Oil (Type/Weight)

Classic Norton Commando Motorcycles.

Postby JimC » Thu Mar 19, 2009 2:09 pm

If you don't care for your current camshaft, run Mobil 1.

My 72 Combat would reach oil temps of 240°F in the tank when running hard. I spoke at length with a Spectro engineer. He said that was too hot, considering where the temp was taken. I've since added an oil cooler and the temp usually stays below 200°F. He also warned about too cool of oil. I installed a thermostat. If you run an oil pressure gauge you will notice when the oil gets hot the pressure drop to 2-3 psi at idle. I would guess the oil is pretty thin when hot. Considering that camshaft lobe lubrication in a Commando is somewhat lacking, I think keeping the oil at proper temp is crucial to camshaft longevity.
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Postby nomadwarmachine » Thu Mar 19, 2009 2:40 pm

Thank you all. Now I'm totally confused! ;-)

Let's try it this way. What oil do you use in your Commando? Right now I'm planning to pick up the following:

1) Red Line 20W-50 Synthetic for Crankcase

2) Red Line 90W Synthetic for Gearbox

I plan to change the crankcase oil every 2500 miles.

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Postby ludwig » Thu Mar 19, 2009 2:49 pm

In southern Cal. I would defenitely add an oil cooler .

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Postby RennieK » Thu Mar 19, 2009 3:11 pm

JimC wrote: I installed a thermostat.


Hey JinC, I'm curious as to what type of thermostat you use and where/how it is installed.
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Postby Cookie » Thu Mar 19, 2009 3:21 pm

A lot of oil coolers come with a thermostat. It is usually in the intake line and opens when the oil heats up enough.
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Postby JimC » Thu Mar 19, 2009 3:29 pm

I really don't know how much ambient temperature affects oil temperature. Does a 20° increase in ambient temp equate to a 20° increase in oil temp? I know I would not run with out an oil cooler and thermostat regardless where I lived. I used to live in Minnesota and saw temperatures in excess of 100°F. I think running on any hot day (+80°) without a cooler can cook the oil. It only takes once to have some serious damage.

Oil choices have a lot to do with personal preference and anecdotal evidence. Bob Raber, of Raber's Parts Mart, swears by Torco MPZ. Good enough for me. I do think Redline synthetic is a superior synthetic lube. I wouldn't even consider using Mobil 1. It may be o.k. for some vehicle apps, but definitely not a Commando.

A little story about oil. I had the oil changed by a quickie lube joint some years ago in my Dodge Durango. The idiot doing the oil change never put in the drain plug. I drove off. Got about a block away and every light came on and bells sounded off. I drove back to the oil change place. They put in the drain plug and filled it up. That was at 75,000 miles. I now have 104,000 miles on it. Still has 60 psi oil pressure and uses no oil. The Durango always had Castrol synthetic. Needless to say, I still use Castrol synthetic in the Durango .
Last edited by JimC on Thu Mar 19, 2009 4:08 pm, edited 1 time in total.
A man's worth is not measured by what he has achieved...It is measured by what he went through to achieve it.

If you smile every time you flip on the garage light, you own the right motorcycle.

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Postby Cookie » Thu Mar 19, 2009 3:40 pm

I think it all adds up. If 20 degrees is going to be the difference between oil failure and a nice run it makes a difference.
I think freeway cruising to get the oil hot and then getting stuck in traffic makes my bikes act the hottest.
Running in Maine I never really had those conditions but here in the Bay Area I can get them all summer.
By the way Bob Raber is a nice guy and he has figured out what works well for him. I'm sure there are a number of good products out there, the choice we have now is amazing. I used to have to use airplane oil when I was a kid as I couldn't get anything else.
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Postby Veefore » Thu Mar 19, 2009 4:04 pm

Personal experience only.

In my old air-cooled VW Formula Vee race motor I always ran synthetic's because it would withstand the constant 100°C plus and occasional 120°C temperatures without degrading. The oil that everyone in my class used was Belray EXS, a 10w/50.

My norton doesn't see those kinds of temperatures so I stick with dino oils.
I tried Valvoline XLD 20w/50 for older engines and that seemed fine.
I am currently running Penrite Enduro which is a 25w/70 and the bike runs a little quieter. I also noted that it has a very high zinc content.

In the Norton gearbox I was running Redline Heavy Duty Shockproof but after about 2000 miles I thought I had struck gold when I drained it. There was a good tablespoon of gold flakes laying in the bottom of the gearbox, plus what was floating around in the oil.
I am now using Castrol EPX90 and have only completed about 400 miles on it so have not tested it yet.
Last edited by Veefore on Thu Mar 19, 2009 4:19 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Postby JimC » Thu Mar 19, 2009 4:06 pm

I installed a Lockhart cooler and Lockhart bypass thermostat. The cooler is mounted on the front down tubes. The thermostat is in front of the transmission between the plates of the cradle. I think both are no longer sold by Lockhart-Phillips. For anyone interested, I think my neighbor has a Lockhart cooler he's not using.
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Postby RennieK » Thu Mar 19, 2009 7:18 pm

Since I haven't looked at oil coolers for so long I'll have to dig around on the net to see what's out there after 25 years.

I didn't like the looks of the big bare rad type ones mounted on the front of the bike. My 1st attempt at cooling the oil was done by cutting a vent in the right side cover so air would pass between the cover and the oil tank. My bikes in a corner against the wall so I could only get a shot of it from the inside looking out.

Image

I never did any testing back then to see what effect it had on the oil temp but I'm sure it did something on the hiway.

On my 750 I scavenged a water pump cooler off a car in a junk yard and fashioned a scoop for it and then tucked it behind the oil tank but still sticking out a bit to catch the wind. I was able to get a shot of it but not from a good angle. You don't usually look into it so much and man is it ratty looking after sitting 25 years.

Image

I've never tested this one either to see what effect it had. When I start working on these bikes (soon I hope) I may try to clean it up and use it again as some of the prices I just saw after a quick look on the net were pretty scary. I should fit an inline thermostat though.

Has anyone else seen a nice looking and/or good functioning oil cooler suitable for mounting on a Norton?
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Postby Cookie » Thu Mar 19, 2009 8:04 pm

Are you sure that's not a Ford power steering cooler? That was a common mod among my friends back then.
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Postby RennieK » Thu Mar 19, 2009 9:21 pm

I'm not sure of anything except it came out of a junkyard near where I lived. I've never seen another one like it but it sounds logical that it would be used by others for the same thing if it was a common part. It fit so perfectly between the top of the shock and the rear of the oil tank it almost looked "Norton."

The side cover mod I don't recall ever having seen before either but since being on this board I've seen a photo of a similar mod.

Another thing I'm sure of is I'll be copying a lot of mods I've seen and heard about right here on this board for my next rebuild! With all the innovations folks have come up with for Nortons since I last rode these bikes they are like different machines altogether. I'm going to be afraid to bolt anything on my bike without first quizzing everyone here on whether or not there's a good mod to perform on the part first!

The world wide web sure beats the heck out of reading cycle mags once a month!
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Postby Cookie » Thu Mar 19, 2009 9:54 pm

That's what I've found too. Instead of inventing it yourself you can run it by several folks who have done the job years ago. I'm still amazed at all the new equipment available for these bikes.
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Cookie
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CJ 750 sidecar outfit
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Postby Jason Curtiss » Fri Mar 20, 2009 4:25 am

nomadwarmachine,

To answer your question, I use:
20W-50 in the crankcase, Castrol
90W in the gear box, any brand
20W-50 in the primary, Castrol

and I change the crankcase oil every 1,500 miles and the others every 3,000 miles.
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Postby BillT » Fri Mar 20, 2009 6:35 am

I use Valvoline VR1 50W in the crankcase. The high ZDDP (zinc) content in this oil is preferred for flat tappet engines. Any oil with a decent zinc content will do, and since I live in the deep, deep south, straight 50W works great. At 2000-3000 mile oil change intervals, the long life advantages of synthetic don't come into play.

Stock filter is the same as most Ducatis for the past 30 years. I use the K&N 153. The nut welded to the back of the filter makes installation/removal a breeze.

I run Ford ATF in the primary. Manual says to use motor oil, but the ATF works great for two reasons: Its designed to work with friction plates (the guts of an automatic), and being tinted red, I can tell if the primary is leaking, or if the primary is getting fouled by oil from the engine.

I run 90EP in the gearbox, but see no harm in using a multi-weight, such as 85W-140EP. Again, synthetic is a waste of money, IMO, if you plan on changing the gearbox oil on a regular basis (6000 miles or so).
'73 Norton 850 Commando - 3030xx
'69 Norton Ranger 750 - P11/1289xx
'67 Matchless G15CS - G15CS/1235xx
'61 Matchless G80CS - 61/G80CS/41xx
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