A Puzzling Statement

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The August issue of Total Times had an eye-catching colour front cover depicting a well-known motoring journalist leaning on a Bristol car, accompanied by his lady and dog and, inside, an article by this gentleman telling those who paused to read it what he thinks is wrong with petrol service stations. Scanning this, we came upon a statement which puzzled us, namely that “in many engines an excess pint of oil is a quick way to ruined bearings”. As the average dip-stick which we poke into our sumps is not a scientific measurer of the contents, nor is it intended to be, and as a pint of lubricant is not a very great part of the average sump’s overall contents, we cannot understand this eminent writer’s concern for the careless garage-hand giving him that much too much Total or any other brand of oil; apart, of course, from the cost of it. Unless, that is, Bristols are sensitive to that kind of treatment ? Naturally one does not flood an engine with unwanted oil but, even if one did, fouled plugs or gummed-up valves would surely be expected, rather than “ruined bearings”. And if an excess pint is going to run them, when should the oil-level of overhead-valve, especially overhead-camshaft, engines be checked, in view of the possibility of at least a pint being concealed in the rocker boxes, as the writer concerned admits ?

We thought round this thing for a bit, and the only kind of engine where bearings might just conceivably be ruined by using too much oil, instead of too little, seemed to be an horizontally-opposed type with an abnormally small sump, in which, if it were over-filled (by a pint ?) excess pressure might build up and cause lubricant to exit via the breather, until the level fell too low and the bearings were starved. This didn’t seem very convincing, so we wrote to Incom Public Relations Ltd., who are responsible for Total Times, asking for an explanation. That was on 27th September and as no reply had been received by the 1st of November (although we did mention it to the writer when we met him at the Show), we thought we had better hand the idea over to Motor Sport’s readers. They usually come up with an answer to motoring conundrums. We hope they can solve this one, especially as no-one wants to use more oil than is absolutely necessary in these stringent times, especially if doing so is likely to wreck the engine! — W. B.