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Old 11-07-2019, 10:15 PM   #1
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Synthetic Blend in an Older Westerbeke?

After changing the oil in our 1987 Westerbeke 12.5 genset today, it dawned on me that Iíd used a synthetic blend (Rotella T5 10W30). Which might be fineóor maybe not. Unsure of how it would work with older seals and gaskets, I called Westerbeke tech support in Massachusetts and did not get past the lady who answers the phone.

She read me a statement that had to have been written by lawyersónot people who might have a clue, like engineers or mechanics. It was all about uncertainty and assuming all risks for oils other than what is specified in the manual, neither confirming nor denying that a synth blend was acceptable or what ďrisksĒ Iím actually facing. Frustrating.

The genny runs really well and I donít want to screw it up. Most of what I see online reads like conventional wisdom slanted toward synths. Does anyone know the real answer?
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Old 11-07-2019, 11:21 PM   #2
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Don't be surprised if the engine starts using more oil once the very high detergents in the synthetic oil starts dissolving the carbon deposits behind the piston rings.
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Old 11-08-2019, 12:07 AM   #3
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Or for $15 you could drop in a gallon of dyno 15-40 DELO. Russell's comment is possibly correct.
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Old 11-08-2019, 01:31 AM   #4
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This guy does a pretty credible job of debunking idea that synthetic oil shouldn't be run in older diesel.

https://youtu.be/Pa4RwsiZUmI
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Old 11-08-2019, 04:28 AM   #5
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I have been using Rotella T5 10w30 in the main engine and generator for 5 years. The main oil analysis has been slowly improving and no additional leaks. The old WB gen had bad analysis from the git go and eventually died of low compression from excessive carbon on the pistons. The analysis before failure was really bad. High iron and aluminum numbers.
Don’t expect the oil to clean carbon from low load running.
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Old 11-08-2019, 06:29 AM   #6
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. The analysis before failure was really bad. .
Clean oil is good. More money doesn't necessarily mean more protection. Extra money is probably better spent on oil analysis and frequent oil changes.

Check the engine manufacturer's specifications. Skip the marketing hype and old wives' tales.


T5 Rotella is good stuff and probably won't hurt any diesel engine in common use.


Contractors make oil and contractors make engine parts. There are a lot more similarities than differences. Everything that rises must converge.
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Old 11-08-2019, 07:41 AM   #7
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He lost me at the additive. Good oil is good oil. Adding "boosters, etc." Nullifies the result. And most are snake oil anyway.
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Old 11-08-2019, 08:27 AM   #8
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It'll be fine. Worst case if the thing was dirty inside, it might clean up a little and a new oil leak might show up somewhere. But if it was clean and healthy, you're unlikely to notice a difference unless you're doing oil analysis (where you might find you can go a little longer between changes).
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Old 11-08-2019, 08:41 AM   #9
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Thanks for the thoughts, all. Just to clarify, the spec is 10W30 for most temps for this engine and the last analysis was very good. I donít want to be obsessive about it, but I also donít want to make an expensive mistake. Sounds like draining it and going with T4 Rotella 10W30 might be the right move.
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Old 11-08-2019, 08:43 AM   #10
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I wouldn't bother draining it early. I'd just run it and then put in whatever you want next time.
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Old 11-08-2019, 08:45 AM   #11
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What is your source for your implication that synthetic oil has more detergents than dino oil?
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Don't be surprised if the engine starts using more oil once the very high detergents in the synthetic oil starts dissolving the carbon deposits behind the piston rings.
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Old 11-08-2019, 08:53 AM   #12
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What is your source for your implication that synthetic oil has more detergents than dino oil?
Some do, some don't. Within the realm of diesel oils, the detergent levels between syn and dino are likely to be more similar (diesel oils are already higher detergent). However, depending on the base stock used in a given syn oil, some have a bit more natural cleaning ability.

I wouldn't worry about the original comment about piston ring carbon though. If the rings are carboned up enough to be a problem, they'd be sticking and showing high oil consumption and/or low compression, so oil type wouldn't be the primary concern (nor would it expose this problem).
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Old 11-08-2019, 08:56 AM   #13
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Ian, Ihave been using synthetic oils in my two Lehmans, a Perkins-powered Kohler generator, and my 7.7kw Westerbeke generator for five years. Oil analyses come back just fine. In fact after 3 and 4 hundred hours on the clock in the Lehmans, the oil is still quite good to use. The fact is synthetics are wholly good to use in older engines. Many on this forum believe they are a waste of money. I don't for no other reason that oil change intervals can be extended making oil changes less frequent and, because of that, no more expensive than dino oil on a per hour basis.

You may hear from those who fear the "soot bogeyman". Oil analyses test for soot load. Below the spec amount and it's not a problem. Above spec? The oil analyzer will recommend changing. Soot will not be a problem in a Lehman at 300 hours. It wasn't for me at 400 hours. Now, draining that good, new synthetic oil IS a waste.
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Thanks for the thoughts, all. Just to clarify, the spec is 10W30 for most temps for this engine and the last analysis was very good. I donít want to be obsessive about it, but I also donít want to make an expensive mistake. Sounds like draining it and going with T4 Rotella 10W30 might be the right move.
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Old 11-08-2019, 09:03 AM   #14
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Many on this forum believe they are a waste of money.
Whether they're actually worth the money or not depends on the engine and the usage patterns. Some engine are so easy on oil that a good dino oil will go almost as long, others are harder on oil and see a bigger difference. And some don't use their boats enough to need to change more than once a year with any oil.

Personally, I don't bother with synth in the boat only because it doesn't get started in particularly cold weather and putting much over 100 hours on the engines in a year would be unusual for me right now, so if I change before winter storage every year synth would be a waste. And my generator doesn't have an oil filter, so I wouldn't want to stretch the changes longer on it. Everything I own that isn't the boat gets synth, however.
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Old 11-08-2019, 09:12 AM   #15
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OK. Rethinking this. I use straight 30 dyno in the Lehmans ó and would have used dyno in the Westerbeke if Iíd been paying more attention. (Bad day; donít ask .) So Iím not interested in boutique oil for the sake of advertising hype. Also, T5 is a synthetic blend, so maybe not as much detergent as full synth?
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Old 11-08-2019, 09:16 AM   #16
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Standard Rotella is already pretty high detergent, so I doubt T5 has all that much more in it. And unless the thing is gunked up badly, you could feed it a bunch of extra detergents without anything bad happening.
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Old 11-08-2019, 09:31 AM   #17
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I don't think synthetic equals high detergent. Detergent level has nothing to do with conventional versus synthetic lube oils.

Conventional lube oil is derived from heavy material vacuum distilled from crude oil. it is then further processed to get the desired viscosity index. Basically you want a material where the viscosity changes as little with temperature.

Synthetic lube oil is derived from chemicals instead of directly from crude oil. Synthetic oils should have more consistent properties than conventional oils since they would be more of a blend of single chemical compounds instead of the hundreds of compounds that would be found in crude oil derived lube oils. I would guess they also have fewer impurities. They also must be more resistant to viscosity lowering shear. This allows for longer oil change intervals in some modern engines.

I doubt synthetic oils would harm an older engine since both meet the API CK4 specification. It is probably a waste of money since you can't increase oil change interval.

I have a turbocharged SUV. According to the owners manual I can use synthetic oil but I can't increase the oil change interval, it is still 6,000 miles.

Even conventional lube oils are made very differently than they were just 10 or 15 years ago because of newer specs.

I would never add any additive to lube oil unless it was recommended by the manufacturer. As a last ditch effort to stop oil consumption in an engine already needing a rebuild might be the exception.

Because lube oil has changed so much it is confusing on what to use in older engines. The good news is all engine oil is of higher quality than in the past.
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Old 11-08-2019, 09:32 AM   #18
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We are talking about 1 gallon of oil in that generator. If you have anxiety about it, just change it.
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Old 11-08-2019, 10:48 AM   #19
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One should use a product because they need it.
The only significant advantage of synthetic oil is that it’s viscosity is considerably more stable. Lube oil that is subjected to exceptionally high engine temps can benefit by being synthetic. Exceptionally high oil temps will be experienced in high output engines with certain types of turbochargers. In diesel pleasure boat engines running at high output some NA engines may benefit from synthetic oil .. I think but perhaps not. But if an engine required syn oil the manufacturer would say so in the manual.

It’s kinda like MV oil. You need it if you need it. A fireboat that’s going to be run at high speeds and heavy loads immediately after startup will benefit from both MV and syn oil and I’d guess those engines will be equipped w internal heaters. Pleasure boats w heated engine compartments in winter won’t benefit from either MV or syn.

Lots of people have a mindset that everything new or newer is superior to earlier products. And if it ended there they are right. But the conditions prevailing under the usage of the product dictate what specific kind of product should be used. Look in your engine manual and you’ll see a specific range of oils suitable for specific circumstances. Straight dino 30w lube oil is probably the ideal oil/lubricant for your diesel inboard boat engine. I’ve never used anything else in my trawler engines.
And re the change cycle syn oil I think accumulates “dirt” and other contaminants from the same sources and at the same rates as dino oil. However there may be exceptions to that chemically.

However I agree w kentucky55 in that syn oil in older engines should’nt cause harm. But I’m talk’in 60’s and 70’s engines. Perhaps not 1914.
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Old 11-08-2019, 01:48 PM   #20
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If it was me (and since this is a forum you are asking me), I would leave the syn blend in the gen, it won't run better or worse it will run just like it always has. As they say, this is a good problem to have!
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