your flavor of two-stroke oil has long been a subject for heated
"conversation" on the trail and at the local dealer. I've
witnessed out right arguments over the virtues of boutique oil (one way
to refer to the high end low volume oil manufactures) versus the OEM oil
that the local dealer swears by. The dealer swears the OEM's make the
best oil, period.
Well, hopefully you've learned enough from past oil articles on the site
to realize that no OEM actually makes its own oil. They merely provide a
specification of an oils blend produced by specialty lubricant
manufacturers to follow. Some of the standards are pretty low, based on
what we've found too.
To understand more, Snowmobile-Online.com spent some time on the phone
and via email with Spectro Oil's Mike Baldwin and Ken Ciocci. Both are
factory reps with the Brookfield, CT firm. We asked the questions and
they supplied the answers. As you'll see, a simple question doesn't
always have a simple answer. The oil industry is extremely complex and
the manufacturers are working overtime to make the best possible
products for today's engines that are leaps and bounds more advanced
than the designs of just five years ago. Features like power valves,
Variable Exhaust Systems (VES), electronic fuel injection, and DPM are
just a few of the engine improvements.
Snowmobile-Online - We've all read and heard a lot of
different opinions about snowmobile oils. What should the average rider
do to prevent oil-related problems in their sled?
Spectro - Snowmobile lubrication is one of the easiest things to
take care of these days; however, some of us who were around
snowmobiling in the '60s and '70s remember that it didn't used to be
this easy. In the old days, we used to carry fuel containers and
measuring devices with us to make sure that our oil was pre-mixed at
exactly the right ratio, and if we made the mistake of choosing the
wrong oil or mixing fuel at the wrong ratio, we took the risk of fouling
a sparkplug or seizing an engine on the trail and facing a long walk
back to the trailer.
Fortunately, the vast majority of snowmobilers these days have the
luxury of a snowmobile equipped with an auto-lube oil injection system
that has become so refined that fouling sparkplugs and becoming stranded
due to an oil-related problem is extremely rare. In fact, engine
failures related to oil or lubricant problems are almost unheard of.
These days it's as easy as pulling up to the gas pump, filling your sled
with premium and giving a quick check to make sure the oil reservoir is
full and you are on your way! But, wait a minute...there could be a
problem if you don't follow a few easy steps. And, I have a few
suggestions with regard to snowmobile oils that could save you some time
and possible aggravation during your snowmobiling season.
It may sound very simple but whenever filling or topping up your oil
reservoir, be extremely careful not to let snow or rain to enter the
tank. The slightest amount of moisture in the oil reservoir could
eventually lead to a blockage in the oil pickup or feed line. An eight
gallon fill-up should require the addition of about 16 to 24 ounces of
oil to your reservoir, depending on riding style and make/model of sled.
If you are using more, you should have your dealer check and readjust
your oil pump. Remember, adjusting throttle cables at the carburetor
significantly changes the oil mixing ratio! Get accustomed to your
sled's thirst for oil and if you notice a sudden reduction in
consumption, less than 16 ounces after an eight gallon fill-up, take
immediate action! A worthwhile precaution in this scenario is to empty
half a quart of two-stroke oil into a friend's reservoir, add ten ounces
of gasoline to the remaining 16 ounces of oil, shake and pour directly
into your fuel tank. This will get you home on roughly an 80:1 mix. If
your auto-lube system failed or became blocked with ice, this should
save some major expenses and headaches! Do a second check for oil
consumption on the way home. Check your oil pump arm movement and even
if everything is fine, the extra oil won't cause any harm but it will
save you from saying the words, "If only." Also, remember to
tighten the fill cap! I've seen this happen before where the cap comes
lose and is lost somewhere in the belly pan of the snowmobile and a
major mess is sure to follow. Oil on the disc brake rotor is no joke!
Snowmobile-Online - A lot of dealers say to use only the
manufacturer's brand of oil since you could run into manufacturers
warranty problems if your engine fries for some unknown reason. What if
I'm on the trail and can't find it or I just don't want to use the OEM
oil? Will my warranty be voided?
Spectro - When choosing a two-stroke snowmobile injector oil,
most owners are inclined to follow the advice of their dealer and their
owner's manual. This is the best practice and will give the owner of a
new sled peace of mind. But snowmobile owners should be aware of the
fact that none of the snowmobile manufacturers warrantees are contingent
on the use of the manufacturer's brand oil.
Snowmobile-Online - What rating should I look for on the label
of aftermarket oil? Are they really the same as the O.E.M. oil? I know
this is going to be a lengthy answer since oil ratings are plentiful and
just as confusing. I've always been confused by the labels that claim an
oil is the panacea product for anything that uses injector oil.
Spectro - Most of the manufacturers oils are produced by
specialty lubricant manufacturers and these formulas are tested and
approved by the manufacturer for use in their sleds. The oils are
blended according to a formula that has been developed for two-stroke
engines and this oil is usually given a rating from the American
Petroleum Institute (API) of "TC", the Boating Industry
Association (BIA) rating of "TC-W", or the National Marine
Manufacturers Association (NMMA) rating of "TC-W II." All of
these formulas were originally developed for outboard engines; however,
motorcyclists found that their air cooled engines ran the best on the
oldest API TC oils. These API TC formulas contained a higher level of
bright stock 150, a high density petroleum base stock with a consistency
similar to honey, that gave the best protection against piston seizure
and bearing failure. To prevent carbon buildup in the piston ring
grooves, these TC oils used metal based detergents that were very
effective in motorcycle engines but caused some problems in outboard
engines operated at long periods of time at one throttle setting. A
whisker-like bridge could form across the sparkplug gap to permanently
foul a cylinder under these conditions while the motorcyclist operating
his engine at a constantly changing throttle setting never encountered
this problem. When the BIA developed the TC-W rating, they excluded the
use of these metal-based detergents in favor of organic detergents to
eliminate this problem in outboard engines. These TC-W oils (two-cycle,
water cooled) also contained lighter base oils without the bright stock
150. For engines operating in the 4,000 rpm to 5,000 rpm range, the
absence of the bright stock 150 had no affect on piston and bearing
life. However, off-road motorcyclists testing these new TC-W oils were
disappointed with the bearing life of their engines operating at 10,000
- 11,000 rpm and quickly returned to using the TC oils.
you don't want the full synthetic, the petroleum based Spectro
Sno out performs all the OEM oils in head to head testing.
click for larger image
BIA evolved into the National Marine Manufacturers Association (NMMA)
which works closely with the outboard manufacturers. The need for a
clean two-stroke outboard oil was recognized when piston ring groove
carbonization was seen as a primary cause for engine failure and a new
formula designated TC-W II was developed. While this oil was
significantly better for outboard use and was phosphate free, it still
was not the optimum two-stroke oil for engines operating above 8,000
rpm. Recently, efforts to develop an even cleaner outboard oil have
produced the latest NMMA TC-W3 and this oil, although containing no
bright stock 150, has produced remarkable levels of lubricity and
cleanliness in piston ring groove areas.
In Europe and the Far East, two-stroke motorcycles and scooters still
comprise a significant percentage of overall two-wheeled traffic.
Manufacturers of these engines have determined that they need still
higher quality levels for two-stroke lubricants.
In Japan, manufacturers have developed a series of strenuous engine
tests that can identify poor quality oils if they don't measure up in
performance. They tested over 250 samples of two-stroke oils worldwide
and used the survey results to establish these engine tests. This became
the JASO classification system. (Japanese automobile standards
The tests include a detergency test, lubricity test, initial torque
test, exhaust smoke test and exhaust blocking test. These tests have a
much closer connection to actual snowmobile engine applications compared
to TC-W3 tests which are all conducted on raw-water cooled outboard
engines. And for the first time ever, an oil can fail the test if it
smokes too much!
The detergency test evaluates the oil's ability to maintain the
cleanliness of critical engine parts, including exhaust power valves.
This is very important on power valve equipped Rotax, Yamaha and Polaris
engines. The lubricity test measures two things. First, the engine is
run with a load for 50 minutes then the cooling system is disconnected
for ten minutes and the resulting drop in horsepower is recorded. This
cycle is repeated several times and each drop in power is compared and
it must not vary more than a specified amount or be more than a
specified amount. Then the engine is run with increasingly leaner oil
ratios: 60:1, 100:1 then 150:1. If no seizure occurs and power is
maintained within a specified percentage, the oil passes. The initial
torque test measures the engine's startability when cold, an important
consideration for 3-cylinder 800cc sleds.
The exhaust blocking and smoking tests are run by mixing the test oil at
an over-rich 10:1 ratio and running it in a two-stroke portable
generator. The exhaust is channeled into a chamber where a photo cell
measures the light that can pass through the smoke. It sounds crude but
it works! Finally, a real world test to measure exhaust smoke from
two-stroke engines! The exhaust blocking test simply examines the pencil
sized exhaust outlet for carbon blocking. At a 10:1 ratio, these tests
are very hard to pass. The highest JASO rating is FC. Lower ratings are
"FB" and "FA." An even higher "FD" rating
could be seen in the future.
In Europe, European two-cycle engine manufacturers were simultaneously
working on two-cycle oil tests to separate the cheap, poor quality oils
from the top quality oils. They tested the JASO reference oils in
European engines and
their top reference oils in Japanese engines. They found that European
two-stroke high performance engines needed an oil with a better
higher temperature performance than the best JASO "FC" oils.
In April, 1997, they published their ISO global standards for two-stroke
oils with two quality level categories: ISO-L-EGB and ISO-L-EGC. The
ISO-L-EGB aligns closely with JASO "FB" and the ISO-L-EGC
aligns closely with JASO "FC" for minimum test standards.
Then, they developed the "GD" detergency test to run hotter
and longer (3 hours vs. 1 hour) than the JASO detergency test. Oils
passing the new ISO quality level, ISO-L-EGD would be superior to any
previous two-stroke oils available! Of course, it didn't take long for
oil manufacturers to develop and test oil formulations that pass this
new quality test, and most of them involve using synthetic base oils.
Running these tests is a very expensive and time consuming effort but in
the end, a bottle of oil with one of these JASO FC/ISO- L-EGD certified
ratings means that the oil meets the highest quality tests set by the
engine manufacturer in Japan and Europe.
Polaris has recognized the "all-in-one" advantages of TC-W3
two-stroke oil and recommends the use of TC-W3 oils in their watercraft
and snowmobiles. Interestingly, their new synthetic "gold" oil
is not TC-W3 approved, it is the new JASO FC/ISO-L-EGD approved oil!
Ski-Doo, however, specifically prohibits the use of TC-W3 oils in their
snowmobiles and Sea-Doo watercraft, they recommended ISO-L-EGD oils
while Yamaha recommends JASO "FC."
All of this may seem confusing and will probably make the choice of
snowmobile lubricants even more difficult. In short, TC-W3 oils have a
10% higher level of lubricity than TC-W II oils and are a better choice
for snowmobiles than any previous outboard oils. However, specially
formulated snowmobile oils that pass JASO FC/ISO-L-EGD and do not follow
NMMA restrictions will provide much better protection for higher rpm
applications (snowmobiles generally rev higher than 8,000 rpm) and still
provide a superior lubricity and detergency than TC-W3 oils at the same
cost with less smoke. So, use snowmobile oil in your snowmobile and
outboard oil in your outboard engine.
Snowmobile-Online - What's all this real story regarding
synthetic oils? Is the extra cost over the petroleum based oils worth it
in the long run?
Syn-Sno full synthetic oils formulated for power valve engines,
is the oil of choice my project sleds. The oil is virtually
smokeless which is a huge plus.
click for larger image
- Synthetic base oils used in two-stroke formulas reduce carbon buildup,
smoke output and help lower the pour point (that's the temperature at
which a fluid changes from a solid state to a flow able liquid) of the
finished formula. Less carbon buildup on the piston top and sparkplug
translates to less chance for stuck power valves and detonation, and
detonation is known to be the #1 killer of snowmobile engines! The #2
killer of snowmobile engines is overly lean carburetion and the #1 cause
of overly lean carburetion is usually clogged or iced pilot or main
jets. When snowmobiles are stored during the summer, it is very common
for the fuel remaining in the float bowls to oxidize and form corrosion
or varnish on the main and pilot jets. If these jets are not cleaned or
replaced in the fall, the engine will run lean off idle and at full
throttle leading to an eventual burn down. I've noticed that these jets
rarely have these problems in motocross bikes where oil is premixed with
the gas since the oil and the anti-corrosion additives in the oil
prevent these problems. Before storing my sled I always make a batch of
gas/oil mix and run it in the sled to make sure that the carburetor
internals are protected from corrosion. A mix ratio of 50:1 to 100:1 is
all it takes.
your sled smokes excessively while trail riding (you know who you are!)
you might consider trying one of the synthetic snowmobile oils available
instead of the petroleum OEM oils. These oils are going to cost more
money but the benefits will be reduced carbon deposits and much less
smoke. Your friends will be thanking you!
Synthetic and synthetic blend oils offer advantages over conventional
mineral oil products. They are better in extremes of heat and cold. They
provide better oxidation resistance and thermal stability. Their extra
cost is offset by the benefits a properly formulated product provides to
your motorcycle engine. Compared to mineral-based engine oils, as we've
stated, the oxidation resistance is far superior, the friction in both
the application and the fluid, itself, is less and the synthetic
products have much better low-temperature properties. The film strength
of synthetic products is also better as is the natural detergency of
synthetic base fluids, in particular, the diesters. They cost more but
in most cases can be cost effective if increases in fuel economy, engine
longevity, extended drain intervals and decreased operating
temperatures, particularly, are taken into account.
of synthetic blends and synthetic oils
can be summarized as follows:
BENEFITS GAINED AND REASONS FOR THE GAIN
intervals possible due to greater resistance to oxidation
Increase in fuel
economy due to the lower internal friction due to even molecular
Reduced wear in
the engine due to greater film strength of the synthetic compared
with mineral oils.
engine since less friction causes less heat. This relates to oil
temperature and not water temperature, which is controlled.
Better cold flow
characteristics due to less internal friction and very low pour
Faster oil flow
on start up due to low pour points/less internal friction
since PAO and diesters have a high natural detergency plus
detergent/dispersant additive use.
information covers the basics that many are afraid to ask the dealer. We
felt they were important enough to cover and hope they'll fill in the
gaps on your oil knowledge. If we haven't answered one of your
questions, fire off an email to the staff at firstname.lastname@example.org and we'll
get it answered.
DOES ENGINE OIL DO?
Engine oils with their chemical additives prevent metal-to-metal contact
within your engine. They accomplish this by means of providing a fluid
film boundary (the oil itself) and by incorporating various chemicals to
provide a reserve chemical protective layer which prevents
metal-to-metal contact when the fluid film boundary becomes marginal.
Correctly formulated lubricants also contain additives to prevent
oxidation, rust and corrosion, as well as hold dirt and other
contaminants in suspension so they may be carried to the oil filter for
elimination or until the engine oil is changed; thus, preventing harmful
deposits of sludge forming in your engine.
ARE AUTOMOTIVE OILS DIFFERENT FROM MOTORCYCLE-SPECIFIC OILS?
Yes, there is a difference between automobile engines and motorcycle
engine requirements. Motorcycles, particularly Japanese designed models,
use their engine oils in the transmissions and clutch systems. These
applications place unique stress on motorcycle lubricants. The maximum
engine output per liter for motorcycles is 1.5 to 1.8 times that of
automobile engines. Similarly, the revolutions at maximum output are 1.3
to 2 times that of automobiles. Further, motorcycle engines are small
and light weight. This results in a small thermal capacity in motorcycle
engines which causes engine oils to reach temperatures as high as 320°
F. The above differences logically lead to the point that a
motorcycle-specific engine lubricant can be formulated to address the
unique requirements of the motorcycle engine. The major modifications
would be in using a more shear stable viscosity index improver (VI)
which provides viscosity retention when run through the motorcycle
transmission gears. Automobile oils using less shear stable VI
components which will fall out of grade or suffer viscosity loss rapidly
in motorcycle applications.
Further, due to the high heat and the RPMs motorcycles encounter, ZDDP
and phosphorous are needed to prevent cam wear and oil oxidation.
Lastly, care must be taken in the choice of friction modifiers in
motorcycle oils to prevent clutch slippage. Current auto oils of API SJ
quality contain a large amount of friction modifiers for increased fuel
economy as well as limits on zinc and phosphorous content thus limiting
their use as motorcycle lubricants. They are fine for auto engine use
but inappropriate for use in motorcycle engines.
The Japanese manufacturers address these topics in SAE paper number
961217 entitled, "Study on 4-Stroke Engine Oils for Motorcycles:
Engine Characteristics and New Specification Oils" dated May, 1996;
available from the SAE, 400 Commonwealth Drive, Warrendale, PA
15096-0007. Telephone: (412) 776-4841; Fax: (412) 776-5760.
WHAT DOES THE 10W40 ON OIL LABELS MEAN?
A 10w40 motor oil is multi-viscosity. It has the ability to pump and
flow as a 10 w grade (the w stands for winter) at 0° F and yet at 210°
F it has the characteristics of a SAE 40 weight oil. This is
accomplished through the use of a viscosity index improver (VI) thus
allowing good cold weather performance as well as high-temperature
HOW OFTEN SHOULD ENGINE OIL BE CHANGED?
If you use a motorcycle-specific lubricant, the manufacturer's drain
intervals will be sufficient under normal operating conditions. However,
if you tow a trailer, do a lot of short trips or ride on dusty roads,
your drain interval should be shortened. The oil filter should be
changed with each service. Use of a high quality or OEM filter
replacement is suggested. If you are a D.I.Y., remember to return used
engine oil to a collection center for reclamation. Never dump used oil
on the ground or down storm or sanitary sewer systems.
WHAT TEMPERATURE IS GOOD FOR OIL AND WHEN IS IT TOO HOT?
Engine oils that run at @ 212° are ideal in that moisture is allowed to
evaporate out of the oil. Above 260°F every 10 degrees increase halves
the oil's useful life. Over 350° presents serious problems and engine
oil should be changed immediately. An oil cooler would be appropriate
for these elevated temperatures.
SHOULD I USE SPECIAL ADDITIVES IN MY OIL?
If you purchase a premium motorcycle lubricant the use of other
fortifiers is not necessary. Everything your motorcycle engine needs is
already in your premium quality motorcycle engine oil. Many of the
additives available today contain friction modifiers such as molybdenum
or Teflon (PTFE) which can adversely affect clutch operation in your
WHAT ABOUT WINTER STORAGE?
The best mechanical practice is to change your oil and filter as you lay
up your bike for the winter. In this way you have taken the dirty oil
out of your bike and installed new oil with fresh additives to fully
protect your engine. In spring you simply start the bike and run it
until its next drain interval. At a minimum, your oil should be changed
once a year at storage time.
WHO ARE THE API AND SAE?
"API" stands for the American Petroleum Institute who is in
charge of oil additive quality in the U.S. "SAE" or Society of
Automotive Engineers oversees viscosity requirements: i.e., 10w40, 20w50
performance levels. API's latest gasoline engine specification is
category SJ. The "S" stands for spark or gasoline engine
performance applications. You may also observe "C" style
categories which relate to compression or diesel engine performance. The
current highest diesel category is CG-4. These symbols are sometimes
used on the same container meaning the product can be used in both gas
and diesel applications such as CG4/SJ. When a new specification is
approved by API, either for gasoline or diesel application, the next
letter in the alphabet is used. Thus, the next API gasoline engine
specification will go from the current "SJ" to "SK"
sometime in the future.
WHAT IS A TC-W-3 LUBRICANT?
TC-W-3 fluids are products specified by the National Marine
Manufacturers' Association or NMMA for two-cycle water, third generation
quality level use. This is their latest specification and supersedes
NMMA TCW and TCW-II fluids. These new fluids offer better lubricity,
deposit control and less smoke than their TC-W predecessors. However,
they are not recommended for use in motorcycles, snowmobiles and Sea-Doo
WHAT MAKES YOUR OIL DIFFERENT FROM AN OEM'S PRODUCT?
We have been producing premium-quality motorcycle lubricants for over 30
years. We do not make motorcycles and the OEMs do not make oil. They
contract with various oil companies to manufacture their products. Our
years of experience and constant research and development keep us in the
forefront when it comes to innovation and quality. We were the first
motorcycle lubricant manufacturer to market a synthetic petroleum
product and have stayed at the front of the pack since.
Off-road.com and Snowmobile-Online.com want to thank the team at Spectro
in helping explain the ins and outs of two stroke oil to our staff and
readers. It might be over looked on a regular basis, but the oil you
pour in, can make a huge difference in your maintenance bill.
More Information On Spectro Oils
Oils of America
993 Federal Road
Brookfield, CT 06804