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Read our primer articles on High Mileage Oil, Synthetic Oil and Kinematic Viscosity

I wanted to ask how most of you come to a decision on an oil brand/product with the limited information available; especially for your personal vehicles and recreational toys. I am sure most of you have been the industry for some time now and have connections that increases your knowledge and awareness to certain products but for the average person it is very limited and of couse manufacturers do not have to publish any information. Here's an example of a 'dilema' I am facing right now.

I purchased a new Polaris atv this past winter and the recommended oil is a 0W-40 Polaris Synthetic which runs around $8.00/qt. I do not know who makes the oil but I will assume (again limited knowledge) that it is a Group III product. I know for around $8.00/qt I can either get the Mobil 1 4T 10W40 or the Amsoil AFF 0W40, which are both PAO based lubes. I'm sure both products will work fine but I just like to know what I get for my dollar other than fancy advertising. The atv is subject to short trips (sometimes loaded), idling, cold weather, and can sit in the garage for up to a month before operation again. These are all factors for increased oil changeouts but I would like to find something that has the most protection for this kind of application.

Any insight or info as to how you decide would be greatly appreciated.

Thank you,

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My daughter has a Yamaha Raptor 50 ATV, and according to its manual, during the summer months, a 10w40 or 20w40 oil for most operational temperatures is the recommended viscosities. After break-in (she now has 25 hours on it), I have Maxima Maxum Ultra 5w40 in the crankcase.

I use this because one, I want a very stout oil in there, as in this model, the oil both lubricates the engine, plus does transmission pack duty. Two, since it is a full synthetic, the 5w factor means great flow and pumpability for the colder days. Now, if she decides to ride it this winter, I just might switch to the 0w30 grade of the Maxima, just to be on the safe side for the cold start.

One thing I have noticed about this engine is that it is very cold natured. It likes a nice long warm up before it will take off for her without stalling when she thumbs the throttle, so I know a thinner oil helps in that department as well.

Maxima Ultra is a 100% ester based synthetic. The Amsoil you mentioned is indeed a PAO based synthetic. I would not use the Mobil, not because it isn't a good product, I'm just one of those people that likes to boycott the major oil players and opts to support the smaller, specialized players in the lubrication field. Not that Amsoil is small at this juncture either, but they make IMHO a higher quality controlled product than Mobil does.

There are a few more specialty ones out there as well, such as Bel-Ray, Blendzall, PJ1, and Motorex, just to name a few. If you would like, do some searching to find out just the basics of each brand, then decide which one "feels" right for you.

Hope that this helps you out some. There are a thousand different lubricants out there, all gunning for your business and stating that they are, in fact, the best.
You have to take into consideration liquid cooling, air cooling, and shared transmission. Each may affect choices.

I'm a big fan of following manufacturer's recommendations. Not in brands though.

Nothing wrong with Group 3 synthetics. There are some very high performing mixes out there.

The Maxima sounds like tremendous oil. If you find it for similiar pricing, it may be the way to go. Ester based synthetics are the best.
I have taken in account water/air cooled, transmission, etc. Most ATV or motorcycle lubes claim they work great for combined systems. The extent of my experience is some training (Noria of course) and some personal research so I don't really have a lot of experience to draw from. With what I have read I wouldn't have expected an Ester to be recommended for this application. I know PAO's have Ester co-base for the additive package but I would have assumed a PAO was best (in this application). Reason being the issues Esters have with water. I imagine the environment of an ATV invites moisture and with the temperature differential condensation would be high also. Why do you recommend an Ester? I appreciate the help and please don't take my questioning as 'arguing'; I just want to learn more and why.

Thanks again!
Not a problem. In fact, I love it when good questions are asked as opposed to just stateing the unsure.

Basically, all oils will absorb water. There is a technical term for it that escapes me right now, but that function is part of the oil's job. One can counteract that function somewhat, by making sure that the oil does get up to temperature every so often and maintained for a little while in order to burn off. Doing that also helps burn off some of the other nasty that oil picks up along the way: fuel.

All group IV (PAO based) and group V (ester based) synthetics are outstanding base oils. Ester might (I say this based on my research and questions sessions) pick up and hold a little more water than one might like, but not enough to offset the fact that it is one of the best, if not the best, base oil for high operation temperatures. This again, is not to say that a PAO based lubricant wouldn't suit your purpose fine either.

I chose Maxima products for three reasons:
1) Smaller US company, blending their own products inhouse.
2) The additive packages are overkill to say the least, therefore in my eyes, offering the best defense if and when the additives are called upon if the lubrication film is ever broken.
3) I have a close, local dealer that offers me a good price point given that they are an expensive oil.

I also run Maxima's products in my vehicles as well. Again, way overkill for the application, but I like having too much, instead of not enough. Here is a link for you to check them out:

If you decide to give them a try, great, but if not, don't think that by choosing Amsoil, or another great PAO based lubricant that you've made a bad choice. Most of us being this anal about oil are just that. Oils have come quite a long way since "Your father's Oldsmobile" to quote an old line, and with just a few exeptions of some products that just "make the grade" out there, most of them are very good at what they do, it is just a matter of personal brand preference, basestock preference, and how much of an additive package that you would like to see in your oil.

Long winded, I know, but I hope that this helped! Big Grin
Thanks again for the reply. I see you have done your research on Maxima products and were able to find out about its additive package and make up. I'll do more reading into it for sure. But that's where I run into trouble trying to decide with the limited availability of information. I also agree about Group III synthetics being a good oil but if I was to spend the same money (and again limited access to information) I usually lean towards the Group IV's. I know I'm preaching to the choir with this stuff but want to throw it out there for discussion. Hydrolysis was a concern with Esters for me and not knowing what ester it is for compatibility reasons but if they 'design' it for that application then I would have to say it is ok to use.

I see it comes down to research so maybe this is how I should have asked this question; 'What are some good websites (or other media) for information on oils to make good comparative decisions?'

Amsoil talks about having a TBN of 10, is that good/better compared to brand X, or is it average and used as a marketing tool. I see they like to advertise 4 ball test and that there is a lot of discussion on that in this forum. These are things I would like to find out and make better decisions. When it comes down to it they all will perform but I want to start out with something I have full confidence in and get the most for my dollar and stick with it.

Thanks again for the help. I love reading your replies so keep'em coming.
I found out about the additive package a very unique way. I also belong to a forum called "The Motor Oil Site". One of the members submitted a paper on oils and the Harley Davidson, comparing quite a few of the oils that could be considered for use beside Harley's branded oil. He lists additive levels, TBN, cST specs at operating temperature, aging, and volatility levels of the different oils. Maxima Extra topped the charts in the additive department, with no moly for the clutch packs. Ultra, according to Danny at Maxima, said that it is just like an "improved" version of the Extra, so that's whay I went with it.

Now does this mean that it was the top of every A product by Pure Power, topped the TBN chart at over 17. Most moly, of course, went to Redline (no big surprise, as their levels of moly are discussed very frequently). But the cST and stability levels, along with the rest of the additive structure sold me on the Maxima. So much so that I even use it in my car. As someone stated to me, what has API done for me, I replied besides lower the additive package content so that emission parts can last longer...nothing. My vehicle doesn't use a drop of oil, so the whole CAT poisoning issue is a non-issue for me.

TBN is important, but it isn't everything, particularly in ATV's and such. Oil is usually changed based on hours, not miles, and due to the very nature of just how much a lubricant is torn to shreds in a shared case system, TBN really isn't depleted long before the rest of the additive package is well used up. Most of the ATV and bike oils will have a higher TBN to start with, so you'll be OK in the neutralization department of those nasty acid formations.

4 ball wear test - great on paper, good marketing tool...not really all that important in the real world situation of an internal combustion engine. Amsoil makes a great product line as well. I have used them in the past, as my friend is a distributor, and besides him and his family, I'm is only other customer. In fact, I still use their oil filters, now that they came out with the EaO line. They are top dog in my book, and can go longer than any other filter IMHO.

Bottom line is, if you see something about an oil that you like, check it out as much as you can, then decide if you want to use it. Even though I use Maxima right now, I constantly search for better, newer, technologically different, and just plain change of brands time, so I could be using something different next year. In fact, I'm checking on a couple different ones right now, as my other posts are asking about GReddy oils (from Japan), XADO oils (from the Ukraine), and on another forum, I'm asking about Aerospace Lubricants' Alysin ProGrade 21 0w20 formulation.

I like to tinker, try, sniff, feel, look at, and enjoy reading about and using all kinds of different wife seems to think that I'm obsessed.....NAAAAAAH!!
Well thanks again and I can see already I found place that carries the same passion (others call it obsession) for lube. I have never been satisfied with being told something is 'superior' or better without a clear understanding of why. I've read on many sites people getting into 'peeing' matches over oil brands without any merit to their arguement. Same thing as watching someone reading the back of oil jugs at Walmart. At least they are putting thought into it but I always wonder what are they looking for? I don't want to be fooled with tests that don't apply such as 4-ball and become wiser at making choices. I know there are distributors here but there seems to be a lot of independant individuals with a wealth of information. I will be hanging around and reading more for sure.

Again very much appreciated!

They should include adequate informational guidelines and safety measures for every end products they manufacture. This is where the basic information of the products where it can educate everyone about its proper usage, capacity and safety precautions. Manufacturer with reputable brand names always do this labeling information to their products and this should other manufacturers do..
Last edited by jamesblake

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