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Thread: How cold is too cold for 20w50?

  1. #1
    BUBBAZANETTI
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    How cold is too cold for 20w50?

    not an oil thread

    let's call this a "state of matter" thread

    what is the coldest average temp you'd run dino 20w50 in an airhead?

    i'm gonna do an oil change tomorrow, this is my winter oil, i guess, i'm probably just gonna stick with 20w50 as it doesn't really get super cold here (figure avg winter startup is gonna be in the 30-45 degree range) from what i know this is probably fine, but i sometimes feel my bike's a bit "fragile".

    i used to run lighter oils in my oilhead in the winter, but that was massuchusetts "highlands" colder winters (regularly rode in the teens) and a newer bike.

  2. #2
    K Bikes Complex by Choice cjack's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by BubbaZanetti View Post
    not an oil thread

    let's call this a "state of matter" thread

    what is the coldest average temp you'd run dino 20w50 in an airhead?

    i'm gonna do an oil change tomorrow, this is my winter oil, i guess, i'm probably just gonna stick with 20w50 as it doesn't really get super cold here (figure avg winter startup is gonna be in the 30-45 degree range) from what i know this is probably fine, but i sometimes feel my bike's a bit "fragile".

    i used to run lighter oils in my oilhead in the winter, but that was massuchusetts "highlands" colder winters (regularly rode in the teens) and a newer bike.
    I used to run 10W40 in the winter. One year when Mobil 1 first came out I ran 5W30 or whatever it was then. That way my bike would start sitting outside the lab all day in 10 deg F. It used a quart about every 500 miles with that stuff that winter. But it started. When I took it apart years later, everything looked like new incl the cyl bore. Any oil is better than no oil.
    R1200GS LC Rallye
    Jack Hawley MOA and RA #224, KE9UW ("Chuck")

  3. #3
    VANZEN
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    also a synth user

    Also a synth user ...

    but the /7 factory Repair Manual
    has an "Engine Oil viscosity Chart"
    (Oil grades to use at various outside temperatures)
    at the beginning of the book ...

    according to that chart,
    20w50 is suitable from @ 16??F to @ 110??F

    15w50 from @ –5??F to @ 85??F
    and 10w50 gets you down to @ –21??F to 50??F

    I think you'll be safe with 20w50 year round.

  4. #4
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    Derek, your MOM will tell you that the range for 20W50 is about 15F to 105F. 15W50 goes -5F to 90F, and 10W40 goes -20 to 40F. My feet are only good to about 20F or so, and with a 30 mile commute, and speeds around 70 as common for much of it, i rarely push even to that 20 deg mark. i run 20W50 all year round.
    Ride Safe, Ride Lots

  5. #5
    Minnesota Nice! braddog's Avatar
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    Not an oil thread, but...

    I run 20/50 dino in one of my airheads. It gets kind of "stiff" below 30 degrees F.

    That said, my "guy" recommends Mobil 1 synthetic, 15/50, all year 'round. That's what I've been using in my '77 RS for the last 3 years, and have been very satisfied.
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    Brad D. - Member #105766
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  6. #6
    Registered User lkchris's Avatar
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    15W-50 Mobil 1 would be perfect for winter and not because it's 15 but because it's synthetic. Its cold pour point is almost the same as any other grade of Mobil 1. You can look it up.
    Kent Christensen
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  7. #7
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    I switch a couple bikes to the Maxxim 10/40 for winter. We are talking teens in the morning, high maybe to low 50's at most. The dual plug one would start better with the 20/50 than the other. But really, the bike was groaning with the thicker oil, especially at startup. And even 30 minutes in a store in the afternoon would leave it quite cold again. I feel the 10/40 was much easier on the motor, especially at startup, during these cold temperatures.

  8. #8
    Registered User Rinty's Avatar
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    My winter airhead oil was 10W-40.
    Rinty

  9. #9
    JAMESDUNN
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    I use 10w40 in the winter here in Iowa.

  10. #10
    Still Wondering mika's Avatar
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    ‘«£State of Matter‘«ō

    Isn‘«÷t this the key question for either dino or synthetic oils in terms of temps? The SAE rating is related to how the oil behaves at a given temp and its ability to deliver the protective and lubricating nature of the stuff.

    The lubricating ability of any oil has to do with its ability to first penetrate and cover the surface (bearings is the big concern at startup) while providing the proper sheeting and adherence at the current operating temperature both ambient and of the engine itself.

    Single viscosity oil will provide a certain ability to penetrate a bearing gap while providing a defined lubricating ability to that surface. Multi grade oil is a multi personality oil. The two numbers combined give a temperature range over which the oil is designed to have a viscosity to penetrate the gap deliver the sheeting and lubricating benefit of the higher number.

    Multi grade oils of any kind give a wider range of safe range of start up and operating temperatures than single grade oils. If a multi grade oil meets all of the alphabet soup requirements for the engine it is put in and covers the operating temperature range at start up that you anticipate encountering you should be fine. At least that is the promise as I understand it.

    What is the ambient temp where you are is an important question in selection. I don‘«÷t know about the temp ranges in NY. When I Roundered my airhead in Chicago temperature differences between what was reported for lake side v at O‘«÷Hare varied by 15 degrees normally. In the Lilydale suburbs of the Twin Cities the temperature range varied between 5 and 10 degrees. What I paid attention to was did my oil meet the low temp requirements of where I would be starting my engine again after it was sitting for a while.

  11. #11
    Registered User mneblett's Avatar
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    Effect on Ease of Starting?

    While we all know the charts say it's *acceptable* to use 20W50 down to ~15F, the better question is:

    Would you be better off going to 10W40 in the winter because the thinner oil will make turning a cold engine over easier?

    (consider this oil thread pot freshly stirred )

  12. #12
    Registered User Rinty's Avatar
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    What I paid attention to... was the low temp requirements...Mika
    That was my focus, as well, when I had my airhead. And airheads can be a bit difficult to start at colder temperatures, which I think is caused by pumping losses from their high capacity oil pumps, and because of the vacuum carbs. They need a good spin at startup to before they'll light off.

    That was my experience with my RS, anyway.
    Rinty

  13. #13
    535IS
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    Quote Originally Posted by mneblett View Post
    While we all know the charts say it's *acceptable* to use 20W50 down to ~15F, the better question is:

    Would you be better off going to 10W40 in the winter because the thinner oil will make turning a cold engine over easier?

    (consider this oil thread pot freshly stirred )
    Another way of putting this is, "How far are you willing to walk back from wherever you are when your 20W oil is too thick for your cold battery to stir?"

  14. #14
    BUBBAZANETTI
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    Quote Originally Posted by 535is View Post
    Another way of putting this is, "How far are you willing to walk back from wherever you are when your 20W oil is too thick for your cold battery to stir?"
    what i'm basically getting to, my oilhead cranked over with a bit of difficulty at 18 f with 20w50 dino, a bit better with 15w50 dino, WAY better (like it was 75 out) with 5w40 rotella, which i used as my "winter oil" on the R11S. the "slow to start" nature of this airhead when it gets cool seems like it'd only be further hampered by oil that was too thick. the other reasons i don't want to go with a "winter oil" on the airhead is 1. runing 10w40 on a weird 88 degree day next april in a bike that gets significantly hotter than my oilhead used to, on a bridge, in traffic, in nyc, does not sound good. 2 it seems all the "pros" are against the thinner oil in the hotter running airheads.

    have not considered synth only in deference to the 25 year old seals, don't want the thing to resemble the bsa and norton parked along side it.

  15. #15
    Liaison 20774's Avatar
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    Not sure of your situation at home/work but...could you preheat the oil somewhat for the Airhead, as in put a light bulb under the oil pan? I've heard of people doing that and the bulb providing enough heat to keep the oil at a higher temp for easier starting.
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