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Old 11-08-2019, 02:37 PM   #21
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Originally Posted by angus99 View Post
After changing the oil in our 1987 Westerbeke 12.5 genset today, it dawned on me that I’d used a synthetic blend (Rotella T5 10W30). Which might be fine—or 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 lawyers—not 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 “risks” I’m actually facing. Frustrating.

The genny runs really well and I don’t want to screw it up. Most of what I see online reads like conventional wisdom slanted toward synths. Does anyone know the real answer?

When using a synthetic blend you are getting all the bad aspects of conventional oil which negates the advantages of synthetic oil. In other words a blend is a waste of money.
I've used full syn in everything since 1976 and that includes boats tractors cars and trucks...oh, and motorcycles without issues. Sometimes takes a little experimentation to find the best oil for old iron.
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Old 11-08-2019, 06:43 PM   #22
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I know about lubricant formulation so can give you the short and long answers. The short answer is that provided 10W-30 is compatible with the Westerbeke viscosity requirements, Rotella T5 will be fine.
Performance of top diesel oils are similar, in part because they have the same major claims (API CJ-4 or CK-4) since that's the market. Most performance attributes (deposit, oxidation, corrosion, and wear) are provided by the performance additive package, also called the detergent inhibitor (DI) package. The DI package contains the dispersants, detergents, antiwear, antioxidation, and anti-foam additives. People often talk about 'detergency' but this is a hold over from the distant past when metallic detergent provided the main source of piston cleanliness control in engines. That hasn't been the case for decades. A modern DI can contain 10-15 individual components, and costs millions of dollars to qualify for something like API CK-4. The DI is combined with base oil and viscosity modifier (a polymer that reduces the viscosity change with temperature) to blend a finished oil of the desired viscosity grade. There are four main additive suppliers in the engine oil world: Lubrizol, Chevron Oronite, Infineum, and Afton,. These companies spend hundreds of millions of dollars per year on R&D in this area. This is one reason you don't want to add extra additives, you've just upset a complex chemical system that someone spent millions developing and qualifying.
Base oils: While it used to be true that 'mineral' oils were distilled from crude (solvent refining process) and 'synthetc' where chemically manufactured, that distinction is no longer accurate. Over the past 20 years the use of hydrocracking and isomerization to create lubricating oil has largely replaced the solvent refined base oils which are known as Group I base oils. For the current performance levels, use of these types of base oils, referred to as Group II base oils, is required for cost-performance reasons. In addition, hydroprocessing and isomerization allowed the creation of high viscosity index (VI) base oils for moderate cost (called Group III base oil). VI is a measure of the change in viscosity with temperature. So while it used to be true that synthetics used high cost polyalphaolefins (PAO), these days Group III base oils are used in synthetics with a only few exceptions (extreme low temperature products etc). Thus ‘Synthetic’ is really a marketing term since there isn’t a clear chemical distinction anymore. Industry practice is to use ‘synthetic’ or part synthetic to refer to the incorporation of higher VI base oils (120+VI). These are often required anyway to meet viscometric targets, but a marketer may or may not choose to identify a product as part synthetic depending on where the product falls in their product line.
As I recall, Rotella T5 is a mix of Group II and Group III. Shell has an internal source of Group III made from natural gas (Gas to Liquid-GTL) using Fisher Tropsch processes (very good base oil). DELO 400 uses Group II and Group III as well. Chevron is a leader in the process technology for hydrocracking and isomerization having started use of these types of base oils back in the 1980's. They also license their base oil technology and catalyst to other companies. Chevron brands their base oil as IsoSyn® (a play on isomerization and synthetic). Both oils will have excellent and comparable engine and seal performance. By the way, seal performance is part of the performance requirements for API CK-4 as well as various OEM requirements.
It is likely that your engine has run on a variety of oils meeting a succession of performance categories over the past 30 years. The current generation of oils are backward compatible for 4 cycle diesels and have performance far in excess of what was available in 1987. There should be no concern on your part about seals or other issues.
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Old 11-08-2019, 07:01 PM   #23
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When using a synthetic blend you are getting all the bad aspects of conventional oil which negates the advantages of synthetic oil. In other words a blend is a waste of money.
I've used full syn in everything since 1976 and that includes boats tractors cars and trucks...oh, and motorcycles without issues. Sometimes takes a little experimentation to find the best oil for old iron.
I hate to start an argument but as an expert in the field to say a synthetic blend is the 'worst of both worlds' is simply untrue. I understand that the lay person understands little about how engine oils are formulated, and frankly they probably don't need to. But to give some perspective, the additive companies who provide the chemistry in these products literally spend hundreds of millions of dollars per year in R&D. No reputable company is going to sell a product that isn't fit for purpose. The best thing you can do is buy a product designed for the purpose you intend to use it for. Being in the business I also favor the majors (Chevron, Shell, BP/Castrol, etc), over boutique suppliers (who I won't name) due to the attention to quality management that the majors can bring to bear.

Sythetic blends are fine. Full synthetic is fine if it is required by the OEM (MB, BMW, etc). The best thing about synthetics is typically the marketers puts a strong DI package in them.
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Old 11-08-2019, 07:06 PM   #24
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Thank you Slomo for your excellent post and for taking the time to put it together. You answered 5-6 things that I had been curious about for some time like the very low prices now for synthetic oil.

Do they still put in something in syn oils counteract swelling or contraction of seals in synthetic oils? And typically speaking what would be the viscosity of syn oil w/o any viscosity improver.
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Old 11-08-2019, 07:42 PM   #25
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Correct me if I'm wrong

But its the base oil that give the product its viscosity and low high temperature capability right? The additive package then basically polishes and enhances the characteristics of the base oil and adjusts the product to meet government and industry standards for a particular application.
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Old 11-08-2019, 08:03 PM   #26
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I hate to start an argument but as an expert in the field to say a synthetic blend is the 'worst of both worlds' is simply untrue. I understand that the lay person understands little about how engine oils are formulated, and frankly they probably don't need to. But to give some perspective, the additive companies who provide the chemistry in these products literally spend hundreds of millions of dollars per year in R&D. No reputable company is going to sell a product that isn't fit for purpose. The best thing you can do is buy a product designed for the purpose you intend to use it for. Being in the business I also favor the majors (Chevron, Shell, BP/Castrol, etc), over boutique suppliers (who I won't name) due to the attention to quality management that the majors can bring to bear.

Sythetic blends are fine. Full synthetic is fine if it is required by the OEM (MB, BMW, etc). The best thing about synthetics is typically the marketers puts a strong DI package in them.

Your saying that a rolls royce and a yugo are just cars and as cars both will take you from point a to point b and with that i agree. However, the RR is manufactured to a much higher degree of perfection and will last longer with far greater dependability and performance over time warrantying the higher cost.
Conventional, synthetic, are both oils but that is where the similarities end just as with the RR and Yugo.



Myself I like to eliminate as much as possible the chance of malfunctions at sea so use synthetic lubricants almost exclusively. No harbor freight for me


oh and lots of companies market products that are not fit for the purpose the yugo is an example of that. The market products to make money and for no other purpose.
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Old 11-08-2019, 09:17 PM   #27
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Typically no additional seal swell agent is needed with current base oils. The problems encountered in the 1980's with PAO and ester blends, or even the early hydroprocessed base oils, aren't a factor anymore. The current group II and III stocks are fairly seal neutral.

There is no single answer to the question of viscosity without viscosity modifier. Base oils, no matter what the source, are made in a variety of viscosities. Lighter oils use ligher base oil. A high VI base oil may have the same viscosity as a lower VI base oil at 40C but a higher viscosity at 100C. Heres and example, Chevron 220N has a viscosity of ~6cST at 100C and 41 cSt at 40C. A ChevronPhillips 6cSt PAO (classic synthetic) is
6cSt@100C and 30cSt@40C. So you can while they're the same at 100C the PAO is 'thinner' at 40C. This results in a reduced need for viscosity modifier.
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Old 11-08-2019, 09:26 PM   #28
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Typically no additional seal swell agent is needed with current base oils. The problems encountered in the 1980's with PAO and ester blends, or even the early hydroprocessed base oils, aren't a factor anymore. The current group II and III stocks are fairly seal neutral.

There is no single answer to the question of viscosity without viscosity modifier. Base oils, no matter what the source, are made in a variety of viscosities. Lighter oils use ligher base oil. A high VI base oil may have the same viscosity as a lower VI base oil at 40C but a higher viscosity at 100C. Heres and example, Chevron 220N has a viscosity of ~6cST at 100C and 41 cSt at 40C. A ChevronPhillips 6cSt PAO (classic synthetic) is
6cSt@100C and 30cSt@40C. So you can while they're the same at 100C the PAO is 'thinner' at 40C. This results in a reduced need for viscosity modifier.

And that is an advantage of synthetic oils then and now. What about at 200C or 400C?
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Old 11-08-2019, 10:17 PM   #29
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Typically no additional seal swell agent is needed with current base oils. The problems encountered in the 1980's with PAO and ester blends, or even the early hydroprocessed base oils, aren't a factor anymore. The current group II and III stocks are fairly seal neutral.

There is no single answer to the question of viscosity without viscosity modifier. Base oils, no matter what the source, are made in a variety of viscosities. Lighter oils use ligher base oil. A high VI base oil may have the same viscosity as a lower VI base oil at 40C but a higher viscosity at 100C. Heres and example, Chevron 220N has a viscosity of ~6cST at 100C and 41 cSt at 40C. A ChevronPhillips 6cSt PAO (classic synthetic) is
6cSt@100C and 30cSt@40C. So you can while they're the same at 100C the PAO is 'thinner' at 40C. This results in a reduced need for viscosity modifier.
Thanks Slomo but I really don’t understand your response.
I know synthetic oil w/o MV stabilizers has a MV index or more directly put has the properties of a MV oil w/o MV additives. So I’m curious what those properties are viscosity wise.
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Old 11-09-2019, 05:50 AM   #30
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Question: I have a 1980's vintage Perkins 4.236 with about 1800 hrs on it. Runs fine - easy start and no smoke. Plan is to run from SoCal to PNW next summer probably 250-300 engine hours, then down to Central America and eventually to. Florida. Shell Rotella synthetic blend ($20/gal, so hardly a premium) comes in 5-40 (T6) and 15-40 (T5).

Oil formulation has come a long way in the 30-years since this engine was put in service (and the engine design was unchanged for 20-years prior to that). Is the OEM recommendation (I've run Delo SAE30w for years) archaic? What about running 5-40 to PNW due to much cooler weather, then switch to 15-40 for tropics?
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Old 11-09-2019, 07:17 AM   #31
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My fear is with a syn oil its better detergents could loosen decades of gunk that could block an oil line or overwhelm the filter .

Why bother?

If the ancient style oil was lubing the engine for decades , what would be gained with synthetic?

Why take the risk?
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Old 11-09-2019, 07:25 AM   #32
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My fear is with a syn oil its better detergents could loosen decades of gunk that could block an oil line or overwhelm the filter .

Why bother?

If the ancient style oil was lubing the engine for decades , what would be gained with synthetic?

Why take the risk?
THERE IS NO RISK! The detergent levels found in all of today's oils, synthetic or dino are virtually the same. That would include the oil you are using. Geez. Did you not read slowmo's excellent technical explanation in Post No. 22?
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Old 11-09-2019, 07:49 AM   #33
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“Lubrizol, Chevron Oronite, Infineum, and Afton,. These companies spend hundreds of millions of dollars per year on R&D in this area.”

Do you mean no STP oil treatment?
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Old 11-09-2019, 10:22 AM   #34
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As a note on Rotella, T6 is full synthetic, T5 is the blend.
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Old 11-10-2019, 07:50 AM   #35
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"THERE IS NO RISK! The detergent levels found in all of today's oils, synthetic or dino are virtually the same."

"Today's oil," the question comes from engines that used the factory correct oil for 30-40 years which is different from today's oil.

The oil packagers didn't spend millions on new oil formulas to eat exhaust products for nothing.

With old formulas of oil the detergents would hold the grunge and fines while warm in an operating engine , BUT the gunk would fall out of suspension when the engine stopped and cooled. Sure it may take a week or a month , but in decades there are lots of weeks when the engine is not used.Many have used a putty knife to scrape an oil pan clean.

"Backwards compatible" only means the older engines will not be harmed by using a new mix of additives.

I doubt it means old gunk in older engines will not be touched by the better detergents.

The concern is similar to fueling with bio fuel in an uncleaned fuel tank, and having decades of crap stripped from the tank walls and bottom rapidly.

Yes, post 22 is great info.


Personally I don't have a dog in this discussion. My 2 stroke DD 6-71 can never be used with 4 stroke oil.
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Old 11-10-2019, 10:31 AM   #36
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Even with oils that didn't keep stuff in suspension all that long after shutdown, that wouldn't leave much buildup to worry about. Most of the crap would get filtered out while running, so any that settles would be minimal.

Usually when an engine is really gunked up, it's from either running non-detergent oil where a lot of junk never made it to the filter or from running oil too long or too hot where it starts to break down, not function properly as oil, cake onto surfaces, etc.

As far as FF's detroits, yes, they have specific oil requirements and specs to worry about that most engines don't. Basically, the rule is CF-2 rated SAE 40 unless its going to be run hot enough to need SAE 50. They do say an appropriate (CF-2 rated and high HTHS) 15W-40 can be used if better cold start performance is needed. Interestingly, they advise against 15W-40 in marine Detroits even though they say it's fine for non-marine. I wonder what the reasoning is?
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Old 11-10-2019, 12:39 PM   #37
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I hear the synthetic group. I could go back to a Kedge anchor that is heavier too. But I’d much rather anchor w either of the two modern anchors I have aboard .. an Excel and a SARCA and lighten my boat up a bit. Also I’d need to be underway or tied up in a safe harbor using a Kedge as it likely to certainly wouldn’t hold my boat in the gales.

Sometimes modern is helpful and sometimes not. Most people never think about the real facts but consider it a fact that newer is better .. period. And they consider people like my that use straight 30w oil in my trawler engine to be stupid. Got a screw loose. no quoting allowed please.

In my cars I’ve used syn or dino oil depending on the car and how I run it. When I take my 06 Avalon to the dealer for an oil change they put MV dino oil in it. Since it is 5-30w I assumed it was syn oil but I’ve discovered it's not syn at all. But it’s not the dino oil of the 60’s. Nor is the straight 30w that I use in one older car and my boat. They have 30w oil in them but it’s not the 30w that I used in the 60’s that came in the cardboard “can”. Probably the only thing the same in the two oils (the 60’s and now) in a 30w oil is the viscosity. So it’s a modern oil in every respect ... just the same viscosity. That is modern in every respect used where a VI package is not necessary like our rec trawler boats and stationary engines that get pre-heated prior to starting.

But if half your oil was additive there wouldn’t be much oil left to lubricate your engine. Every time you add something else to your oil that is not a lubricant you loose lubricity. One can maximize the percentage of oil in their oil by using straight weight oil. If you warm up your engine before leaving port no VI is needed and no benefit would be gained by using it. It’s just not needed.

I appear to be an old man stuck in his ways but I don’t think so .. except for the old man part. Can’t escape that.
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Old 11-10-2019, 12:44 PM   #38
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rslifkin wrote;
“Interestingly, they advise against 15W-40 in marine Detroits even though they say it's fine for non-marine. I wonder what the reasoning is?”

Perhaps it has to do w the DD engines used in the big sport fishing boats that actually get worn out quickly. No VI means more oil to do the job and every ounce counts running an engine that hard.
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Old 12-08-2019, 12:16 PM   #39
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For over 30 years I've run pure synthetic in everything I owned. My 4.0 liter Ford Explorer used 1 qt every 9,000 miles when I sold it with 165,000 hard miles on it. Same for a Ford 4x4 5.4 liter. That one was really driven hard and used for towing.
Two stroke mixed at 100:1 in mowers, weed whacker (that one was new in 1977 and has the original plug in it) outboards and. . .I raced Enduro on a punched out 360 Yamaha with it in the oil tank. Never a failure.
Our 6BTA's have nearly 6,000 hours on them. Use one qt every 200-250 hours. Oil analysis at 500+ hours came back Level 1 - basically zero oil breakdown, no soot or fuel dilution. That's my real world experience.

One point I haven't seen brought up is heat. Turbo shaft coking is a very real challenge for dino bones. It's one of the primary reasons all turbo cars require synthetic. Good synthetic won't cook at high temps. All jet engines run synthetic - due to tight tolerance and high temps.
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Old 12-08-2019, 03:51 PM   #40
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Wow...internet arguments versus reality.

How many times has the complete spectrum of oils been discussed as used with no problems.

Even engine rebuilders say it's not the oil but the cleanliness, filtration, change interval, etc more than the oil that counts.
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