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Racing Oil vs. Street Oil

A passenger car taking its daily commute to work versus a high-speed race car running 40 laps each weekend, asks for a different type of engine and oil usage.

Racing car oils are designed to protect engines that run in extreme conditions over a short period of time, where the engine’s pistons will revolve at a high rate and experience blazing temperatures.

Street oils are the exact opposite, as they are designed to protect engines running in average conditions for a long period of time. The key to selecting the right oil for your application is to match the right oil chemistry for the type of use you need.


Anti-wear and friction additives

The difference between racing oil and street oil is largely characterised by the base oil chemistry and additive packages specified by engine manufacturers. Contemporary motor oils are formulated differently than racing ones. Both types contain anti-wear and friction modifiers, however, the latter is more heavily fortified with additive systems to protect the engine from its intense performance.

These chemicals protect highly loaded sliding surfaces against wear damages, making them suitable for racing as well as for high performance street engines with friction characteristics.


Detergent and dispersant additives

Detergent and dispersant additives have been developed to fight corrosion on engines and strip off the armor built by anti-wear agents and friction modifiers. Balance between these two types of additives is key. While race oils provide more anti-wear to fight the adhesive wear, the lower levels of detergents require more frequent oil changes to control the corrosive wear. For a daily driver, it works the other way around. As they are more prone to corrosive wear, a higher level of detergents is recommended.



The power of additives is related to the amount of acid neutralizing power the oil contains, also referred to as the total base number (TBN). In short: a strong detergent package signifies a high TBN value. If your engine is running in extreme conditions as if it is racing on the track, less TBN is needed compared to an oil for regular commercial engines.



All engine oils for automotive use require effective lubrication for wear prevention. However as high performance engines are pushed to such an extreme to get as much power as possible, some parts will experience greater levels of friction. As a result, the engine oil must have as much lubricity as possible, more so than your average engine.



When choosing an engine oil, picking the appropriate viscosity grade is extremely important. Automotive engines are typically tolerant of viscosity, but go too far to the light or heavy ends of the viscosity grade scale and the engine will suffer suboptimal performance and protection, if not actual damage. If you are unsure of what is appropriate for your engine, consult your mechanic.

It is important to ensure that you’re utilising the appropriate oil for your engine. Understanding what your engine needs can ensure that it runs effectively for longer. For more information on high performance oils, contact the friendly team at QP Lubes today.