Motor oil

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    I am changing the oil in my 8cyl. Model 54 and I would like to know what would be the best oil to use. I read the original owner’s manual, which stated the engine takes 30w, but which should be used, detergent or non-detergent?


    Ryan Riggin



    If the engine has not been completely cleaned inside including the oil passages in the crankshaft, use non-detergent SAE 30.



    Non-detergent 30W is available at NAPA,

    Shell Rotella 30W, a detergent oil marketed for diesel engines, is available at Walmart.

    Both have anti-wear zinc (ZDDP) levels consistent with pre-1980’s motor oil but now almost totally removed from modern gas engine oil.



    My limited knowledge tells me detergent oil is to be used in cars with an oil filter that removes the dirt as the oil passes through the filter. Detergent oil holds dirt in suspension so it can pass it through the filter. Non-detergent oil will pick up dirt, but when the car sits idle the dirts drops out of suspension into the bottom of the crank case, allowing minimally dirty oil to recycle into the engine when you start it up again. But then you get what we call Pierce Turds in the bottom of the crank case that will need to be cleaned out occasionally. Someone correct me if I have started a new myth here.


    Since the engine has not been cleaned in the last 30 years, I will use the non-detergent oil. Thanks Paul, Stuart, and Richard!


    Valvoline VR-1 Racing oil also has zinc and is available at NAPA as well. It does come in different “weights”” too.”



    I thought that both Rotella and Dello had to finally remove the zinc when the diesels got cats. Jim L



    I just spoke with a Shell Oil Tech Guy and he told me that Zinc remains in the Rotella T1, but it is reduced from years past.

    I asked him about using Zinc additives and he was positive about adding that to standard single-weight motor oil, including Rotella T1.

    He was pushing multi-weight oil, but was willing to understand my / our position on the single-weight oil.

    I trust that this info helps.



    Did Pierce use roller tappets in all the later cars, as in my Series 80?


    In ’33 they went to hydraulic tappets, a first I believe.


    Thanks for the info Jim,

    Rotella used to be the go-to solution; a Google search provides validation toward your suggestion of Valvoline VR-1 and it’s available in 30W.

    Classic Car Motor Oil, available through the IN Region CCCA, is a 15W40 multi-weight option, too. It’s specially made by D-A Lubricants Co. in Indianapolis with a very high zinc level.



    The Valvoline VR1 Racing Oil, SAE-30W contains; 1,400-ppm of Zinc and 1,300-ppm of Phosphorus.

    Ditto with their 40W, 50W and 60W oils.

    Boy, I love doing online research!



    I have been running VR-1 for twenty years.


    It sounds like I can’t go wrong with the valvoline. I appreciate the thoughtful and thorough responses by PAS members. I will have plenty more questions as I start to delve deeper into lubricating of the car. I am going to try and stop several leaks the best I can.

    Best regards,




    I’m glad you are enjoying the car and learning all you can. Good luck.

    Two things:

    I believe VR-1 is a detergent oil, if so at minimum you should drop the pan and check for status of sludge.

    If you drive a vintage car with any frequency, having no oil leaks at all probably indicates that you are out of oil.

    Dave Stevens


    This is one of these fascinating topics that is filled with old-wives’ tales, myths, voodoo, and some science. I am also not an expert, and I am sure there are others here on the site with more knowledge than I have but I have tried to gather as much information as possible on the topic. I completely agree with Richard’s review of the topic. “Detergent” oils suspend the dirt that can then be trapped in the oil filter. Non-detergent oils “drop” the dirt in the oil pan which needs to then be dropped regularly to remove as he put it the “PA turds”. I am not aware of any source information that demonstrates that detergent oils actually “clean” sludge from an engine. I do agree that the oil pan should be dropped and cleaned when a car is first acquired to start at a baseline and make sure the oil can flow to the oil pump. Also, detergent oils are multi-grade (which I think is a good thing) so cause less wear on the engine at start-up and in different temperatures and conditions. So, I use multi-grade detergent oil in my cars. I agree with the recommendation of using Valvoline VR1. I use the 20W-50 grade.



    David White pretty-much covered the topic as I was planning, so I erased the paragraph I drafted in favor of “ditto””. Keep it full of clean oil and try not to worry so much that you can’t enjoy it. It will be OK.”


    What about cleaning the crud out of the rod journals on this car before he runs it……free flow though all those parts seems critical…???



    All good points. I have not found anything on the additive package in VR-1. To deal with the concern for moisture and acid buildup in the oil, I have made it a rule that I always drive my cars at least 1 hour (continuously) to get them up to temperature every time I take one out. I have been assured by many individuals that that should be more than enough time to get my engine up to operating temperature and burn off all acids and moisture. Valvoline has an 800-number tech line. I am tempted to call and ask about this issue. If I do, I will report back.

    As for the ZDDP, Two points. First, I agree that our PA engines do not need the ZDDP. Second, I am not in the same quandary as you for your other car. All my post-war collectible cars are pre-catalytic converter. My understanding is that 800ppm is sufficient as an anti-wear agent. However, again that is based on no documented data, just hearsay, but I want to believe them so I am just going along with it.

    The other point that has been brought up to me is the fact that the number of miles we put on our cars and thus the limited amount of wear on the engine (as long as we are not talking about running it for only 5-10 minute at a time) along with the improved quality of motor oils in general suggests that we should worry less and enjoy the driving experience more! I try and put on at least 1000 miles per year on each of my cars. That should be a lot of years before I will start wearing out my engine. This might be wishful thinking, but most likely a worn-out engine will be the next caretaker problem. If not, then I guess I will be rebuilding my engine one day.

    Yes, we plan on attended the winter meet in Williamsburg. Looking forward to seeing you there.


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