Home Spindle Lube Test

In anticipation of an phono preamp switch I gave my 30+ year old Dual 1219 turntable a lube job. It's rim drive so the platter spins freely with the drive disengaged. The test involved only common household lubricants that have other uses.

Procedure: clean the mating surfaces with 99% isopropyl alcohol; lightly lube all sufaces using Q-tip; spin platter by hand at high speed for a few minutes.

The test (taken at 58F degrees room temperature): Engage drive at 33 1/3 then disengage it, noting how long it takes the platter to come to complete rest. I repeated each test once to verify the result. The results in the order tested:

Light machine oil - Gunk Household oil: 105 seconds
Bicycle bearing grease - Castrol Synthetic: 65 seconds
Automotive motor oil - Mobil 1 grade 0W40: 160 seconds

Note: when mounting the platter on the spindle, with Gunk the platter seemed catch as it slid down. On dissasembly, the Castrol had coated the surfaces reassuringly. I left the Mobil 1 undisturbed!
Just goes to show that not all lubricants are created equal. Thanks for sharing the results. Sean
Rockvirgo, how did you ensure that all of the previous oil was completely removed before trying the next oil? Iso-propyl alcohol is not a good solvent for lubricating oils.

Bob P.
Bob, I used lots of Q-tips (dry, wet, then dry) and visually inspected. Before running the first test the alcohol seemed to dissolve some varnish so I kept it in the mix. The surfaces looked clean enough for government work. Presumably, wiping without the alky would have done as good a job for what I wanted to know. If you like, consider the isopropyl scrub a bonus. It is possible some residual lube escaped the soft dry cotton in the final step but that's life. Did I say scientific? :^)
Thanks Rock. You also have the knowledge that your turntable will work in temperatures as low as -55C! That Mobil 1 0W40 has a pour point of lower than -55C!

Salut, Bob P.
Rock, Nice experiment. If your up to it try one more test....straight 30W Mobile One. (Don't know if its availiable) The first call out on oil is its weight or viscosity (W=winter) at the freezing point. The second its weight at operating temp. I hope not many of us listen to our systems at 32F or below. That would be uncomfortable. I might try this my self on my Michell Gryo SE. It has a hydro-dynamic bearing system that may benefit from Mobil One.
Quincy, I think that you mean a 0W30, not 30W. What you really want to use is not a multigrade, but a straight SAE 5 weight, if you can find it. However, if using a multi-grade (this sounds like an car oil commercial!), use Mobil 1 5W20. At any rate, all engine oils are overkill - even olive oil will do, just have to change it every 6 months or so as it will get rancid!

Bob P.
Bob: I think that Rockvirgo has demonstrated just the opposite of what you stated i.e. "all engine oils are overkill - even olive oil will do". There's obviously a very big difference in the ability to lubricate and reduce friction between the items compared.

If ALL of the motor oils were "overkill", they would all reduce drag to the same approximate point. Given that they all show markedly different settling times, the differences in drag / frictional loss is still quite measurable. This tells me that seeking out and using the best product is not overkill.

Until the playing field is leveled to the point of diminishing returns between multiple "identical" products, selecting the one that works best seems only logical to me. That is, if the price differential isn't beyond reason. That's why i kept referring to Tufoil in a similar thread. When you've got minimal friction, you've got the least amount of motor and bearing wear with the least possible need for speed correction.

By the way, multi-weight oil makes use of more "binders" or "fillers" as additives. These additives allow the oil to "stretch" and change viscosity as temperature varies. The more fillers that you have, the less oil that you have. If one is running a device that maintains a relatively consistent operating temperature with consistent ambient temperatures, it is best to pick the most suitable single grade lubricant for the job at hand. This is why most industrial grade machinery calls for straight 30 weight oil. It won't break down as quickly due to using fewer "binders" or "fillers". Sean
Let me throw out another one to try. Automatic Transmission Fluid, some good stuff like Valvoline. I did this type of experiment in a MMF 7 I used to own and I liked this stuff a bit more than the Mobile One that Music Hall recommends.
I agree to a point about your saying different oils should be verified, but one oil that was not checked was olive oil!

You might be surprised to find that it allows the platter to turn even longer than the motor oil.

BTW, longer turning time does not indicate that the lubrication is better, just that viscosity of the lubricant is lower therefore allowing more shearing of the lubricant itself which puts less drag on revolving spindle.
In fact too low a viscosity could be bad, since the lubricant barrier formed between the metal parts would break down and then we would have metal touching metal and increased wear. The platter, however, might turn for much longer, since the actual friction of metal to metal (sometimes ceramic) surfaces might be lower than with the lubricant between them.
Motor oils are for much harder lubricating conditions than a "babbit" bearing, which a turntable bearing is basically. That is why I said that motor oil is over kill. For lubricating a simple spindle, a light machine oil is all that is needed and while I might have been facetious in saying that olive oil would be just as good, I am sure that that is true! Try it, you might like it! (Pun intended).

Salut, Bob P.

PS. As a professional Chemical Engineer and having managed synthetic lubricant plants for several years, I am quite sure of my views on the subject of lubricants and their applications.
I agree. About the only thing you could do to cause harm is to not use any lubrication. Heck, even water is a lubricant.
I judge a spindle lube based on how much extra noise I hear or don't hear from the platter.

What would you recommend? Something like Starrett oil, or a type of sewing machine oil? I ask because while I used the oil Chris sends out with the Teres bearing, I'm always open to suggestions. If a lighter oil will work better, I'm all for it.

Now that's the kind of post that makes this site truly interesting and worthwhile. Bob, your expertise is appreciated. My Gyro SE comes with a thimbleful of oil, which can be replaced for a mere $15.00. As an engineer, I was quite certain that Michell doesn't have a refinery create a unique oil for their application, and that any motor oil would think it was on vacation circulating around in my turntable. Thanks for confirming my suspicions.
Back when the 1219's were new, owner's used to compare who's platter would spin the longest after auto shut off. The Dual manual refers only to an "oiled" plug being pushed out when initially settling the platter.

Bob, correct me if I'm off course but the concept of early Mobil 1 was to create a more uniform concentrate of unwinding long chain polymers for the sole purpose of having an abundance of them to shear off. Isn't this molecular shearing the definition of lubrication itself?

Blast from the past: addressed the assembled 1974 U of D Chem.E graduating class with an unsober yet complete rendition of J.D.Salinger's The Laughing Man. Go Hens! :^)
A light sewing machine oil is all that is required.
Of course, I know that someone is going to start hearing differences in the sound of the oils, probably because the different viscosity oils will have differing damping and resonances on the speed of the table and vibrations cause by the slightly wobbling spindle. (All tongue in check, of course!).

Bob P.
Rockvirgo, yes to a point. But for this "shearing" action to be of benefit, the lubricant has to be strong enough to handle the load imposed on it by the two mating surfaces so that the surfaces DO NOT touch, but are in fact sparated by a continually shearing liquid. That is why water is not a very good lubricant, even at medium low loads. That is why a minimum viscosity is necessary for a lubricant to be successful.
Also, synthetics, as you have pointed out, have long straight chain molecules as opposed to the conventional oils which have a mixture of ring and branched chain along with some long chain molecules. Its not so much the molecules breaking up that is the "shearing" as it is the separate molecules moving against each other. Long or straight chains tend to slip by each other more easily than branched chains.
"Of course, I know that someone is going to start hearing differences in the sound of the oils"

Yep, I heard a difference. Interestingly it was the lighter stuff that I found to have less bearing noise, but keep in mind the turntable bearing I'm referring to, a Music Hall table. Don't really care why and it was only audible on those quite passages. BTW, just for the record I'm not advocating that anyone use water on their bearing.
Inpep: I just went back and re-read your explanation. It makes perfect sense to me and i have nothing to argue with you about on this. In fact, i would even go further in saying that one can use too heavy of a viscosity lubricant, which would result in increased drag and / or less than expected results.

I still don't get where we are "diverging" on what we are looking for as an end result though. Isn't the goal of a lubricant to reduce external frictional losses to a minimum without introducing further drag into the equation of its' own accord? I understand about viscosity, "shearing" of oil, the use of fillers to widen thermal stability, etc...

What i'm getting at is this: If a product is the slipperiest substance known to man, and it is both thermally and chemically stable for the intended use, how could system losses or internal drag be reduced any further? Obviously, i'm taking into consideration that the mating surfaces are properly machined, etc... Help me out here, will ya? Sean

About "too heavy a lubricant being detrimental and increasing drag". The short answer is Yes! If the lubricant is too heavy and not pumpable, i.e. grease, it might not be possible for it to penetrate into the surfaces interface. Depending on the load on the bearing, however, a lighter lubricant might not be capable of supporting that load and we are back to direct contact of surfaces. I think, however, that grease would also be perfectly alright for lubrication in a turntable, but the drag on the drive system might be compromised.

As to the "goal of a lubricant", the main reason for lubricants is to SAVE the mating surfaces from WEAR, not to necessarily save the energy necessary to turn the spindle in the bearing. The best way to reduce the wear on the bearing is to reduce the friction between the surfaces, either by introducing a substance that fills the small microscopic bumps and ridges in both surfaces, effectively "smoothing" the surfaces, or by introducing an intermediate substance between the surfaces, thus protecting the surfaces from wear. In the first case greases, solids (graphite) and oils can be used. In the second case, various fluids are used, including air.

I am not sure about your other query about making the slipperiest substance "known" to man more slippery?

Once two bearing surfaces are protected from wear, the job of lubrication is done. The increased drag etc. is not relevant to the lubrication, but might be important for other reasons.

Back to the original arguement. First, The fact that a turntable turns longer with a particular lubricant in it is no indicator of lubricating "goodness". Second, for the purposes of lubricating our turntables, any motor oil is overkill. As I facetiously said, olive oil might very well serve the purpose of reducing wear in the spindle bearing. You might want, however, to use motor oils because there are many different viscosities available and you might want to play with those to determine if some "sound" better than others.

I shall stick to light "sewing machine" oil for my Oracle Alex III, (13 yrs old) but I am tempted to add graphite to the oil, just to see if I can "hear" the difference. It might even make a long term difference to the life of the bearing.!

Regards, Bob P.
Rockvirgo, your results reflect what I found too.

I was having a bearing noise issue with my VPI scout and I tried about 6 different types of lubricants. The one that worked best for me, was a lightweight mobile one synthetic oil.

Best for me was meaning least friction and least noise mesured by using a stethoscope on the plinth. Went with Mobile One about 9 months ago and have not had any bearing noise issues since.
Sean - I would imagine the slipperiest substance would have a tough time adhering to anything.

Bob - Seems to me the duration of spin following shut off is at least one indicator of the amount of friction involved, and thus some measure of the enhancement the lube imparts to the surfaces.

Any maintenance is surely better than none at all, no matter the lube du jour. As such, overkill is all gravy.

Scout, like many modern TT, has inverted bearing which requires grease instead of oil for proper lubrication. Are you sure engine oil can support the load without being drained out by gravity? I have a Clearaudio which has an inverted bearing as well. Top of the bearing shaft is flat, similar to Scout if I remember correctly (used to own one), and will not hold much oil at all. When I talked with Musical Surroundings and VPI, they both recommended grease instead of oil for longevity. I chose Super Lube Teflon based grease, I found it best among all grease and better than OEM grease and white lithium grease.

With inverted bearing, it's near impossible to conduct an experiment like Rockvirgo did since platter will come to stop after a few turns.

Any input on inverted bearing TT is welcome.
Inpep: By reducing wear on the mating surfaces as you described, the lubricant reduces friction that could be transferred into the platter. It also mimizes the associated the loss of energy due to the reduction of mechanical binding and / or thermal considerations.

This allows the bearing / platter stem to last longer without having to be replaced, the motor driving the platter lasts longer due to having to do less work and there is less need for error correction of the speed because the rotational mass of the platter remains more consistent due to less drag and energy loss.

Given that a good lubricant that is well chosen for the intended use achieves all of these inter-related factors simultaneously, i stand by my original statements and suggestion. The use of the slipperiest substance known to man will reduce wear, will minimize frictional and thermal losses, won't introduce its' own drag into the equation and is temperature stable beyond that of any oil based product that i'm aware of. On top of that, any "friction" or "wear" that is generated within the bearing / platter stem cavity itself that could be passed onto the platter will be somewhat better damped by this lubricant due to its' thicker nature.

The fact that this stuff can be bought for less than $15 per 8 oz bottle is WAY less than any other "audio related" or "snake oil" type lubricant that you'll ever find. Yes, it may be "overkill", but what aspect of "high end audio" isn't in most regards??? Sean
Then, Sean, I suggest that you put Teflon in the bearing, if you want the slipperiest substance known to man. If you were refering to Mobil 1 as the slipperiest substance, then you are incorrect. Using Teflon, I think that you will find that the surfaces that bear the load will wear out more quickly than using a grease or oil, because the teflon cannot handle that load!

BTW, friction and wear aren't substances that can be "transmitted" as you put it. Its not like vibrations!

At any rate, you can have the last word if you must, but I shall remain with my recommendation of a simple machine oil.

With respect, Bob P.
Semi, your choice of the Teflon based grease seems judicious. There is no advantage in the Lithuim based grease, except if you expect to encounter water! It is good, however, if you want to grease your car window lift mechanism!

The only comment that I could have about the inverted bearing, is that, ironically, the load on that type of bearing is lower than on the straight vertical journal bearing, where all (well, most) of the load is on the tip and therefore could use a thinner lubricant, but as you have pointed out, what's to keep it there?.

Bob P.
Semi, when discussing the lighter load on the inverted bearing, I meant that lighter lubricant can be used, but one needs to find a way of keeping it at the bearing. My previous message might have been misleading.

Bob P.
Inpep: You obviously never read my original recommendations on the subject. If you had done so, we wouldn't have been having "the great debate" that we are now. Nor would others have been able to use your responses to me as "ammo" to try and undermine my credibility. Those detractors should take note that you've just proven my point with your above responses, which they will be made aware of by the end of this post.

The product that i recommended is a hybrid that is based on various lubricants combined into one product. While your comments about Teflon are right on the money, this product does not rely on Teflon alone. That's because Teflon will fail by itself when placed under a load. As such, they've added Moly to the formula, which will hold up under load. On top of that, Moly is thick enough to cling to the surfaces, which in turn helps suspend the Teflon.

Only problem with this is that both of these substances lack "flowability", so circulation and self-induced drag could come into play. Not wanting to add fillers to the formula, which would improve the flow but do nothing but subtract from the long term performance of the lubricant, they added a straight weight oil. The oil increases "flowability" and makes the entire product more "liquid", increasing circulation and parts coverage.

The specific materials in this product consist of Polytetraflouroethylene, Molybdenum Di Phosphordithlioate, Methacrylate / Vinyl Pyrrolidine Copolymer, Petroleum Hydrocarbon Motor Oil, Polyalpha Olefin, Didecyl Adipate Dimer Ester, etc... I have no idea as to the exact percentages used of any of them, all i know is that it works and works as claimed. For the record, this product is not water soluble, so moisture isn't a problem either.

Given their claims, this product was submitted to the US Government for testing. During testing at the NIST, this product was found to be "the slipperiest substance known to man". Based on the test results as performed by the US Government and other results submitted, the Guiness book of World Records recognizes this product as "the worlds most efficient lubricant". Given the fact that this product is marketed in several different forms designed for various load and thermal conditions, i'm quite certain that there is one that will work for just about any given application. This is one of the few "additives" and / or lubricants that is actually approved by the FTC as meeting its' claims.

As such, i'll stand by my original statements. Like i've said before, i'll eat crow, acknowledge my mistakes and be greatful for the corrections as they come. I don't want to be responsibe for "spreading disinformation". As far as i can tell, this isnt' one of those times.

As to your comment: "friction and wear aren't substances that can be "transmitted" as you put it. Its not like vibrations!", this is absolutely wrong. Friction and wear occur from part to part contact and / or natural erosion within that specific environment to a lesser extent. Any time that you have part to part contact, the end result of that "collision" ( to whatever extent ) is that you'll have vibrations generated. Given that those vibrations can be dissipated via hydraulic damping, the use of a lubricant that takes that criteria into consideration could very easily reduce those vibrations as transferred to other nearby materials. The only problem is that the mechanical energy has to be dissipated somewhere. With hydraulic damping, that energy is dissipated as heat / thermal loss within the lubricant itself. As such, the lubricant also has to be able to withstand the thermal conditions that it will be operating under with great ease if it is to be used with high levels of reliability over a long period of time.

Please correct me if i'm wrong or clarify areas that are lacking the proper explanation. Sean
I finally had some time to stop off at the local auto supply store. The 'thinest' Mobil One availiable is 5W30, so I purchased a quart. Last night I installed the Mobil One in my Michell Gryo SE's hydro-dynamic platter bearing. I removed and cleaned all the 'old oil' off all maiting parts including the 'well'. After refilling the bearing well and re-installing the platter, I gave her a spin. The platter rotated very smoothly, and for a very long time. I gave up waiting for it to stop by friction/gravity and re-installed the belt. (a real pleasure on a Michell) I hit the DC drive motor 'on' button and the platter came up to speed very quickly. Have not listened to any vinyl yet, but I do not suspect any change. All in all, I believe that this synthetic will prolong the bearing life, at a minimum.
Sean, I have already conceded the last word to you!

Why are you restating things that I have already elucidated and then claiming that you were correct all the time?
You don't know the exact formula for that lubricant but I do! In fact one of the components, the didecyl adipate dimer ester (we abreviated to DIDA) was one of the many lubricant bases that we (BASF) made for Castrol.

I have nothing more to add that would help you in understanding the facts of lubricating systems and lubricants themselves.

Respectfully, Bob P.
Inpep: "Why are you restating things that I have already elucidated and then claiming that you were correct all the time?"

Sean: Nothing that i've seen you post "corrected" anything that i originally stated. The product that i initially recommended reduces wear and friction beyond that of any other product on the market, doesn't introduce drag of its' own accord, offers long term reliability and is quite cost effective. Where did i fail in my initial response?

What you did point out that i took for granted / overlooked in this specific thread was "longevity". I didn't take into account the ability of the lubricant to sustain the necessary lubricating properties for a long period of time i.e. a "quick & dirty" test like this might not reveal the fact that a product that "works great" now may not work very well at all after a short period of time later.

Inpep "You don't know the exact formula for that lubricant but I do!"

Sean: I posted the chemical make-up of the product based on the information that the manufacturer has posted on their website. If it is incorrect / lacking, talk to them.

Inpep "In fact one of the components, the didecyl adipate dimer ester (we abreviated to DIDA) was one of the many lubricant bases that we (BASF) made for Castrol."

Sean: That could be and i'll take your word for it. None the less, it doesn't change the contents of this thread.

Inpep "I have nothing more to add that would help you in understanding the facts of lubricating systems and lubricants themselves."

Sean: I guess not. In another thread about the same basic subject, i recommended a product that met / surpassed all of the criteria that you discussed. I mentioned the product by name, provided multiple links to it, etc... How you arrived at the idea that i was referrencing a completely different product ( Mobil 1 ) from a different manufacturer is beyond me.

The fact that you're just now responding to someone that commented on the use of Teflon on 12/16 whereas the product that i mentioned a couple of months ago uses Teflon as one of the primary ingredients ( along with multiple other additives ) basically demonstrates how out of touch you are with the topics being discussed in several overlapping threads. Sean
This morning I reclocked the performance to see how it's doing. Over the last 60 days I've remounted the platter at least twice to move the TT but have not cleaned the bearing or relubed it. Completely uncontrolled and non-scientific I admit, but hey, this is normal home use.

The results of three consecutive timing tests taken at 65F degrees room temperature: 184, 178 and 184 seconds! The odd result may be due to a more gentle release of the idler away from the rim. The third result, amazingly equal to the first where I snapped it away more quickly, confirms that suspicion.

Regardless, three minutes, if I recall correctly, is an admirable result for any Dual 1219. 30+ years of use aside, the automotive motor oil appears to be a capable substitute for the unknown original lubricant.

Surely in saying:
You don't know the exact formula for that lubricant but I do!
Bob P is demonstrating his qualifications. Knowing the "exact formula" would include knowing the percentages of each of the constituents. You mentioned that you did not know this because it wasn't published on the Internet. Bob P implies he knows this through his work in the field.

Metralla: If i said that i could levitate the Empire State Building on the internet without providing anything other than that statement as evidence, would you believe that?

I'm NOT saying that Bob is a liar as he's never said anything that would ever lead me to that conclusion. In fact, i think that Bob's contributions to this forum are uniformly high in calibre and very worthwhile / beneficial additions. The fact that i made mention of that specific product weeks and weeks ago without Bob acknowledging it in that thread and / or in this thread while thinking i was talking about a completely different product is what throws me for a loop. If he was / is familiar with it, why not point out the specific flaws in that suggestion / product to begin with? That product is what i've based most of my statements on. Knocking the wind out of my sails by being able to discredit that product and / or using it for this type of specific application would have silenced me a long time ago. It would have also taught us all what to / not to look for in such a situation. While Bob has gone into further explanation to clarify why the "quick & dirty" test may be flawed in terms of longevity, which is something that i completely overlooked and needed to be corrected, i've still not seen anything to refute my suggestion of that specific product.

Like i said, that product meets / exceeds all of the criteria that he's brought to the discussion as far as i can tell, as he's yet to explain how it doesn't. Given that he claims to have intricate working knowledge of the product that i'm talking about, it should be easy to correct any errors pertaining to its' use that i've made. I may be wrong about my suggestion, but i've yet to see anything in this or other related threads that explains why. That's why i said that i'll stand by my statements until i'm shown otherwise. Sean
Sean, and this is my last word on this subject, my initial foray into this subject was to state that just because a turntable turns longer using a specific lubricant does not mean that that lubricant is superior to another lubricant as you stated.
The rest of the issues brought forward had nothing to do with that original statement and therefore I did not comment on those.
Let's leave it at that!

Regards, Bob P.
Thanks for clarifying where you were coming from Bob. Given the similar content and people participating in other threads, i ended up tying them all together as one. Your response was definitely on target to this specific thread but was lacking in scope compared to how i was viewing / responding to things. I guess this all boils down to a lack of communications / seeing & responding to things from a different point of view. As mentioned above, my comments lacked forethought in terms of longevity and i'm glad that you pointed that out. It made me re-think the situation / wording that i chose and may have saved others a LOT of time, grief and cost. For that, you are to be commended and i want to say "THANK YOU" for doing so.

In effect, your comments and pointing this out covered my lack in-depth analysis of the subject at the time. Then again, i was never contemplating someone using something along the lines of an easily evaporated ( water based ) substance or "vegetable oil", etc... for something like this. Then again, i know that this is possible because i get to "clean up" such messes when dealing with customers at work. You should see the mess that it makes when people try to clean out potentiometers or flush off circuit boards using something like carburator cleaner or WD-40!!! Sean
Sean, regarding WD-40, I hear you!

With respect, Bob P.
Well, I finally got some personel time to listen to my system. The Mobil 1 as a spindle lube has not improved nor diminished the quality of my vinyl recordings. The bearing functions properly, so my conclusion is that Mobil 1 can be used as an equal to or better than replacement oil in a Michell Gyro SE.