View Full Version : Oil questions

03-28-2014, 11:36 PM
I recently inherited a 55 with a 292 and can't ask my father the previous owner what oil to use. I've searched around the internet and unfortunately opinions are varying and I just want to ensure that I'm treating it right.

03-29-2014, 12:02 AM
Hi Sean, If you check out the Technical Resource Library (TRL) you will find this information regarding oil and oil filters that we use on our Tbirds. Here is that link.


That will take you to that subject. To view the TRL at any time, just look for any post I have made, or click on my user id and it will show you my signature element. At the bottom of it, you will always find the link to the TRL.

03-29-2014, 01:04 AM
Sean, I have a 292 Y-block in our '59 Galaxie. I use Shell Rotella-T 15W-40 oil. Because these engines are flat tappet, they need ZDDP (zinc & phosphorous). 15W-40 has 1,000 parts per million, which is about as much as you can find in any modern oil. High concentrations of ZDDP are usually found in racing oils or oil with '40' or more in the numbers.

Auto parts stores also carry additives that boost ZDDP. You can use the additive with just about any good name-brand oil.

Do a google search for oil that is safe for flat tappet engines. Just about all classic car engines are in the same boat so all the different brand car owners are looking for oil that won't wear out their camshafts.

Our Y-blocks have 'solid lifters' which means we adjust the lash as part of a major tune-up. Hope this helps. - Dave

03-29-2014, 09:17 PM
You can use any 10/20 or 20/50 oil with no worries as well as the previously mentioned 15/40 Rotella T. All these have enough ZDDP for a Yblock

Do not use any oil marked "For Gasoline Engines Only" This oil is for late model roller engines.

Dan Leavens
03-30-2014, 06:38 PM

I have used an oil made by BOSS Lubricants on both the 58 & 60 here in Canada which is very high in Zinc content. Do an oil change every spring before crusin season. I believe I pay $60.00 + tax a carton ( 12 )Don't know if it is distributed outside Canada or not. Worth every penny:D

03-31-2014, 08:29 PM
Dan where do you purchase your boss, I'm just up the road in Edmonton. What weight do you use

04-01-2014, 06:44 PM
I talked to a salesperson at boss lubricants and they produce a high ZDDP oil specifically for classic cars. However they don't sell it rather it is all wholesale to 3rd parties. But they did call me right back and give me some of the distributors in the area. They are a Canadian company but they do sell in the US

Dan Leavens
04-02-2014, 08:31 AM
Sean glad to hear that you hooked up with someone from Boss. Are you a member of the Edmonton TBird Club?? If so they will have info on this oil and IF NOT you can let them know for other members:D

04-04-2014, 09:23 PM
I just saw in my prior response I said 10/20 -- this should have been 10/40.

You don't have to buy special oils. Ordinary over the counter oils will do. I run Rotella T 15/40 in my 56, have made two trips from NJ to the west coast using this oil plus a lot of other trips to various CTCI conventions and locally. Absolutely no problems using this oil. I also use Rotella in my 312 powered 54 Ford (Newly rebuilt engine) and had no problems.

Same with my other cars with flat tappet cams. I use Castrol 20/50 in my 48 Ford (302 powered, non roller) and have made trips all over the east coast with no adverse effects.

You have to remember - the oils in the 50 and 60's had a lot less ZDDP than the oils we have today, even with reduced amounts, and there was no problems with camshafts back then.

Again, never use in a flat tappet engine those oils which say "For Gasoline Engines Only".

Dakota Boy
04-04-2014, 09:32 PM
Brad Penn oil is what I use.

04-05-2014, 05:15 AM
Folks get very sensitive about their oil brands, and I'm not going to get into that discussion.

The most common antiwear additives used in engines are zinc dialkyldithiophosphates (ZDDPs), which have the chemical formula Zn[S2P(OR)2]2, where R is an alkyl group. ZDDPs have successfully been used for over 60 years, and to date no superior antiwear additive has been developed for use on steel.

ZDDP has an excellent track record at protecting the sliding metal-to-metal cam lifter interface. Historically, ZDDP has been added to oils in amounts resulting in approximately 0.15% phosphorus and 0.18% zinc.

ZDDP protects by creating a film on cams and flat lifter contact points in response to the extreme pressure and heat at the contact point. The film of zinc and phosphorus so formed provides a sacrificial wear surface protecting the base metal of the cam and lifter from wear. In the course of normal service, this conversion of ZDDP to elemental zinc and phosphorus depletes the ZDDP level in the oil.

Synthetic oils are excellent for not breaking down under high temperatures. That is what they were designed for, not better lubrication. So, if your engine has no turbo charger heat, you're wasting money on high temp oil.

ZDDP has been removed from common engine oil because it attacks your catalytic converter, and modern engines do not have flat tappets, so they really don't need ZDDP. Classic cars DO. When our engines were designed in the 1950s and 60s, oil formulation contained lots of ZDDP and it did a good job of lubricating.

The internet is full of good info about our classic car engines of every brand. We're all in the same boat. The only ones quiet about ZDDP levels are the oil companies. They really don't want you to know current levels in their modern oils, and to search for hard facts is like pulling teeth. I recently asked an STP rep what the levels were in his oil treatment products. He said, the ZDDP levels were more than we need, but he refused to give me any numbers. All I know is, many products that used to have high ZDDP levels are gone, now. They were either reformulated or were taken off the market.

Again, oils with '40' or more in the numbers or 'racing' oils are most likely to have 1,000 (or more) ppm ZDDP.

Protect your engine by researching current ZDDP levels in the oil you use. Find the real facts. If your oil simply doesn't give ZDDP levels, find oil that does. I had a cam wear out and I know this is a real problem: At first, much of the power was lost. Soon after, the rocker arms barely moved the valves. Buying a new cam puts you right back in the same situation all over again.

I change my Rotella-T oil every 3,000 miles because the ZDDP is sacrificial, not because the oil looks dirty. - Dave

05-30-2014, 09:46 PM
The oil threads are always interesting. I have a 292 in my '46 pickup. Because the engine never gets to operating temps when on the highway, I've recently changed to 5/40 Synthetic.

This isnt a recommendation for the poster or anyone else, just an item of general interest.

05-31-2014, 08:41 PM
Never gets to operating temperature??? Sounds like something is wrong. Engines can run too cool, probably as bad as running too hot.

The oil threads are always interesting. I have a 292 in my '46 pickup. Because the engine never gets to operating temps when on the highway, I've recently changed to 5/40 Synthetic.

This isnt a recommendation for the poster or anyone else, just an item of general interest.

05-31-2014, 09:57 PM
Yes, I know it isnt good. Today drove to town, 19 mi. one way, temp outside was around 80, water temp 155 or 160. This is the way it has been for at least the last five years. Because of it I try not to drive it until ambient temps are at least 60. In early morning with temp of 55 the coolant will run 150. Yeah it isnt good at all. Tried more than a few times to run it down without result. Checked autometer gauge accuracy with a certified thermometer. Verified it with a IR unit aimed at front of intake and back where the temp sender resides. Replaced thermostats, changed thermostat from Robert Shaw to something different. Removed auto hot air choke.

The only time it will get to 180 on the highway is on a hot day, driving interstate, at 65-70 mph, with a lot of passes to go through (i.e. Southern Oregon I-5).

When in town it will get up to 180-190, then I kick on an electric fan. Aluminum cross flow rad, high flow aluminum pump, very close tolerance between pump and intake volute, 3.00 rear, aluminum intake, standard trans, 2750 lbs. vehicle, no heater, clean block, 180 degree thermostat.


06-07-2014, 10:37 PM
It does sound like the thermostat is stuck open.

I had one on minivan stick on a trip to Colorado one Christmas. Couldn't tell I had a problem in Houston.

06-08-2014, 06:08 AM
Look what I pulled out of my Escort. All of a sudden it wouldn't come up to temp and the engine light stayed on. This is an OEM (that came on the car). Notice the two 'arms' are broken off, 'half in two' as they say at Ford.

06-08-2014, 10:16 AM
OK, I will go at it again and try to solve this "simple" problem. Sorry about the Hijack.

A buddy & I left early in the AM yesterday to attend a car show. It was about 47 degrees out. The coolant finally made it up to 140-150 degrees 10 miles down the road. The engine runs great, though I dont take the rpms over 2100 or so, which is around 55 mph.


06-18-2014, 11:05 PM
An engine that doesn't get to operating temperature will have accelerated wear. Modern engines are running hotter than 180. 200 would be better for wear, but clearances have to be tightly controlled to run there and also use aluminum parts.

I've noticed my 61 F100 has a tendency to run cool. But it is a 6 cylinder version of the 53 Ford tractor engine with a big radiator. Designed to idle all day in Texas summer heat on the farm.