A reader asks: I’ve got a 1988 10 meter prowler with twin inboard Mercruiser 5.7L engines that produce 260 horsepower each. As these engines have flat tappet cams, what would be your engine oil recommendation?

Our Answer: GM produced 5.7L (350 c.i.) engines with flat tappet cams for Mercury up until 1995. Making a proper motor oil choice for these engines is crucial. Flat tappet camshafts require high ZDDP (zinc dialkyl dithiophosphates) levels that are not found in motor oils formulated for modern engines. Both zinc and phosphorus are anti-wear additives that have been reduced in the latest motor oil standards. The reason being is that high concentrations of these additives can cause problems in present-day emissions components.

A common rule of thumb for zinc levels of motor oils for flat tappet cam engines is a starting point of about 1200 ppm and up. If a motor oil’s zinc level is not in this neighborhood, do not consider it. Motor oils for gasoline service up to the API “SL” specification (for cars made 2004 and earlier) could be considered. Motor oils with the API SM or SN specifications and newer should definitely be out of the running as the zinc and phosphorus content will be insufficient.

Diesel engines oil with API CI-4 or CI-4+ specification were designed for engines made prior to the 2007 model year. These oils tend to have higher zinc and phosphorus volumes as well as a high detergent content. Provided that the zinc levels are determined to be in the ballpark, diesel oils with these specs can be great candidates for gasoline-powered Mercruiser engines with flat tappets cams. Avoid diesel oils with the newer API CJ-4 specification. CJ-4 diesel oils have lower zinc and phosphorus levels.

Avoid Some Marine Engine Oils

NMMA FC-W Catalyst Compatible LogoThere is one tell-tale sign visible on the label of some marine engine oils that may disqualify it from being suitable for flat tappet cam engines. If you see the logo (left) stating “NMMA FC-W Catalyst Compatible”, there’s a very good chance that this oil is not compatible with your flat tappet cam engine. High amounts of zinc and phosphorus can foul catalytic converters in newer marine engines, so any engine oil meeting the “Catalyst Compatible” criteria likely has used a different approach to wear control. This doesn’t mean that these oils are of lower quality, it simply means that they aren’t great for older engines with flat tappet cams.

A logo stating simply “NMMA FC-W Certified” alone without the “Catalyst Compatible” designation may be fine, but one must determine the zinc level from the oil manufacturer. NMMA stands for National Marine Manufacturers Association and “FC-W” means the motor oil is certified for 4-stroke marine engine use.

AMSOIL Synthetic Heavy Duty Diesel & Marine Motor OilOur Oil Recommendation For Mercruiser 5.7L Engines With Flat Tappet Cams

We sell an oil that we believe is perfect for these engines. AMSOIL 15W-40 Synthetic Heavy Duty Diesel & Marine Motor Oil contains 1377 ppm zinc and 1267 ppm phosphorous making it a potent force against flat tappet cam wear. This API CI-4+ Synthetic 15W-40 has a powerful detergent package, extended service capabilities and an anti-corrosion package for marine conditions. We believe that this engine oil is a great fit for older inboard Mercury engines made by GM.

While there are no earth shattering engine or chassis changes on Ski-Doo models for the 2016 season, that doesn’t mean that they’ve stood pat. Refinements, additions and new models are noted throughout the line-up.

Here are the Ski-Doo model categories.

  • MXZ- High Performance Trail
  • Renegade- Crossover
  • Summit- Mountain
  • Freeride- Extreme Mountain
  • Grand Touring- Touring
  • Expedition- Touring/Off-Trail/Utility
  • Tundra- Utility
  • Skandic- Utility

Here are the 2016 Ski-Doo highlights.

2016 MXZ Blizzard

The new MXZ Blizzard revives the Blizzard moniker from the late 1970s and brings a new take on high performance trail riding. The snowmobile industry is trending toward adding longer tracks to high-performance trail machines for improved flotation in deep powder. Ski-Doo commits much of the MXZ series in this direction by adding a 129-inch track. This improves traction and comfort while giving up little in the way of handling in tight trails. The MXZ Blizzard features the REV-XS chassis, the new Pilot TS adjustable skis and a choice of 600 H.O. E-TEC, 800R E-TEC, 900 ACE, or 1200 4-TEC power plants.

2016 Renegade Enduro

The Renegade family of crossover snowmobiles gets new member for 2016. The Renegade Enduro is designed to do all. Whether it be trail riding, back country exploring or touring, the Renegade Enduro looks to be up to the task. Enduro features include the a 137-inch track, the REV-XS chassis, air-ride rear suspension, Pilot TS adjustable skis and the option of 600 E-TEC, 800R E-TEC, 900 ACE, or 1200 4-TEC engines.

2016 Expedition Xtreme

The Expedition Xtreme utility and touring sled is new for 2016 and it seems to have a bit of identity crisis. It seems to be part Jeep, part drag racer. This versatile machine is outfitted with 164 horsepower 800R E-TEC engine, so we know it’s not short on ponies. Where the utility/touring part comes in is the 154-inch track, the REV-XU chassis, a synchromesh transmission for low range operation and a cargo rack.

Pilot TS Adjustable Skis

Ski-Doo introduces a brand new idea that allows riders to fine-tune their steering on the side of the trail in seconds. The Pilot TS Ski has a knob on the top of the ski that adjusts the height of the carbide runner. With a full ½ inch range of motion, the rider can quickly adjust steering characteristics of his machine when conditions change. In soft snow and powder, the rider may want more front end bite and less in hard-pack conditions. The Pilot TS Skis are featured on some MXZ, Renegade and Grand Touring models.

2016 Summit Burton Version

For skiers and snowboarders, needing access to high elevations and remote slopes, Ski-Doo offers the Summit Burton. This version of the Summit features a 154 inch track, the 800R E-Tec engine, an extended seat for passengers and snowboard/ski mounts.

Ski-Doo Engine Options For 2016

Ski-Doo offers 4-stroke engines for many models to complement their renowned E-TEC 2-stroke engines. Here are the engines offered for 2016.

  • Rotax 600 H.O. E-TEC (2-stroke)
  • Rotax 800R E-TEC (2-stroke)
  • Rotax 600 Carb (2-stroke)
  • Rotax 800R PowerT.E.K. (2-stroke, carburetor)
  • Rotax 500F (2-stroke, carburetor)
  • Rotax 600 ACE (4-stroke)
  • Rotax 900 ACE (4-stroke)
  • Rotax 1200 4-TEC (4-stroke)

Oildepot offers a line of oils that are elite-quality replacements for Ski-Doo’s XPS snowmobile oils. Our AMSOIL snowmobile oil are not only proven and battle-ready, we can offer them at a price that will compare very well to the oils available at your Ski-Doo dealer. Below are the Ski-Doo/XPS engine oils and the AMSOIL products that can replace them.

XPS Full-Synthetic 2-Stroke Oil– AMSOIL Interceptor Full-Synthetic 2-Stroke Oil is an ideal replacement for XPS Synthetic 2-Stroke Oil. Interceptor is a test-proven performer in Ski-Doo E-TEC 800R and E-TEC 600 H.O engines. E-TEC engine delivers low-emissions and high-horsepower, so not just any 2-stroke oil is up to the task. AMSOIL offers extensive test data to prove that Interceptor is more that capable in E-TEC engines.

XPS Mineral 2-Stroke Oil– AMSOIL Synthetic 2-Stroke Injector Oil would be a value-priced upgrade to XPS Mineral 2-Stroke Oil. AMSOIL Injector Oil would be ideal for the Rotax 550F engine and older Rotax 2-Stroke engines.

XPS 4-Stroke Synthetic Oil- All Climate Grade– AMSOIL Formula 4-Stroke Synthetic 0W-40 Powersports Oil is formidable engine oil for 4-stroke snowmobiles, ATVs and Side-By-Sides. Formula 4-Stroke 0W-40 provides all-temperature wear control in high performance engines.

XPS 4-Stroke Synthetic Oil- Extreme Cold Grade– AMSOIL Formula 4-Stroke Synthetic 0W-40 Powersports Oil is an ideal replacement for the XPS Extreme Cold Grade 4-Stroke oil as well. This 0W-40 pours down to -51°C, so it flows fast on cold mornings. The full-synthetic base and high-powered additives also withstand extreme heat and heavy going.

Chainsaw on a stump.Bar and chain oil for chain saws is available from many different brands and in different viscosity types. Depending on the quality of the oil and the season in which it will be used, choosing the correct viscosity can be vital to proper protection and operation of your saw. Here are typical bar and chain oil viscosity grades based on a cross-section of products we researched.

  • Winter– 20 weight
  • Summer– 40 to 50 weight
  • All Season– 30 to 40 weight

Can Motor Oil Be Used As Bar And Chain Oil?

Can you take a 30 weight motor oil and use it as a bar and chain oil? This is not a good idea. Bar and chain oils have additives called “tackifiers”. These additives prevent chainsaw oil from flinging off during high-speed operation. The tacky oil clings to the bar and chain links to prevent dry operation.

A Different Bar and Chain Oil For Winter And Summer?

Should one use a different bar and chain oil viscosity for every season? In our opinion, this is not necessary. A good all-season bar and chain oil will flow well during cold weather and offer suitable film strength during hot weather use. We suspect that cheaper chain oils simply don’t have the capacity to perform adequately in all temperatures and that’s why the cheaper brands are often marketed for single season use.

We carry a semi-synthetic bar and chain oil that is able to offer consistent oil thickness regardless of the ambient temperature. The synthetic component of this oil gives it a high viscosity index. In simpler terms, this means that the viscosity stays consistent across a wide temperature range.

Polaris enters their 61st season in the snowmobile industry with few new models and their revolutionary AXYS chassis making its way deeper into the line-up. With over 30 models in their arsenal, Polaris offers machines for mountain, deep snow, high performance/trail and utility. Here are the model families on the Polaris roster for 2016.

  • RMK- Mountain
  • SKS- Back Country/Mountain
  • Switchback- Crossover/Back Country/Trail
  • Rush Pro- Trail/High Performance
  • INDY- Performance Trail, Recreation and Utility Machines
  • Widetrack- Utility, Commercial Use

Here are some highlights.

RMK Gets New Chassis and Engine

Polaris’s most exciting news for 2016 is the Pro RMK 800 line of mountain snowmobiles. The RMK 800 models receive an adaptation of the AXYS chassis and the H.O. Cleanfire 800cc engine. These perks debuted last year on Polaris’s Rush and Switchback models and now this technology makes its way to the mountains. The all new chassis and suspension is designed to provide more “lift” and better weight distribution in deep powder. The increase in power with the H.O. engine and light overall weight of the RMK package puts gravity on holidays this winter.

Polaris 800 SKS 155

Polaris brings back the “Snow King Special” for 2016. This model is a versatile sled for deep powder and moderate mountain work. The SKS 800 receives the RMK AXYS chassis and the H.O. 800 Cleanfire engine and makes this unit a gifted back country trail-breaker.

600 INDY SP Terrain Dominator Limited Edition

One of the more exciting INDY models for 2016 is the 600cc SP Terrain Dominator edition. Aside from bold new graphics, this model features the Pro-Ride Chassis, the 600 Cleanfire two-stroke engine, a 1.25” Ripsaw II track and a Fox rear shock. Like the rest of the INDY series, it provides very good performance at a reasonable price.

Polaris 800 RUSH PRO-S Night Lightning LE

This limited edition of the ultra-high-performance RUSH Pro-S 800 is bad to the bone and one of the most aggressive looking snowmobiles on the market. This model’s standout reflector graphics on black are just the start. This unit features the lightweight AXYS chassis, PRO-XC rear suspension, the potent Cleanfire H.O. 800 engine, Walker/Evans front shocks, interactive digital display and LED lighting. Wicked looks, light weight, a cutting edge chassis/suspension package and a dominant engine make this model the most sought-after trail machine on the market.

800 Switchback ASSAULT Terrain Dominator LE

For riders seeing a mix of trail, back country and moderate mountain work, Polaris offers the crossover Switchback series. For 2016, the Switchback Assault Terrain Dominator Limited Edition model features a 144” X 2” track, Walker Evans front shocks, Cleanfire 800cc engine and a wild graphics package.

Polaris Engines For 2016

As has been the case for the last few years, Polaris offers only 2-stroke engines.

  • 800 Cleanfire H.O.
  • 800 Cleanfire
  • 600 Cleanfire
  • 550 Fan-Cooled

AMSOIL Substitutes For Pure Polaris Oils

We offer a full line of AMSOIL synthetic oils for snowmobiles that are an upgrade over the Pure Polaris lubricants sold at your Polaris dealer. Not only that, our prices are generally lower too (even with shipping considered). This applies to both Canadian and US Polaris owners. Bellow is a list of common Polaris oils and the corresponding AMSOIL product that can replace it.

Polaris VES Synthetic 2-Stroke Oil (Formerly VES Gold Plus)– AMSOIL Interceptor Synthetic 2-Cycle Oil is an outstanding replacement for VES Synthetic 2-Stoke Oil in all Polaris engines. Interceptor provides superb wear control, excellent cold weather properties and clean operation with today’s 3-stage exhaust power valves.

Polaris VES Race 2-Cycle Engine Oil– Use AMSOIL Dominator Synthetic 2-Stroke Racing Oil for racing or highly modified engines. Use AMSOIL Interceptor Synthetic 2-Cycle Oil for hard recreational use.

Polaris Premium Blue Synthetic-Blend 2-Stroke Oil– Use AMSOIL Interceptor Synthetic 2-Cycle Oil as a premium substitute or AMSOIL Synthetic 2-Stroke Injector Oil as a value-priced, full synthetic upgrade.

Polaris All-Season Grease– AMSOIL Synthetic Water Resistant Grease resists snow, water and ice while protecting suspension and steering components from wear and heavy shock loads. This grease also pumps well in cold weather.

Polaris SCL Synthetic Chaincase Lubricant– AMSOIL Synthetic Chaincase Oil protects gears and chains from metal-to-metal wear while lowering friction in Polaris chaincases.

Polaris Gas Shock Oil– AMSOIL Shock Therapy Synthetic Suspension Fluid. Use #5 Weight (Light) in most cases or # 10 Weight (Medium) where a heavier fluid is desired.

Polaris Racing Gas Shock Oil (For Walker Evans Shocks)– AMSOIL Shock Therapy Synthetic Suspension Fluid #5 Weight (Light) delivers consistent damping and long service life.

Kart Racer

Can you break-in a Briggs kart racing engine using synthetic oil? (photo credit: kart360.com)

A reader asks: We are thinking of running AMSOIL Dominator Synthetic 10W-30 Racing Oil in our Briggs Local 206 kart racing engines. The question is about the break-in process. Should we run AMSOIL Break-in Oil, a dino oil or can we use synthetic oil right off the bat?

Our Answer: Why not break-in the engine with the Dominator 10W-30? While the AMSOIL Break-in Oil would be OK for your Briggs & Stratton kart engines, it is designed more so for large displacement automotive engines. Your Briggs kart engines use only splash lubrication and require an engine oil with maximum anti-foaming resistance. Dominator 10W-30 is a much better option for those considerations.

But will the synthetic Dominator Racing Oil allow the rings to seat during the break-in process? Absolutely, 100% yes. Synthetic oil will allow rings to seat and leave you with an engine with great compression, minimum oil consumption and maximum engine protection. The notion of piston rings not seating properly when broken in with a synthetic oil is an old wives tale from the disco era.

AMSOIL Dominator 10W-30 Racing Oil delivers a number of benefits for air-cooled, splash-lubed engines such as your Briggs Local 206. These benefits include minimized friction, maximum wear control, robust foaming suppression and cooler engine temperatures.

So yes, definitely break-in your engine with AMSOIL Dominator 10W-30 Racing oil and stay with it for maximum engine life and output.

Note that this question came from a Canadian resident. Kart racers located in the United States can use Briggs/AMSOIL Synthetic 4T Racing Oil in 4-stroke Briggs engines. 4T Racing Oil was developed through a joint partnership between Briggs & Stratton and AMSOIL for their 4-stroke kart racing engines. AMSOIL does not export 4T Racing Oil to Canada and it doesn’t sound like they will anytime soon. The break-in advice above applies to karts racers using 4T Racing Oil as well. We have covered how AMSOIL Dominator 10W-30 is an outstanding substitute for Briggs 4T (and perhaps even an upgrade) in Briggs & Stratton kart racing engines.

Update January, 2018- Oildepot.ca now sells Briggs & Stratton Synthetic 4T Racing Oil in Canada.

When it comes to shopping for synthetic oil these days, you could be buying apples when you think you’re buying oranges.

A reader asks: We’re currently using Idemitsu 0W-20 full synthetic at less than half the price of Amsoil Signature Series 0W-20. Idemitsu is the OEM supplier for Honda/Acura and Subaru 0W-20 in Canada so their quality is not in doubt. Looking at your prices why would we bother changing?

Answer: Forgive us, but this will be a long answer. First, “OEM supplier” doesn’t necessarily imply elite quality, regardless of whose name is on the label. To us, OEM means “adequate quality that can deliver a healthy profit margin”. Second, if that 0W-20 is less than half the price of AMSOIL’s Signature Series 0W-20, you can bet your last dollar that it is not in the same category in terms of base oil or additive package strength. AMSOIL Signature Series 0W-20 is a world-class standout by any measure that hardly belongs in the same conversation as an OEM-quality offering. But let’s go further down this road today.

Yes there are deals on synthetic oil out there. There will always be cheaper products than AMSOIL out there. But is cheaper always better? Are all synthetic oils more or less the same? The answer is “no” to both questions.

Unfortunately the motor oil industry is not regulated with respect to what exactly constitutes a synthetic oil these days. Labeling a motor oil as “synthetic” doesn’t necessarily mean that the oil is the bottle is 100% synthetic as it may have 20 years ago. To provide context to this discussion, here is a brief definition of each base oil category. The base oil makes up about 95% of the motor oil. Additives like detergents, friction modifiers, anti-wear agents and corrosion inhibitors makeup the rest of the motor oil composition.

Group I– The lowest quality and least expensive base oil type. Group I oils are conventional oil (also known as mineral oil) as they are derived from crude oil.
Group II– This type goes through a more extensive refinement than Group I. Group II base oils are the most common conventional oil types on the market.
Group III– This petroleum base group undergoes higher refinement than Group II oils and is refined to the point where it can be categorized as “synthetic”.
Group IV– Known as polyalphaolefins or PAO, this group is synthesized in a lab not refined from regular petroleum or crude oil. Known as a true synthetic by purists.
Group V– For motor oil purposes, this group tends to be comprised of esters. This group is also a developed in a lab and not derived directly from crude oil. Also considered a true synthetic.

Of these base oil groups, Group IV and V are considered full synthetic in the traditional sense of the term. Group I and II are considered to be conventional or mineral oil as they are derived directly from crude oil. Group III tends to fall somewhere in between synthetic and conventional oil, depending on who you are talking to. Group III’s steady creep toward classification as a synthetic motor oil has created a very murky marketplace and is vital to this discussion.

Group III was not considered a synthetic base oil at one time. But in the late 1990s, Castrol started using Group III base oils in their motor oils that were marketed as full synthetic. Switching from a Group IV base to a Group III lowered Castrol’s input costs dramatically and Mobil launched a legal challenge against this practice. Castrol prevailed in this case as it was decreed that although Group III base oils may be derived from non-synthetic petroleum oil, they are processed to a degree that does not exist in nature. Therefore it can be deemed as “synthetic”. This ruling turned the motor oil industry on its ear.

Today the vast majority of synthetic oils on the market are formulated with Group III base oils. This in itself isn’t always a bad thing as a good Group III base blended with a competent additive package can perform at level a level that is not far from Group IV synthetic motor oils.

The problem for the consumer is that this slippery slope of playing fast and loose with the “synthetic” oil definition has only gone downhill. Industry experts are suggesting that it is possible for unsavory motor oil makers to produce oils that may be mostly Group I and II oils and label them as synthetic. The motivation to fudge on base oils is high as Group II base oils cost about a third less than Group III oil. Group IV and V base oils are considerably more costly. To widen profit margins, skimping on base oils and additives is an obvious way for bean counters to hit their profit targets. We have nothing against making a profit, but we do have a problem with false representation. If a synthetic motor oil has a price tag that is as inexpensive as a conventional oil (or close to it), you can bet that the base oil is Group III (at the very best) and have an additive package that is sparse.

There are no industry watchdog agencies that police this issue. While the American Petroleum Institute (API) decides which oils meet their specifications; they do not oversee how a product is labelled and marketed.

We have seen marketing literature for a semi-synthetic motorcycle oil stating that it “contains 10% synthetic oil”. At least they were being honest. Semi-synthetic implies half synthetic to many consumers and that probably almost never the case. Could this motorcycle oil be comprised of Group I and II base oils with just 10% Group III? It could be and no one can call them on it.

For full disclosure, we should point out that we carry a couple of Group III products. Notably the AMSOIL XL Series and OE Series of passenger car/light truck motor oils are formulated with Group III base oils. But as AMSOIL uses top-shelf base oils and very robust additive packages, we proudly promote them. The XL products are designed to stay in service for up to 10,000 miles (16,000 km) and OE products are good for the longest OEM drain intervals in the industry. This makes them a cut above the vast majority of engine oils that call themselves synthetic these days. We assume that the high-end AMSOIL Signature Series uses Group IV base oil, but AMSOIL refuses to disclose any formulation information. As the Signature Series oils have a suggested oil change interval of 25,000 miles or one year, there won’t be much room for compromises and short cuts.

To sum up, our reader contends that AMSOIL is too expensive. But expensive relative to what? The market is flooded with cheap synthetics that may barely qualify as synthetic. Yes there are cheap synthetic oils on sale at Auto Zone and Canadian Tire, but keep in mind that a good synthetic oil requires expensive ingredients. Our AMSOIL motor oils are not the cheapest, but they work very well. In 15 years of selling these products, we’ve had zero complaints about performance or quality. We have received a ton of positive product feedback. We’ll take that over the cheapest price any day.