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

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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.

The answer is here from Mullen Oil:

” … I agree with you that an oil slightly thicker should be used, so a SAE 50/ISO 220 would be the product of choice. The EEZ Products SAE 50 Way Oil would be the correct viscosity and is completely safe for use with yellow metals. Way Oils also contain slight tackiness in order to keep a slight oil film on lubricated surfaces during periods of inactivity. KBC Tools normally stocks the SAE 50 Way Oil … “

The ” … I agree with you … ” part refers to my theory that because of the worn bearings a heavier oil should be used than recommended by the manufacturer. Based on Heidelberg’s oil recommendations on the plate attached to the press, the SAE 40 Way Oil would be the equivalent.

I follow the manual, and use 40w press oils for the Heidelberg KS (20w for the ATF Chief, which has a Bijur system, and the Kelly when I had one). I get both from R. S. Hoyt in SoCal, and there’s also a 20w press oil from Hurst.
Wouldn’t using heavier oils than specified tax the pump of a central lube system? With dry bearings you ALWAYS prime the pump first. It’s in the manual!
But back to the original question, on the bearings of a C&P, I doubt common 30w motor oil would be a problem.

I did not have a chance to try out a brand spanking new Heidelberg Windmill to see how much force was needed to move the original oil in the central oiling system.
But I am SURE that after all these years of use it took more force then than now. The “strain” on the system depends on the internal friction of the delivery system, but mainly depends on the oil-gap between the bearing(s) and the shaft(s). That gap is bigger today than 50 years ago, for sure, it is leaking more oil. The proper oil weight today would be the one which would produce the same resistance on the oil-pump lever as it was 50 years ago. With the increased oil-gap that would require a heavier oil. That is for sure, but how heavier? I can hardly guesstimate, and it would heavily depend on the bearing condition(s) of the particular press!

( Wasn’t it a practice way back to put heavier engine oil in to your car engine to maintain the oil pressure if you had no money to rework the crankshaft and the bearings? )

I am more concerned about the two oiling cups inside the press. They use a wicking action to deliver the oil to the bearing. Totally don’t know how would they react to the heavier, stickier Way Oil.

I bought a Heidelberg Platen to save from the scrap yard. The user was putting grease in the oil points. I have been using kerosene and 5w20 to flush it out. I prefer 50 wt oil on my Heidelbergs and Thomson but will use any wt before going without. In a pinch I have mixed 70/90 with 10w30

Louie Dudas- I think the reasoning that a heavier oil will stick and coat in a situation where the bearing gap has increased is definitely sound.

One word of caution is that I suspect the manufacturers specified certain weights specifically because they ran out of the bearings taking any metal filings with them. With the Windmill in mind, many of the oil points are daily lube which seems like an awfully arduous workaround compared to using a thicker oil which would probably allow a less frequent schedule as it stays in place as a lubricant.

I’d hazard the fear of using a thicker oil is that more particulates get held in suspension and the oil in effect becomes a lapping compound. On a C&P it wouldn’t make a difference but in some of the geared components like the Windmill’s gripper head it could be.

I know this is the case in many machine tools. The oil not only lubricates but flushes debris out the system.

Interesting conversation!