We Reserve The Right…Or Do They?

EP Editorial Staff | January 1, 2007


Ken Bannister, Contributing Editor

As a classic car and motorcycle enthusiast, I spend much of my spare time restoring and “playing” with vintage vehicles. Ironically, modern technology, through introduction and use of the Internet, has drastically changed my hobby over the past 5-10 years. In this realm of lightning-fast communication, likeminded individuals engage in continual virtual discussions, passing on a wealth of experiences, techniques and knowledge that would have been practically impossible for an amateur to amass in pre-Internet society.

Recently, during a favorite user group session on MG sports cars, a thread regarding lubricant reformulation generated signifi cant discussion. That’s because vintage vehicles employ simple metallurgy and mechanical systems that are content to run on a variety of quality fuels and lubricants-as long as they contain basic anti-wear ingredients. In the past, old engines relied heavily on ZDDP (zinc dialkyldithiophosphate) to retard engine component friction and wear. Without much fanfare, though, early 2006 saw the introduction of the latest API SM lubricant standard, formulated specifi cally to meet the demands of modern engine design and increased catalytic converter life. As a result, ZDDP has been all but eliminated from virtually every oil manufacturer’s standard oil product. Unfortunately, lacking any knowledge of this reformulation, vintage vehicle owners have continued performing regular oil changes with their trusted lubricant products, only to experience premature failures of critical valve trains and camshaft components-within 1,000 miles of an oil change!

Consumer product manufacturers have always reserved the right to change recipes, formulations or designs at their discretion. When a trusted brand or product is changed, it often is done with little ceremony-or impact to the end user-until someone eventually realizes the “new and improved” product can no longer be trusted.

For example, CocaCola wasn’t able to hide a new recipe (masquerading as the original) from discerning taste buds for long. The corporation soon was forced to reevaluate its new formula.

In the world of lubrication and lubricants, it’s different. The impact of a formulation change is diffi cult to assess-unless a diligent approach to monitoring lubrication-related failures and lubricant composition has been implemented.

Those who have been through a lubricant consolidation program know that you establish a relationship with a lubricant manufacturer in which they become intimate with your lubrication practices, working environment and equipment bearing needs. The least number of lubricants are chosen to deliver optimal reliability in accordance with your needs. Still, conditions and products change from time to time. To protect equipment from premature failure caused by product reformulation, companies can perform the following:

  • Establish agreements with your supplier(s) to inform you of any formulation change, then perform an equipment impact assessment prior to ordering new formulation stock.
  • Inform your lubricant supplier(s) of any changes in work environment conditions, equipment design, new equipment additions, etc.
  • Inform your lubricant supplier(s) of any recurring lubrication-related failure.
  • Perform regular “virgin” stock oil sampling, and compare to the original “virgin” baseline. Contact the supplier if signifi cant formulation change is encountered.
  • If you do not have a lubrication/lubricant management program, START ONE NOW!

Sadly, we live in a “buyer beware” society in which the end user cannot afford blind trust or complacency. Are you monitoring your lubricant quality? Good Luck!

Ken Bannister is the lead partner and principal consultant with Engtech Industries, Inc. E-mail: kbannister@engtechindustries.com; or telephone: (519) 469-9173.


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