Lubrication and Engine Oils
Home.ETC Library.Lubrication and Engine Oils.
For more information about Early Times Chapter  Click Here
Using the Lubrication Chart

  Our second installment of getting your Pontiac roadworthy is probably the most comprehensive, using the appropriate lubrication charts in conjunction with the shop manual to go over your car from top to bottom and front to back.  The real benefit of this service is that you will be inspecting the whole car.  You are more likely to find things that are possibly about to cause you grief on the highway, such as fluid leaks and loose or damaged parts.  This is preventive maintenance, finding trouble before it finds you.  You may very well have done your own restoration, but how long has it been since you gave your Pontiac a thorough inspection?  This service is even more important if you didn’t perform your own restoration, or if your car is a survivor.  You will want to be very familiar with your cars’ general condition before attempting any long road trips; and you certainly want to know that all of its vital fluids are at least filled to capacity, if not drained and refreshed with new.  Once you have thoroughly inspected your Pontiac, plus cleaned and lubricated it inside and out, you have done what you can to insure a safe and uneventful trip.  Naturally you are going to pay particular attention to the gauge readings, any unusual sounds or tell-tale spots on the pavement when you pull out of a parking space; but these things are all an essential part of driving a vintage automobile.  The other aspect of this thorough lubrication and inspection service is that older automobiles required it.  These were the days before sealed-for-life bearings, plastic bushings and throw-away components; nearly every moving part needed periodic lubrication and could be repaired if worn.

Where to Find Information                        Click here to go to the Lube Chart page

 The body and chassis lube charts in conjunction with the shop manual not only identify the spots to be lubricated, they tell you how often to perform the service and finally, specify what lubricant and how much to use.  Factory publications are not the only source for this information; all of the major oil companies provided their service stations with annual lube chart books that typically included several model years’ of domestic automobile coverage and also light trucks.  So if you don’t have the Pontiac lubrication charts for your particular vehicle, you could also search the swap meets for any one of these oil company books, as well.  I have a 1954 Sinclair Lube Index which covers Pontiac with 3 separate charts, ’46 thru ’48 models; ’49 thru ’52 models; and ’53-’54 models.  It also contains 11 pages in the front of the book thoroughly describing and illustrating how the various service operations are to be performed, including a general body lubrication chart.
  The factory chassis lubrication chart that accompanies this article is from the ’49 thru ’54 shop manual, notice that the chart gives some lube instructions but primarily refers to descriptive paragraphs explaining what to do.  The body lubrication illustration is obviously for 1937 and came from Arn Landvoigt; he included a copy of the chassis lube chart, but it was too large to reprint on a single page.  The third chart I included is from my Sinclair Lube Index and provides an interesting comparison with the factory chart.  Since the oil company books were intended for use by service people that typically did not specialize on a single brand of automobile, they offer more detailed information on the page and you might find one of these books quicker and easier for your own use.

What Lubricants to Use

  The choice of lubricant for a particular application depends to a great degree upon the model year of your Pontiac.  Automobile manufacturers and oil companies have produced a wide array of specialized products since 1926, and most of them are now obsolete and unavailable.  Modern lubricants, for the most part, are far superior to what is called for in your Pontiac owner’s or shop manual.  The factory recommendations in your manual for the S.A.E. grade of lubricant to use in engines, transmissions, rear axles and steering gears is still valid, especially with regard to temperature.  Many only use their cars during summer months, so this makes the job easier.  Multi-grade gear oils are more readily available then single grade oils, so be prepared to find that 85W-140 is probably the heaviest S.A.E. grade you will easily find.  There are high viscosity single grade gear oils on the market, but usually only for industrial applications, you will have to search for them and it is unlikely they will come in convenient small plastic bottles!
  The API designation for gear lube is GL and the numbers 1 through 5, any product you consider using in your manual transmission or rear axle should be marked accordingly.
 The shifting characteristics of your manual transmission will depend primarily upon the oil you use in it.  Modern gear oil of the proper S.A.E. grade could prove to be so slippery that you can’t shift without gear clash.  This is especially true if you use E.P. (extreme pressure) gear lube suitable for Hypoid rear axles, API GL-4 or GL-5.  If you experience gear clash, try changing to the proper S.A.E. grade of conventional non-E.P. lube, API GL-1 or GL-2.  You might also try changing to 85W-140 GL-5 gear lube to eliminate gear clash.  A check of several model years shows S.A.E. 90 to be the most common recommended grade for manual transmissions.
  The use of Hypoid gear lube, API GL-4 or GL-5 will not affect early differentials that do not require this gear lube.  You will almost certainly end up using multi-grade oil such as 80W-90 or 85W-140.  In 1932 Pontiac recommended S.A.E. 160 gear oil for summer use in the rear axle, this oil was also specified for the steering gear.  I have no doubt the 85W-140 will protect your rear axle, but I have heard of issues with leakage because it is much thinner than S.A.E. 160 oil.  If your early (pre-1933) Pontiac or Oakland suffers from excessive leakage despite good axle seals, Phillips 66 offers Hector® Oil in S.A.E. 140 which meets API GL-2 specification for early automotive differentials not requiring Hypoid lubricant.  I do not know how this product comes packaged, but it is the only single grade oil I’ve found at this high a viscosity rating.
  I have also been asked about what lubricant to use in the manual steering gear for any ETC-era Pontiac and Oakland.  ConocoPhillips offers a grease product called Dynalife® L-EP under the Conoco, Phillips 66 and (Union) 76 brands.  This grease comes in 6 NLGI grades ranging from 000 to 2.  The 000 grade is semi-fluid extreme pressure grease with corrosion protection and anti-wear additives.  The useable temperature range is -5º to 225º F.  This appears to be the best product I have yet to find for use in the steering gear, the semi-fluid consistency should prevent excessive leakage.
  Hydramatic cars need the appropriate transmission fluid, (ATF).  Dexron is the G.M. trade name and it was also formerly known as Type “A” fluid.  The current version is Dexron IV (4) while Dexron III / Mercon are still available.  Some companies are now offering Dexron Type A fluid for vintage cars.  I use Dexron III or would also use the ATF specified as Type A for vintage cars.  Do not use Type F fluid, which was used by Ford in the sixties and early seventies.
  The lube charts specify chassis lube and wheel bearing grease; today it is usually one and the same.  The National Lubricating Grease Institute rates grease for automotive use and the classification letters to look for are: NGLI GC-LB.  GC is the highest classification for wheel bearing lubricant and is suitable for disc brake applications.  Grease meeting this standard is can be used everywhere your manual calls for chassis lube or wheel bearing grease.  I keep a can of general purpose grease of very smooth consistency to use on speedometer cables and in the grease cup on the distributor housing.
 I was using Kendall L-428 Tough Tac® grease myself because it contains 3% moly, but the specifications have changed and it no longer meets NLGI GC-LB standards.  I have found that Conoco-Phillips Megaplex® XD3 is 3% moly grease that does meet NLGI GC-LB in grade number 1 and plan to use it instead.  I prefer a 3% moly fortified grease for chassis lube because it stays put.  This type of grease was formulated for construction and mining equipment and it is nearly impossible to wash it off or force it out of suspension components.  I only use it for chassis lubrication fittings, brake backing plates and rear leaf springs.
  The ’53-’54 power steering cars use ATF in the steering pump, use the same fluid you would for the Hydramatic.
  Conventional glycol-based brake fluid, indentified as meeting D.O.T. 3 specifications is what you should be using in the brake system, unless you know it has been changed to D.O.T. 5 synthetic fluid.  The two fluids are not compatible and should never be mixed!  Synthetic brake fluid is purple in color as opposed to pale amber for conventional fluid.    The big advantage to D.O.T. 5 synthetic fluid is that it is not hygroscopic, (does not attract moisture) to the brake system.  If you want to change to synthetic fluid, you must disassemble and rebuild the master cylinder and all wheel cylinders with new components.  I would also recommend changing the brake hoses.  You have to thoroughly flush out the brake lines to be certain all traces of conventional fluid have been removed.  If the synthetic fluid becomes contaminated with conventional fluid, it forms a thick goo and you will have to rebuild everything again.
 I do not recommend using D.O.T. 4 fluid.  This is glycol-based and specified for some anti-lock braking systems.  It has a higher boiling point than D.O.T. 3, which simply means it is even more prone to attracting moisture to your brake system.
  The “stick” lubricant recommended for door striker plates and other body lubrication points is still available at your local N.A.P.A. store.  It is not expensive and I have not found anything else to replace using one.  I still have not finished the first one I bought, and that was over 30 years ago.
  I have a pump-type oil can filled with 10W-30 plus an old fashioned long spout oil can filled with H.D. 30.  I like thin oil (10W-30) for door and hood hinges, door latches and other applications where it has to soak into a joint and/or I do not want to attract dirt.  The heavy oil I use on the generator, distributor and accelerator pump cross-shaft applications.  I also use it on the felt rings on the clutch linkage of my ’40.
  Be sure to check your manifold heat riser valve and lubricate it so it does not stick.  General Motors used to make a specific lubricant and I still have some, but you can also use Lock-Ease® liquid or the little aerosol can.  The fluid will quickly burn off but the graphite will remain behind and that is exactly what is supposed to happen.
  You will need a quart of S.A.E. 50 motor oil to service your air cleaner.  The standard expanded metal mesh needs to be re-oiled after being cleaned and dried; the oil bath type will need to be refilled to the proper level after the housing is drained and cleaned.  The oil fill cap does not need to be oiled after cleaning, it gets enough oil from the fumes passing through it, and the same is true for the heavy duty road draft tube filter.
Lubrication and Lube chart