Reply To: Today's Motor Oils

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There is a ton of debate right now in the old car world about what oil to use in the older engines.  It appears that emissions requirements have caused zinc to be removed from current gasoline motor oils.  Zinc is said to be a necessity for older engines to prevent excessive wear on cam lobes and lifters.  Many owners are now using Rotella which is a diesel engine oil but has the lubricants, detergents, and other additives needed in gasoline engines.  Other diesel oils would have the same properties.  There are also zinc additives available at parts stores I have been told.

Viscosity (thickness) is also an important consideration.  This would be the “weight” of the oil, as in 30 weight or 10w-40 weight.  The higher the number the thicker the oil.  20 weight oil is the recommended viscosity in many late model engines but I would not use it in an older engine especially one with alot of miles on it.  I live in Nebraska and use 10w-40 in my ’55 which is the same basic engine design as your ’54.  I use a mulitviscosity oil because of the cold weather we have but I get the thickness of a 40 weight when things warm up.  I happen to come from a “Texaco” family and we are great believers in Havoline.  The brand is currently owned by Chevron however.

Do you need a synthetic?  My personal opinion is, “NO”.  Most of us don’t put enough miles on the car between oil changes to justify the additional expense of a synthetic.  I don’t think you would hurt anything using a synthetic oil except your wallet.

The most important thing you can do is change your oil and filter at least twice a year and more often if you drive alot or in adverse conditions. 

Non detergent oils would not be great choice either.  They are still available  but do nothing to keep the internal parts of the engine clean.  There is a debate that if you have an old dirty engine that a detergent oil will just gum things up.  If an engine is that dirty, frankly, it needs to be overhauled anyway.

There are many good motor oils out there.  Brand is not as important as API rating and viscosity. So get a quality oil that makes you happy and enjoy driving that ’54.  They are great cars.