Are new lubricants good for older cars?

How long have you owned your vehicle? Buying a new car is expensive, so many of us drive our cars for as long as they will last. The average age of a vehicle in North America is higher than it has ever been, at 11.6 years old. The length of car ownership is 6.6 years. Cars are being built to run longer than ever before, but older engines may not be up to the challenge. To ensure a long engine life, you need to select the right lubricants to keep things running smoothly.

The testing and manufacturing equipment for engine oils s designed for the latest engine technology, which can present a problem for owners of older vehicles, especially classic car owners. Lubricants designed for older engines are gradually phased out as finding the right equipment to test and produce older oils is costly and difficult. Instead, manufacturers claim that you should be able to use new engine oils in older engines, but there is still some debate about that.

The lubrication needs of older engines are different. There are some special considerations to be aware of if you have a vehicle with older engine technology such as:
 Older engines are designed for 3000-mile drain intervals, not the 5,000 or 10,000-mile intervals standard in newer cars.
 Older engines are less efficient and take longer to warm up and start.
 Older engines are less powerful. Many four-cylinder engines today are as powerful as an older eight-cylinder engine.

These technology differences present real lubrication issues. If you are searching for the right products for your older car, there are a few factors to consider:
Phosphorus levels: ISLAC put a cap on phosphorus levels in engine oils in 1992 at 1,200 parts per million. This standard dropped even further over the years to the current limit of 800 ppm in 2004. Phosphorus levels were deemed to mess up emissions control technologies. Lower levels of phosphorus can be a concern for owners of older vehicles because of reduced wear protection. To combat this problem, manufacturers turned to an additive called ZDDP, which is an anti-wear and corrosion inhibitor. This additive was also phased out because of toxicity to humans and wildlife, as well as damaging engine catalytic converters. Many owners believe that newer oils don’t provide the wear protection that their engines require like former products with higher phosphorous levels and ZDDP did.
Lower viscosity levels: Engine oils are becoming thinner and thinner to improve fuel economy. This can be hard on older engines which are not designed for these oils and have large deposits and buildups from years of use.

The biggest concerns about using new oils in older engines are wear protection, oxidation, deposit and sludge control, emissions system protection, and oil pumpability for cold weather starts. Gordon Farnsworth, the former head of the ASTM Sequence V Engine Test for 25 years has said that “by far, wear protection is the main area of concern for most and the one area experts will likely spend the most time evaluating.”

So can you use newer oils in your older vehicle? Yes and no. You still want to make sure that you are selecting the right viscosity grade for your engine. The industry is working to educate consumers on this issue. Labeling will be introduced on GF-6B oils to let consumers know what oils to avoid for older engines. Changing your oil more often is also a great way to extend the life of your engine. Try for 3,000-mile intervals. You will also need to pay attention to the needs of your engine. Talk to your mechanic about the best products to use.

Since the inventory of older oils is diminishing, manufacturers are designing synthetic oils to meet the needs of older vehicles. Chevron offers oils specifically designed for high mileage that provide better wear protection. Over time engine sludge builds up, which reduced engine wear. This issue can affect engine performance and emissions. Typical motor oil may not meet the needs of a higher mileage vehicle with build-up and deposits.

As a fuel and lubricants supplier, we are here to help you find the right products for your engines. We have an extensive inventory and knowledgeable staff that can find what you need. Provide us with the details of your vehicles, and we can recommend selections to keep your engine in top shape. Your car should last with proper maintenance and care and by selecting the right lubricants. If you have any questions, call us and ask. We are always happy to help and to talk about your lubricant needs!