Ford Model T: Oil and Lubrication



No mechanical device will operate very long without ample lubrication, neither will the Model T cars. Before your car is shipped the oil is drained out of the engine crank case and the oil reservoir. Before starting, the transmission cover should be removed and two quarts of high grade engine oil should be poured into the transmission and a half gallon emptied into the engine crank case through the breather pipe. Thereafter all replenishments are made through breather pipe.

There are two drain cocks in the flywheel casing which acts as the oil reservoir. The oil level should be between these two cocks. If it runs out of the upper, there is too much oil, and it should be allowed to drain out to that level. If on opening the lower drain cock the oil does not run out being at a lower level, a new supply is needed.

The Kind Of Oil To Use

Here is an excerpt from the 1911 Ford Model T Operating Manual:

We recommend only light high-grade gas engine oil for use in the model T motor. A light grade of oil is preferred as it will naturally reach the bearing surfaces with greater ease, and, consequently, less heat will develop on account of friction. The oil should, however, have sufficient body so that the pressure between the two bearing surfaces will not force the oil out and allow the metal to come in actual contact. Heavy and inferior oils have a tendency to carbonize quickly, also gum up the piston rings and valve stems.


We recommend using 10W-40 or 15W-40, since it is the only oil left on the market with the trace elements, like zinc and phosphorus, that are required to reduce wear on the push rods and cam shaft.


I personally use Valvoline XLD Premium 15W-40, it's inexpensive and performs perfectly.




Ensure you DO NOT use any oil with names like "Magnatec" or similar Magnetic Oils - while they are fine with modern engines, these oils contain magnetic particles which attracts the oil to metal surfaces within the engine and gearbox. These oils are damaging to a Model T, because of the magneto. Magnetic oils will gum up the magneto and prevent it working very quickly. Our best advice is, use no-frills oil, or look for a high-grade oil that specifically states what it contains.


Should I use synthetic or high-detergent oil in my Model T?

This is the issue of much debate amongst Model T enthusiasts. My personal recommendation is that if you are unsure of what to use and you don't wish to experiment, use products that are identical or similar to those in existence when your Model T was made and you can't go wrong. That means no synthetic or high-detergent oil.

How much oil does a Model T engine hold?

About 4 litres. A good rule of thumb is that you need to fill the engine oil until the oil pours out when the top petcock is open. If the oil does not pour out, then add more oil.