Non-detergent motor oil for press oiling

I’ve always used 30W non-detergent motor oil on my C&P. Suddenly it’s gone from a little difficult to find, to nonexistent, at least in the SF East Bay—at least in the three or four auto supply and hardware stores I’ve tried. Does anybody have a source? Or a different recommendation? Or, if I end up special ordering it, does anyone local want to go in on a case?
Littoral Press

Log in to reply   12 replies so far

You might look at light weight gear oil. 70-90 weight transmission and differential oil is heavier than 30ND and more expensive, but currently not unobtanium. At the amounts you should be requiring the price may not be a serious issue.


I’d call some local industrial suppliers for price and availability.

If you happen to go up by Vallejo, Tractor Supply should have 2gal jugs for ~20 bux. (They can get it, if they don’t have any in stock.)


ev one goes whacko over oil…. i use whatever is on sale. i usually wait for 15-50w synthetic motor oil, if possible…. but seriously,,,, any LUBRICANT you put in will be okay. not to be mistaken for a FLUID, IE transmission, hydraulic, etc….This would be in 14 x 22 Kluges, run daily, and manually oiled for last 6 years. they turn over as well as new ones.

Amazon has non detergent motor oil. I’ve been gettng gear oil on

Thanks for all the useful tips—much appreciated!

Today’s “average oil” is far better than the “hot bacon grease” the original manual calls for….

I don’t understand what is wrong with the use of the “detergent oil” in the open ( topical … lol ) oiling system of these old printing presses. Wouldn’t the detergent oil “wash” the bearings clean? The suspended particles are not recirculated. No need for an oil filter. The flow is one way: you squirt it in on the top and it drips to the floor.

These way oils do have detergent in them but they also have additives to make them stick better to the surface. They even stick to a vertical surface. Wouldn’t these oils be more suitable for worn out bearings? Let’s face it, in our presses all the original sleeve bearings are worn out by now, no matter how well made they were when new. ( People used to put pantyhose in to the oil of a worn out differential of a car to make it quiet! - but maybe it was just a clever attempt to get them off ). While I had “gunk” on the gears, they were nice and quiet. Since I cleaned them, they chatter! If I could buy some “gunk”, I would put it back! I wonder how would it work; putting Loctite on the gears?

For my Heidelberg, I was about to order the 40 WT from KBC Tools & Machinery. And by the way, I did noticed some slip-stick action on my less frequently used Heidelberg’s lay-gauge shaft.

No matter the quality of the oil, if it drips out from the sleeve bearings and linkages too soon, it lubricates only the floor.

The wear on the sleeve bearings should be taken in to an account and probably heavier grade oil should be used than prescribed by the manufacturer for their brand new machine. My Heidelberg would require a different make-ready depending on was it freshly oiled or not, but after few impressions the main shaft stabilises itself in the bearing. There is a special consideration on some oiling points on the Heidelberg. The designed “wicking action” has to be maintained on some places.

I am very far from being an oil(ing) expert, these are just my thoughts on this slippery subject.

Ive been reading that the 90wt gear oil (NOT HYPOID) is better for most of the lubrication points.

We switched over from 40wt at Elite Printing and the improvement was noticeable.

On the gears themselves, we are running lithium grease.

A lot of those so called “bearings” in old presses is just a shaft going through a hole in another piece of metal, with a lubrication hole drilled in.

Sure its been doing fine for 100 years with plain motor oil, but given time, the heavier weight will slow down the wearing.

You cont really need fancy synthetic formulations.

Hello texxgadget !

Am I misunderstanding these posts? If someone says use NON-detergent motor oil, or you say NOT-hypoid gear oil. I would assume that if I use detergent motor oil and/or hypoid gear oil, I am doing a wrong thing!

BUT a quick search on the net suggest to me that the detergent and the hypoid oils have a better cleaning/lubricating performance.

Am I missing out on some information?

Louie Dudas-

The reasoning behind using non-detergent oil is that many of the additives (EP extreme pressure compounds specifically) found in modern detergent motor oils are corrosive to metals such as brass, bronze, and copper.

As most bushing inserts and oil lines like those in the Heidelbergs are made from various alloys of the above, it would be best to keep anything that will corrode them away.

If you want to do some research look for information about the effects of detergents and additives specifically on yellow metals.


that was the missing information !!!
thank you.

so we are back to “hot bacon grease”
as ericm formulated.

Use plain oil with no additives.

nervous_john, as long as I have your attention …

I took a second look at the EEZ Way Oil brochure and it says:
“… these products are ideal for use in Bijur lubricating systems …”
I never heard of these lubricating retrofits, but this application turned up in a web search:

When they say: “… these oils are non-corrosive …” do they refer to yellow metals too?
Do you think that regardless of their additives, EEZ Way Oils could be used in lubricating systems with yellow metal components?

- update:

I just sent an email enquiring about their opinion on the above issue. Very curious about the answer.