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Lubrication Examination—Asking the experts at Red Line about the benefits of synthetic lubrication in high-performance environments

Posted By: Steve Baur
You might think of synthetic oils as a relatively modern development in the world of performance, but Red Line Synthetic Oil began offering its advanced lubrication products more than four decades ago when Peter Filice and Tim Kerrigan founded Red Line Synthetic Oil in 1979. Inspired by his motorcycle racing Kerrigan joined forces with Filice to create a performance advantage with synthetic lubricants, which they believed would be the next big thing. 

In just four years, they had already expanded into fuel additives, and over the years the company would broaden its scope with cooling additives, gear oils, and more. But the company’s core focus always centered on creating synthetic lubricants from the highest-grade base oils and additives available. These days the company’s offerings are a staple in a wide range of racing venues, and Red Line Synthetic Oil serves as the title sponsor for the NMCA Muscle Car Nationals series, where racers push their hardware to its limits and need every advantage they can get.

As such, we quizzed Arthur Kendrick, Director of Sales at Red Line Synthetic Oil, on the uses and advantages of the company’s product line in the racing ranks and on the street. Read along for some insight on how they might extend the life and improve the performance of your street cars, race cars, and even tow vehicles.

What sets Red Line synthetic oils apart from others on the market?

Most synthetics today only focus on meeting an OEM- or API-approved oil specification for newer vehicles. While these products work in new or unmodified vehicles they will typically degrade and break down rapidly when used in high-performance street or track applications. We don’t limit Red Line products to a specification. We engineer them to give you the best performance and protection no matter what you drive.

Why are lubricants not a place to cut corners when everything is more expensive?
Lubricants are the life blood of an engine, transmission, and differential. You spend literally thousands of dollars to buy the best parts you can afford for your vehicle. When you have so much money tied up in what you built, why would you choose a lower-quality product to protect it? That $100 you saved on cheap oil might very well cost you $1,000 or more on a good day. On a bad day, it could cost you your vehicle completely. Maybe not this weekend, but maybe the next...

How important is the synthetic base stock for a high-performance lubricant? 
The base stock selection when making a performance oil defines how well it can perform overall. Synthetic base stocks will always outperform conventional motor oil. Some of these benefits include lower operating temps, reduced friction, and higher horsepower.
Most synthetics today use Group 3 synthetics which are derived from conventional oils. Higher-quality synthetics are made with Group 4/5 (PAO – Ester) base stocks. Group 4/5 synthetic base stocks have a higher viscosity index, which allows them to be more stable even at extreme temperatures found in racing applications.   

Red Line High Performance and Racing engine oils, transmission fluids, and gear oils are all made using only Group 4/5 base stocks.

How does the additive package affect the performance of the lubricant?

Additives can either be bought as finished packages or individual components. Finished packages added to a base stock give you a finished product. If multiple brands buy the same additive pack, they end up with a very similar finished product. In this instance, none of them are really that much better than each other.  

To make an enhanced performance product we buy individual components and make our proprietary additive package. This allows us to make a product to address exactly what the oil is going to be used for. The most recognized additive related to performance is often ZDDP (Zinc/Phosphorus). High-performance oils have increased levels of ZDDP, but race oils may have twice as much to give the strongest levels of protection.

Why are Red Line lubricants the choice for racing engines like those found in NMCA and NMRA competition?

Red Line has been making Performance Lubricants for over 40 years. With the NMCA/NMRA, we see everything from street cars to Pro Mods. Whatever they’re driving we’re going to give the best protection and performance pass after pass!   

Do the extended drain intervals apply to these applications?
While extended oil drains can be done in race cars you have to be more careful than you would in a regular street car. Running without an air filter or running with a breached air filter lets in dust and debris that will eventually mix with the oil and become abrasive if left long-term. Excess fuel that leaks past the rings can quickly reduce the viscosity of the oil and limit the ability of the oil to protect components. Alcohol fuels amplify oil issues the longer you run them. If you want to consider extended drains in your race car we recommend an oil sampling routine. Send in the sample to a lab to determine the condition after a race. The lab can give you an indication of the quality of the oil and if any contaminants exist. This can help guide you in how long you want to leave a specific product in the engine before changing it.

Can Red Line help racers choose the proper lubricant for their engine application?

We have individuals at most NMRA/NMCA races that can help answer any of your lubrication-related questions. If we can’t answer your question there our tech helpline is available Monday through Friday from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. PST or you can email [email protected] for all tech-related questions.  

Do naturally aspirated and power-adder engines have different lubrication needs?
Newer naturally aspirated engines today typically run a lighter viscosity motor oil than turbo/supercharged engines. If you add a power adder like nitrous or boost to a normally aspirated vehicle, you normally go up one level of viscosity to give you added protection. If it’s a 30 then move to a 40. 

If you purchase a race engine from a builder or retail location like Summit I would base the oil selection on their recommendation. Just because an engine originally specified a 30-weight motor oil doesn’t mean that the new engine was built to those same specs. Many builders will change clearances that will require either a higher or lower viscosity requirement on the new build.      

Why are synthetics also important for the driveline?

The same performance and protection benefits that apply to engines also apply to the entire driveline. Automatic transmissions often perform better with synthetics because the viscosity doesn’t change as much with temperature. Manual transmissions will shift smoother with a synthetic. In both auto and manual transmissions temperatures are typically less with a premium synthetic like Red Line. In the differential we have heavy- and light-viscosity options, as well as our Shockproof formulations, which give you the lighter viscosity of 90-weight gear oil with the protection of 250-weight gear oil under load. Red Line D6 Transmission Fluid and Heavy Shockproof come in every new Mopar Drag Pak car and all of the factory COPO and Cobra Jet builds by Watson Racing.   

How do these products improve longevity and performance?
Performance can be increased by optimizing the fluid selection. Running a heavier than necessary oil will reduce horsepower output and increase temperatures. Longevity is increased due to the protection level Red Line products offer.   

How much power can the synthetic lubricants free up in a racing application?
Depending on the application and power adder type it's common to see a 3- to 5-percent improvement in horsepower and torque. How that is measured varies by dyno type and dyno operator. In some instances you could see considerably more depending on the product you are replacing. 

With the popularity of street/strip and drag and drive vehicles, how crucial are synthetics in these applications?
AK: OEMs finally realized what racers have known for years. Synthetics give you better protection, longer drain intervals, increased performance, and ironically better fuel economy if you can keep your foot off the gas... 

Along those lines, Red Line offers several fuel- and cooling-system products. How can these improve the performance and longevity of a racing application?

Red Line has been the pioneer in cooling system treatments with our WaterWetter product. When added to distilled water it will lower coolant temps 20 degrees while being track safe. This can be used in radiators and heat exchangers to reduce coolant temps. One 12-ounce bottle will treat up to four gallons of water and give you corrosion protection and lubrication while lowering temperatures. It must be replaced annually, and as this is a water additive there is no freeze protection. Keep that in mind in colder climates. For street applications, our new Supercool Performance is a full antifreeze that will lower temps up to 20 degrees while maintaining freeze protection. This is not track-safe as it is an antifreeze.

Fuel-wise, we offer Alcohol Fuel Lubricant, Lead Substitute, Fuel System Water Remover, Gasoline Fuel System Cleaner, and Diesel Fuel System cleaners.

Red Line has its roots in racing applications, but these products also apply to street cars. Do the same benefits apply to these cars?
As much as 80 percent of the products we sell today go on vehicles with license plates. Features and benefits are the same as with race applications and we are typically less expensive than the OEM fluids for most applications.

Can running Red Line synthetics with extended drain intervals save money and improve fuel economy versus running conventional lubricants in street vehicles?

If you have a new vehicle that is under warranty, you must follow their recommended drain intervals no matter what oil you put in the vehicle. Their recommendations are based on their knowledge of what the factory oil filter and OEM-specified lubricant should be good for. Using a better-quality Red Line product will help you achieve better fuel economy even if you change it at the factory interval. Once you’re outside of the warranty you can look at additional savings via extended oil drains.  
Using a high-quality filter designed for extended drains paired with Red Line synthetic should allow you to easily achieve 10,000-mile drain intervals. This is typically the equivalent of two to three regular oil changes at 3,000 to 5,000-mile drain intervals. It is normally cheaper to buy one premium oil change than two regular changes. 
The biggest thing to remember when considering extended drain intervals is that all engines consume some oil. You should always check your oil regularly when filling up with fuel to ensure you aren’t running low on oil. It is common for modern engines to consume a half quart or more of oil every 3,000 to 5,000 miles. Just because the oil and filter should last 10,000 miles doesn’t mean you won’t have to add oil during that period.

How can your diesel products help racers get the most out of their tow rigs?  

Tow rigs operate on the same premise as street and race applications. You can get better performance and protection with synthetics. Reduced friction in the driveline will give you a slight power and fuel economy improvement while ensuring everything is protected.  

Supercool in the cooling system will help keep you from overheating while still giving you the freeze protection you may need.  

Our 85+ diesel fuel system treatment will keep the combustion chamber, injectors, and fuel system clean while helping to reduce soot. On newer rigs with DPFs and SCR systems, this can help you potentially go longer between regens and reduce the chances of components failing due to soot.

Red Line Synthetic Oil
(707) 745-6100

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