Dear Ralph: My dealer is laying that “use only my oil” routine on me pretty thick. I know you guys test all kinds of...

Dear Ralph:
My dealer is laying that “use only my oil” routine on me pretty thick. I know you guys test all kinds of oils on a daily basis, so my question is this; what kind of oil do you prefer to use in your sleds?
Peter Amundson
Lakeville, MN

Whatever we have on the shelf? Seriously, you should match the oil certification or rating to the lubrication requirements of each engine. Power valves are an extra consideration, as are the new injection systems. Plain old TCW-3 won’t cut it in many of the higher-tech engines. Look for JASO-FC (and now FD) and ISO EGD ratings as indicators of a minimum performance standard for the newest, trickest engines. Mod packages may require extra quality and or quantity to provide adequate lubrication; consult with the engine builder or package supplier on what their experience has been.

OK. In our Polaris 2-strokes we’ve been using 2-Cycle Extreme (Fowler Distributing) for about the past three years. This is a fairly clean burning oil at an excellent price ($18.95 per gallon).

In our Arctic Cat 2-strokes we’ve been (predominantly) using Maxima TundraR, a synthetic blend that is pretty clean burning, ISO EGD rated and has a pleasant smell (for exhaust).

In our Ski-Doo 2-strokes we’ve been using Amsoil Interceptor since its introduction (Swenson Motorsports). This fully-synthetic oil is JASO-FC rated, so we know it is a good lubricant, but it does more leave black residue on the lower right hand yellow side panel than we’d like. (Most oils do.)

Amongst all of this, we also use a fair amount of Klotz Snowmobile Techniplate in some of our personal sleds, more for the mental horsepower afforded by the bean-oil smell, that signature odor that Klotz has. We happen to like it. It too is ISO EGD rated, so we’re confident of its lubrication qualities, but it isn’t the cleanest burning either. When we happen to run out of Klotz, Maxima TundraR is used. We actually designate a primary and a secondary oil for each of the test sleds in our fleet every year.

We’ve also burned a fair amount of Phillips Injex and Injex Pro over the years. Injex Pro is used by a large number of Polaris riders who report good power valve performance. We’ve also had good experience with a number of Torco oils, clean burning and excellent protection. It’s been a few years, but we ran a fair amount of Spectro that is also ISO EGD rated and popular among eastern engine shops as well.

One of the cleanest burning oils (inside the engine and outside residue) we’ve used is Blue Marble, but it is very expensive. It also claims to be ISO EGD rated, but from an anecdotal standpoint we’ve had two engine failures out of the two sleds we used it in; a crank failure on a 2004 Switchback 800 and a piston seizure on a 2005 Switchback 900. The power valves were very clean though, more so than when using the Polaris VES oil. We have been using this oil in our personal watercraft for less smoke and smell.

In the reduced smoke and smell department we also have used Maxima BIO 2-T, an ester-based (expensive) oil that really burns clean and is another good choice if you are sensitive to smoke and smell. Sleds on this oil tend to smell less than a 4-stroke, in our opinion.

What’s the best? Ah, the trick question. We can tell you an experienced engine shop indicated they have found the Ski-Doo Formula XPS fully-synthetic to be one of the best overall oils they’ve found for their mod packages. They discovered this after tear-downs and rebuilds on a large number of engines over many years. They do not sell Ski-Doo oil, either. Ski-Doo has always told us their oil was very good, exceeding any of the established ratings.

Use the oil ratings as a guide, compare costs and availability, and try to stay with one product if possible. Availability becomes a factor for many of us; if you can’t carry enough with you, run something that you can find readily where you ride to fill the gaps. As far as we know, the OE Yamaha 2-stroke oil is a Torco product (re-labeled), the Ski-Doo oil comes from Castrol and the Polaris and Arctic Cat oils are blended by LubeTech. As far as we know – if you know differently please tell us!

In our 4-strokes we’ve been using some of the Maxima 4-stroke oils, we have a couple different ones we’ve been working with; Snowmobile 4T 5w30, an eco cold climate petroleum-based formula, and Maxum 4 Ultra, a 100% synthetic 0w30 oil blended with polyol esters. We’ve also got some OE Yamaha cold weather 4-stroke oil on the shelf as well. The 2004 Yamaha 4-strokes specified 5w30, but starting with the 2005 models they’re now shipped with 0w30

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