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Just Synthetics: RV'ers Information

We have been avid RV'ers since 1970, and have used everything from a 1960 GMC 3/4 ton pickup to a 1970 International 1 ton truck to our present 1999 Ford 7.3L Powerstroke Diesel truck. Our RV's have included a 11 1/2' slide in pickup camper that we took to Alaska for a two-year stay, a 20' and 32' travel trailer, and our present 32' fifth wheeler. We've used AMSOIL products since our first diesel truck, in 1984. Over the past 20-some years, I have converted many vehicles to AMSOIL synthetics, and have learned much about the use of synthetics.

If you have any questions about lubrication in regards to any type of RV, don't hesitate to contact me. I'm certain there is a solution, and if I don't have the answer I will get it for you. Click on the "About US " link to get in touch with me.

AMSOIL offers a full line of products designed just for RV'ers, from cleaning to polishing to motor oils to gear lubes. For a brochure on the RV products, click here to view (requires Adobe Reader): Products for RV's.

The following articles by Bill Farlow, a well-recognized speaker on RV use and care, are very enlightening. He was a firm believer in not only using synthetic motor oil and lubricants, but practiced extended drain intervals for many years.


By Bill Farlow - Coast to Coast Magazine

Rx for RVs - To Change or Not to Change (Your Oil)

If you are one of the thousands of RVers who prefer to perform their own oil change, then you know what a mess it is. Oil all over your arms and hands, oil on the driveway and what seems like 37 gallons of the stuff to get rid of. It's illegal to pour it on the road or driveway. We used to think it was okay to "settle the dust," but we used to be a nation of 50,000 and we used to have a lot less information on what happens to oil poured on the ground. In case you've been asleep, the oil can end up in your drinking water. Even if you like Penzoil cocktails, most of us don't. Not to worry, though. All you have to do is pour all that oil into containers without spilling any, find the local disposal station and get it there without spilling more on your truck or in the trunk of your car. Lots of fun, huh?

Well, there may be a way out. Ever hear of synthetic engine oil? Sure you have, but it didn't mean anything to you, right? Synthetic engine oil is the wave of the future — and the present.

When we started developing turboprop and jet aircraft engines, we quickly found that conventional engine oils were simply not up to the job. Lubrication scientists went to work and developed synthetic oils. We won't go into how they're made. What's important to us is how they work.. In a word, great. They're more slippery than conventional oils, resist high temperatures much better and because they don't break down, they can last much longer before replacement is due. In fact, with proper filtration synthetic engine oils can last almost forever.

Some of us tried synthetic engine oils in our cars when Mobil I hit the market in the '70s. For the most part, Mobil 1 worked well. The Mobil people suggested oil change intervals of up to 25,000 miles, but they said nothing about filtration. Even with the best of lubrication there will always he some engine wear, and there will always be some accumulation of soot. And there will always be some changes in the acidity level of oil due to even a slight bypass of combustion products. All of these things suggested that Mobil 1 needed to be changed every 25,000 miles— not because the oil was worn out, but because the accumulation of all these harmful elements had excessively polluted the oil.

Then came Amsoil. The engineers at Amsoil reasoned that if a filtration system could be developed that would remove these contaminants, and if the oil could be made to resist acidity changes, oil change intervals could be drastically increased, maybe forever.

But the questions still remained: How can you know whether the filtration system is working properly and how can you know the extent of the acidity? The answer is simple: Analyze the oil regularly.

Oil analysis was the third element in the equation. Use a high-quality synthetic oil with a quality filtration system and analyze the oil regularly. Filtration was a problem. All engines used a full-flow filtration system. That means all oil goes through the filter in its way through the engine. To ensure that there was always an adequate flow of oil, a full-flow filter was limited to removing particles larger than 20 microns. If the filtration media were built to remove smaller particles, oil flow would be restricted to the point that there, was inadequate oil to the engine bearings and cylinder walls. But engineers had found that oil contaminant particles between five microns and 20 microns produced a significant amount of wear.

How to remove these particles and not restrict oil flow was the problem. The answer was to install a bypass filter downstream from the full-flow filter. Bypass filters sat off to the side of the oil passage and allowed a small amount of oil to flow through the bypass filter without impeding the main flow through the engine. Engineers found that with this system, all engine oil would flow through the bypass filter every five minutes or so.

Now we had a filtration system that theoretically could remove virtually all oil contaminants. If we started with a high-quality synthetic oil and removed all particles larger than five microns, wouldn't oil last forever? Could we eliminate oil changes? Maybe, maybe not. That's where oil analysis comes into the picture. Wouldn't you feel more comfortable knowing your oil was still good? I would. Your engine was made by human human beings, and any manufactured product is always subject to failure. If a bearing starts to wear excessively, oil analysis will pick it up and show something is wrong before a serious failure occurs.

How often should you have your oil analyzed? Just for your own peace of mind, I suggest the first analysis at 10,000 miles after you begin using synthetic oil. After that, 20,000 mile intervals seem proper.

How long can you expect the oil to last? And how long can you expect the engine to last? Every engine and every driver/owner is a separate case. There are records of engines running hundreds of thousands of miles on synthetic engine oil without changes and no significant wear. There is one case of an over-the road truck changed to synthetic oil at around 200,000 miles, torn down some 400,000 miles later and all parts were found to be within acceptable limits for reinstallation.

Which brings up the point of when should an engine be changed to synthetic oil and whether it make sense to change a high-mileage engine to synthetic oil. Most engines come from with the expectation of some wear in mating the parts. We call it "break-in." How long this takes varies from one engine to another. Some high-performance engines come from the factory with synthetic oil installed. In my opinion, if the engine is using no more than a quart of oil per 1,000 miles at the first factory recommended change, it would be ready for synthetic oil and a by-pass filtration system.

But how about my pickup engine, Bill? It's got 120,000 miles on it and it doesn't use any oil. Can I change to synthetic oil? Of course you can, but it might not make sense. If you're driving a gasoline engine, it would normally be worn out at 150,000 to 200,000 miles. Changing to synthetic oil might – I said "might" – get you to 250,000 miles or even more. You can make the call. The same thing is true of the current crop of V-8 diesel engines, with one added factor: If you haven't been testing the coolant every 15,000 miles and keeping the DCA at the recommended level, you can reasonably expect 250,000 to 300,000 miles with the help of synthetic oil. If you haven't been testing the coolant and maintaining DCA level, your diesel has a life expectancy of zero miles. That's right zero.

The heavier diesel engines routinely give 600,000 to 1,000,000 miles on synthetic oil. If your motorhome or mediem-duty tow truck with a Caterpillar, Cummins,or International engine has 200,000 miles on it, it's still an adolescent and installation of synthetic oil is recommended. (In case you can't read the fine print in your engine manual, you also must keep the DCA level up as recommended or you will be needing new engine sleeves.)

There is one more warning: Diesel engines are different from gasoline engines in several ways,. One that is appropriate to this discussion is the accumulation of soot and other contaminants in the engine oil and their effect on oil acidity. Oils compounded for diesel engines are designed to resist and reduce acidity levels. Oils compounded for gasoline engines are designed with less acid-resistance. If you're driving a diesel, use diesel engine oil. Period. What's suitable for your gasoline engine won't work well in a diesel engine regardless of what the "guy down at the courthouse" has to say about it.

There are several bypass filters on the market. Your engine may already have one in addition to the full-flow filter. If not, Amsoil (800/777-8491) makes an easy installation. Amsoil also is my preferred source for synthetic oil, and they also make oil analysis easy with their kits. Or you can get a kit from any big truck or diesel engine dealer. Just select a lab and stay with it, as the lab will build a data record for your engine and will keep track of any new developments.

One more thing. Synthetic oil costs more than conventional oil – significantly more. It's easy to say that if synthetic oil is good enough for all those jets flying over, it's good enough for my engine. That is true. But pure economics also justify the switch. If your Ford, Chevy, or Dodge diesel is using one quart per 1,000 miles and you have a 10-quart oil change every 10,000 miles (actually, you probably change more often but this makes the arithmetic easier), you're really using 20 quarts of oil every 10,000 miles, or a quart every 500 miles, for a total of 200 quarts per 100,000 miles, and we're not counting any additions for filter changes.

If you switch to synthetic oil in 100,000 miles, you will add 100 quarts of oil plus the 10 you started with for a total 110 quarts, or 90 quarts less than conventional oil. In addition, you will have less engine wear and far less used oil to dispose of.

Using synthetic engine oil makes a lot of sense. Your engine will last much longer and you will have only one batch of engine oil to dispose of. Change now for a longer engine life and a cleaner environment.


Printed in Coast to Coast Magazine - November-December 1999

Under the Hood
by Bill Farlow

Super Slippery Synthetics

If synthetic lubricants are good enough for aircraft engines, they're good enough for RVs

FOR A VARIETY OF REASONS, SYNTHETIC LUBRICANTS HAVE RECENTLY attracted a lot of attention. For one thing, synthetics have proven to be, for want of a better term, more slippery. With so much emphasis on increased miles per gallon, anything that can reduce friction and increase fuel mileage has come under serious consideration. Less has been said about decreased wear from using synthetics and even less about a factor that may be the most important, the ecological implications. Today we'll take a look at the possibilities of decreased wear and the ecological implications of using synthetic lubricants.

With the almost complete shift of military and commercial aircraft lo jet and turbine engines several years ago, lubrication engineers were faced with new problems. These engines ran at considerably higher temperatures than conventional engines, and moving parts ran at much higher speeds. Too, the engines were very expensive, and anything that could be done to increase engine life was welcome. Conventional lubricants simply weren't up to the heat and pressures found in jet and turbine engines. Synthetics proved to be the answer. Synthetics could laugh at temperatures that killed conventional lubricants, and pressure also had little effect.

Synthetics have been used in military and commercial aviation for decades, but only recently have they been seriously looked at by owners of cars and trucks. One reason was simple economics. Synthetics are expensive. There has been little doubt that they offer superior lubrication and longer engine life, but are they worth the extra cost when the vehicle will be disposed of in 100,000 miles or so? The answer for most car and light-truck owners has been a resounding "No." But suppose synthetics cost no more than conventional lubricants. Would you then be interested?

As petroleum engineers investigated their own products, one tiling became increasingly clear. Petroleum lubricants, particularly engine oils, tended to pollute themselves. The combination of high temperatures and oxygen caused a breakdown of engine oil. Also, even with the best petroleum-based engine oils, there's significant wear to engine parts. These small wear particles and unavoidable contamination from handling continued to circulate through the engine, with the oil causing more engine wear. True, engine-oil filtration was doing a pretty good job of removing particles over 20 microns, but smaller particles continued to circulate.

Why not make the filters finer so they could remove these smaller particles? At first it was felt that the smaller particles did no harm. That has recently been proven false. Some engineers even claim that these smaller particles—1 to 20 microns in size—cause the most wear. But the main reason for not increasing filtration effectiveness is that engines use a full-flow filtration system. That means that, as oil is circulated through the engine, it all has to pass through the filter. Making the filtration medium fine enough to remove smaller particles would restrict the flow of oil too much, and critical parts would experience increased wear. Coupled with the fact that conventional oils tended to oxidize, it was decided that it was better to simply drain and replace engine oil every 3,000 to 7,000 miles, depending on engine type and use.

If your engine held six quarts of oil, and you had to add a quart every 1,000 miles and you changed oil every 4,000 miles, that meant you were using nine quarts of oil every 4,000 miles or nearly three quarts per 1,000 miles, something that no one wants to think about. No one wants to think about the necessity of finding someone to change your oil every 4,000 miles or the service charge for the change. Also, no one wants to think about how that used engine oil is disposed of. Yes, the EPA requires it be disposed of properly. That means it is supposed to be cleaned up and converted to some sort of product for reuse. But a tremendous amount of used engine oil is simply poured on the ground or on a gravel driveway to be picked up by the next rainfall and carried into our drinking water.

For the past 20 years or so, there's been a rumor that by using synthetic engine oil you could stretch oil changes lo 25,000 miles. Many owners have played with the idea, but most get a bit chicken after a while and start worrying about their engines and go back to short changes of conventional oil. But a small group has been doing something else. They've been eliminating oil changes almost completely.

Synthetics don't oxidize. Keep them clean, and they can be used for extremely long periods. How do you keep them clean? You can't reduce the filtration size of full-flow filters to less than 20 microns. But you can add another filtration system. It's called a bypass system, and it uses a filter that removes particles down to 1 micron or less. The bypass filter simply allows a small portion of the engine oil to pass through as it circulates. All oil will pass through the bypass filter every few minutes. The engine continues to get its full flow of oil, and the oil is cleaned of virtually all contaminants.  Synthetic engine oil can be used almost forever with such a system.

Well, maybe. Even with the best of lubricants, some engine wear is going to occur. Also, there's always the possibility of something going wrong inside the engine. Maybe a copper bearing cracks or a small chip falls off or any of a thousand things goes wrong. With conventional oil changes, these small particles are removed with the used oil, and you never know about them. With synthetics and no oil changes, they're removed by the filters, and you would still never know about them until something goes seriously wrong. Not to fear. There is an answer.

Draw off a small sample of engine oil every 10,000 to 20,000 miles—you set up the interval that you're comfortable with—and have it analyzed. The lab will send you back a thorough report showing the amounts of a wide variety of contaminants and a suggestion to either continue using the oil or replace it. Contrary to conventional procedure, you know what's happening inside your engine, and you never need to change oil until the lab finds a problem developing.

How soon is that? That depends on a lot of things. But there are reports of cars and trucks going hundreds of thousands of miles without changing the oil. One over-the-road truck went over 400,000 miles without changing the oil. Then, out of curiosity, the engine was torn down and the pans were carefully inspected and measured. All parts were found to be in nearly new condition and didn't need replacement.

The conclusion, I think, is clear. Use a top-quality synthetic engine oil with a quality bypass filtration system, change filters at normal intervals, have the oil analyzed at regular intervals by the same lab, and you may never again have to change oil. You start with a full crankcase of oil, add a quart as needed, and that's it. You've cut your engine-oil use to just replacement, and you have no used oil to dispose of. You've brought the cost of synthetic engine oil down to about the same or a bit less than conventional oil, and gotten rid of the need to dispose of your used oil. Also, you've increased engine life because of better lubrication. You may also have increased fuel mileage because of decreased engine friction.

If you want to go all-synthetic, you can find lubricants for transmission, differential, and all grease applications including wheel bearings. Synthetic transmission lubricants are especially interesting because they not only decrease transmission temperatures but also withstand high temperatures much better than conventional fluids.

Where do you find all these things? You can find synthetic engine oil at any auto-parts store or counter, but you won't find synthetic diesel engine oil there, nor will you find the necessary bypass filters. Again, not to fear. One of the early developers of synthetic lubricants for the military was Amsoil of Superior, Wisconsin. Today, Amsoil is the leading supplier of synthetic lubricants to people like us. They have kits for installing bypass filters, and they perform analysis of oil samples. Amsoil has a specialized synthetic for every application. I'm using Amsoil's 15W40 diesel synthetic and bypass filters in my latest truck, Big Red. But Big Red isn't my first truck to get the Amsoil treatment. I've used it since 1991 with excellent results.

If you decide to try synthetic engine oil, I have a couple of suggestions. Start a new engine with the first oil change. When you install the bypass kit, put a T-fitting in the line from the filter back to the engine. Run a piece of tubing with a shutoff valve off the side of the T-fitting. That makes it easy to get your samples. Amsoil has two sampling kits. One goes to its own lab. The other goes to a lab in Cleveland. I prefer the Cleveland lab for no reason except that I think it gives me a bit more objectivity. I suggest that you start sampling at 10,000 miles and change to 20,000 miles after you're comfortable.

I believe in synthetic lubricants, and I believe that Amsoil is presently the best place to get them.


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