I’m going to tell you everything I know about engine oil.
Exxon 10w-40. There. That’s it.
That’s what Dad used in his cars. All of them if I remember right. It came in a blue-colored can made of cardboard with a metal top you opened with a can opener. He also used it in the garden tractor, lawnmower and tiller. I’m not sure he didn’t also cook with it. He did make a concession when it came to our 2-cycle outboards, pouring in some blue-colored concoction that made them smoke like the dickens. But as far as motor oil goes, it was Exxon 10w-40. So, when ever the dipstick came up a little dry on any of our vehicles, I’d run out and get some Exxon 10w-40 and pour it in.
The first time a vehicle I purchased needed an oil change, I took it to one of those places that do oil changes.
“You wanna keep Prestone 5w-30?” the guys asks.
I’m momentarily stunned. We’re talking about motor oil and at no time did I hear the phrase, “Exxon 10w-40.”
“That’s what the manufacturer recommends,” the guy offers into the uncomfortable silence.
Now for all I know the manufacture may recommend pancake syrup. For some reason it never occurred to me check out this little tidbit of information before hauling the car out for an oil change. I can feel my testosterone level dropping by the second.
“Yeah, that’s what I want.” I grunt before I wind up an alto.
Years later I attended a motorcycle wrenching session with some of the guys I ride with. Most of them were doing things like jetting their carbs or changing their fork seals. As we were meeting in a garage, and the guys were holding tools, I didn’t let the words “forks” and “carbs” fool me into to thinking this had something to do with cooking. I elected to tackle something I could do with minimal help. Change the oil.
This meant I had to go out and buy some to put back in the bike. Unfortunately I couldn’t find a little sticker that told me what kind the last guy used, the way I often can on my car. So I casually asked one of the guys what oil he used. At this point I discovered an interesting fact about motorcycle oil. In a room with 10 bikers, there will be at least 11 opinions about oil.
Both my bike and I survived the experience. I now do the oil in all of my vehicles and decided to learn a little about oil. Wow! I had to learn a lot just be be ignorant. Fortunately there is a lot of information available on the Internet. I started out reading the multitude of threads about oil on the numerous motorcycle forums I belong to. There are undoubtably a lot of smart people giving out good information there, but I couldn’t tell the difference in the good advice and the bad.
I did find a site I like. Motorcycle Info It’s produced by the guy who owns California Scientific. I’d characterize him as a fairly bright fella who’s also a pretty decent writer. I don’t think you’ll see anything on his site turned into a major motion picture, but it is entertaining and informative.
If I keep improving my mechanical skills at this rate, I’ll be pretty good by the time I’m 150.
— Guy B. Wheatley