers, oil and additive companies also consider input from technical societies, independent laboratories and consumers — in addition to other factors — to help determine the need for engine oil performance. (No input from the EPA or CARB, nope, it was them other folks.) In 2004 ILSAC GF-4 engine oils were introduced. GF-4 oils have a chemical limit of 0.08 percent phosphorous maximum. This was a 20 percent reduction compared to GF-3 oil, which had a maximum limit of 0.10 percent. The reduced phosphorus limit was imposed (Imposed? Yes? Who was it that imposed the limit? Just out of curiousity. I've noticed a certain branch of the government has tendencies to "impose" such things.) due to concerns about how these additives interact with the emission control equipment on the cars. Older engines that may develop higher oil consumption may eventually start to expose the emission control equipment, specifically the catalytic converter and the oxygen sensors, to higher levels of phosphorous. This could make the converter and the oxygen sensors less effective thus raising the exhaust emission output, and nobody wants that. (The EPA and folks like California'a CARB do seem tend to frown on that sort of thing. Not that they have any input on this. Nope.)
Question: Can GF-4 oil protect my older, stock high performance engine?

Answer: In a word, Yes. GF-4 oils are formulated to protect new and older stock engines. The reduction of ZDDP does NOT translate into increased wear. In fact, the standard industry engine tests that measure valve train wear for which oils are required to pass have gotten tougher to get GF-4 approval. (Do any of these tests bear any resemblance or have any relevance to what goes on when someone is "breaking in" a new non-roller camshaft? I somehow doubt it, but what do I know.)
Question: Can GF-4 oils provide the wear protection required for high performance cams and valve trains?

Answer: There is some concern among performance engine builders and mechanics (Mechanics? What do they know. Even though among their duties is to rectify engineering flubs which caused real world failures that the engineers swear couldn't happen because "that didn't happen when we "tested" them under controlled conditions.)if GF-4 oils can provide enough wear protection. Valve train components such as camshafts, followers, (Followers? What is this guy, european?) rocker arms, etc, are areas that are sensitive to wear protection. In other parts of the engine, oil typically prevents wear by providing a hydrodynamic boundary between moving parts. This means that the oil gets between the parts and tries to prevent them from coming into contact with one another. In high-pressure areas, like the cam lobe and follower where the oil boundary cannot prevent metal-to-metal contact, anti-wear additives step in. These anti-wear additives react with the metal surfaces creating a sacrificial chemical coating. This coating is strong enough to keep the parts separated to help reduce wear. (Care to define this "sacrificial chemical coating? It's not largely ZDDP is it? 'Course not.)
However, before you point the finger at GF-4 oils as the cause of accelerated wear and camshaft failures in newly rebuilt stock engines, (Even though people are pointing because they are the only variable that has realistically changed between having the rare cam lobe failure versus multiple ones.) these oils are able to pass the current engine wear tests chosen from the American Petroleum Institute. ("wear tests CHOSEN"...You know, if I can choose my own tests, I can prove myself a genius. As long as I ignore what those folks at MENSA have to say about it.)In addition, we are not aware of widespread wear problems with the use of GF-4 oils on all new stock vehicles for the past three years. ("all new stock vhicles". Yeah if you were having widespread failures on brand new to three year old vehicles everybody would be hearing about it. But since these vehicles are designed to use the new oil formulation they are entirely IRRELEVANT to our concerns.)Many new cars being produced today have very high pressures in the valve train area, (But not flat tappets, eh? Show ME some flat tappets.) and GF-4 oils have provided more than adequate protection. (In engines designed to use these oils.)
Question: What are my options for rebuilt, high performance street or race engines?

Answer: If you have a combination of aftermarket aggressive camshafts, stiffer valve springs and sliding followers, ("Sliding followers"? Ah, maybe he's not european, merely a Ferrari afficionado.) then GF-4 oils may not offer enough protection. (Zounds, YOU THINK? What might some of the efects of "not enough protection?) However, there are high performance motor oils that may offer appropriate wear protection levels for old cars or high performance engines. There are engine oils designed specifically for high performance engines that contain high amounts of ZDDP. (But you just said about six paragraphs back that the new oils were fine for our "older stock engines". Perhaps you are not aware many of these engines were "high performance" right from the factory? Then a paragragh back you inferred that since these oils pass API standards we won't experience cam lobe failures. And we aren't experiencing them anyway as they are among the "myths" alluded to in the opening statement.)
Question: Can using a diesel-rated engine oil give my engine added protection?

Answer: Some aftermarket camshaft manufacturers are recommending the use of diesel engine oils to help reduce the chance of a camshaft failure due to insufficient anti-wear additives. While diesel engine oils can contain higher levels of anti-wear additives and can potentially provide additional protection, there are some issues to consider. Most auto manufacturers have not recommended an SAE 15W-40 oil for use in their engines for quite some time. SAE 15W-40 oils will not provide the fuel economy or oil flow for a vehicle that was designed to use an SAE 5W-20 or SAE 5W-30 motor oil. (15W-40 type oils are FINE for the engines we are concerned with. Once again, late model vehicles/engines are IRRELEVENT to our concerns. There was no such thing as 5W-20 on the parts store shelves 25 years ago. Given that the vehicles over 25 years old ARE relevent to this discussion. 5W-20 is NOT a good oil to use in an old flat tappet V8. 5W-30 is pretty darn iffy. At any rate NO ONE recommends such oils for camshaft break in.) (Funny no mention at all that "diesel" oils are actually no help since they have als been subject to the same phosphorous/zinc reductions as regular motor oils. How come I know that and he doesn't? I don't work for an oil company. I do drive a diesel though. I buy 5W-40 "diesel oil" for it, not 15W-40.)
The list of questions and answers above about zinc and anti-wear performance is comprehensive. (BULLPIES!) The information discussed can help guide the consumer to feel comfortable with making the right choices about lubrication. (Is this guy running or planning to run for political office? Just curious again. I am a consumer and I am no more "comfortable" now than I was yesterday, thank you. )It has been over three years since GF-4 oils have been introduced into the market, yet there are still opportunities for learning about the great capabilities of the motor oil. (No doubt in the long term we will learn the effects of it's extended use over a period of years and under conditions that no one thought to test for. Joy. Call me a pessimist, but....)
John Holle is a field technical service manager at SOPUS Products. He provides customer technical support for Pennzoil and Quaker State automotive lubricants and consumer products. SOPUS Products is a leader in the marketing of lubricants, coolants and related services to consumer and business customers. (If I boil all that down and stir it up, it ends up smelling a whole LOT like "SALESMAN" rather than engineer. Hmm, it would explain a few things.)

But don't mind me, I'm just some guy.
 

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OfnaJoe said:
So should we just go ahead and use syn. oil and forget about it?
yes, especially if you are using Mobil 1 15W-50, which still has a full load of zddp.


Z. Ray
 

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So taking a chance of sounding stupid I have a question on this subject. Without getting all technical about oil are todays 10W-30 oil okay to run in a stock 289?
 

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Yeah exactly, EOS stands for "engine oil supplement " which is still available here in Canada, or at least in the Montreal area, it's made especially for engines needing more zinc and phosphurus content than what conventionnal oil's don't have...Ford use to carry it's own home brand of that same stuff, but they discontinued the product a lond time ago, and now seems that you can only get it at GM dealerships, that's where i get it anyway's....Bought 5 bottles the last time.... just in case...
 

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Not all synthetics have Zinc in them either. If you want an excellent motor oil with a large concentration of zinc, synthetic is the way to go...but do your research. If you buy a NON-API rated synthetic(ie. AMSOIL 20w50/0w30/10w40)they will probably have a good amount of zinc. I know the AMSOIL products do. You dont have to purchase an API rated oil, you dont need it, and it wont void a warranty. Oil companies spend a ton of money to have an API rating on their product, but the API rating is pretty much a joke. Unfortunatey, consumers mostly have the impression that the API oils must be better...not alway the case! Visit www.bobistheoilguy.com and read up on this issue, or visit www.amsoil.com. I would NOT use an SL or SM API rated motor oil with a pushrod engine. Zinc has always worked to prevent wear...why change it?
 

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Joe,

I am sorry I forgot to respond to you on my recommendation for synthetic oil weight. I would recommend the AMSOIL 10w40 or 20w50. If it were a fresh motor, I would recommend AMSOIL 0w20 or 0w30. If you want a price, let me know, I can have it dropped shipped to you in a couple of days.
 

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Kristang2 said:
Joe,

I am sorry I forgot to respond to you on my recommendation for synthetic oil weight. I would recommend the AMSOIL 10w40 or 20w50. If it were a fresh motor, I would recommend AMSOIL 0w20 or 0w30. If you want a price, let me know, I can have it dropped shipped to you in a couple of days.
Hey Dooley, do you allow this kind of advertising on your site?
 

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mikes69mach1 said:
So if one uses EOS or comp break in lube is it ok to use any of the off the shelf oils?
That's what people say.

The thing is, check the "Zn" column in these 2005 oil analysis charts:

http://www.butler-machinery.com/resources/NewOils/New_1.jpg
http://www.butler-machinery.com/resources/NewOils/New_2.jpg
http://www.butler-machinery.com/resources/NewOils/New_3.jpg
http://www.butler-machinery.com/resources/NewOils/New_4.jpg
http://www.butler-machinery.com/resources/NewOils/New_5.jpg
http://www.butler-machinery.com/resources/NewOils/New_6.jpg
http://www.butler-machinery.com/resources/NewOils/New_7.jpg

What you'll see is that the full strength oils for spark ignition motors, like Amsoil, Mobil 1 Extended Performance 15W50, Pennzoil API SJ, Redline, and Royal Purple contain zinc at 1300 to 1400 parts per million. On the other hand, additives like STP "red" and Valvoline Synpower Oil Treatment are about 1700 to 1800 ppm. Obviously, adding six or eight ounces of these to four or five quarts of SM oil with 800 ppm or less is not going to boost the zinc to the full strength level of 1300 to 1400 ppm. EOS has 8000 ppm zinc, so a bottle of EOS will do the job. But what I'm seeing on the web lately is that you can't buy EOS anymore.

Personally, I'm using something called "Z dd Plus." According to its web site http://www.zddplus.com/ it takes only one 4 0z bottle of Z dd Plus to bump up SM oil to an 1800 ppm level, but it takes two 16 oz bottles of EOS to do the same.
 

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I have wiped out a cam last year.
I think the wiped cam problems are a combo of three things.
1. Lack of ZDDP in oil during breakin period
2. Offshore made cam cores
3. The cam lobe profiles are more aggressive than ever, making proper break in more critical than in years past.

What was my solution?
A hydraulic roller cam. I can't afford to wipe another one out.
 
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