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Old 02-05-2017, 11:29 PM   #1
Dominator 2859
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Default Using a lot of oil

My 1999 Saturn SL1 is using a lot of oil I just put a quart of oil in it 3 days ago.
I drove about 80 miles to work and back and the oil 1/2 way down the stick. There are no puddles or oil drops on the ground. What could this be?

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Old 02-06-2017, 01:26 AM   #2
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Default Re: Using a lot of oil

Check the PCV valve, make sure it isn't stuck open. Take compression readings.

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Old 02-06-2017, 03:40 AM   #3
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Default Re: Using a lot of oil

Did you just purchase this car?

Owned/operated for awhile? If so, how much was it using up to this point?

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Old 02-06-2017, 09:00 AM   #4
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Default Re: Using a lot of oil

Quote:
Originally Posted by Dominator 2859 View Post
My 1999 Saturn SL1 is using a lot of oil I just put a quart of oil in it 3 days ago.
I drove about 80 miles to work and back and the oil 1/2 way down the stick. There are no puddles or oil drops on the ground. What could this be?
There are a few factors, that play into this:

Are you seeing blue smoke during acceleration periods, or only after coasting and then re-accelerating?

With that level of consumption, and I know this from experience in my 1995 SC2, you should be seeing blue smoke at some point. Your exhaust tip should probably be quite sooty and black, as well.

Here are the common causes and their fixes, in order of most likely the culprit:
Stuck oil control rings(requires engine disassembly and rebuild with drain back holes drilled into the pistons and/or use of super expensive and overpriced Mobil-1 synthetic oil)
Worn valve guides(have cylinder head removed and reconditioned/rebuilt/replaced)
Faulty PCV valve(replace and be careful not to damage the plastic tubing attached to it)
Cracked cylinder head and/or cracked head gasket(see instructions for worn valve guides)
Faulty pressure relief valve in the valve cover(replace valve cover with junkyard unit as new ones are well over $400 from GM for the composite cover and aluminum covers are discontinued)


If you perform a compression test, you will want to follow the instructions for performing a "wet" compression test, as well.

Here is a video on how to perform, if you are not familiar with compression tests:

https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=X_tbksFYhl4

Keep your oil level ABOVE the "Full" line, and do NOT run the car for long periods with oil levels in the cross-hatched area. This will cause excessive wear on your timing chain and the front cover, which directly affects your engine oil pressure. These engines are not like many older GM cast-iron slugs, that could be abused with out dying. They have very little tolerances, before the motor is junked and unable to be rebuilt. A trade-off of the precision robotic machining that built them, I guess.

...
"What does a Saturn owner do, at the gas station?"

"He checks the gas, and fills the oil....."

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Old 02-06-2017, 11:08 AM   #5
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Default Re: Using a lot of oil

Quote:
Originally Posted by Saturn Night View Post
Stuck oil control rings(requires engine disassembly and rebuild with drain back holes drilled into the pistons and/or use of super expensive and overpriced Mobil-1 synthetic oil)
Only Mobil 1 can free-up stuck rings? A particular product/viscosity? What makes it special/unique vs. other synthetics?
Quote:
Originally Posted by Saturn Night View Post
Keep your oil level ABOVE the "Full" line, and do NOT run the car for long periods with oil levels in the cross-hatched area. This will cause excessive wear on your timing chain and the front cover
Could you discuss a little as to exactly what's occurring if you run the oil in this area (between low and full on the dipstick)?
Quote:
Originally Posted by Saturn Night View Post
They have very little tolerances, before the motor is junked and unable to be rebuilt.
Could you give some examples of these (very little tolerances) relative other comparable engines?

Thank you!

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Old 02-06-2017, 12:54 PM   #6
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Default Re: Using a lot of oil

Quote:
Originally Posted by ramblejam View Post
Only Mobil 1 can free-up stuck rings? A particular product/viscosity? What makes it special/unique vs. other synthetics?

Could you discuss a little as to exactly what's occurring if you run the oil in this area (between low and full on the dipstick)?

Could you give some examples of these (very little tolerances) relative other comparable engines?

Thank you!
Ok. Comparison between the 2.5L Iron Duke in my Grand Am and my Twin Cam in the SC2

Cylinder Compression Minimum: The Duke 100psi(normal operating is around 140psi), Twin Cam 180psi(normal is 190psi), which shows the compression limit variances are much lower for the Twin Cam

Engine Bore: The Duke 4.0000"(out of round limit of 0.0015"), Twin Cam 3.2280-3.2287" on no. 2/3 cylinders(out of round limit of 0.0004")

Main Bearing Journal Diameter: The Duke 2.3000"(service limit of 0.0005"), Twin Cam 2.2438"(service limit of 2.2437", or one TEN-THOUSANDTH of an inch)

The Duke is solid cast-iron block and cylinder head. The Twin Cam is all-cast aluminum.

This is just one example. I can locate my Chevy small-block rebuilding manuals, if you would like.

As far as the Mobil-1? No it is not the ONLY one that can be used, it is the most effective oil that can be used.

When you run into the cross-hatched area, you start to get residual oil starvation amd lower dwell times for the remaining oil, in your oil pan. The oil temperature gets above 190F, and thus loses some of its lubricating properties from thermal breakdown. Oil starvation leads to worn valve guides, which further increases the oil consumption.

Factor in hotter oil, that has less lubrication, with a rotating steel chain that is running against a piece of cast aluminum, and you spell a recipe for disaster. The oil is pumped into the head, by the timing chain, which drive the oil pump. Excessive wear on the timing cover reduces oil pressure, as the same volume of oil is being pumped through a larger space, which equals less velocity and pressure, and less oil reaching the camshafts. And heat rises, so during the power stroke of each cylinder, where do you have the most heat and expansion at?

The camshafts are flat-tappet, until 2000 DOHC, in which they changed to roller rocker assemblies. Camshaft wear can be quite excessive, with use of the wrong oil or very low oil flow, on flat-tappet camshafts. This is the very reason I am using Shell Rotella T 10w-30 conventional oil, for diesel engines.

My car eats through oil, about as fast as it eats through a tank of gas.

Diesel oils, particularly Shell Rotella T, has much higher concentration of ZDDP additives. You can still find gasoline oils, with these additives, for off-road use only racing engines, and they come with a premium racing oil price tag, as well.

Removal of you catalytic converter is recommended with this oil, because the ZDDP damages the converter element, to which my converter has already been hack sawed off for a piece of straight pipe. This also shows a +9hp gain, on the dyno meter, at the flywheel.

OBD-II cars require a slightly different approach to removing the cat, otherwise just run synthetic oil.

I don't have to pass emissions, so it is not an issue for me, and I have OBD-I. No low jacking my PCM to the converter.

ZDDP helps prevent wear on metal-to-metal contact points, such as flat-tappet styled camshaft assemblies.

You can read about this, by browsing just about any LS forums or Chevy performance forums, and all small-block chevy V-8s from 1955-1986 were designed with flat-tappet camshafts, and could not be converted to a roller camshaft without expensive machining.

...
"What does a Saturn owner do, at the gas station?"

"He checks the gas, and fills the oil....."

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Old 02-06-2017, 01:47 PM   #7
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Default Re: Using a lot of oil

Thank you for the reply!

Quote:
Originally Posted by Saturn Night View Post
This is just one example. I can locate my Chevy small-block rebuilding manuals, if you would like.
I don't view the Iron Duke as a directly comparable engine. However, the later GM 122-based LN2 2.2 (which ran from 1992-2002) would be.
Quote:
Originally Posted by Saturn Night View Post
The oil temperature gets above 190F, and thus loses some of its lubricating properties from thermal breakdown.
No modern engine oil (that meets current/relevant API standards) is experiencing thermally induced breakdown at 190F. Not aware where you got that from, but it's not correct. At 190F, a 5w-30 (using regular Pennzoil 5w-30 for the calculation, not that it matters) has a operational viscosity of 13.87 cSt which per SAE J300 puts is squarely up into the 40-weight range.
Quote:
Originally Posted by Saturn Night View Post
This is the very reason I am using Shell Rotella T 10w-30 conventional oil, for diesel engines.
As of 1 December 2016, ILSAC viscosity grades (which includes your 10w-30) will only be able to claim passenger car API quality levels (API SN, SM or SL) if the oils satisfy the 800 ppm phosphorus maximum. New approaches in additive packages have demonstrated excellent wear protection, and the old-school cheap approach (throw ZDDP at the problem) is going the way of the dodo bird.

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Old 02-06-2017, 03:29 PM   #8
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Default Re: Using a lot of oil

As I posted in a similar thread, it's basically over. Old saturns burn a lot of oil. Outside of two young ones I have, the rest are at 500/qt. The oil control rings get plugged and you just have to live with it. If you see lots of smoke, then one of your oil control rings has disintegrated. You will really have no issues running the car, but you must check the oil all the time. The downside to these fun cars.

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Old 02-06-2017, 03:52 PM   #9
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Default Re: Using a lot of oil

I gotta say... I have a couple of the DOHC engines with 220k+ miles, and they normally run with oil level somewhere in the "crosshatched" zone; once in a while even lower. Mine aren't that fussy (petro-based oil, no syn).

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Old 02-06-2017, 03:58 PM   #10
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Default Re: Using a lot of oil

Quote:
Originally Posted by marko16 View Post
As I posted in a similar thread, it's basically over.
As I replied in that thread, I wouldn't be so pessimistic.

While a conventional piston with clogged oil return holes is exceedingly difficult to restore to proper function (without engine tear-down), the bemoaned Saturn 1.9L design lends itself towards rehab. We're certainly not going to remove all coking, but simply need to get the rings (notably oil control) working again; stuff like Sea Foam or MMO aren't strong enough, but continued exposure to a strong cleaner (Kreen) can accomplish what we're after.

From there, it's maintaining function with a low NOACK, higher-viscosity oil to keep the problem from quickly reoccurring.

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Old 02-06-2017, 04:29 PM   #11
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Default Re: Using a lot of oil

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Originally Posted by billr View Post
I gotta say... I have a couple of the DOHC engines with 220k+ miles, and they normally run with oil level somewhere in the "crosshatched" zone; once in a while even lower. Mine aren't that fussy (petro-based oil, no syn).
Actually, as I just performed an oil change on my 1995 SC2, here is why it is not good to run in the cross-hatched area: you are lower than 4.0qts of oil.

I was right at the full line, when I drained the car. For further thoroughness, I even made sure to remove the passenger tire and lowered the car, so it would tilt towards the drain plug hole. I got roughly 3.5(maybe an few ounces over)qts of oil out of the engine.

With the pan as dry as it could get, I refilled it with exactly 4.0qts of oil. After a few minutes, I checked the dipstick. It was actually right at the 2nd "L", in the "FULL". This happens to be where many responses on the topic state that one should keep their oil level at. Since I installed the filter dry, I added 1/2qt above that. Added 3.2 gallons of fuel, to get my fuel gauge from "E", to the 1/4 mark, and took it for a drive.

Drove 70 miles, on barely 1/8 tank, combined city/highway mix, and I have the automatic. At 70mph, I was pushing 2,800rpm. I will have to wait to see how low the oil has dropped, but I know if I am below the "FULL", that I have used more than 1/2qt of oil.

...
"What does a Saturn owner do, at the gas station?"

"He checks the gas, and fills the oil....."

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Old 02-06-2017, 04:43 PM   #12
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Default Re: Using a lot of oil

Quote:
Originally Posted by ramblejam View Post
Thank you for the reply!


I don't view the Iron Duke as a directly comparable engine. However, the later GM 122-based LN2 2.2 (which ran from 1992-2002) would be.

No modern engine oil (that meets current/relevant API standards) is experiencing thermally induced breakdown at 190F. Not aware where you got that from, but it's not correct. At 190F, a 5w-30 (using regular Pennzoil 5w-30 for the calculation, not that it matters) has a operational viscosity of 13.87 cSt which per SAE J300 puts is squarely up into the 40-weight range.

As of 1 December 2016, ILSAC viscosity grades (which includes your 10w-30) will only be able to claim passenger car API quality levels (API SN, SM or SL) if the oils satisfy the 800 ppm phosphorus maximum. New approaches in additive packages have demonstrated excellent wear protection, and the old-school cheap approach (throw ZDDP at the problem) is going the way of the dodo bird.
That is some great info, except you failed to read my post more thoroughly. Shell Rotella T is NOT passenger car engine oil. It is diesel engine oil, for use in off-road vehicles, such as a John Deere tractor.

Therefore, none of what you just said actually applies to that oil, as it is API CJ-4, and does still contain over 800ppm of ZDDP.

In fact, as one truck driver had let me know about his service schedule on his tractor-trailer: His operator's manual recommends changing just the filter and adding oil as needed. This happens to be in a vehicle, that drives for 1.5 MILLION miles, before they perform the "in-frame".(That is where they essentially pull all the "guts" out of the bottom end and rebuild, with the engine still in the truck)

Diesel oils are not recommended for passenger vehicles, because of emissions and the damage they cause to emissions equipment, which as I clearly stated have been all but removed.(I still have my EGR valve, which has no bearing on performance because it is closed during WOT acceleration, anyway).

Now, I do plan to have my 1.9L rebuilt, with proper oil drain back holes drilled in the pistons. I have no problems, really, with checking the oil level every 100-200 miles, but like I have previously stated:

Over the course of 100,000 miles, it will cost more total money to keep adding oil, than the one-time cost of a complete teardown and rebuild with quality parts. Maybe I will see if chrome-moly rings are available, throw in forged pistons, titanium valves, and brass valve guides, instead of aluminum guides, cast pistons, and steel rings.

Maybe I will throw in a professional blueprint and full balancing of the bottom end, while I am at it.

While none of this is going to translate to huge performance gains, it will translate to better mechanical efficiency, and less power lost from damaging harmonics and friction, which should help improve the thermal efficiency. Better thermal efficiency usually translates to a little bit better fuel economy.

...
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"He checks the gas, and fills the oil....."

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Old 02-06-2017, 04:49 PM   #13
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Default Re: Using a lot of oil

Quote:
Originally Posted by Saturn Night View Post
That is some great info, except you failed to read my post more thoroughly. Shell Rotella T is NOT passenger car engine oil. It is diesel engine oil, for use in off-road vehicles, such as a John Deere tractor.

Therefore, none of what you just said actually applies to that oil, as it is API CJ-4, and does still contain over 800ppm of ZDDP.
Incorrect. Rotella T is a heavy-duty, mixed-fleet engine oil that's suitable for both gas and diesel engines. If you look at the label or product data sheet, you'll find both current gas and diesel engine approvals.

CJ-4 is now an outdated spec, as CK-4 came online 1 December 2016.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Saturn Night View Post
In fact, as one truck driver had let me know about his service schedule on his tractor-trailer: His operator's manual recommends changing just the filter and adding oil as needed. This happens to be in a vehicle, that drives for 1.5 MILLION miles, before they perform the "in-frame".(That is where they essentially pull all the "guts" out of the bottom end and rebuild, with the engine still in the truck)
I worked for Cummins years ago while in college, and have been around a few drivers; they'll say (and do) all sorts of crazy things.

Last edited by ramblejam; 02-06-2017 at 05:02 PM..

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Old 02-06-2017, 04:49 PM   #14
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Default Re: Using a lot of oil

Comparing the Iron Duke to a Saturn engine is no different than the LN2 2.2L, except you forgot two things about the LN2

1. It is not all cast iron, which means it would not apply to my original statement about how the older GM "cast iron slugs" could tolerate abuse of lower oil levels without immediately detrimental consequences.

2. Due to the aluminum cylinder head/cast iron block design, most of the LN2 engines found early retirement from blown head gaskets, when the head began to warp, while the block deck remained flat. The Death-Kill orange coolant really helped accelerate that problem, on 1996-2002 LN2 engines.(Like most other GM engines, including ones that never suffered a lot of head gasket issues while running GREEN antifreeze, such as the 3.1L LH0 that my Camaro had in it, or the 4.3L Vortech V-6 used in the late-80s/pre-1996 Chevy Blazers/Astros/S-10s)

The Pontiac 2.5L Iron Duke was produced, in passenger vehicles, until 1991. It remained in production, until 1994(which means it crosses into the time at which the Saturn 1.9L was produced), by contract to the U.S. Postal Service. Many of the USPS trucks are still in service, with that engine. I have two personal friends that work for the USPS, and both of their trucks use the 2.5L Iron Duke. Now, you want to talk about an abused engine, that can handle anything?

Have you ever watched a postal truck run its route? Stop and go at pretty much every 100-200ft, while pulling a 5,000lbs truck, that is loaded down with various packages. THAT is ABUSIVE. Today's newer engines would not survive, and thankfully, the government is too broke to consider investing into the USPS. So, thankfully, our mail gets to us slowly, but reliably, because of the Pontiac Iron Duke, with its old tech pushrods and excessive NVH, but it sure as hell doesn't break down.

...
"What does a Saturn owner do, at the gas station?"

"He checks the gas, and fills the oil....."

Last edited by Saturn Night; 02-06-2017 at 04:54 PM..

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Old 02-06-2017, 05:12 PM   #15
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Default Re: Using a lot of oil

Quote:
Originally Posted by ramblejam View Post
Incorrect. Rotella T is a heavy-duty, mixed-fleet engine oil that's suitable for both gas and diesel engines. If you look at the label or product data sheet, you'll find both current gas and diesel engine approvals.

CJ-4 is now an outdated spec, as CK-4 came online 1 December 2016.


I worked for Cummins years ago while in college, and have been around a few drivers; they'll say (and do) all sorts of crazy things.
True, except when one buys a huge supply of gallon oil jugs, PRIOR to Dec. 1, 2016 like I did.

And while the ZDDP content will be reduced, because of damaging the emissions controls, the diesel oils are being formulated with a different additive that offers the same protection.

Worst-case scenario, the ZDDP additives are available through parts stores, as well. You just add it to your oil.

And plus you have to factor how fast it will take for the parts stores to actually sell their remaining supplies of the CJ-4 API standard.

So, once I start seeing CK-4 on the jug, then I will be worried about how it affects my engine. Like I said, I know some truck drivers, so I can always ask them.

However, with the amount of money that companies stand to lose by hurting the trucking industry, I will speculate that CK-4 will still work just as well, if not better than CJ-4 standards, and it will still allow for more abuse than conventional or synthetic oils designed for gasoline engines.

But, thanks for the update on that. Now I have something to read up on.

...
"What does a Saturn owner do, at the gas station?"

"He checks the gas, and fills the oil....."

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Old 02-06-2017, 05:18 PM   #16
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Default Re: Using a lot of oil

I'll probably cause you to lose some sleep by telling you this, but they've been bottling CK-4 in CJ-4 bottles for awhile now; 1 December was just the date labels must change by.
Quote:
Originally Posted by Saturn Night View Post
then I will be worried about how it affects my engine.
You shouldn't be worried one bit. Discussing the finer points of ZDDP myths is another thread altogether, but Sequence IVA and Sequence IIIG engine tests are still a part of the current gas engine spec (API SN), and those oils are more than adequate for the stock 1.9 valvetrain configuration.

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Old 02-06-2017, 05:24 PM   #17
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Default Re: Using a lot of oil

The Advance Auto, one mile from my house, always has a sale on Rotella T and the Rotella synthetics. Right now, they are $14.99/gallon. When I bought my stocked up supply of like 6-8 gallons, last November, it was only $13.99/gallon.

Strange.......can't ever seem to find passenger car, fancy synthetics, for that cheap per gallon......

And honestly, after one of my friends just told me her 2009 Cobalt 2.2L Scrap-O-Tech was more than two quarts low during her last oil change(and she follows her maintenance schedule to the letter), and she only has 89,000 miles on it, I can't say I am convinced at how great synthetics are. They probably work on Saturn engines, as a fluke, as her car has the "Dexos" marked on the oil fill cap. So, she had synthetics, since the car left the factory. No visible leaks or smoke coming from the engine, but it is losing a lot of oil......

Gee....., I wonder if her oil control rings are sticking, too......

Hmmmm.......Lord knows that synthetics sure don't help woth the LS4, 5.3L V-8. They are actually WORSE than our Saturn 1.9L engine, for stuck oil control rings, and begin burning oil at around 30,000 miles according to the GM TSB for the problem.

So, I'll tell you what, I am going to end my side of this debate and continue to run my diesel oils in my engine, add as needed, and eventually rebuild. IF I throw a connecting rod outside the engine block, then I may take some of these points to heart, but until that time, I will stick to the "old school" ways of maintaining my engine and see where the odometer is at when it finally dies(although I would say "IF" in the case of the Saturn 1.9L).......

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Old 02-06-2017, 05:35 PM   #18
Saturn Night
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Default Re: Using a lot of oil

Quote:
Originally Posted by ramblejam View Post
I'll probably cause you to lose some sleep by telling you this, but they've been bottling CK-4 in CJ-4 bottles for awhile now; 1 December was just the date labels must change by.

You shouldn't be worried one bit. Discussing the finer points of ZDDP myths is another thread altogether, but Sequence IVA and Sequence IIIG engine tests are still a part of the current gas engine spec (API SN), and those oils are more than adequate for the stock 1.9 valvetrain configuration.
ZDDP is not a "myth". It is a proven fact, hence why it was used so widely on older engines, across the board.

This is also why the additives are sold, and routinely used during engine break-in periods after a rebuild or a crate engine is installed.

Browse any performance forums, for hot rods and street/strip vehicles. You will find many complaints about camshaft wear, from today's newer oils NOT containing enough ZDDP additive.

While I happen to believe environmental protections are somewhat important, I don't buy into the BS about CO2 production levels, because sunlight + CO2 is used by plants, to create oxygen.

However, I also recall some certain moron making comments about CO2, during his 2008 presidential campaign. Considering that same moron only scored a 102 on his standardized IQ test, and having paid attention in Chemistry classes, as well as Physics classes, it was clear he didn't know his butt from a manhole cover, then.

However, I was able to find this article, which motor oil was cited as a reason for camshaft failures, in addition to other reasons.

http://www.hotrod.com/articles/flat-tappet-cam-tech/

As quoted: "According to Mark Ferner, team leader for QuakerState Motor Oil Research and Development, Even stock passenger cars cansee pressure in excess of 200,000 psi at the point of flat-tappet/camlobe contact. To prevent excess wear, traditional motor oil included agenerous dose of antiwear additives, primarily zinc dialkyldithiophosphate (ZDDP).

Even the oil companies knew this additive helped preserve the engine amd prevent wear, however, some moron made the public believe that this additive was causing too much pollution, and as such regulations changed, resulting in less of the additive and increased engine failure rates......

...
"What does a Saturn owner do, at the gas station?"

"He checks the gas, and fills the oil....."

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Old 02-06-2017, 05:47 PM   #19
ramblejam
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Default Re: Using a lot of oil

Intrinsically, ZDDP is not a myth; I'm fully aware of its history and usefulness. However, there are many myths/misconceptions out there surrounding the need of it in stock applications.

To clarify my position - You do not need anything beyond API SN certified oil to provide wholly sufficient valvetrain wear protection in a stock non-roller 1.9 Saturn.

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Old 02-07-2017, 11:29 AM   #20
marko16
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Default Re: Using a lot of oil

Quote:
Originally Posted by ramblejam View Post
As I replied in that thread, I wouldn't be so pessimistic.

While a conventional piston with clogged oil return holes is exceedingly difficult to restore to proper function (without engine tear-down), the bemoaned Saturn 1.9L design lends itself towards rehab. We're certainly not going to remove all coking, but simply need to get the rings (notably oil control) working again; stuff like Sea Foam or MMO aren't strong enough, but continued exposure to a strong cleaner (Kreen) can accomplish what we're after.

From there, it's maintaining function with a low NOACK, higher-viscosity oil to keep the problem from quickly reoccurring.
Just revisiting the GM technical service bulletin is enough writing on the wall for me. Unless you get extremely lucky with a soak or a very rare crankcase pressure issue, I'll remain pessimistic. Between the hoards of blown motor craigslist non oil checking casualties and the main reason these come up for sale, I do wish all well.

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