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Ask AMSOIL: Should I Use Racing Oil in my Daily Driver?

I Drive Aggressive: Is Racing Oil a better choice for my Daily Driver?

Motorists who are passionate about engine protection and performance can easily succumb to the following 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 the 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, too.

Increased heat and stress

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.

Racing creates tougher operating conditions

Racing, however, is a whole different animal. The powerful, modified engines in racing vehicles produce extreme heat and pressures beyond the capabilities of the average car or truck. A 900-hp Pro 4×4 off-road racing truck can produce engine temperatures of more than 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 must be formulated differently to protect these demanding engines. Even so, it doesn’t mean you should order a case of AMSOIL DOMINATOR® Synthetic Racing Oil for your car.

Racing oils are changed more frequently

Why? 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 it should be changed more frequently. 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.

Second, you want to use an oil in your daily driver that excels in several performance areas:

  • Wear protection
  • Long oil life
  • Maximum fuel economy
  • Engine cleanliness
  • Corrosion protection
  • Oxidation resistance
  • Easy cold-temp starts

Motor oil additives produce many of these benefits. For example, anti-oxidant additives fight high 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 for space, so to speak.

Racing oils use different additives

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.

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 most are 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.

To find the right oil for your vehicle, use the AMSOIL Product Guide.

What Motor Oil is Best for Winter? (And Other Cold-Weather Questions)

The Best Winter Motor and Transmission Oil Choice

Synthetic oil is best for winter.

We’re done here.

If only it were that simple. But most people want empirical data to support such claims.

Well, take a look at the video. We cooled a conventional 5W-30 motor oil and AMSOIL Signature Series 5W-30 Synthetic Motor Oil to -40º. As you can see, the conventional oil thickened so much that it barely flowed from the beaker. The AMSOIL product, on the other hand, flows almost immediately.

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Why the dramatic performance difference? In answering that question, I’ll also answer the question hoss61761 poses on social media:

Conventional oils contain waxes that solidify when the temperature drops. This severely impairs the oil’s ability to flow when you crank your engine. In some cases, the oil can thicken so much that it prevents the crankshaft from spinning fast enough to start the engine.

Prior to using AMSOIL, I had a Cutlass Ciera that was notorious for refusing to start on our cold Minnesota mornings. The dirt-cheap big-box-retailer oil I used back then thickened so much the engine would barely turn over.

Why synthetics flow better in winter weather

Synthetics, in contrast, don’t contain waxes due to the chemical-reaction process used to construct synthetic base oils. As a result, synthetics demonstrate far better cold-flow properties than conventional oil. Not only will your vehicle start more easily (I’ve yet to have one of my vehicles using AMSOIL fail to start, even with temps pushing -30ºF), the oil will flow more quickly, ensuring oil reaches vital components faster. This, in turn, maximizes wear protection, helping your engine last longer.

Check the oil’s pour point

If you want more data to prove synthetics’ cold-weather superiority, check the oil’s Product Data Sheet. Look for the oil’s pour point. Lower numbers indicate better cold-flow, thus better cold-weather performance.

In the example here, you can see that AMSOIL Signature Series 5W-30, the same oil shown in the video above, has a pour point of -58ºF (-50ºC).

What is cold?

Not to get existential here, but it’s a relevant question. Folks in the south whose idea of winter is putting shoes on for a couple weeks in January may think they’re off the hook. Do they need to waste mental energy on motor oil cold-flow properties?

Good cold-flow is important to Southerners, too. Here’s why.

Engineers agree that most engine wear occurs during cold starts. There are several reasons, but two concern us for this discussion:

  • Gravity causes much of the oil to fall back into the oil sump, leaving components unprotected
  • Cold oil doesn’t flow immediately at startup, temporarily starving the engine of oil

While true that oil thickens more in sub-zero winter weather and causes increased starting difficulty, an engine is considered “cold” after it’s sat long enough to cool to ambient temperature, typically overnight.

The oil inside your engine cools as it sits overnight. As it cools, its viscosity increases (it thickens). When it’s time to start your vehicle in the morning, the thicker oil doesn’t flow through the engine as readily as it does when it’s at operating temperature. It’s during this time that vital engine parts can operate without lubrication, increasing wear. So, even in warm climates, cold-start wear is a problem. Southerners are well-advised to use a good synthetic oil with excellent cold-flow properties, too.

Thick or thin oil in winter?

Motorists sometimes ask if they should use thicker or thinner oil in the winter. Fortunately for them, we wrote a whole post on that topic. Check it out here.

Should I Switch to a Lighter Viscosity Oil in Winter?

To summarize, use the lowest viscosity oil your vehicle manufacturer recommends in the winter. Most automakers recommend a lone viscosity year-round. But some allow you to switch to a lower viscosity in winter, which helps improve cold-flow.

If your owner’s manual says you can switch to a lower viscosity oil in winter, go for it.

Shift to better winter protection

While I have you here, I should talk about transmission fluid, too. Like motor oil, it thickens in cold weather. The cold, thick fluid doesn’t flow readily through the intricate network of passageways in the transmission valve body or through the small solenoid openings. What does that mean to you?

  • Delayed shifts
  • Elongated shifts
  • Hard/harsh shifts
  • Reduced wear protection

Cold, thick transmission fluid doesn’t flow readily through narrow valve-body passages, leading to poor shift quality.

Again, I’ll go to the well of personal experience. After buying a Honda CR-V several years ago, I switched to AMSOIL synthetic motor oil…but I neglected to change the transmission fluid. Fast-forward to winter and one of our trademark -20ºF mornings with a wind chill pushing past -40º. The Honda started, but she shifted slowly and with much wailing and gnashing of teeth. The entire vehicle shuddered as it reluctantly found second gear heading down the road.

Switching to synthetic transmission fluid solved the problem. The fluid flows much more readily in the cold, which translates into smoother shifts. It also means the gears and bearing are receiving vital lubrication, too. Anyone who’s shelled out thousands of dollars for a tranny replacement knows how important that is.

Buy AMSOIL Signature Series ATF

Bottom Line: Synthetic motor oil and drivetrain lubricants perform better in the cold than conventional oils. They flow better for easier starts, smoother shifts and better protection against wear. Upgrade to synthetics to maximize cold-weather protection and performance.

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Watch Scott Judnick Go Big – And Why We’re Into Snow

Watch Scott Judnick Go Big – And Why We’re Into Snow

At AMSOIL, we like to do things big. And when it comes to the world of Snocross, Scott Judnick of Judnick Motorsports likes to do things just as big. Check out his story below.

It’s About the People

Twenty-two years ago, Scott Judnick took his sons racing. Within just a few years he was running a rig across the country to race. His two sons developed into professional riders complete with mechanics and trailers set-up for the AMSOIL Championship Snocross Series. Find Judnick anywhere on the track or in the pits and you are sure to be greeted with a smile and a “How are ya?”

For Judnick, it’s all about the people within the racing community. Fielding the dreams of the three young racers on his team is just a bonus.

Overcoming Adversity

Judnick went into the 2018-19 Snocross season with notable riders expected to dominate the Pro, Pro Lite and Sport classes. The season started on a high note with Sport rider Carson Alread taking the checkers to open the season in Duluth, Minn.

Noticeably absent from the Friday night DOMINATOR race was Pro Lite rider Nick Lorenz. A re-aggravated knee injury forced Lorenz to take it easy opening weekend. After further observation, he underwent surgery that ended his season before it started. Making matters worse for the team, a scary landing during practice in Canterbury, Minn., left Alread sidelined for the remainder of the season, too.

But that didn’t stop Judnick from continuing to compete. He signed Canadian standout RJ Roy, along with Pro rider Corin Todd. Roy has proven he can hang with the big boys, landing just short of the podium multiple rounds.

AMSOIL Products Keep Sleds Running Strong

Race sleds operate in extreme conditions. Judnick relies on AMSOIL DOMINATOR Synthetic 2-Stroke Racing Oil to keep his race sleds running in those extreme conditions.

“Our engines are tuned to run on the very edge and placed under extreme demands in extreme weather conditions,” said Judnick. “We’ve been using DOMINATOR since its inception and it has never let us down.”

DOMINATOR® Synthetic 2-Stroke Racing Oil

Buy DOMINATOR Synthetic 2-Stroke Racing Oil

Not to be forgotten, the chaincases on these sleds also need attention. Judnick uses AMSOIL Synthetic Chaincase & Gear Oil to protect his sleds’ chaincases.

“The chain and sprockets on our race sleds take a beating from the harsh landings and constant changes in snow and track conditions. With just routine maintenance, AMSOIL Synthetic Chaincase & Gear Oil prevents us from having parts failures in these areas,” said Judnick.

chain case oil

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Another team favorite? Mudslinger. It provides a protective, non-stick layer of armor against the accumulation of snow.

Mudslinger®

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Will Judnick go big this weekend? Be sure to watch his team live in action this weekend at the Seneca Allegany Snocross National in Salamanca, N.Y.