John Rowland, long time Morgan owner, engineer and campaigner has worked for Silkolene and latterly Fuchs for more years than he cares to remember.

Most of the time he’s spent in the labs, developing, testing and reporting on oils, fuels, their actions and interactions. He’s contributed many an article to The Bulletin and has written countless emails in response to questions from club members, customers and chums.

Now we can share some of these emails. The list will grow slowly, please be patient.

To view the emails, click on the club logo next to the subject:

Oils, Lubricants, Fuels and more Oil for my F-Type
Oils, Lubricants, Fuels and more Should I grease my Trackrod Ends?
Oils, Lubricants, Fuels and more Ethanol in Fuel. A good thing, or a problem?
Oils, Lubricants, Fuels and more Ethanol in Fuel. Take 2
Oils, Lubricants, Fuels and more What’s the best oil for my MX2 with an original oil filter?
Oils, Lubricants, Fuels and more Chain Lubrication. Is a penetrating oil the best answer?
Oils, Lubricants, Fuels and more What’s the best oil for my V-Twin engine – Castorene R40?
Oils, Lubricants, Fuels and more What’s the best oil for my Three Speeder Gearbox?




Oil for my F-Type

The query: 

My F-Type has an original E93A engine which doesn’t have an oil filter. The car’s not running yet and the existing oil’s black. I’m sure it hasn’t been rebuilt for many a long year. It hasn’t run since 2001. I would normally use a multigrade detergent oil but read this dire warning on the internet: 

I have always understood that there is no problem at all with multigrade BUT really should only be used on engines that have been thoroughly cleaned, ie after a major rebuild. The modern multigrade detergent oils will clean out the sludge and can easily block oilways if used on an engine that has been running on straight non-detergent oils without cleaning. The detergent oil will hold sediment in suspension which is then cleaned by the oil filter on modern cars. We don’t have an oil filter so the dirt is carried around, whilst it drops to the bottom with straight oils………..

What do you think of the dire warning about detergent oils?

The short answer: 

Since the mid- 1950’s all popular oils have been detergent and the fact that your oil is black shows it is detergent/dispersant. Use a good quality modern multigrade oil. These have also been around since the 1950s when S.V. Fords were the most common car engine in the UK. If the oil was really black and thin, after the first fill, run for 50 miles or so and then change the oil.

 The detail: 

The very fact that the oil is black indicates that it is detergent/dispersant. (The detergent washes carbon off pistons etc, and the dispersant keeps it in suspension as micron-sizes particles, too small to settle out. There are no oils that are just ‘detergent’.) The prat who wrote that paragraph doesn’t seem to realise this, just as he or she seems to think that ‘straight 30’ must be ‘straight non-detergent’, which is WRONG, totally wrong! Modern monogrades are commonly detergent/dispersant/antioxidant, and the can or spec sheet will say so. (Look for API SE, SF, SG and so on, and API CC,CD diesel spec.) Any oil that passes these specs by definition cannot be ‘straight’ or ‘non-detergent’. Do NOT use a truly ‘straight’ oil unless you are totally barmy. OK, they may not flow so well in freezing conditions, so if you need that, use a multigrade, which is in effect a thin monograde, detergent/dispersant/antioxidant, to which a polymer to retard thinning at higher temperatures has been added. (First available in the mid-1950s.) The same thing with one extra feature!

As for filters, they are and always were ‘bolt stoppers’. The statement: The detergent oil will hold sediment in suspension which is then cleaned by the oil filter’ is just about as totally wrong as it is possible to be. The carbon particles are very small, around 0.001mm or less, non-abrasive, harmless and much smaller than the pores in the filter matrix, which are 15-25 micron. (0.015-0.025mm).

A good 10W/40, 20W/50 or 15W/50 would be OK. No hard and fast rules, but as always with any car that may have belonged to an idiot, regard the first fill as a flush-out. Run for 50-odd miles and discard. There’s no knowing what garbage may have been added.

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Should I grease my Trackrod Ends?

The query:

“Don’t grease the trackrod ends on your Morgan. It’s the cones which provide damping to the steering and if you grease them you’ll get steering wobble”. That’s what I’ve heard over the years but I found that if I greased the trackrod ends or squirted chain lube, I got lighter steering without the wobble. “

The Response:

“As you know, I believe that track rod ends were meant to be greased from day one….and probably were. The damping should be done by viscous drag in the grease film, not by metal graunching together. If this happens, apart from the strain on the track rod, the car steers in an odd jerky ‘click-stop’ way, making it difficult to hold in a straight line; it is always creeping to the left or right. Very irritating. I fitted grease nipples around 1979 after this happened to me on a very long motorway in Belgium!”

To read the full response with photos- click here.

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Ethanol in Fuel. A good thing, or a problem?

The query:

“Hi guys… 

I need your help on a strange enquiry I had today and could use your expertise. 

A customer with an older classic motorcycle called and claims that since the increase of Ethanol to petrol in January the perishable rubbers/seals inside the engine are suffering and deteriorating, rapidly.

He also said that petrol left in his tank for three months had turned to green jelly (?) all due, he claims, to the increase of Ethanol. He and a large number of classic riders in his club are worried as the Ethanol content is due to increase again in the near future, so the problem will get worse. 

I know nothing regarding the above, never been mentioned to me before. I did recommend that fuel would be best drained if left standing for longer periods (never heard of petrol turning into green jelly?) and perhaps try adding some Pro RSF. 

Do you have any views on this and more importantly is this a ‘true’ problem that we can find a solution for?”

 The response:

“First of all, could you please get me a sample of the fuel that’s turned into green jelly? (3 months standing is no big deal; even 3 years is OK.) I will not believe this until I’ve actually seen it! (And get a few of the ‘perishable’ seals from the engine if you can). Has all this actually happened to this customer, or does he just know of a mate of a mate who has had this happen? So far, all this ethanol in petrol nonsense has been rumour and urban myth.

What really gets me about this scare is that ethanol (which is the same as ‘bio-ethanol’ of course) is one of the most innocuous fuels known. It is far less likely to cause deterioration of seals and hoses than petrol itself, and it simply does not gel; it just evaporates away leaving nothing behind. In the 1950s to 1970s it was added to petrol in winter to prevent carburettor icing, but the fuel companies didn’t tell anybody, consequently there was no panic! It was, and presumably still is, recommended for cleaning brake cylinder rubbers, which grow to twice their normal size in petrol, and resemble gone-off blackcurrant wine gums. (I’ve tried it.)

Certainly, for classic bike riders (i.e., those who actually ride classics rather than just talk about them) adding Pro-RSF, which is alcohol based, will do no harm, and it will help with valve and upper cylinder bore lubrication. In reality, ethanol in fuel should reduce Pro-FST sales because it will stop carburettor icing, just as it did in the ‘classic’ era! But this depends on buyers using their brains, so we’ll be OK.

I have actually run my 1960 Mk.1 Sprite on 95 standard pump fuel plus 5% ethanol (added by me!) for a couple of hundred miles with no trouble. (And it got me here this morning.) But I’m a driver, not a fusser.”

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Ethanol in Fuel. Take 2

The query:

“Hi xxxx, just read J R’s e-mail and I have to raise one or two questions, firstly if you were to leave modern petrol/fuel in a motorcycle tank for 3 years it would without doubt be unusable and would have that horrible “cat pee” smell. If the same fuel were left in a carburettor float bowl for only a third of that time it would again without doubt have evaporated and left a “varnish” in the carb which sometimes is only removable with ultra sonic cleaning, a quick chat with any bike dealer will verify this.

It’s more than possible people are blaming this phenomenon on ethanol as its addition to petrol is now in the public domain, is it possible something else that is being added could be causing this to happen?

As i said earlier a quick chat with any bike dealer will verify what i have said, it would be nice if you could put this to J R when he comes in next wednesday”

 The response:

“Firstly, people say ‘without doubt’ or ‘surely’ when there is doubt and they’re not 100% sure! Martyn, have you SEEN 3-year old petrol and actually been unable to run an engine on it? Does petrol which has stood for 1 year ACTUALLY (not just ‘without doubt’) evaporate and leave a ‘varnish’! Come on, let’s see a float chamber with this hard varnish!* I like to see things first hand. I have used petrol which has stood around in metal cans for over a year with no trouble. I’d be perfectly willing to try 3-year old petrol, especially if it’s free! Myself, I have run Amal 6 and 29 carbs for well over 110,000miles on 2 Morgan (Matchless V-twin) 3-wheelers, with about half the mileage in the ‘leaded’ era and the rest in the ‘unleaded’ era. I have NEVER, never seen any varnish deposits, even though the engine stands unused, with a half-full tank and an un-drained carb., for the winter months. Equally, the 1963 HS4 SU carbs on the BMC A-Series (Sprite) which get quite warm (Same side as the exhaust) have never had any trouble. (116,000miles to date.) In fact, I think the modern unleaded petrol is brilliant! All that is needed for old iron-head motors like mine is a drop of 2-stroke oil (no more than 5ccs per litre) to look after the valve seats. If you regularly hold full throttle for over half an hour at a time on the motorway, or pull a caravan, (or a 3-seat Watsonian chair!) then you might need a special Valve Seat Recession Additive, such as Castrol Valvemaster. IF there is any lacquering tendency, and I don’t think there is, the 2-stroke oil will prevent it settling out and hardening. Another great advantage of modern fuel is the detergency, which keeps inlet tracts and inlet valve heads clean. This is a really Good Thing. But, the detergents used are ashless nitrogen-based types, which can release tiny amounts of ammonia, hence a ‘urine’ smell. But it’s a fuel, not a perfume! (Some good quality 2-stroke oils have the same smell for the same reason.)

For carbs prone to slide freezing in cold damp weather such as Amals, alcohols keep the condensation dissolved and prevent ice crystals forming. I always used to add ethanol or the similar iso-propanol, but now the petrol companies do it for me (as they did in the 1950s-70s). I just couldn’t ask for more….except a tax reduction, perhaps?!

*N.B. In the 1990s I did really did see bike carbs with hard brown lacquer, and this gave dealers a lot of trouble, but the bikes were ‘grey imports’, newish S/H models packed into shipping containers and imported from Indonesia and Taiwan. Sometimes this took several months. There was never any trouble with European (or N.American) fuel. Well…..maybe if you go back to the late 1940s and the evil 75-octane ‘Pool’ petrol. The absolute dregs!

Yours sincerely, John Rowland, (R & D Dept, semi-retired!)”

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Chain Lubrication. Is a penetrating oil the best answer?

The query:

Fuchs anticorit chain query

Dear Sirs,

A query.

I have decided to lubricate my motorcycle chain with an anti-corrosion oil instead of motorcycle specialist lubes. The reasons are firstly that the motorcycle lubes don’t fly off (much) but attract lots of dirt and grit which can only accelerate chain wear. Secondly the cost differential. The PJ1 that I have been using is £7 per 13oz can. Thirdly, the anti-corrosion oils are good at cleaning off dirt and penetrating to all surfaces and water dispersion plus they won’t harm painted parts or be difficult to clean off. PJ1 is very difficult to clean off but the rain can remove it from the chain when riding and leave it dry! Not good! 

Now my query is this. After reading many quotes on the internet from motorcyclists ‘world wide’ who state that penetrating oils are said to be the best chain cleaner/lubricant on the market, they just have to be applied regularly in winter, I’m just after a qualified conformation, so is this the case? Can I be assured that by using your own Fuchs Anticorit oils that my motorcycle chain will have sufficient lubrication on the chains rollers and sprockets to prevent wear? The oil has to manage only 70hp so it’s not as if I’m asking it to cope with a massive amount of pressure? I used to use gear oil like the race teams but this was far too messy and it washed off and flung off too easily. Good for 20 laps of a race track but not for a 300 mile trip to the lakes. 

I already have half a can of your Anticorit 988 and have sprayed my chain with it mainly to loosen the PJ1 so I can remove it. If you think it will be sufficient to lubricate it fully then I will use your products in future, the common concensus being very positive toward WD40 which I believe is a similar product! 

Just for the record, a motorcyclist in the USA running a Yamaha R1 1000cc superbike uses WD40 and his chain has already done 18000 miles with only 3 adjustments. This is what I need for my £120 chain….longevity! 

Thank you for your time, I await your reply eagerly.

The response

There is always an assumption that tacky chain lubes ‘must’ cause wear by assisting the adhesion of abrasive grit particles. Well perhaps they would if motorcycles always travelled at 10ml/hr, but at higher speeds, even within the legal limits, very high ‘G’ forces are generated as the chain travels around the rear sprocket*, causing all but fine low-density particles and a thin layer of lubricant to be flung off. A few years ago an investigation of dirt from (lubricated) road bike chains found that it was mainly composed of fine rubber dust from the back tyre! So this much-discussed abrasive oil/grit mixture isn’t a problem, except in trials and motocross, but that’s another story. (…….and it would be less of a problem if there was more informed comment on the Internet!)

As a final drive transmission component, M/C chains transmit huge amounts of torque, particularly in lower gears, even with ‘only’ 70 BHP from the engine. So, just as with a shaft final drive metal contacts are high-pressure, so ideally EP (extreme pressure) SAE 90 or 140 gear oils should be used. These contain compounds which react with metal surfaces under high-pressure conditions, cutting wear and heat generation. ‘Anticorits’ and similar anti-corrosion coatings do not do this. In the absence of an enclosed chain case (as used on 1930s Sunbeams) gear oil will not stay on the chain for very long, and it will not stop it rusting, but the logic behind using it for racing is entirely sound.

The secret is to blend very viscous polymer-thickened oil with gear-type anti-wear compounds, plus plenty of anti-corrosion agents. This is mixed with a quick-drying solvent so it penetrates inside the rollers, then dries off to a thin film. (Any more than a thin film is pointless. The excess is just flung off.) With a good chain lube, the oil is much thicker than SAE 140. This is necessary because oil specs such as SAE use lab measurements of viscosity (ie resistance to flow) where the oil flows under the influence of ‘one G’ gravity. (Well…’s sort of convenient!) Under multiple ‘G’ as around a back sprocket, even 140 gear oil behaves more like sewing machine oil!

One more point: Normal fluids including oil are flung off a rotating spindle, but some polymers reverse this effect, causing them to be attracted to the rotating surface. (‘Weissenberg Effect’) Using such polymers in a chain lube helps to draw the oil into the small clearances between the chain rollers and inner pins and bushes. Obviously these polymers are not found in anti-corrosion oils or standard gear oils.

(You can test this for yourself: Leave some chain lube in a small cup for a day or two until all the solvent has gone off, then spin a small spindle, such as a 6mm drill upside down, in it with an electric drill. The oil should climb up the drill.) 

*Note 1: It is easy to calculate these forces. For example, an Aprilia RSV (parked outside the lab!) has a rear sprocket diameter of 24cm, and a tyre dia of 60cm. (Circumference 188.5.) At 70MPH, or 3130cm/sec the tyre is also (hopefully!) travelling at 70MPH, so it is doing 16.6 rev/sec., so the sprocket is also doing 16.6, OK? And its rim is travelling at 1251.6cm/sec.

According to my Dad’s 1931 night school engineering book, Centrifugal Force (in grams) = (M x Vsquared) / (g x R)

(For multiples of G, regard mass M as 1. V= velocity in cm/sec, g = 981cm/sec2, R=Radius.)

So, centrifugal force on the 12cm. radius sprocket rim is 133G

Note that centrifugal force is proportional to the square of the velocity, so at an illegal but easily reached ‘superbike’ speed of 140MPH, the ‘G’ force is:

a staggering 532G

Oil is low density fortunately (SG about 0.85) but silicate grit is around SG 2, so there will not be much hanging on! 

Yours sincerely, JR

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What’s the best oil for my V-Twin Engine – Castorene R40?

 The Query: 

“I’m told that Castrol R, or Castorene R40 is the best oil for a V-Twin engine with roller bearings. Is this the case or should I be using a modern mineral oil with detergents etc.?”

The Response:

“Castorene R40 lasts a reasonable time, but it is not detergent/dispersant. (Detergents, usually calcium or magnesium suphonates, wash the carbon off, dispersants, usually nitrogen-based amides, keep it in a fine suspension).

For a road W/C J.A.P. Chatsworth 40 would be fine, but my favourite ‘Hardwick 40’ which is sold as Titan TXE 40, would be just a bit better.” 

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What’s the best oil for my Three Speeder Gearbox?

The Query:

I have a 1934 Morgan three wheel car. The gear box is designed for a very viscous oil and Castrol D was originally recommended but is no longer made. I have tried other 140 grade oils but these are not so viscous and leak due to the design of the box. The box has brass bushes and a phosphor bronze crown wheel. Would any of your oils be suitable? Rhino perhaps? Advice would be much appreciated. 

The Response:

Rhino SAE 140 is ideal for the Morgan 3W ‘D’ box, being similar in viscosity to the old Castrol ‘D’. In fact, the gearbox actually performs better with a thinner oil, not a thicker one. When new, the original leather/steel spring oil seals on the front input and the rear cross-shaft were fine and remained leak-proof for 10,000-15,000 miles, which was good for those days. Modern (post-1970!) synthetic rubber direct replacements (commonly available) last for 30 years/60,000 miles plus. I know, I replaced mine a couple of weeks ago, not that there was anything wrong with the old ones.

Using a semi-fluid grease, as we have recommended for 2-speed bevel boxes for very many years, is not really an option with the 3-speeder because the oil must circulate from the gear compartment to the worm/wheel area to ensure adequate cooling of the bronze wheel.

Although I used to use Rhino 140 up to the early 1980s, I have used our Castorene R40 since then for 60,000 miles, with excellent results, even though the gear set was all 1934. Still working fine when removed, with most of the wear being down to who-knows-what oils used 1934-1968!

Used as a gear oil, our R40 is in effect SAE 90.  Alas, you must cure the leaks. There is no long-term alternative. Remember, maximum fill is 2 to 2 & a quarter pints, 1.14 to 1.3 litres.  Incidentally, all modern automotive gear oils are OK with bronze and other copper alloys, contrary to the silly but persistent urban myth!

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What’s the best oil for my MX2 with an original oil filter?

The Query:

Dear John,
I was thinking of using straight SAE 40 oil this year for the MX2 which uses an original catridge oil filter. Would detergent or non-detergent oil be recommended?

The Response:

Regarding SAE 40 oil, you must agree to humour me and speak of ‘modern monograde’ oil. Modern (i.e. post-1955!) single-grade oils commonly contain all the useful compounds…antioxidants, dispersants, detergents to name but a few….just like the 2014 oils in 2014 cars, petrol or diesel. The differences are that they are thicker, and do not attempt to pass Winter (‘W’) specifications which are all about cold starting for plain-bearing wet-sump engines with high capacity, high pressure oil pumps. So the majority of SAE 40 monogrades are very similar to a typical SAE 10w/40 except that they will not pass the 10W cold test at -25C. 

More myths that need to go concern oil filters. A modern paper-element oil filter is NOT finer than an old felt one, but it allows a much faster rate of flow, essential with a high pressure high flow oil system. (45 litres per minute even with an old BMC A-series engine.) Matchless X engines: 200cc per minute at 4000RPM if you’re lucky. So, when I see a modern cartridge filter on an old V-twin I get that familiar twinge of despair. No engine oil filter of any type will stop micron-size (one thousandth mm) carbon particles found in used modern oil….there’s no need! They are non-abrasive and harmless, and don’t even settle out. Oil filters do what they always did: stop large bits that could damage something.  So you need decent modern oil to look after your MX2! Look for a SAE 40 with a good spec. such as the 1950s USA Military ‘Mil-L-2104B’ or higher. This will ensure totally beneficial detergent, dispersant, anti-oxidant and anti-wear performance. I use ‘higher’ in the MX4, going for SAE 40 with the 1960s Mil-D and API SE specs with more of everything. (Better for that overloaded third cam lobe….but it didn’t stop a rear mainshaft fracture.)  

The Fuchs-Silkolene grades are Chatsworth 40 for Mil-L-2104B, Fuchs Titan TXE 40 for more of the good stuff.

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