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SCCA Mazda Engine Builder Trusts Only AMSOIL

Championship Engine Builder Trusts Only AMSOIL

More than 1,080 miles covering six states separate Jesse Prather Motorsports, in Topeka, Kansas, from Virginia International Raceway.

And yet Jesse Prather’s influence at the track in October for the Sports Car Club of America’s (SCCA) annual “Runoffs” was unmistakable as an estimated 20 cars had one of his motors under its hood. In 2017, that number was 32. And two of those cars won national championships that year.

Top driver becomes top engine builder

That’s all to say that Jesse Prather is a big name in SCCA road-racing circles, particularly for competitors at the Runoffs, the SCCA’s biggest event. Many of them source their engines from Prather’s shop, where he puts his wealth of racing experience to work.

Although Prather has raced himself, winning three SCCA national championships, and has built race cars, today he mostly builds high-performance engines. He’s developed a niche building Mazda engines, but he also builds Honda, BMW and other foreign-made engines.

No doubt his father’s experience racing British sports cars for parts of three decades played a part in Prather’s career. Prather’s father opened a racing shop in Kansas around 1990, where Jesse worked for 10 years. It was there he started working on Mazdas.

“A customer wanted me to build a rotary engine for his RX-7, and it just kind of snowballed from there,” Prather said. His success behind the wheel laid the foundation for his success as an engine builder.

“[When you win], people want to know where you’re getting your equipment from. I built it all myself, so that’s how I started this business.”

AMSOIL Break-In Oil key to success

Today, Prather runs his own business, and AMSOIL products are a huge part. In fact, every engine that leaves Jesse Prather Motorsports is shipped with AMSOIL Break-In Oil inside the crate. It was this product that drew Prather to AMSOIL several years ago.

“I was looking for an oil that would seat rings properly, but that I could also run hard on the dyno,” said Prather. “With a lot of the break-in oils out there at that time, you couldn’t run the engine hard on the dyno because it couldn’t take the heat that we put them through on initial break-in.”

Break-In Oil (SAE 30)

Engine break-in is vital to building a championship racing engine. If the piston rings don’t seat properly against the cylinder wall, engine compression can suffer, reducing horsepower.

In Prather’s case, engine design posed additional challenges.

“We used forged pistons with thin rings to reduce drag in the bottom end of the engine,” he said. “I used to always have a lot of trouble getting these rings to break-in to the cylinder wall.”

Prather tried several techniques to solve the problem, but AMSOIL Break-In Oil proved most successful. “Now the rings seat in the first 10-15 minutes versus having to run an engine 2-3 hours before the rings seat – and sometimes they’d never seat,” he said.

“Every single engine I ship has AMSOIL Break-In Oil shipped in the crate with the engine. It’s a required step to using a Jesse Prather Motorsports racing engine.”

Jesse Prather

Racing oil just as important

Prather’s use of AMSOIL products doesn’t end after break-in.

He recommends AMSOIL DOMINATOR® Synthetic Racing Oil in his engines due to its excellent wear protection and heat resistance.

(Should you use racing oil in your daily driver? Find out here.)

“Even after running fairly high oil temperatures during a race, the oil does a good job absorbing the contaminants we put it through,” said Prather.

Most customers have their engines rebuilt after two years or 20 hours. It’s then that he sees DOMINATOR’s excellent performance first-hand.

“When I get these motors back, I see that the bearings have been protected. We don’t have bearing scuffing. We don’t have bearing deterioration. I don’t see extensive wear in some of the chain-driven camshafts. I don’t see excessive wear on the bore or on the pistons.”

“It’s amazing; it just works. And we abuse it. This oil gets abused day in and day out.”

Jesse Prather

DOMINATOR® 10W-30 Racing Oil

Prather’s use of AMSOIL extends beyond the motor.

He uses Synthetic Manual Transmission and Transaxle Gear Lube in all synchronizer-equipped transmissions. He also uses SEVERE GEAR® Synthetic Gear Lube in the differentials and some transmissions not equipped with synchros.

As Prather says, wear protection is the key to a good differential fluid, particularly in high-demand racing applications that undergo tremendous pressure. And SEVERE GEAR meets his demands.

“Even up to 300°F (149°C), SEVERE GEAR doesn’t break down; it continues to protect. It can take the heat and it still protects those gears.”

Jesse Prather

New Easy Pack for simple differential oil servicing.

AMSOIL isn’t just for racing

Prather makes sure his customers know just how well AMSOIL performs.

“I tell them it does the best job protecting their engine, period. I’ve been around racing for 40 years, and I tell them it works the best for what we’re doing with these cars.”

“I’ve seen the least amount of wear in the engines and the best protection of any other oil I’ve ever used, and I’ve used a lot over the years.”

Jesse Prather

While Prather has notched plenty of wins on the track, he derives more satisfaction from seeing his customers win.

“I’ve had a customer win a national championship every year for the last multiple years,” he said. “And that really is what drives me to keep pushing.”

As with many AMSOIL users, Prather’s initial positive experience with one AMSOIL product convinced him to try others. He now uses AMSOIL products in everything he owns with an engine.

“I’ve expanded into using AMSOIL in all my engines, from my lawnmowers, to my RV, to my skidsteer, to all my family’s vehicles. I use it exclusively. I don’t have any other oils in my shop,” he said.

And the reason he uses it, as his customers have found out, is that it simply works.

“That’s all that matters to an engine builder. It’s not about being loyal to a certain company – it’s about what works. I trust AMSOIL exclusively with all my racing engines,” said Prather.

Racing Oil vs. Regular Oil: What’s the Difference?

Why not use Racing Oil in my Car If It’s Tougher?

When deciding if racing oil is right for their vehicles, gearheads and other enthusiasts sometimes offer this line of reasoning:

  1. Racing engines are more severe than my engine
  2. Racing engines use racing oil
  3. Therefore, I should use racing oil in my vehicle for best protection

It’s true that your average racing engine creates operating conditions more severe than the average passenger car engine.

However, that’s not to say that modern engines aren’t tough on oil.

The turbocharged, direct-injection engines in modern vehicles generate increased heat and contaminants compared to their predecessors. Motor oil bears the brunt of the added stress.

That’s why industry motor-oil specifications keep growing tougher and automakers are increasingly recommending synthetic oils to meet these strict performance specs.

Scott Douglas AMSOIL racing truck

Scott Douglas AMSOIL race truck

Should I use racing oil in my car?

Racing, however, is a whole different animal.

The powerful, modified engines in racing vehicles produce extreme heat and pressures your average car or truck simply will never see.

A 900-hp Pro 4×4 race truck can produce engine temperatures in excess of 300ºF (149ºC). Engine temperatures in a typical passenger car/light truck fall somewhere between 195ºF and 220ºF (90ºC – 104ºC).

The difference is even more striking when you consider that the rate of motor oil oxidation (chemical breakdown) doubles for every 18ºF (10ºC) increase in oil temperature.

The tremendous shearing forces the oil bears as it’s squeezed between the interfaces of the pistons/rings and cam lobes/lifters pose another problem. The pressure can tear apart the molecular structure of the oil, reducing its viscosity and film strength.

Racing oil has to be formulated differently to protect these demanding engines. Even so, it doesn’t mean you should order a case of AMSOIL DOMINATOR®  10w-30 Synthetic Racing Oil for your car.

DOMINATOR® 15W-50 Racing Oil

Racing oil is changed more often

So, why not use racing oil in your daily driver? For starters, racing oils are changed frequently.

Most professionals change oil every couple races, if not more frequently. For that reason, racing oils are formulated with a lower total base number (TBN) than passenger car motor oils.

TBN is a measure of the oil’s detergency properties and its ability to neutralize acidic byproducts. Oils with longer drain intervals have higher TBNs.

AMSOIL Signature Series Synthetic Motor Oil features a TBN of 12.5 to enable its 25,000-mile/one-year drain interval.

In contrast, DOMINATOR Synthetic Racing Oil has a TBN of 8 since we recommend changing it more often. As great as it performs on the track, DOMINATOR is not what you want in your engine when you’re driving thousands of miles and several months between oil changes.

Regular motor oil is designed to provide additional benefits

You also want to use an oil in your daily driver that excels in several performance areas:

Motor oil additives produce many of these benefits. For example, anti-oxidant additives fight increased heat and extend oil service life.

Anti-wear additives interact with the metal surfaces of engine parts and guard against metal-to-metal contact.

Many additives form layers on metal surfaces. That being the case, they compete with each other for space, so to speak, like pigs competing for room at the trough.

Racing oils are often formulated with a heavy dose of friction modifiers to add lubricity for maximum horsepower and torque.

The boosted level of additives meant to increase protection and performance during a race doesn’t leave room in the formulation for additives found in passenger car motor oils that help maximize fuel economy, fight corrosion or improve cold-weather protection.

In effect, the ravenous pigs at the trough leave no room for their brethren, resulting in a less well-rounded formulation.

Bottom line: use regular motor oil in your daily driver

Achieving the tasks of a passenger car motor oil requires a finely balanced formulation. Too much or too little performance in one area can negatively affect other areas – and the oil’s overall protection and performance. The list of tasks required of a racing oil, however, is much shorter.

The right tool for the right job is an axiom with which you’re familiar. The same holds for motor oil. It’s best to leave racing oil to competition engines and use a properly formulated passenger car motor oil for your daily vehicle.

How Engine Sludge Forms. And How To Prevent It.

Engine Sludge Is Easily Avoidable

Engine sludge.

It’s a back gelatinous substance that wreaks havoc in engines. And long before the engine’s demise, engine sludge can foul engine sensors and interfere with performance. Some mechanics call it the “black death.”

How does motor oil, which is fluid, become a semi-solid paste or gel inside an engine?

Here’s what we’ll cover:

  • How engine sludge forms
  • The effects of engine sludge
  • Synthetic oil helps prevent engine sludge
  • High-quality additives fight engine sludge
  • Severe service invites engine sludge

How engine sludge forms

Engine sludge is the result of a series of chemical reactions.

The lubricant degrades as it is exposed to oxygen and elevated temperatures. The higher the temperature, the more rapid the rate of degradation. In fact, every 18°F (10°C) increase in temperature doubles the rate of oxidation.
Many people still believe any oil is fine as long as you change it often but 95% of the brands out there do not address that inch of protection when you really need it!! We’ve all had issues where the engine is overheating or some situation where adequate lubrication isn’t available. AMSOIL offers 75% more protection when you need it and our diesel oils offer 6X more protection than required by industry testing.

The by-products of this reaction form highly reactive compounds that further degrade the lubricant. Their by-products react with other contaminants, forming organic acids and high-molecular-weight polymeric products. These products further react, forming the insoluble product known more commonly as sludge.

What begins as a thin film of lacquer or varnish deposits on hot or cold metal surfaces and bakes into an expensive mess.

The effects of engine sludge

Sludge can block the oil passages and oil-pump pick-up screen, resulting in oil starvation. Often, the negative effects are cumulative rather than sudden.

Many engines with variable valve timing (VVT) use oil-pressure-operated mechanical devices to change valve timing, duration and lift. Sludge can plug the solenoid screen or oil gallies and impact the operation of VVT mechanisms, eventually leading to a costly repair bill. Sludge reduces efficiency and increases time and money spent on maintenance.

Who doesn’t want a cooler engine? Sludge, even the early stages prevents the engine from dispersing heat efficiently. Why would you risk a Group III “synthetic” which does leave deposits adding to or resulting into an engine which struggles to exhaust heat.

Synthetic oil helps prevent engine sludge

Fortunately, sludge and varnish deposits are something oil manufacturers can control. Using thermally stable synthetic base oils reduces the rate of degradation (oxidation). (Yes – and that is “Real 100%” Synthetics – not the ones they currently call “Fully”..

Anti-oxidant additives help reduce the rate of degradation as well. One of the most widely used is zinc dithiophosphate. Not only is it an excellent oxidation inhibitor, it is an outstanding anti-wear additive as well.

High-quality additives fight engine sludge

We can further address many of the issues occurring after the initial oxidation stage.

Additives, such as detergents and dispersants, are commonly part of motor oil formulation. They help promote the suspension of contaminants within the oil and keep them from agglomerating.

Detergents, which are also alkaline in nature, assist in neutralizing acids generated in the sludge-building process. Anti-oxidant, dispersant and detergent additives are consumed during use.

To achieve maximum life expectancy, use an oil with high concentrations of anti-oxidant, dispersant and detergent additives.

AMSOIL Signature Series Synthetic Motor Oil, for example, has 50 percent more detergents* to help keep oil passages clean and promote oil circulation. It provides 90 percent better protection against sludge**.

Signature Series Synthetic Motor Oil was subjected to the Sequence VG test to measure its ability to prevent sludge. Signature Series produced an oil pick-up tube screen virtually free from sludge. Our unique combination of detergents and high-quality base oils control oxidation and sludge to keep engines clean and efficient.

PDF of the test where AMSOIL has this done (Southwest Research)

AMSOIL Signature Series virtually prevented engine sludge on this oil pick-up screen.

Buy Signature Series

Severe service invites engine sludge

Equipment operating conditions also influence the likelihood of sludge or varnish issues.

Stop-and-go driving, frequent/long-term idling and operation in excessively hot or cold weather can increase the likelihood of sludge and varnish, especially if using more volatile conventional oils. If sludge has already formed, you can use an engine flush to clean sludge from your engine.

Interestingly, most auto manufacturers note in their owner’s manual that operation under any of the above conditions is considered severe service and requires more frequent oil changes.

From a mechanical standpoint, things like adding too much oil to the oil sump, antifreeze contamination, excessive soot loading, excessive oil foaming, poor engine-combustion efficiency, excessive blow-by and emission-control-system issues can all lead to the formation of sludge and varnish.

By practicing good maintenance and using properly formulated, premium synthetic lubricants, like AMSOIL synthetic motor oil, your vehicle won’t succumb to the “black death.”

Taking it a step further which many of our customers do – to make sure your vehicle is always running in peak condition one thing is to have your oil analyzed. I do it not so much to see how the oil is doing but to measure what may be going on in the engine to deplete detergents or to test for any out of typical wear levels, fuel in the crankcase, and to see if the viscosity is still on par.  Oil analysis kits are easy to use especially when you have the dipstick extraction pump.

*vs. AMSOIL OE Motor Oil
**Based on independent testing of AMSOIL Signature Series 5W-30 in the ASTM D6593 engine test for oil screen plugging as required by the API SN PLUS specification.

9 Tips for Safe Trailer Towing

9 Tips for Safe Trailer Towing

Friends of mine in Minneapolis were driving on Highway 35, talking about this and that, minding their own business, when – Wham! A trailer carrying a boat slammed into their car.

The trailer had disconnected from the tow vehicle and darted across the median in a high-velocity trajectory that could have killed my friends had it not been a glancing blow. Though the shattering glass put them in the hospital, it could have been much worse. It was an accident that shouldn’t have happened.

Safety tips for towing a trailer

One morning while driving to work I was thinking about this very topic and, right in front of me, I saw another towing accident. Someone towing his race car down Mesaba Ave. here in Duluth, Minn., caused a traffic jam when the stock car left the trailer and swept wildly into the midst of rush-hour traffic.

Again, it was an accident that shouldn’t have happened.

Whether it’s a boat, a house trailer or your trash to the dump, safe towing requires attention to detail.

Here are nine key points for safe towing and longer vehicle life

1) Know your weight limits

Make sure your trailer and whatever you’re hauling fall within the towing or hauling capacities of your vehicle. Check the owner’s manual to find the trailer types that your vehicle can haul and the maximum load weight it can pull. Use the right trailer hitch and make sure it is hitched correctly.

2) Distribute weight evenly

If your trailer fishtails (sways while accelerating), back off the gas and see if it stops. If it continues when you accelerate again, check to see how the weight is distributed on the trailer. It may not be distributed evenly from side to side, or else it’s too far back to place sufficient load on the hitch ball.

Try to carry 5-10 percent of the trailer load on the hitch. Redistribute the load as necessary before continuing.

3) Ensure the trailer lights work

Connect the brake and signal lights. Double check to make sure the trailer’s brakes, turn signals and tail lights are synchronized with the tow vehicle.

4) Properly inflate the tires

People I once knew suffered 17 tire blowouts while pulling a trailer from California to South Texas. (True!) You’d think they would have figured out they had too much weight in the trailer. In addition to staying within weight limits for your rig, be sure the tires are in good condition and properly inflated.

5) Your vehicle will handle differently

When towing, you’re operating a vehicle combination that’s longer and heavier than normal. Be sure to adjust your driving practices accordingly.

Backing up is tricky, but it’s a skill you can learn. Until you’re experienced, have someone direct you from outside in those tight spots or places where you have limited visibility.

Avoid sudden turns. I know – sounds obvious. But I was once the first person to an accident where someone decided at the last minute to take the exit instead of going straight. The car ended up upside down because the trailer had other ideas.

When it comes to towing accidents, don’t say, “It can’t happen to me.” Say instead, “It must not happen to me.”

6) Buckle your seat belt

In case your tow vehicle ends up upside down.

7) Stopping requires more distance

It’s a simple matter of physics. When towing, you have more momentum than you would without a trailer. Remember that stopping requires more time and distance. Avoid tailgating and pay attention to what’s happening a little farther down the road than you normally would.

8) Keep your head on a swivel

Maybe you forgot to fasten a chain, secure the hitch or tie down your payload properly. If you’re in a hurry to get home after a long trip, things like that can happen. Once you’re on the road, frequently check your mirrors to make sure everything looks good back there. I know a boat owner whose yacht fell sideways on the highway halfway between Canada and Duluth, which is the middle of nowhere for those who’ve never been there. Something wasn’t fastened properly. Bummer.

9) Upgrade your transmission protection

Towing places enormous stress on a transmission. In fact, because of the intense heat, towing is probably the number-one killer of transmissions.

For this reason, the “towing package” on many trucks includes a transmission-oil cooler. It also helps to use a high-end synthetic lubricant. Synthetics reduce friction and provide better resistance to high heat, helping the tranny run cooler, shift confidently and last longer.

Shameless plug time: AMSOIL Signature Series Synthetic ATF handles heat so well, you can confidently double your vehicle manufacturer’s severe-service drain interval in passenger cars and light trucks.

Check out our Las Vegas Taxi Cab field study for all the technical details if you’re so inclined.

Stay safe out there and visit our Sioux Falls AMSOIL Store at 4610 W. 12th St. (Just west of I29 about 1-block)  605-274-2580

Why Did We Reformulate Signature Series Synthetic Motor Oil?

Why Did We Reformulate Signature Series Synthetic Motor Oil?

Local Sioux Falls note: We are reposing this article from last fall as it is important to realize the changes coming and how these enhancements will only add to the performance on older vehicles too.

AMSOIL’s Signature Series likely already exceeds the future API specification which hasn’t rolled out yet and we know other larger competing lubricant companies are having issues with LSPI (read more below).

Simply put, we reformulated Signature Series Synthetic Motor Oil to solve problems.

For all the derision heaped upon the internal-combustion engine, it remains our primary mode of propulsion. And, despite the gains of hybrids and electric vehicles, it will remain so for the foreseeable future.

One reason is the tremendous efficiency gains gas and diesel burners have made since the 1970s. The loud, proud cast-iron powerplants of yesteryear may still quicken your pulse when they roar past powering a hot rod or classic car, but they can’t match the fuel economy and reduced emissions of the engine likely powering the vehicle you drove to work today.

That’s due to the widespread use of turbochargers, direct fuel injection, variable valve timing and lightweight materials.

But, despite their many benefits, modern engines present several challenges, and it’s up to the motor oil to solve them.

Four little letters, one big problem

One of the biggest is low-speed pre-ignition (LSPI). If you read the AMSOIL blog, you’ve heard about LSPI by now. LSPI is such a big deal that it’s the driving force behind the next generation of motor oil performance specifications.

In a nutshell, LSPI is the spontaneous ignition of the fuel/air mixture prior to spark-triggered ignition. It occurs in modern turbocharged, gasoline-direct-injection (T-GDI) engines, and it’s another version of pre-ignition, which has been around since engines were invented. In this case, though, it occurs under low-speed, high-torque conditions and is much more destructive than typical pre-ignition.

Computers to the rescue

Automakers can program their vehicles to avoid operating conditions that invite LSPI. The problem, though, is that programming the engine to operate on that “ragged edge” that invites LSPI promises fuel economy gains of up to 10 percent.

With CAFÉ standards looming, automakers are eager to realize those efficiency gains.

But they can’t until motor oils hit the market that help prevent LSPI. Motor oil formulation plays a big role in fighting LSPI, so much so that the next generation of motor oil specifications requires oils to pass an LSPI test. The forthcoming API SP and ILSAC GF-6 specifications aren’t scheduled for introduction until fall 2019, however.

Some automakers have grown impatient and have requested that the API, which licenses ILSAC GF-5, supplement the current specification with an LSPI test requirement. That could happen as early as January, 2018.

General Motors is ahead of the game. Its proprietary dexos1® Gen 2 spec, introduced in August, includes an LSPI test.

An oil that solves problems

Which brings us back to Signature Series. We want our flagship motor oil to stand alone as the best motor oil in the world, and preventing LSPI is one prerequisite to achieving that goal.

So we subjected it to an LSPI engine test.

The result? Signature Series Synthetic Motor Oil provided 100 percent protection against LSPI* in the engine test required by the GM dexos1 Gen 2 specification.

In short, the oil solves a major problem plaguing the industry right now.

But wait, there’s more…

What about the old standbys, like engine wear and extreme heat?

Here, too, Signature Series excels.

From the day your engine fires to life, friction tries to wear away bearing surfaces, cylinders, piston rings and other components. Left unchecked, it’ll render your pride and joy a gutless, wheezing shadow of its former self. Eventually, something can break completely.

We formulated Signature Series to deliver next-level wear protection. But we know you want proof, not promises.

In the API Sequence IV-A Engine Wear Test required for the API SN specification, Signature Series delivered 75 percent more wear protection than required**.

What does that mean for you?

An engine that lasts for years and delivers maximum horsepower long after you’ve made the final payment. To prove it, we installed Signature Series 5W-30 Synthetic Motor Oil in a Ford F-150 with a new 3.5L Ecoboost engine to test its ability to protect turbocharged direct-injection engines from torque and horsepower loss during extended drain intervals up to 25,000 miles. Power sweeps were done at the beginning and end of the test to evaluate horsepower and torque retention. As the graph shows, Signature Series helped maintain engine performance throughout the 100,000-mile test.

Fights engine deposits

Engine deposits, too, do their best to sideline your vehicle. High heat can breakdown motor oil, leading to piston ring, piston crown or valve deposits, which erode horsepower and efficiency. In severe cases, your engine can fail altogether.

Heat is more prevalent in T-GDI engines. Turbos run on exhaust gases that can exceed 1,000ºF and can spin more than 150,000 rpm. The turbo’s center section contains an oil-lubricated bearing. The tremendous heat and stress turbos create can cause some oils to break down and form harmful bearing deposits, known as turbo coking. Over time, turbos can suffer reduced performance, or fail completely.

Again, Signature Series solves the problem of extreme heat. We challenged Signature Series to the GM Turbo Coking Test, which consists of 2,000 cycles of extreme heat soaks. An oil must limit the temperature change within the turbocharger to 13 percent or less to pass the test. Signature Series limited the temperature increase to only 3.6 percent, protecting the turbocharger 72 percent better*** than required by the GM dexos1® Gen 2 specification.

Signature Series controlled heat and minimized performance-robbing deposits on the turbo bearing and shaft surfaces.

And, lest we forget, the performance of Signature Series Synthetic Motor Oil lets you extend drain intervals to 25,000 miles/one year if you choose, even in turbocharged engines.

With challenges to engine protection and performance mounting – and new problems cropping up – it’s vital we stay one step ahead.

That’ll help you continue to get the best protection and most years out of your vehicles.

BUY SIGNATURE SERIES SYNTHETIC MOTOR OIL

* Based on independent testing of AMSOIL Signature Series 5W-30 motor oil, in the LSPI engine test as required for the GM dexos 1® Gen 2 specification.
** Based on independent testing of AMSOIL Signature Series 0W-20, in ASTM D6891 as required by the API SN specification.
*** Based on independent testing of AMSOIL Signature Series 5W-30 in the GM turbo coking test.