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Thread: Snowbum, oil and Mobil 1 for Vtwins

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    Registered User greybeard52's Avatar
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    Snowbum, oil and Mobil 1 for Vtwins

    Okay, so Iím reading about oils in Snowbumís discussion about oils for Airheads and he lists popular brands with Zinc and Phosphorus and their ppm ratings. And low and behold in the list is Mobil 1 20/50w for V twins with 1600 ppm Phosphorus and 1750 ppm Zinc, with an official rating SJ. Which is what I have been running in my 2001 Harley Electraglide and 1999 Harley Sportster 1200 engines for the last 21 years with no problems. It would be handy if I could run Mobil 1 for V twins in my 1986 BMW R80RT that I acquired from a friend last summer.
    So Iím guessing that Snowbum lists this oil because it is okay to use in airhead BMW engines. I have run it in my Harleys which are aircooled engines hauling me, my wife and our gear on the Electraglide which adds up to almost 1000 pounds including the bike, going 80 mph on our highways in Wyoming including mountain passes, and the bike has never missed a beat. Why wouldnít it work in a boxer twin? Does anyone else use Mobil 1 for V twins in their airhead Beemer? Thanks Bill
    If you only have one tool in your toolbox, and itís a Hammer, pretty soon everything looks like it needs a good whack.
    1986 BMWR80RT, 1999 Harley Davidson Sportster 1200 Custom, 2001 Harley Davidson Electraglide Classic

  2. #2
    Doug D
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    I use it in my R60/5. No oil consumption. Synthetic oil handles higher temperatures.

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    BMWMOA #24809 jhall's Avatar
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    Mobil 1 Fan Here Too

    I am a Mobil 1 fan too, and used 15w50 in the Airhead since I bought it last October, with a couple ounces of ZDDP. I changed to 20w50 Mobil 1 V-Twin oil three days ago. Not sure how it will work in the Airhead though.
    The label indicates it's specially designed for V-Twins, but Harleys don't have flat tapets, they have roller tappets. Supposedly, the big concern about zinc and other additives is to protect the flat tappers. And I forgot to add the ZDDP. Darn it.
    BMWMOA #24809

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    Liaison 20774's Avatar
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    Don't see why not! If you look through the ON archives and find the March 2013 issue, I tested nearly 20 different oils including mineral, semi-synthetic, and full synthetic. I even tested this very oil, which is full synthetic...I remember going up to the Harley shop to buy the oil for the test. My tests shows ZDDP to be over 1200 ppm each for zinc and phosphorus.

    The only issue might be something that was experienced early on when synthetic oils came out. They lacked a seal-swell additive and the result was that when a full synthetic was used, sometimes there would be leaks at various rubber seals. I'm pretty sure they corrected that as time goes by. But something to watch out for if you switch from mineral based oil. Currently I'm running Spectro's semi-synthetic with no problems. Their 20w50 is at the top of Snowbum's list.
    Kurt -- Forum Liaison ---> Resources and Links Thread <---
    '78 R100/7 & '69 R69S & '52 R25/2
    mine-ineye-deatheah-pielayah-jooa-kalayus. oolah-minane-hay-meeriah-kal-oyus-algay-a-thaykin', buddy!

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    Registered User greybeard52's Avatar
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    Thanks for feedback

    In the early 1990s when I moved to Wyoming with my BMW R65, I would stop at BMW dealers when I traveled and stock up on oil, filter, etc. The nearest BMW dealer is still about 3 hours away in Sturgis South Dakota. So if I can buy my Mobil 1 for V twins at my friendly local Wally World, that saves me a trip. Thanks for the feedback.😎
    If you only have one tool in your toolbox, and itís a Hammer, pretty soon everything looks like it needs a good whack.
    1986 BMWR80RT, 1999 Harley Davidson Sportster 1200 Custom, 2001 Harley Davidson Electraglide Classic

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    Registered User STEVENRANKIN's Avatar
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    Early days

    Kurt, I remember I worked at a Mobile gas station evenings and when Mobile1 first came out I did an oil change in my 79 Camaro. Two oil changes later with the new oil and the car was blue smoking slightly. Not a terrible amount but it could be noticed. I never tore into the exact cause of it, somewhere a seal started seeping.

    Sadly I needed money for a furnace for my house and other repairs and it was either the Camaro or the BMW R80RT to go. I had never driven the Camaro in the winter and it was like brand new, sold it for a fair price and two weeks later the kid that bought it wrapped it around a telephone pole. Didn't kill himself thank goodness.

    I have never regretted keeping the R80RT. St.

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    Quote Originally Posted by STEVENRANKIN View Post
    I worked at a Mobile gas station evenings and when Mobile1 first came out
    Amazing...me, too!

    Port Chester, NY...memories from a long time ago.

    SPP

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    Registered User STEVENRANKIN's Avatar
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    Old days

    Brockport NY the corner of Rt 19 and Rt 104. St.

  9. #9
    Dances With Sheep GREGFEELER's Avatar
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    What the data says

    Quote Originally Posted by greybeard52 View Post
    Okay, so I’m reading about oils in Snowbum’s discussion about oils for Airheads and he lists popular brands with Zinc and Phosphorus and their ppm ratings. And low and behold in the list is Mobil 1 20/50w for V twins with 1600 ppm Phosphorus and 1750 ppm Zinc, with an official rating SJ. Which is what I have been running in my 2001 Harley Electraglide and 1999 Harley Sportster 1200 engines for the last 21 years with no problems. It would be handy if I could run Mobil 1 for V twins in my 1986 BMW R80RT that I acquired from a friend last summer.
    So I’m guessing that Snowbum lists this oil because it is okay to use in airhead BMW engines. I have run it in my Harleys which are aircooled engines hauling me, my wife and our gear on the Electraglide which adds up to almost 1000 pounds including the bike, going 80 mph on our highways in Wyoming including mountain passes, and the bike has never missed a beat. Why wouldn’t it work in a boxer twin? Does anyone else use Mobil 1 for V twins in their airhead Beemer? Thanks Bill
    I'm not a petroleum engineer, nor did I stay in a Holiday Inn Express last night, but I've followed motor oil discussions for many years, and also have read many articles on motor oils. Here's what I've leaned about BMW airhead and classic K-bike engine lubrication requirements. This information does not necessarily apply to to any later designs. They are another topic.

    All airhead and classic K-bike BMW motorcycle engines have flat tappets and typically require an engine oil in the 15w-50 or 20w-50 viscosity range (sometimes 10-40w for special "cold" conditions), and with zinc and phosphorus levels between 1200 and 1500ppm. Levels below these can cause tappet failure (pitting), and levels above 1500ppm can cause formation of engine deposits. Zinc and phosphorus are so-called "white metals" which provide protection against metal to metal scuffing in high pressure applications. Any oil meeting these viscosity and ZDDP levels satisfies the critical specifications for your engine, and any oil which does not meet both is potentially harmful as miles accumulate.

    These are not my opinions, but come from the requirements published by BMW (by way of API classifications), oil analysis (by laboratory), and oil specifications published by various manufactures as researched by many people, but for our purposes articles published in the BMW MOA Owners News by Jeffry DiCarlo (October 1999), revised by Matt Parkhouse (January 2002), and Kurt Schrader (March 2013). A PDF of that last article is attached.

    From other reading, air vs. water cooling is irrelevant as is petroleum vs. synthetic formulation. We need to remember that for the most part personal experiences are antidotal and not data. The fact that some oil is specified for some exotic engine so "must" be better ("if it's good enough for ...") is also not applicable. And - very importantly - just because you used a certain brand of oil 20 or 30 or 40 years ago in a bike or car at the time and "never had a problem" has nothing to do with whether it is right for these old bikes today. API classifications have changed many times since then. So, what to use?

    First off, there are a number of motorcycle specific engine oils, but not all of them meet the specs for your old K-bike or airhead. One example is any 4T oil - don't use it. Yes, it's motorcycle engine oil, but for much newer designs with wet clutches and common lubrication between the engine and transmission. You *must* find the ZDDP level specifications from the oil manufacturer.

    However, doing so reveals that there are several non-motorcycle specific motor oils available at your local parts house which meet these specifications. Probably the single most confusing thing for the average rider is that API classifications have changed many times since airhead and classic K-bike engines were designed. Much is made of the fact that the original API classifications have been "upgraded". From our standpoint, they have not been upgraded - only changed to meet fuel economy and emissions requirements. The prime example is that "recent" (the last couple of decades) API specifications have required reduction of ZDDP levels below those required for classic BMW engines because zinc and phosphorus will damage catalytic converters. On the surface you might think that you must use a motorcycle specific oil. Not necessarily.

    The lesser known fact is that API classifications have a lot of different provisions for different types of engine lubricants, different applications, and different viscosities. Specifically, these "low" ZDDP requirements only are *mandatory* for energy conserving viscosities (0-30, 00-40, 5-30, etc.), but *optional* for higher viscosity blends like 10-50, 15-40/50, or 20-50. That means it's up to the manufacturer how they want to formulate their products in the viscosity ranges we are talking about. It is also up to them whether they publish the zinc and phosphorous levels. Some don't (skip them completely irrespective of reputation), but some do.

    Mobil1 and Valvoline are two companies who do publish the needed information. I've attached a .PDF file from Mobil1 which lists the specifications of all their Mobile1 synthetic lubricants (many more than you would have thought). It shows the following ppm levels for their 15/20w-50 oils:

    Mobil1 V-Twin 20w-50: Zinc - 1750, Phosphorus - 1600 (more than enough - almost too much)
    Mobil1 Racing 0w-50: Zinc - 1850, Phosphorus - 1750 (and NOT recommended for street use)
    Mobil1 15w-50: Zinc - 1300, Phosphorus - 1200 (well within the desired range)

    From this I, personally, would *not* add any ZDDP to the V-Twin oils - they are somewhat above the recommended levels already, and for that reason, I would hesitate to use this oil at all. However, the off the shelf everyday 15w-50 Mobile1 is right in the sweet spot, so can be used as it without additives, which is what I do.

    There are other parts-house oils that can work, as well. Valvoline VR-1 20w-50 is available as both a conventional and full synthetic formulation, and both have 1400ppm of zinc and 1300 of phosphorus. I've attached their data sheets, as well.

    What I have learned is that oil just isn't oil anymore, and hasn't been for decades. If you want to correctly maintain vintage engines, it takes a bit of research on your part sometimes. Also, my advice is to not believe the parts guy about which oil is "good" for your old bike - whether he or she is in a bike shop or parts house. Uninformed good intentions don't pay repair bills.

    I hope this is helpful. Any and all typos are yours free.
    Greg Feeler
    Ambassador & amateur K-Bike collector, it seems
    1972 R75/5, 1990 K75, 1990 K1, 1992 K75S, 2003 K1200RS

  10. #10
    Mobil1 V-Twin motorcycle oil is well-fortified with ample zinc anti-wear additive and I have been using it in my BMW's for years.

    For my vintage (old) BMW engines, I have remained with non-synthetic oil since I have experienced some slight seal and gasket weeping with such usage in the past.

    .

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    Curmudgeon nrpetersen's Avatar
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    Smile

    Greg Feeler - A remarkably well researched and written discussion. THX
    Niel Petersen
    Retired w 2005 K1200LT, 2000 R1100RT, & 1975 R90/6

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    BMWMOA #24809 jhall's Avatar
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    GgregFeeler Excellent Post

    Very informative and up to date. I'm a fan of 15w50 Mobil 1 since late 90s and at least 200,000 miles in 56 - 63 Studebakers, which are far more similar to Airheads than different. Mobil 1 keeps motor internals clean, minimal wear, and NO problems with excess seal leakage. Reading your article, I regret having bought a summer supply of V-Twin 20w50. About 10 years ago I bought a dozen bottles of ZDDP, but seldom used it in Studebakers. Down to the last bottle, I planned to use it in the Airhead, but now maybe not. Glad I didn't buy more, just for the Airhead. Current plan: use up the V-Twin this summer, then go back to 15w50, year round. Thanks again for your excellent post.
    Last edited by jhall; 04-13-2021 at 04:45 PM.
    BMWMOA #24809

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    Quote Originally Posted by GREGFEELER View Post

    .....There are other parts-house oils that can work, as well. Valvoline VR-1 20w-50 is available as both a conventional and full synthetic formulation, and both have 1400ppm of zinc and 1300 of phosphorus. I've attached their data sheets, as well.....
    Thanks for the informative post. One thing about VR1 (dino and synthetic) is it is very good it oil for Airheads but it is recommended to be changed frequently, like 90 days, as it's a racing oil and doesn't incorporate additives for extended changes. This is from a Valvoline tech I spoke with.
    16 R1200RS, 93 R100R. No car is as fun to drive as any motorcycle is to ride.

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    BMWMOA #24809 jhall's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by milo View Post
    Thanks for the informative post. One thing about VR1 (dino and synthetic) is it is very good it oil for Airheads but it is recommended to be changed frequently, like 90 days, as it's a racing oil and doesn't incorporate additives for extended changes. This is from a Valvoline tech I spoke with.
    I have been hearing that about racing oils for decades, but was unsure if true. Since you heard it from a Valvoline tech, sounds credible. Thanks
    BMWMOA #24809

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    Liaison 20774's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by milo View Post
    Thanks for the informative post. One thing about VR1 (dino and synthetic) is it is very good it oil for Airheads but it is recommended to be changed frequently, like 90 days, as it's a racing oil and doesn't incorporate additives for extended changes. This is from a Valvoline tech I spoke with.
    Somehow that doesn't make sense. Why would places like Walmart have it on their shelves for the average customer? Wouldn't it behoove Valvoline to instruct all it distributors to make this quite clear to their customers? Seems like lawsuits waiting to happen if the end user wasn't informed of this. What's written on the side of the container?
    Kurt -- Forum Liaison ---> Resources and Links Thread <---
    '78 R100/7 & '69 R69S & '52 R25/2
    mine-ineye-deatheah-pielayah-jooa-kalayus. oolah-minane-hay-meeriah-kal-oyus-algay-a-thaykin', buddy!

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