Johnson PO Special Interest Group
By Bill Salisbury. This article originally appeared in "The Antique Outboarder" April 1996, page 19.
I must respond to the article written by Bill Milligan in the January 1996 issue of The Outboarder. I am tired of the synthetic oil bashing, as well as that of petroleum based two cycle-oils. According to Mr. Milligan, we should all be using non-detergent automobile oils to lube our favorite engines, and he says that the outboard engine manufacturers are telling us this is best. Hogwash! This idea went out in the early '50s when the "good quality outboard oils" came into being. From that time forth, the manufacturers actually recommended as first choice, the good grade of outboard motor oil and if that was not available, then use the non-detergent auto oil. Furthermore, if you care to read through the OMC Service Bulletins, you will find that several have been written addressing this issue. They point out that all engines manufactured after 1950 can use the TCW II oils at least. They also specify the ratios and it is noted that the engines with plain metal bearings need to use more oil.
I have a hard time accepting the concept that because we operated a certain way in the past, that we should still operate that way, i.e. if it was good enough for my grandfather, then it is good enough for me. Another analogy is with the Model A Ford, which came with no air filter. So therefore, when we restore one today, we should always run one with no air filter.
I cannot speak for all synthetic oils, but I can attest to AMSOIL and its performance in my own engines. Before I began using AMSOIL in my antique outboards, I began to use it in all of my various lawn and garden engines. Granted, these are all modern engines and most, if not all, have needle and roller bearings. They all had manufacturer specified fuel/oil ratios ranging from 20:1 to 50:1. 1 began using AMSOIL in all of them at 100:1 ratio and figured that if one or all of them are going to blow up as a result, then at least I will know for certain the results and can go through each blown engine and determine where and why the failure occurred. To this day, all are running happily and probably better than they did before AMSOIL. I have been running them this way for four years. I do not winterize any of them or give them any special consideration. Not a one has ever shown any signs of rusting internally or sticking or binding from lack of use over extended periods. AMSOIL has special rust and corrosion inhibitors to prevent these problems. I cannot speak for the other synthetics, as I said before, nor am l recommending that you not winterize your engines, especially your prized antiques.
While I am addressing winterization, I must point out that at one time the manufacturers said that putting a teaspoon of non-detergent oil in the cylinders and rotating the engine a few turns would do the trick. No longer is that what they recommend. There is no substitute for fogging
your engine with a good quality fogging oil while the engine is running. Stop the engine at the end of this process while the engine is smoking profusely. This will coat the entire inside of the engine including bearings, crankpins, wristpins, cylinder walls, seals, etc. with a rich coating of oil that will preserve the engine and prevent rusting for long idle periods. It is wise to perform this treatment if the engine is planned to remain idle for over 30 days.
If I was going to use a petroleum base oil in my antique engines, the last choice of lubricants would be an automotive non-detergent oil. I have seen the results of this type of oil in almost every old outboard that I have torn down. Stuck rings, scorched piston skirts, thick coatings of carbon on the undersides of the pistons, as well as coked up ports are enough to convince me. Because we used to do it that way, we should continue? My first choice of lubricants is AMSOIL synthetic and I choose to use either a 32:1 ratio or a 50:1 ratio, depending upon the engine. The plain bearing engines get the 32:1. Three years of running my engines on AMSOIL and at these ratios has proven to me that I am on the right track. There have been no failures, no accelerated wear, no rusting, no seizures, only outstanding performance and not a single plug change. I value my engines too much to take chances.
If I were to return to a petroleum base oil, and I do use one particular brand when I am breaking in a newly rebuilt powerhead, I would mix at a 16:1 ratio in most all cases. A racing engine might get a 12:1 or even 8:1 mix during break in. After a few hours of break in and when I am satisfied that the engine is happy, then I will go to the AMSOIL. In the case of a racing engine running with gasoline fuel, I would most likely choose 20:1 ratio. All my race engines so far are run on alky/castor mix.
By the way, I don't know of any outboards built after the middle 1920s or so that had any babbitt bearings in them. The mains are usually bronze and the connecting rods are either solid bronze or aluminum with a bronze insert cast in place.
A few days ago during a cool day in January, I was out running an Elto Speedster testing a timer repair and running this engine on AMSOIL 32:1 ratio. This engine had not run in about 15 years. After some preliminary checking in the shop, this engine started on the first twist of the knob on the flywheel and kept running. I ran the engine on several different days. I checked the rpm with my tach and found that with the lower pitch prop I had installed, that it would turn up 3700 flat out, pushing my big, heavy aluminum boat. It would plane off easily without my moving forward. Since this rpm was a bit over the recommended, I just reduced it a little bit, so as not to run continuously over 3500.
Once the engine was back in the shop, I pulled the carb off to have a look in the crankcase at "all those burned up bearings." I found what I expected. The inside of the crankcase was juicy with mixture and the crankpins, viewed through the oil holes, were liberally coated with oil. There was no discoloration, no -unhappiness anywhere.
So what does all this have to do with the Johnson PO Special Interest Group Report? Nothing, except that I run my trusty PO on AMSOIL too, at a 50:1 mix. Am I going to ruin it or wear it out? Want to put yours, running on that non-detergent auto oil, against mine? We'll see whose is running after 30 years or so!
The information written in this article, still holds true today.
These materials are copyrighted. Published here with the kind permission of Bill Salisbury.
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