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Monday, December 15, 2008

Lube Notes: Petroleum Oil Production and Oil vs Synthetic Motor Oil

Comparing Synthetic Oil vs Conventional Oil

If you read the first two installments of Lube Notes, you have probably come to realize that I am gradually equipping you to evaluate lubricating products including a comparison between synthetic oil vs conventional oil. I am convinced that understanding some basic principles of lubrication can free us from believing everything that we read or hear. In this issue, I will briefly explain how petroleum oils are refined, introduce synthetic base oils and explain motor oil’s classification system used to assign quality levels to finished base stocks.

6.5L Diesel Land Speed Racer: Beginnings


Bill Heath has visited the annual Speed Week event at Bonneville for the last 30 years. This Summer, when he steps onto the Bonneville Salt Flats International Speedway, he will arrive as a registered contestant and not a visitor, a distinction that makes all the difference in the world to him.
Given Bill’s dedication to the 6.2/6.5 GM diesels, you might have guessed – even if no one else has ever done it at Bonneville – that Bill will be racing something powered by a 6.5L diesel. As it turns out, that something is a full-sized Chevy pickup.

Duramax LLY Overheating: The GM Solution and Beyond

My first experience towing with my 2005 LLY Duramax was a thrill – and a disappointment. In stock form, other than some gauges and a power program that added about 100 crankshaft horsepower and roughly 180 foot-pounds of torque, there was no disappointment with the power – it was awesome! I could yank around a 27-foot fifth-wheel travel trailer and almost forget that it was there. I had all the power I needed beneath my right foot and the ability to accelerate on any hill I encountered.
The disappointment was my cooling fan: it engaged far too often for my satisfaction. It wasn’t even hot outside. The ambient temperature stood at a meager 65°F: I wasn’t towing particularly hard either, running at about 65 MPH on mostly flat ground and only a few smaller hills. A stock Duramax would pull just as well on this route and generate the same amount of heat – for the most part – I really was not into all that much extra power.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Lube Notes: Motor Oil Formulation

The last issue of maxxTORQUE Lube Notes explained the regimes of lubrication including Hydrodynamic Lubrication, Boundary Lubrication and Elastohydrodynamic Lubrication. As promised, I will now talk about the formulation of motor oils and why we put all those additives in our oil. Before we get into the formulations of the motor oils, we better take a look at the functions of motor oil. If we understand what oil is doing, then we can better understand why we choose certain base stocks and additives.
Motor oil must perform the following functions:
  • Lubricate engine parts in order to prevent wear
  • Reduce friction and improve fuel economy
  • Maintain clean engine components
  • Prevent rust and corrosion
  • Minimize engine deposits
  • Provide engine cooling
  • Aid in engine starting
  • Provide ring seal for better combustion pressure
Each of these functions is vital to optimum performance as well as to the durability of the internal combustion engine. Motor oils are complex lubricating fluids carefully formulated to perform all of these functions.

The Black, White and Greys of the Duramax Fuel Filter

Grandpa used to lecture me about the importance of draining the water separator on his farm’s diesel tractor. This man, who wouldn’t hesitate to fix things with haywire or binder twine was, however, a purist when it came to maintenance. Experience had taught him that draining the water separator could mean the difference between a well performing engine and one with problems – or one that didn’t run at all.
The investment required to properly maintain the fuel system meant avoiding the corrosion and scoring caused by water when it runs amok in the fine-tolerance components of a diesel engine.
Duramax engines are significantly more sophisticated than Grandpa’s tractor. One might think that these more sophisticated engines can look after themselves a little better. In a sense that is true: today, we have more feedback than ever coming from our engines. But to think that these engines can handle not being maintained as well as their less sophisticated forerunners is far from the truth. In fact, just the opposite: today’s fuel injectors and other components require much higher tolerances. Consider that a typical conventional diesel fuel system prior to the DMax operated at fuel pressures of 1,200 to 1,500 PSI. Then compare those numbers to the original LB7 fuel injector that operated in the range of 4,500 to 23,200 PSI!

Direct Oil Cooling, Part 2

In Direct Oil Cooling – Part One, we discussed indirect and direct cooling methods and we examined oil’s new role as a coolant, rather than a mere lubricant, with new technologies such as under-piston oil squirting shifting more – up to 50% more – of the turbo diesel’s total cooling burden to the oil. We observed worst-case oil temperatures exceeding 360ºF, causing oil pressure to plummet and rendering oil, as a lubricant, virtually useless. In Part Two, we’ll look at the science behind indirect and direct oil cooling and discover why direct cooling, properly engineered, offers the only solution that can control:
  • Oil temperature,
  • Viscosity, and
  • Flow rate
to design specification limits under those same high load/high RPM conditions; and, substantially expand the overall capacity of the cooling system. In doing so, we will discover a host of benefits that can be realized only by directly cooling your oil.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Intro to Lubrication

Why have a section about lubrication in a magazine about GM Diesels?
Simply stated, there is a direct connection between lubrication and the health and life of your vehicles. GM has done its part by manufacturing these marvelous machines; each owner is solely responsible for their maintenance. As a Certified Lubrication Specialist (CLS), certified by the Society of Tribologist and Lubrication Engineers (STLE), I cringe at the misleading advertising, misinformation and lack of lubrication education for both consumers and service professionals. In this continuing series, Lube Notes, I seek to provide factual information on lubrication to allow readers to rise above all the advertising hype and half-truths in order to make informed decisions when selecting lubricants – engine oil, transmission fluid, gear lube – for their vehicles. With this goal in mind, I intend to educate, not indoctrinate. In fact, the information in these columns will equip you to see through the attempts at indoctrination that surround us.

Duramax Oil Cooling, Part 1

The fish are in the freezer, and with that, it is time for my annual reel cleaning and vehicle servicing regimen; an oil change is always part of it. I am reminded of what that oil went through on all those fishing trips.
It all started with a realization that my thermo-viscous fan should not be such a common occurrence. I seemed to fly effortlessly up steep mountain grades with my big camper load, on a 103ºF Arizona day, in air conditioned comfort, and in complete complacent silence, dreaming of bass boils. Then I awoke, eyes wide and startled, to the sound of a 747 landing on top of me… THAT FAN!

Project 6.5 Diesel Suburban Renewal

When the 6.5s were built, there really was no horsepower race and 190 HP was, well, “not bad”. Compared to the Duramax, 190 HP doesn’t measure up and, as we all know, power really does matter. To make things worse, the 6.5 problems have not been limited to less-than-desirable power; they have also had reliability issues – as we experienced for ourselves in the course of this rebuild. Perhaps, in a quest for more power and reliability, you have searched some of the big name diesel upgrade companies only to conclude that there are not any products out there that will mollify the frustrations you have experienced with your 6.5. There are, however, solutions that will make these trucks perform like they should – at a price that can’t be beat.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

The Phoenix 6.2L Diesel Rebuild


My son Jens stays busy with an international transportation company, keeping their aging equipment between North Vancouver and Lillooet running: laying track, operating heavy machinery and generally making himself useful.
Ever since high school, Jens has participated in an annual silliness around here known as The Birken Ralley. The local off-road enthusiasts spend all their disposable income and sometimes more to build the toughest trucks. Then – here’s the silliness – they get together every Spring and drive out into the bush to get drunk and wreck their masterpieces. Early on in the madness, Jens recognized the superiority of the 1967 to 1972 Chevy/GMC body style. The high degree of GM part interchangeability, the simple, classic lines, the uncomplicated, before-pollution-control systems and the heavier-than-today sheet metal convinced him that the last of the line, the ‘72, represents the zenith in the development of the North American pickup truck. Over the years, he has built up quite a number of these vehicles and he has come to understand them down to the molecular level. In his work travels, he keeps his eye out and knows the location and condition of every one within a couple of hundred miles of home.