Do Older Vehicles Need High Zinc Motor Oil?

Thanks to Hugh Ashburn for asking this question on our Facebook page.  In case you can’t click on the facebook link here is the entire question:
We are Amsoil Dealers in Lewisville TX. My interest is in Older engines, and rebuilt older engines. Do they need zinc additives throughout there running life, or just to break-in the cam , lifters, etc.?
I have a 1964 Ford Thunderbird with it’s original 60,000 mile 390 cu in motor. I run Z-Rod in it. (Very happy motor now)
I have seen comments around the old car/restoration/hot rod world, that the older engines only need zinc additives while your breaking in a new or rebuilt motor.
Just wondering the long term benefits of the additives on the motors.
Thanks.

I assume when you say “older,” you mean a classic car or hot rod with a flat-tappet camshaft. Compared to their roller-cam counterparts, flat-tappet cams undergo sliding contact rather than rolling contact. This results in increased friction and, potentially, wear.

Added wear can affect valve lift and duration, which reduces engine power and efficiency. In extreme cases, increased pressure can remove material from the lobes and deposit it in the oil, where it circulates through the engine and causes damage. Break-in helps harden the metal so it’s more resilient to wear.

Here’s our resident expert, Len Groom, on this topic:

 

Want to learn more? Here’s what we’ll cover:

What is high zinc motor oil?

Engine builders and gearheads typically use high-zinc and high-phosphorus (ZDDP) motor oil to offer extra protection for flat-tappet cams, lifters and other components during break-in. AMSOIL Break-In Oil, for example, contains 2,200 ppm zinc and 2,000 ppm phosphorus.

ZDDP anti-wear additives are heat-activated, meaning they provide wear protection in areas of increased friction. In this case, it’s at the cam lobe/tappet interface. The additives form a sacrificial layer on part surfaces, which absorbs contact and helps prevent cam and tappet wear. That way, your engine makes maximum power and lasts as designed.

The role of piston rings

Even though Hugh didn’t ask about it specifically, I should also mention the importance of seating the piston rings during break-in.

Although a new or freshly honed cylinder appears smooth to the naked eye, it actually contains microscopic peaks and valleys. If the valleys are too deep, they collect excess oil, which burns during combustion and leads to oil consumption.

The sharp peaks, meanwhile, provide insufficient area to allow the rings to seat tightly. That means highly pressurized combustion gases can blow past the rings and into the crankcase, reducing horsepower and contaminating the oil.

Breaking in the engine wears the cylinder-wall asperities, providing increased surface area for the rings to seat tightly. The result is maximum compression (i.e. power) and minimum oil consumption.

 

Do you need a high-ZDDP oil?

But, do you need to use a high-ZDDP oil in an older engine after break-in, which is typically about 500 miles?

Yes, if you want to maintain horsepower and promote longevity. And who doesn’t want that?

Even after the cam has seasoned, it’s still exposed to tremendous heat and pressure, especially in a heavily modified or racing engine. The constant barrage of pressure can rupture the oil film responsible for preventing wear, leading to metal to metal contact.

After break-in, we recommend using an oil with at least 1,000 ppm ZDDP in a flat-tappet engine. That way, you’re providing your expensive engine with maximum protection against wear and horsepower loss. AMSOIL Z-Rod Synthetic Motor Oil, our primary recommendation for classic cars and hot rods, contains more than 1,400 ppm zinc and more than 1,300 ppm phosphorus.

That’ll keep your classic car as happy as Hugh’s Thunderbird.

18May 2019

AMSOIL Expedition Colorado is Back – and You’re Invited Ok – We’re  (I’m) late at posting this update from Corporate but it’s pretty neat anyway. And at the bottom you can get the link to track future events. And to catch the next one of these!! Lindsay Premo|Jul 26, 2018 9:35 AM Can a 1943 […]

18May 2019
power foam intake system cleaner

Reviving a Lawn Mower (and other equipment) Is what We Do! John Baker|Feb 15, 2018 9:21 AM Judging someone’s character can be boiled down to this key question: do they love going to the dump? An affirmative answer indicates a visionary – one who sees a fashionably distressed dining set where others see a worn […]

18May 2019
AMSOIL and Scheuring

This Man is Living His Dream: Why Steve Scheuring Chooses AMSOIL Daisy Quaker|Feb 08, 2019 8:35 AM We all have dreams. Maybe it’s a trip across America on a Harley. Or the backcountry sledding trip of a lifetime. Maybe it’s climbing boulders and crossing ravines in a 1943 Willys Jeep. For Steve Scheuring, it was building […]

15May 2019
Jim and Sue Knudsen

Long-Time AMSOIL Dealer Tells His Success Story Dealer Jim Knudsen of Brainerd, Minn. has more than 40 years of experience with AMSOIL. In 1975, Dave Lingwall, one of the company’s first Dealers, asked Knudsen to try AMSOIL motor oil. “I was fresh out of college and working in the bank that Dave used,” Knudsen said. […]

15May 2019
Diesel Challenge Winner

Which of These Competitors Will Win the 2018 Diesel Power Challenge? Jamie Jarvi|Jun 01, 2018 11:31 AM Once again, the 2018 Diesel Power Challenge is upon us with 10 competitors and 1 alternate gearing up for another battle of the diesel-fittest. Last year’s champion, Charlie Keeter, exhausted his term-limited reign of two years. Sadly, “Three-Peater Keeter” […]

15May 2019

Transworld Motocross Race Series Closes Deal with AMSOIL Lindsay Premo|Jan 23, 2019 10:20 AM Carson Mumford of AMSOIL Factory Connection has dominated the amateur motocross scene. But it wasn’t long ago the 17-year-old was chasing his dream while competing in local series on the West Coast, like the Transworld Motocross Race Series (TWMXRS). Likewise, teammate […]