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Elf Tech Team - PAO vs Ester #199754 07/17/06 01:51 AM
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buster Offline OP
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quote:
SYNTHETICS IN THE POWERSPORT INDUSTRY: ESTERS vs. PAO
“Base stocks” are what constitutes 75 to 80% of a finished engine oil.
In 1999, the generally accepted rules for labeling an engine oil “synthetic” blew in pieces. A major marketer
forced a court ruling allowing oils that are using “Group III – hydrocracked” base stocks to be labeled
“synthetic”. Previously, only engine oils using the following base stocks could be labeled “synthetic”:
• Group IV: PAO or Poly-Alpha-Olefine, derived from the Ethylene chemistry
• Group V, catch-all category for non-PAO synthetic. Esters are a Group V base stock.
For some high-performance applications in the Powersports industry, these cheaper Group III-synthetics
were not good enough, and to differentiate their products, many Powersports marketers started to specify
that their own synthetics were either “Ester” or “PAO”.
What is the difference between Ester and PAO applied to a 4-stroke Powersports engine oil ?
First, a few facts:
- Esters have a property that makes them prone to marketing abuse: small quantities are easily
detected in inexpensive lab testing. For example, 3% of Ester will have virtually no useful effect in a lubricant,
but a laboratory still will conclude “contains esters”, therefore “contains synthetics”. This makes it tempting for
companies to promote Ester as “the perfect elixir”, then put 3% in all their products even if it provides no
benefit for the engine.
- The Total group, maker of ELF lubricants, is the 4th largest oil company in the world and
manufactures base stocks. Total extracts crude oil, operates many refineries, operates chemical plants, and
employs 10,000 people in the US Chemical industry alone. In short, the Total group engineers and
manufactures lubricants from A to Z.
- Most specialty brands of oil in the Powersports industry are from companies that do not manufacture
any base stock, be it mineral, hydrocracked, ester or PAO. The staff of these companies is often mostly
dedicated to marketing and sales. Most of the technical development is sub-contracted to Chemical groups
such as Total, from which they purchase their base stocks.
Now, about the respective merits of Esters and PAO for motorcycle oils, let’s first have a look at their pros
and cons from a chemist’s perspective:
Qualities found in both PAO and Esters (versus Hydrocracked and Mineral base oils):
• High Viscosity Index (oil does not “melt” at high temperature),
• Very low pour point (you can start in minus degree weather)
Now the differences:
PAO Ester
Pros
- Low polarity: good foaming and
air entraining properties
- High temperature stability
- High polarity (=good lubricity)
- Straight chain molecules are biodegradable
(true of a limited number of esters)
Cons
- Low polarity (lower lubricity)
- tendency to retract and harden
the seals
- Poor hydrolytic stability (reacts to water)
- Incompatible with acrylate seals, risk of
incompatibility with nitrile and VAMAC
(depends on the type of ester)
Polarity causes the ester molecules to be attracted to positively charged metal surfaces. As a result, the
molecules tend to line up on the metal surface creating a film which requires additional energy (load) to
Visit: ElfMoto.com 877.ELF.OILS ( 877.353.6457)
penetrate. The result is a stronger film which translates into higher lubricity and lower energy consumption in
lubricant applications.
On the other hand, PAO’s low polarity means that they have better foaming and air entraining properties.
Foam and air entrainment occurs when the engine is going at very high speed (which is often the case with a
motorcycle). Foam and any bubbles formation in the lubricant is detrimental to the engine.
So we can deduct the choices that the formulator has when he makes a 100% synthetic lubricant:
1 100% ester: very unstable, incompatible for most seals. 100% ester lubricants will have to be drained
from the engine every few hours. Reserved for applications when their polarity is so necessary than their
inconvenience will be dealt with. For two-stroke applications, where the engine oil is mixed with the gas and
must burn, the instability of esters is a good thing. It is not the case for four-stroke applications.
2 Mix PAO-Ester, with balanced proportions: probably the best combination for Car racing engines.
Three drawbacks for motorcycles:
a. Motorcycles with a wet-clutch: Esters’ polarity will act on the clutch much like Friction
Modifiers do. They’ll make the clutch slip. A lubricant with strong Ester content is unlikely to pass the
Japanese JASO MA test to prevent clutch slippage.
b. Motorcycle 4-stroke oils are often used off-road where the environment is not as controlled as
on the race track: you may have to cross a river at low speed, and your Ester oil may not like the water…
c. The attraction of the oil to the metal is no longer needed at high speed, when hydrodynamic
lubrication is protecting the metal (the equivalent of “aquaplaning” in your engine). On the contrary, the
attraction of the Ester molecule to the metal will slow that “hydrodynamic” phenomenon and may cost
horsepower. At high speed, the resistance to high temperature and to foaming that PAO provides is more
important than the low-speed lubricity provided by some esters.
3 100% PAO, with or without a few drops of Ester. Esters are sometimes used in small quantities as a
seal-softening agent, to counter seal-hardening. They can also be used as a “marketing boosting” additive
(see earlier note on its detection by lab test), in which case, the label proudly claims “Ester synthetic” but also
“JASO MA”.
Overall PAO will have a better high temperature stability and oxidation resistance than most esters. This is
most important for motorcycle-specific lubricants since motorcycle engines will be working under higher
revolutions and overall at higher temperatures than car engines.
ELF Moto 4XT 10W50 and ELF Sport Campione 10W60 are 100% PAO, with the proper additivation to
prevent seal hardening, and performance on the clutch that allows to pass the JASO MA test.
On the other hand, ELF chose 100% Ester base stocks for its 100% synthetic two-stroke oils.
In the ELF 4XT 10W50 and ELF Campione 10W60, Total engineers put all the experience of the group to
make these the best 4-stroke motorcycle oils on the market by their combination of:
- viscosity range: notice the large viscosity range 10W50 and 10W60 for a 100% PAO synthetic with
extreme temperature resistance. Most European dirt bikes now,
- Clutch compatibility (the only 100% PAO oil to meet JASO MA with a 10W50 viscosity !!)
- Capacity to yield horsepower: no metal attraction will slow the motion of parts.
The ELF Moto technical team.


Re: Elf Tech Team - PAO vs Ester #199755 07/17/06 02:36 AM
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castor Offline
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well don't tell my hd about clutch slip

been using motul 15w50 300V in primary since day 1

65,000 miles to date

NO CLUTCH SLIP

Re: Elf Tech Team - PAO vs Ester #199756 07/17/06 02:59 AM
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Primus Offline
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Buster,
Thanks for an interesting article. However, as usual. May be the time to start calling you Buster the Digger ? [Cheers!]

As for the content, after reading the comment "100% ester: very unstable, incompatible for most seals. 100% ester lubricants will have to be drained from the engine every few hours" I am burning of desire to go to my Honda and drain 300V 5W-40 despite the time. Please, don't post such horrors, somewhere it may be already night.

Re: Elf Tech Team - PAO vs Ester #199757 07/17/06 03:08 AM
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buster Offline OP
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Primus, I don't know where they get off saying this when Redline, Motul, Maxima and Molekule have said otherwise. While they don't contain 100% Esters, they contain a majority of esters (multiple) and some small % of PAO. I'm very surprised this was written as such. Their seems to be two schools of thought out there about majority ester based lubricants. As Molekule has stated before, you can get excellent performance by adding less ester to PAO, which is a less expensive solution.

Re: Elf Tech Team - PAO vs Ester #199758 07/17/06 04:03 AM
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buster Offline OP
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quote:
Overall PAO will have a better high temperature stability and oxidation resistance than most esters
Huh? I thought it was the opposite. [Freak]

Re: Elf Tech Team - PAO vs Ester #199759 07/17/06 05:25 AM
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mcrn Offline
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yeah exactly Buster if this is the case why do turbine jet engines use esters? at least that is what i thought redline claimed.

Re: Elf Tech Team - PAO vs Ester #199760 07/17/06 06:54 AM
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TooSlick Offline
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Buster,

You keep missing the boat on this one....

Both PAOs and diesters/polyolesters have advantages and disadvantages as an engine lubricant. By blending them you get a better overall mixture of physical/chemical properties than you can with either basestock alone.

Got it? [Smile]

TS

Re: Elf Tech Team - PAO vs Ester #199761 07/17/06 08:33 AM
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Trex101 Offline
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mcrn, polyol ester base stock is used primarily on aircraft jet engine.

Mobil Jet II
http://www.prod.exxonmobil.com/lubes/emal/Pdfs/TTopic5_WhatIs.pdf

Re: Elf Tech Team - PAO vs Ester #199762 07/17/06 08:38 AM
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sidney004 Offline
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Very informative and interesting article. I wonder what type of formulation they use for the F1 Renault.

Re: Elf Tech Team - PAO vs Ester #199763 07/17/06 08:49 AM
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Johnny Offline
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I had to read through that a few times just to be sure this was from their tech team. Lot's of technical information in there for sure, but it's also full of marketing. After spending 25 years in the oil industry I've heard the same thing from Exxon/Mobil, Shell (Pennzoil/Quaker State), Chevron/Texaco, ConocoPhillips (Kendall/Union 76), and Valvoline. All of which make the complete package from ground to your car. Plus the hundreds to thousands that buy base stocks from these and blend their own brands. And a few of these smaller blenders (two come to mind, Amsoil and Red Line) will certainly give Total a run for their money.

So, as technical as that may have been, it was a good marketing sales pitch.

Re: Elf Tech Team - PAO vs Ester #199764 07/17/06 08:58 AM
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ebaker Offline
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Aren't the "high" ester oils like Redline, Motul, Cosworth, and Synergyn only about 20 - 40% ester?

Re: Elf Tech Team - PAO vs Ester #199765 07/17/06 09:05 AM
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Terry Offline
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Consider this, the most popular PCMO on this board consists of a PAO base with PAO derived ester add pack...

How'd they do dat........ What would the frogchemists say bout that? Yikes I'll be in Paris soon, duck!

Yup ...pscholtes'GC green and its a good racing oil too..

Re: Elf Tech Team - PAO vs Ester #199766 07/17/06 03:11 PM
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buster Offline OP
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I'm well aware that it's marketing and I'm well aware that their are blends of PAO/Esters. However, some oils are mostly ester and some are mostly PAO. The article makes reference to seal compatibility issues with esters. (Not true anymore) and that PAO's have better oxidation and high temp. qualities. (that I thought wasn't true). Ted, got it?

Re: Elf Tech Team - PAO vs Ester #199767 07/17/06 04:44 PM
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Pablo Offline
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I think that article is extremely poorly written. But I have come to learn to not hold that against buster. The pros and cons part is especially pathetic.

Was it a direct translation from the French?

Re: Elf Tech Team - PAO vs Ester #199768 07/17/06 08:14 PM
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From Motul Web page:

Question:
- Do Esters in oils swell seals or is this just a rumour. Safe for motors, gearboxes etc,?

Answer:
- Yes you are correct they do swell seals. But nobody makes a full ester oil anyway. It is usually mixed with other base stocks i.e. PAO (Group 4) or Hydrocracked (Group 5) which reduces seal swell. Ester are very expensive and really anything more than 25% really provides little advantage.

Interesting what they would say about biodegradable oils. Given requirements for biodegrability these oils should be nearly 100 % esters.

[ July 18, 2006, 11:24 AM: Message edited by: Primus ]

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