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    Petroleum Products for Arctic Winter Use in Automotive Equipment

    Encyclopedia Arctica 2b: Electrical and Mechanical Engineering

    Unpaginated      |      Vol_IIB-0042                                                                                                                  
    EA-I. (Harold R. Porter)




    Gasoline Engines 2
    Diesel Engines 5
    Starting Aids 6
    Ice Prevention 7
    Transmissions and Differentials 7
    Grease-lubricated Chassis Parts 8
    Cooling and Hydraulic Systems 9
    Conclusion 9

    001      |      Vol_IIB-0043                                                                                                                  
    [EA-I. Harold R. Porter]



            In World War II large fleets of equipment powered with internal-combustion

    engines were brought into the Arctic. This equipment included all varieties

    — from automobiles to heavy tractors, as well as aircraft and marine engines

    of all types. It had been general practice in the Arctic to halt the operation

    of automotive equipment, with the possible exception of airplanes, during the

    colder portion of winter. But it was mandatory to operate at all times

    during the war emergency and many difficulties were encountered.

            Starting of engines at extremely low temperatures was the major problem.

    However, other problems were encountered even after the equipment was started,

    such as solidification of gear oils resulting in locked transmissions and

    differentials, and congealing of greases which made steering impossible.

            It was soon recognized that solution of arctic operational problems in–

    volved two major factors of equal importance: redesign of mechanical equipment,

    and redesign of the fuels and lubricants. As the redesign of mechanical equip–

    ment was more expensive and time-consuming than changes in petroleum products,

    the major effort to provide immediate improvement in operation was directed to–

    ward development of special arctic fuels and lubricants. As a consequence,

    many new petroleum products were developed and introduced into the Arctic with

    notable success.

    002      |      Vol_IIB-0044                                                                                                                  
    EA-I. Porter: Petroleum Products

            Following is a description of the requirements of petroleum products for

    the various parts of automotive equipment when operated under extreme winter


            Gasoline Engines . The primary problem in gasoline engines is starting, and

    to accomplish successful starts the engine must be turned at not less than 25

    r.p.m. Successful starting of engines is influenced by the following factors:

    • ( 1 ) The temperature of the engine.
    • ( 2 ) The mechanical condition of the engine. Engines in good mechanical

      condition are much easier to start.
    • ( 3 ) Condition of the battery. Battery output is greatly reduced at sub–

      zero temperatures. This reduces both cranking speed and intensity of ignition.
    • ( 4 ) Viscosity and fluidity of the lubricating oil.
    • ( 5 ) Volatility of the fuel.

            Turning the engine at the required speed to achieve starting is influenced

    by the viscosity of the crankcase oil and the battery voltage, both of which are

    adversely affected by low temperatures. The maximum allowable crankcase oil

    viscosity for a successful start with a warm battery is in the order of 40,000

    to 50,000 seconds Saybolt Universal (SSU). This critical viscosity varies over

    wide limits for different engines and these figures should be considered only

    as “order-of-magnitude” values. Allowable oil viscosity de e c reases greatly as

    the battery output diminishes with decreasing temperatures and is only some

    15,000 SSU at −30°F. Starting at below −40°F. with a cold battery is virtually

    impossible, regardless of the crankcase oil viscosity, due to the lack of

    battery output. Typical temperatures at which cranking can be accomplished with

    various grades of high-quality lubricating oil are given in Table I.

    003      |      Vol_IIB-0045                                                                                                                  
    EA-I. Porter: Petroleum Products

    Table I.
    Grade Minimum starting temperatures. °F.
    Battery at ambient temperature Battery at about 75°F.
    5W −30 −45
    10W −15 −20
    20W 0 −5
    30 +10 +5

            Another important requirement of engine oils for low-temperature operation

    is that they retain their fluidity. In other words, the stable pour point, the

    minimum temperature at which the oil remains fluid, must be as low as the mini–

    mum engine temperature. Although the initial solidification of an oil due to

    the first precipitation of wax crystals has little influence on the engine

    drag during starting, it is particularly important that this condition be avoided

    because the congealed oil can not be pumped to the engine parts and scoring may

    result if the engine is operated with oil in this state.

            Other methods of achieving satisfactory starting with lubricating oils

    are to dilute with kerosene or gasoline. The addition of 10% kerosene has

    the same effect on viscosity as reducing the crankcase oil viscosity by one S.A.E.

    viscosity grade, and, under moderate or intermittent operating conditions, the

    kerosene remains in the oil reasonably well. Gasoline as a diluents has about

    the same viscosity-lowering effect, but, being more volatile, is vaporized

    from the crankcase much more rapidly. Experiments have shown, for example,

    that operation for two hours will remove most of the gasoline dilution. The

    use of gasoline as a diluents finds its principal use in ai r craft where it is

    easier to control.

    004      |      Vol_IIB-0046                                                                                                                  
    EA-I. Porter: Petroleum Products

            Gasoline volatility plays an important part in engine starting because

    the gasoline must be sufficiently volatile so that the mixture which enters

    the cylinder will contain enough of volatilized gasoline to be combustible.

    From a practical standpoint, both with respect to handling and transportation

    of the fuel and to prevent vapor lock in the vehicle fuel system at moderate

    temperatures, the maximum allowable vapor pressure of a gasoline is about 15

    p.s.i. How gasoline volatility influences starting is shown by the figures

    in Table II. For purposes of simplification, gasolines of different volatilities

    are classified in terms of vapor pressure, although this gasoline property as

    such is only one of the characteristics affecting starting. As in the case of

    Table II.
    Vapor pressure, p.s.i. Minimum starting temperature, °F.
    15 (Special winter) −50
    12 (Type c: 2-103C Spec.) −35
    10 −30
    8 (Type A: 2-1030C Spec.) −20

            the critical viscosity for cranking, these figures represent averages, and

    wide variations between individual engines may be expected; the better the

    mechanical condition of the engine and electrical equipment, the lower will

    be the temperature at which it can be started with a given combination of

    lubricating oil and gasoline.

            Inasmuch as engine wear is excessive when cylinder temperatures are below

    140°F., good practice for arctic operation is to set engine thermostats so that

    the coolant operates at about 180°F. After warm-up, therefore, engine operating

    005      |      Vol_IIB-0047                                                                                                                  
    EA-I. Porter: Petroleum Products

    temperatures in the Arctic are essentially the same as in moderate climates,

    and with the low-viscosity oils necessary for starting, oil consumption is

    much higher than with the more viscous oils used in temperate climates. For

    this reason, engine bearings should be maintained in good condition and the

    crankcase oil level checked frequently. Those vehicles which are used in inter–

    mittent operation in the Arctic must of necessity operate at much lower than

    desirable engine temperatures. This is conducive to accumulation of water

    condensate in the crankcase with its attendant difficulties of corrosion and

    sludge. This necessitates frequent draining of the crankcase oil (at about

    500-mile intervals) and short engine-overhaul periods of as low as 10,000 miles.

            Diesel Engines . The same general lubrication problems apply to diesel

    engines as to gasoline engines; although the diesels are usually equipped with

    more powerful starters, they require cranking speeds of 50 r . p.m. or higher for

    successful starting. In fact, normal practice for diesel engines are is to employ a usually

    warm battery. Also, the bearing loads in diesel engines are usually

    higher than in gasoline engines and, therefore, a higher-viscosity oil is

    desirable. For this reason, 5W oils should be used in diesel engines only

    under extreme conditions. All oils used in diesel engines should be of the

    heavy-duty type to avoid excessive engine deposits. These oils are described

    by Army Specification 2-104B or by the Navy 9000 Series.

            The most important characteristic of a diesel fuel for arctic operation is

    the pour point, because, if the temperature of the fuel falls below its pour

    point, it will not flow due to the precipitation of wax particles and the

    engine can no longer be operated. Fuels of normal diesel volatility, i.e.,

    boiling between 300° and 700° F., are satisfactory for arctic use. However,

    it is usually necessary to limit the boiling range in order to obtain satisfactory

    pour points. Cetane number is not an important factor in starting at low

    006      |      Vol_IIB-0048                                                                                                                  
    EA-I. Porter: Petroleum Products

    temperatures because an improvement of 10 cetane numbers results in a decrease

    in minimum starting temperature of only 10°F. With most diesel engines, suc–

    cessful starting can be accomplished only down to 30° or 40°F. with a fuel of

    50 cetane number. Even with a fuel of 80 cetane, which is considerably

    higher in ignition quality than generally available, starting could be accom–

    plished only at 0° to 10°F. For this reason starting aids are mandatory under

    arctic conditions.

            Starting Aids . With most automotive diesel engines, starting difficulties

    come at about +30°F. and become progressively worse as the temperature decreases.

    Maintaining the engine at temperatures above 30°F. is one method for eliminating

    starting troubles. For conditions where this is not possible, other means have

    been developed, including flame throwers which heat the intake air by burning

    fuel and special starting fluids with very low self-ignition temperatures.

    These fluids have an ethyl ether base and have been spectacularly successful

    at starting diesel engines. For example, the addition of 1/3 ounce of starting

    fluid reduced starting time in a typical diesel engine from 30 seconds to

    1-1/2 seconds. Also, successful starts of diesel engines at subzero tempera–

    tures, as low as 50°F., have been achieved with 1-1/2 to 2-ounce applications — minus sign

    of starting fluid. For these low temperatures, however, the application of

    the starting fluid must be continued for a long enough period until the engine

    becomes sufficiently warm to ignite the diesel fuel. Ethyl [ ?] ether type

    starting aids are also used for starting gasoline engines, but their effect

    is less pronounced than for diesel engines. They become effective with typical

    winter gasoline at about −20°F., and below this temperature assist materially

    in achieving starts.

    007      |      Vol_IIB-0049                                                                                                                  
    EA-I. Porter: Petroleum Products

            Ice Prevention . Gasolines and diesel fuels have the ability to dissolve

    about 0.01% water. Even when the fuels leave the refineries in a completely

    dry condition, they almost invariably pick up this much water in transit or in

    storage. When the fuels containing the small proportion of dissolved water

    are exposed to very low temperatures, some of this water comes out of solution

    in the form of ice crystals which have the very adverse effect of clogging

    fuel filters and carburetor jets. This can be avoided by adding to the fuel

    small proportions, 0.3% or less, of low-molecular-weight alcohols. The heavier

    alcohols are less effective for this purpose. The lighter alcohols are very

    soluble in water but sparingly soluble in the fuel; therefore, when the tempera–

    ture of the fuel is lowered and water comes out of solution, it takes with it

    about a proportional amount of alcohol and has the very low freezing tempera–

    ture of an alcohol-water blend.

            Transmissions and D d ifferentials are not equipped with devices for keeping

    them warm during operation and, consequently, the only degree of heating in

    these units above ambient is that caused by friction. For this reason, in

    very cold operations, gear lubricants of low viscosity must be used. Army

    Specification 2-105, Grade 75 lubricants are designed specifically for this

    purpose. This specification requires that the lubricant be suitable for use

    at −50°F. particularly with respect to low-temperature flow. The most critical

    condition for gear lubricants is during initial operation after exposure to

    low temperatures, and, if the lubricant is not sufficiently fluid, it will not

    flow to the gears and is said to “channel.” This channeling consists of the

    gears pushing the lubricant away from the metal and running dry. Gears so

    operated often score and for this reason Specification 2-105 requires that the

    008      |      Vol_IIB-0050                                                                                                                  
    EA-I. Porter: Petroleum Products

    Grade 75 not channel at −50°F. Another difficulty encountered with gear

    lubricants at low temperatures is hard shifting. It has been established

    that, with a shifting force of 25 pounds on the gearshift lever, shifting

    can be accomplished readily when the oil in the gear case has a viscosity not

    exceeding 100,000 SSU. Typical examples of temperatures at which shifting

    can be accomplished easily with various grades of gear lubricants are shown


    Grade 75 80 90 140
    Minimum temperature of easy shifting, °F. −30 −5 +20 +40

            Gears can be shifted at lower temperatures than those listed above, but

    it becomes very difficult at about 10°F. below these temperatures.

            The Grade 75 oil has viscosity limits of 150 to 190 SSU at 100°F., or

    near those of an S.A.E. 10 grade motor oil. , Although it contains an extreme

    pressure additive, it is considered too low in viscosity for gear lubrication

    at moderate ambient temperatures and should not be used when prolonged opera–

    tion at atmospheric temperatures above +30°F. is expected.

            Grease-lubricated Chassis Parts . It is characteristic of greases that

    they are less sensitive to temperature changes than lubricating oils. How–

    ever, in no case can a grease become more fluid than its constituent lubricat–

    ing oil. (Greases are composed of about 90% lubricating oil plus about 10%

    soap.) Special greases prepared from selected light lubricating oils are

    described by Army Specification AXS-1169 (Rev. 1) and are designated as “Grease

    O.D. No. 00.” This grease is sufficiently fluid to provide lubrication at

    temperatures as low as −65°F. and can be used on all chassis parts, including

    wheel bearings, steering gears, distributors, etc. It is also sufficiently

    fluid for application through grease guns at low temperatures.

    009      |      Vol_IIB-0051                                                                                                                  
    EA-I. Porter: Petroleum Products

            Due to the adverse effects of snow and ice formation on various chassis

    parts, greasing should be frequent under low-temperature conditions. Five

    hundred miles is a recommended interval.

            Cooling and Hydraulic Systems . It has been found that conventional

    radiator antifreezes and hydraulic fluids are unsatisfactory in Alaska at ex–

    tremely low temperatures. In the first case, adequate protection against

    freezing of the equipment is not provided, and, in the second case, excessive

    thickening of the fluid occurs. By addition of heavy alcohols, the effective–

    ness of both fluids at low temperatures may be greatly increased.

            Antifreeze solutions of the permanent type must be [ ?] inhibited against

    rusting, and these inhibitors become ineffective with continued use. Therefore,

    it is the best policy to drain and discard permanent-type antifreezes after

    each season’s use.

            Conclusion . Petroleum products described above have alleviated the prob–

    lem of arctic operation to a large extent when used in conjunction with the

    mechanical aids and devices now available. However, much research remains to

    be done on the development of equipment designed specifically for arctic use

    if totally successful year-round operation is to be achieved.


    Harold R. Porter

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