Oil is the life blood of everything automotive. Even as alternative energies become more mainstream, oil based products are still heavily used. Some of the most advanced “green” cars today still use oil in some form for a particular lubrication job somewhere within the vehicle’s powertrain. Fact is, without proper lubrication, a hot rod is just a hunk of pretty steel that works incredibly well as an overzealous paper weight.

Recently we got the opportunity to chew on the ears of some people who really know their oil. Lake Speed Jr. of Driven Racing Oil and Manny Gutierrez of Lucas Oil were kind enough to enlighten us on everything that is the fossil fuel we depend on. We gathered up 6 important oiling tips for your Hot Rod or Street Rod.

Lake Speed Jr. carries a hefty title at Driven Racing Oil; Certified Lubrication Specialist & Oil Monitoring Analyst. A title like that just SCREAMS “I know what I’m talking about.” Manny Gutierrez is the Director of Marketing for Lucas Oil. He is specifically tasked with knowing the how’s and what’s of oil so Lucas Oil can sell their brand and make a difference in the automotive world.  Check out the Q&A we shared below:

Rod Authority: How often should I change my oil?

Driven Racing Oil: This is a great question that can be answered simply–it depends! I know that is not the answer anybody wants to hear, but it is the truth. However, the variables that influence things are sometimes not what people think of.

Obviously, temperature plays a major role. Every 20F increase in oil temp beyond 220F shortens the life of the oil by 50%, so cars that run very high oil temps will have much shorter oil life than cars that have moderate oil temps. The same also goes for low temps.

Somewhat surprisingly, low oil temps (below 180F) can also shorten oil life. In fact, low 120F oil temps pose greater risks to your engine than 260F oil temps do. That is because low oil temps allow more moisture and fuel dilution to build up in your engine.

Street rods that see many miles of highway driving at moderate oil temps can expect to go up to 5,000 miles between oil changes.

Street rods that only see short-trip driving should change their oil every 3,000 miles or at least once a year. It is important to always change the oil in the Fall before you put your street rod away for Winter storage. You want to drain all the moisture, fuel dilution, and used oil out of the engine before it goes away for the Winter. Make sure the crankcase has been refilled with fresh oil and then you are good when the weather warms up in the Spring to get it out and drive. The oil will not go bad just sitting in your crankcase over the Winter.

Lucas Oil: With high mileage engines the piston rings may be starting to become worn so you may want to go to a slightly higher viscosity oil or use an aftermarket oil additive such as Heavy Duty Oil Stabilizer.

As a general rule of thumb, low viscosity oils work well in low-temp applications and high viscosity oils work well for high-temp applications.

RA: What viscosity oil should I run?

Driven: The “technical” answer is to use the lowest viscosity possible for the engine bearing clearances, oil temperature, and horsepower output. Most guys don’t know all of this information, so the “practical” way to determine the correct viscosity is to do one of the following:

1st: Run as low a viscosity as will yield 25 to 30 PSI oil pressure at idle when the engine is warmed up. This is more oil pressure than the engine needs and it is still not excessive oil pressure. Oil pressure is one of those things where moderation rules. Too much or too little is not good. You need moderation in oil pressure to prevent engine damage.

2nd: Run one viscosity grade lower synthetic oil than you currently run if you run conventional oil. This gives you the same high temp protection as your conventional oil, but you gain all the benefits of a synthetic. For example, a street rod running conventional 20W-50 motor oil can safely switch to a synthetic 10W-40 and actually improve the protection of the engine.

Forrest Lucas, founder of Lucas Oil, inside the lab.

RA: When building a brand new motor should you use break-in oil? What are your recommendations for the use of break-in oil if it is used?

Lucas: Yes, the use of break-in oil is essential to ensuring that the piston rings seat properly and provide the proper compression in the cylinders. It is always recommended that you use the same SAE grade of break-in oil that you intend on using with the engine oil. Typically, you want to run the break-in oil until the cylinder compression and oil pressure values are where they should be. It is recommended to drain the fluid completely after break-in and change the oil filter prior to rechanging with engine oil. This will remove any assembly materials and wear metal shavings that may be generated during break-in.

Driven: With a flat tappet engine we recommend changing the break-in oil after 30 minutes and then refilling with break-in oil for the next 500 miles. After the initial break-in and 500 miles go with an oil made for flat tappet engines. For non-flat tappet engines, we recommend running the break-in oil for 500 miles and then you can go to whichever oil you prefer.

Above: Scott Diehl of Driven Racing Oil on stage at the Advanced Engineering Technology Conference (AETC) talking lubricant technology for racing and street performance applications.

RA: Do I need “high zinc” oil after break-in?

Driven: You do if you have a flat tappet cam shaft or very high valve spring pressures on a roller cam. Flat tappet and aggressive roller cam engines require higher levels of ZDDP than modern-stock engines from the factory. As a result, these engines need a steady diet of high zinc oils.

Fortunately, everything from break-in oils to high zinc motor oils with extra rust and corrosion inhibitors are available to provide complete protection for your street rod engine.

RA: What are the benefits of synthetic oils? Are there benefits to traditional oil?

Lucas: Synthetic engine oils typically have better thermal and oxidative stability as well as better cold temperature properties than conventional engine oils. Cold temperature properties are especially important in extreme cold weather climates. If your car is under warranty and the recommended drain interval is 3,000 miles then I would use a conventional engine oil since it will save you money over time. If your vehicle is out of warranty and you want to extend your drain intervals then the use of synthetic engine oils might be a good choice.

RA: Are there any recommendations for when a vehicle sits for long periods of time between startups concerning the oils–including pre and post-storage recommendations?

Lucas: If a vehicle is going to sit for an extended period of time I recommend that you run the engine for at least 20 minutes prior to storage. This will allow lubricant to get into the passage ways and deposit itself on the moving parts. It may be a good idea to add an aftermarket oil additive to help prevent dry starts when the engine is started again–Heavy Duty Oil Stabilizer will fit the bill. After a long storage period you also may want to run an engine flush through the engine to make sure that the engine is free of any contaminants, gum, or sludge.

Driven Racing Oil was born from Joe Gibbs Racing. Derived from an unfolding legacy of championship wins and competitive prowess, Driven Racing Oil takes their job seriously. Instead of taking a base chemistry and applying across the board to as many possible applications like a lot of manufacturers do, Driven Racing Oil does the exact opposite. Using application driven engineering to solve problems versus adapting an existing technology and hoping it works they use constant communication with engine builders and performance enthusiasts to evaluate their oil’s performance.

Driven Racing Oil utilizes the technologies they develop for racing to help push advancements in the enthusiast market. Oils are taken to extreme limits, well beyond what the average hot rodder takes his car to giving Driven Racing Oil solid worst-case-scenario data they can use to build better products for you.

Lucas Oil has by far one of the largest racing empires ever seen. Lucas Oil has their name and their oils used for countless race vehicles from V8 Supercars, Drag Racing, Motocross to Off Road short course racing. The expansive R&D department of Lucas Oil is constantly pushing the boundaries of their products always testing the limits and advancing their technologies. Starting as a grass roots company, Lucas Oil is built on product that speaks for itself. Using word of mouth as well as road and track proven results got the company to where it is today.

Both of these companies pride themselves on providing an incredible product for their customers. They make it their duty to design and develop compounds that improve performance as well as prolong the life of our engines, transmissions, and anything else that uses an oil based lubricant to survive. For more information on both companies, head over to www.drivenracingoil.com and www.lucasoil.com.