Motor Oil at a Fork in the Road


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Re: oils, by Rolland Whittle
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	From: [email protected] (Rolland Whittle)
	Newsgroups: alt.motorcycles.harley,rec.motorcycles.harley,rec.motorcycles,alt.motorcycles
	Subject: Motor oils at fork in road
	Date: Fri, 06 Jun 1997 23:41:14 GMT
	Organization: MindSpring Enterprises
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Gordon Jennings, technical editor of Motorcyclist Magazine, in the July 1997 issue, wrote a very noteworthy article,"Energy Weenies Strike Again," on the evolution of API oil ratings, and the potential negative impact of the new 'SJ' ratings on motorcyclists using automotive rated lubricants in their motorcycles. In the article, Jennings mentions that the primary goal of the new API rating is not to improve the quality of motor oils' ability to protect moving parts, but rather to qualify lubricants as being 'Energy Conserving' with a secondary objective of improving catalytic converter life. This article, in some respects similar to recent warnings by the Motor Company of the insuitability of 'SJ' rated oils in Harley-Davidsons, raises serious concerns about business as usual, Castrol GTX, Pennzoil, on sale for less than a buck a quart at Walmart or Pep Boys, oil changes in motorcycles.

This morning, I spoke both with customer representatives at Mobil and Castrol, expressing my concern over the situation. The Mobil representative agreed with my summary of Jennings' article and gave me another number, which I had called in past years, to answer more specific questions.

The next Mobil rep also confirmed the general gist of Jennings' article, confirming that phosphorus levels had indeed been reduced to enhance catalytic converter longevity. However, I was also told that the Mobil 1, 15w50 weight, oil did not have to be reformulated, unlike the lighter 5w30 and 10w30 versions. It seemed to be inferred that since auto manufacturers typically recommend either 5w30 or 10w30 oils for their products, that these weights were most significantly revised. I was told the the 'SH' rated 15w50 Mobil 1 and 'SJ' rated 15w50 Mobil 1 were identical oils. I also asked that Mobil market oils specifically for motorcycle use, to which the reply was that the cost was too high and the market too small, and also that Mobil make a statement specifically mentioning the suitability of their Mobil 1 for Harley's, to which they replied that it was inappropriate for them to make such statements without Harley-Davidson's permission or endorsement. I was told that Harley-Davidson does allow the use of Mobil 1, 15w50, though H-D does not endorse it, whatever the distinction is here. I think this has something to do with the law that says if a company compels the use of their lubricants, then those lubricants must be provided free of charge. I used to know the name of this law, but I've forgotten it.

While the second Mobil representative was pleasant and helpful, I had been under the impression that I would be talking to an engineer, until when I mentioned that the motorcycle market for oils was significant, and that probably the most often used motor oil used in motorcycles was probably Castrol GTX, the Mobil representative responded something to the effect that this product was made from castor beans, which I thought oddly uninformed for a lubrication engineer.

I then spoke with the Castrol representative about their new line of motorcycle specific lubricants, accepted an offer for mailed literature for these oils, and expressed my previously mentioned concerns. The Castrol person did confirm that the new 'SJ' oils contained friction modifiers, and specifically stated that these automotive lubricants, unlike their new line of motorcycle oils, would cause slippage in wet clutches. Very useful information, this! I was told that the new Castrol motorcycle specific oils are formulated to 'SG' ratings. They will be handled through a limited number of national distributors; their mailout tells who these companies are.

I had a difficult time finding the appropriate Castrol telephone number. (1-800-858-4950) A Web search yielded nothing substantial. After finally being connected by telephone, I was told Castrol does not currently have a Web presence, though one is in the works.

One conclusion I came to was that if a person was using regular motor oil in their Harley, or any other bike for that matter, it would behoove that person to buy as many cases of 'SH' or 'SG' oil as they thought might be appropriate for their situation. This situation has the same federal government induced, artifical shortage imminent smell as R-12 (right number?) Freon, which used to cost less than a dollar a can, and now is all but impossible to find, and then only for twenty five times the original price. While there likely won't be any outright ban on 'SH' or 'SG' rated oils, I feel certain that when current stocks are depleted in jobber warehouses and off store shelves, what's left will be harder to find and much more expensive.

Whew! Long post!

I confess I have been skeptical of Harley's claims relating to their motor oil, since they refuse to have it rated for anything but Harleys, and because I've been using Mobil 1 for decades in every kind of internal combustion engine. While I still am doubtful that a mineral oil product provides anywhere near state of the art lubrication, a person should feel comfortable with the oil put in their Harley. Harley-Davidson oil fills that person's need. Given the uncertain nature of 'SJ' oils and the high cost of Harley Davidson motorcycles, a person can, apparently, do far worse.

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