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break in oil or not ? I vote no. Your experience ?

October 12 2017 at 10:35 AM
LSG / Cal  (Login lovesoldiron)

Guys reading about one of our own wiping a cam using Gibbs paste & B Penn breakin oil has me wondering....who is doing what, why, and what is your results ? I ask because I have been thinking and reading alot, and noticing a Ch--- guy I know who has wiped out 4 engines with Brad Penn 30wt breakin oil. All failed in less than 1 hr. The worst one had BP 30wt breakin plus a bottle of ZDDP, which in this case made it WORSE. BPenn and J Gibbs breakin oil were the very worst of the oils tested that I read about. I'm told synthectic is 'too slippery' for break-in,.......but if the rings take longer to seat but the flattappet cam and lifters survive, isn't that preferable to a fast ring seat, but with wiped lobes ? It may be that the 'break in' oil is just hyped crap. Also, there are many others who have started a fresh engine in what I would call the wrong way.....mismatched used cam lifters, no break in run, and not break in oil. And yet some of these guys seem to be just fine. and they aren't having trouble. Are they just living a charmed life? Or is oil more complicated than we thought ? I have only 1 427 sideoiler block and can't afford a problem. with a 390,....a catastrophe would hurt less, but would still hurt. What has been your experience, what do you use or not use, and why ? LSG / Cal

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Brent Lykins
(Login blykins)

Here's what I do.....

October 12 2017, 10:54 AM 

....and it has worked for me. Granted, I don't do a ton of flat tappet engines, but I've probably done 5-6 in the last couple of years without issue.

I always use Brad Penn 30W break-in oil. Non-synthetic.

I always keep the break-in spring pressures at around 100 seat and under 300 open. If this requires removing the inners or even swapping springs altogether, then that's what I do.

With the exception of just 1 or 2, I always have my cams made with the maximum amount of lobe taper. Since I do all custom cams, that's how I order them. I also have them nitrided and run Crower SBF EDM lifters.

I think the only exception to these rules was a 289 road race engine that I did, but it had titanium valves, a nitrided cam, and Trend tool steel lifters. I broke it in with the spring pressure that it was going to see on the race track, 160 seat and 350 open.

IMO, the problems that most guys face are too much spring pressure on break-in and not having the engine ready to fire immediately. You need to have the fuel bowls full and the timing set so that it will fire on the first couple revolutions. I don't doubt that there may be some metallurgy issues floating around randomly, but I think what I just listed are the biggest issues.

Back in the day, most cams would be happy with 80-90 lbs seat and 250-270 lbs open (or less) and they would break-in just fine. With today's modern lobes and necessary valve spring pressures, there's more of a chance for break-in failure when the appropriate precautions are not taken.

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(Login vtdon)

caught my attention

October 13 2017, 4:53 AM 

In another lifetime I installed and serviced gear hobbers used to generate distributor drive gears. Had a chance to work in most every engine plant in North America. In idle time would wander thru the plants watching every element of manufacturing and final assembly. As I recall, cast iron cams were induction hardened after grind on Landis grinders. After heat treat would be belt polished with fine abrasive, Mylar film. Curious how nitriding compares. I now use plasma nitriding on alloy steel and ductile iron in precision gear manufacture with excellent results.

I became fascinated with cam design. On off days would visit Don Tewels at General Kenetics to adsorb anything he was kind enough to share.

This message has been edited by vtdon on Oct 13, 2017 5:00 AM

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Mike U.
(Login mtrain)

Knock on wood, I've never had a problem. I run conventional oil, usually Walmart 10/40,

October 13 2017, 4:26 PM 

I just run the cheapest house brand conventional oil [read non synthetic], and so far never had a problem yet. This is with old engines as well as the modern DOHC engines.

Of course ALL of my "old" engines, ie sbf, 427fe etc are roller cammed so that may be the issue people are having if they are still running a flat tappet cam.

Also, I've never had an engine run the required full thirty minutes of break in time. Usually, there is always a gremlin to track down on first start ups, like leaks [oil, water, vacuum, etc], random bolts that weren't tightened, ignition problems, it goes on, and on.

I usually break in my engines on a short test drive after making sure there is no leaks, and the engine is running good.

The only time I've had a problem with rings seating is when I used Keith Black hyper pathetic pistons where the top ring had to have a rather large gap [might have been the second ring, whatever the instructions said, I followed them]. The rings eventually seated in that engine, but it took several miles of daily driving.

After the rings are seated, and everything seems to be working well, ie good oil pressure, correct water temp, I change over to whatever oil I want to run, and I'm done.

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(Login 427funn)

Wiped cam

October 12 2017, 11:02 AM 

I know what you're saying on high dollar 427's in the last year I have done 2 427's with no problems, I use comp cam break in oil, one of the engines we pulled the inner spring for break in one not, the one we didn't did not have high spring pressure the other did, if the motor does not fire instantly that could be a problem, too much spring pressure can add to the problem, not running for 20 minutes at 2000 rpm without overheating can add to the problem.
You have to try to cover all bases for good results, I always stress at break in time, the more the motor cost the more I stress, on big money engines I double and triple check before startup, a couple of Beers seem to help also, good luck

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Bobby Spears
(Login x4rdtech)

Re: Wiped cam

October 12 2017, 1:07 PM 

Well in my case on this 416 build,my cam was already broken in by Pippin on one of his rides with very little usage.SoI just used Royal Purple 30w break-in and then put VR1 20/50 racing oil in it so need to go drive to the muffler shop someday.Took it off of Craig's list for now and may sell it next year.

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(Login RoyceP)

Read and follow the directions that come with your camshaft

October 12 2017, 1:32 PM 

I've never wiped a cam. I have bought a couple cars cheap that had wiped cams due to poor technique. I use straight weight non detergent SAE 30 with a bottle of GM EOS. Just like the instructions from Comp Cams said.

If you use a roller cam then no, no reason for break in oil.

The other important thing with flat tappet cams is to be sure the engine is really ready to fire. Be sure the timing is right. Be sure the cooling system is right. Be sure the fuel system is right. No question that you have the timing set close enough to break in the cam. If you are not sure of all these things, you need to be paying someone else to do the work for you. It will be cheaper than trashing the engine.
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1968 Cougar GTE 427 Augusta Green / Saddle

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mick clarke
(Login Mickclarke72)

Cam break-in

October 12 2017, 2:37 PM 

I get the motor all set, ready to jump off the key,plenty of lube on lobes,make sure spring pressure is sensible, no breakin oil, just mineral 20/ 50 Rock oil. No probs!

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(Login FormerlyCyclonic66)

I use Cam Research's break-in service

October 12 2017, 4:00 PM 

My last iteration took 2 cams. First one wiped on the machine. Luckily, I bought the cam from them, so he ground a new one and broke it in.

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(Login lhstanford)

The several i've built was using 15-40w Rotella. No problems

October 12 2017, 6:46 PM 

I assemble the engines using Sealed Power assembly lube on bearings. lifters. cam. 30w oil in cylinders and piston/rings. I've only used flat tappet cams so may be different on others. I'm 71 now, been building my own and occasionally for others since then, but i've never wiped out a cam. The engine in my hotrod pickup was built in 1989. I've always used 15-40 w oil. Still 70psi oil press cold, 40psi at temp.Just recently one of the (PAW engine kit) lifters started clattering. Guess i'll change lifters and carry on. That's my story and i'm stiuckin to it.

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(Login winr1)

.. same as Royce .. straight weight non detergent SAE 30 ...

October 12 2017, 11:26 PM 

.. but never used additive ...

Low spring pressure

Ahhh, used lubriplate on everything, 100 or so mills

Cycle motors to 6-71 diesels


This message has been edited by winr1 on Oct 12, 2017 11:27 PM

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(Login 6061fe-starliners)

X2 with Cam Research

October 13 2017, 6:05 AM 

I've had three cams broken in using Cam Research's service. One of their cams and two new Comp Cams. $60 each plus shipping is very cheap for the peace of mind it gave me. No wiped cams.

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Brent Lykins
(Login blykins)

Be cautious as that break-in machine can give a false sense of security....

October 13 2017, 6:14 AM 

I've heard of more than one cam failure even after having been broken in on that machine.

Spring pressures still have to be in check, and most importantly, that machine doesn't take into account the lifter bores of the block that's used. Sometimes lifters won't spin, sometimes the lifter angles are so far off in a block that the lifter position on the camshaft is totally different.

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(Login Faron)

I agree my only cam failure was---

October 13 2017, 7:20 AM 

Last year when I built my new combo , I used the cam and lifters from the previous engine , it was in a different block , so I blame the small difference in lifter bore placement as NOTHING else was different , so the pre break-in deal is Not a sure deal IMHO

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(Login Ranchopower)

same lubricant used? n/m

October 15 2017, 4:11 PM 

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(Login 161854)

+1 MAJOR possibility...

October 13 2017, 1:30 PM 

That you could still have an issue because of different lifter bore location and condition.

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(Login kleandan)

Follow good mechanical techniques.

October 13 2017, 7:19 AM 

First, look at the MSDS sheets concerning the lube you choose and make scientific comparisons based on real world facts.
Too many people "like" an oil for basically emotional reasons. Today most oils are adequate when the mechanical situation is proper. Special oils are just added insurance.

Second, whenever you hear of a failure you MUST take into account the reasons behind the failure. Too many "builders" are far too proud to admit they screwed up. Too many builders use poor techniques for building an engine. American V8's are super tough and will take all sorts of abuse and still run. This toughness masks many of the improper techniques used during an engine build giving a false sense of quality.

Three, many mechanics cut corners during a build. Adding Brad Penn break in oil as a measure against break in issues is a good idea, and great insurance, as long as you also follow proper mechanical techniques. Adding Bran Penn break in oil INSTEAD of taking proper mechanical steps to ensure a good break in does not make Brad Penn break in oil a bad product. Lots of builders think, "Ahhh, It will be fine" until it is not fine. At that point they revert to "that cam is a POS" or "that oil is a POS" or some other blame when they should blame their poor techniques.

Fourth, ALL the parts come together to make a build. Taking time to do every step correctly is not what most really do. Oh sure, they will tell you they build it right. Yes, they will quote all sorts of success stories, credentials, and anecdotes towards their mechanical prowess and expertise.
But, when it comes time to take the valve springs apart in order to lower spring pressures before break in they often find some way to convince themself why it is too much hassle and they attempt the break in with far too high spring pressures. Sometimes this works and sometimes it does not work.

When it works they validate their technique. When it fails they blame the parts, equipment, machinist, or the oil used.

After a proper build I use break in oil as an added measure of insurance against possible issues.
I do not use break in oil as a band-aid to poor techniques.

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LSG / Cal
(Login lovesoldiron)

break in oil

October 13 2017, 10:43 AM 

I will agree that break in oil is not in any way a substitute from proper parts and work. What I'm wondering, is if one has proper parts and technique, do you need break in oil at all ? BP and JG tell us that one must use break in oil, which they happen to sell, and they claim you can't break in on synthetic because synth is 'too slippery' and the rings won't seat. Yet new Ford Shelbys and Dodge Hellcats and Chevy LS hunter-killer engines all come from the factory with synth as first fill. They don't have ring seating problems. Even if it took longer for the rings to seat, if we protect the cam, do we care ? Reading some oil tests, the Joe Gibbs and Brad Penn 30 wt break in oils were at the bottom of the testing. LOTS of other oils scored much, much better. The guys selling break in oil trumpet the fact that their oils contain ZDDP, as if that is the be-all and end-all of oil quality. What about calcium sulfonate and molybdenum ? Aren't they important as well ? Is ZDDP the ONLY way to protect the lobes on a flat cam ? The Chevy fellow who had four failures in a row used BP 30wt each time. The worst failure was when he Added extra ZDDP. Engine was built with Melling cam and Delco hard faced lifters. Has 110 lbs on the seat, nothing crazy. Timing and fuel were set before the run in. At my employment, I get to see several flattappet engines every week. Some guys use break in oil, some laugh at the idea. The guys who use their own choice of oil don't seem to be having problems. Makes me SERIOUSLY wonder what to use when running in my own stuff. Asked our wharehouse rep to research oil, the oil salesmen have no answer for him. Just makes a guy wonder. My plan is to test my alternate oil choice for break in on a flat cam in a 302W. If it does horrible things, it isn't irreplaceable. But the most protective oil in avoiding metal on metal friction doesn't appear to be a 'break in'. No, I don't work for an oil company, and I don't sell Amsoil. But I'm thinking of not using the JG or BP breakin stuff anymore, and am switching from 15W-50 Mobil to another Mobil 1 choice to see what happens. Have been reading '540Rat's' oil testing. Yes, I know he isn't testing in an actual engine. Don't care. I'm very interested in his results which seem to show film strength preventing metal on metal contact. Isn't that the oil's most important job ? To protect the cam & lifters. Everybodys oil seem to do just fine at floating shafts away from bearings and sealing rings and sliding aluminum pistons in an iron bore. But they are a disturbing number of flat cam failures. Makes me wonder why ? Before we even HAD break in oil available, it seems like there was less guys having problems. LSG / Cal

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Brent Lykins
(Login blykins)

Couple thoughts.....

October 13 2017, 12:39 PM 

The first thought is that in the case of a $$$ engine build, throwing $30-40 more on a case of "break-in oil" isn't even a concern for me.

The second thought is that most of your modern engines have roller cams. On top of that, I've heard from more than one OEM source that piston rings are "seated" beforehand, so any adverse reactions from synthetic oils will not be seen. It's also very possible that the first oil that an engine sees on the line is not synthetic at all, but a specifically blended oil for break-in.

Seals and gaskets are much higher quality these days, with most "gaskets" being nothing but o-rings inserted into grooves. Putting an LS or Mod Ford together is very different from assembling an FE.

The new OEM stuff is apples to watermelons from what we deal with on older SBF and FE break-ins.

Before we had break-in oil, we had spring pressures that were much lower than what we use now. I think that's the biggest issue.

This message has been edited by blykins on Oct 13, 2017 12:44 PM

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Matt Bourgeois
(Login mattbourgeois)

Couple thoughts.....

October 13 2017, 2:31 PM 

I agree with Brent, cam break in years ago was hardly ever an issue. I think the aggressive lobe and spring rates take their toll.

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