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I've seen a lot of posts concerning the proper gear lube for BSAs with yellow metal components. Many have contradicting information. I contacted AMSOIL and they informed me that all AMSOIL products are yellow metal compatible even though they are GL-5. I went ahead and ordered some Amsoil SAE 75W-90 Severe Gear Synthetic Lubricant for my 69 BSA 441 Victor Special. After placing my order I ran across an AMSOIL site that stated that this lube is only yellow metal compatible up to 100 deg C. I'm not sure whether I should use this stuff or not. I intend to contact AMSOIL again tomorrow and point out their conflicting information.

AMSOIL.jpg
Last edited by Gary Caines; 07/07/21 1:27 am.

Current Bike: 1968 Triumph Bonneville T120R, 1969 BSA Victor Special, M1030M1 U.S.M.C. Diesel
Previous British Bikes: 1968 BSA Lightning, 1969 BSA Lightning, 1969 BSA Firebird Scrambler, 1972 BSA B50 Gold Star, 1974 Triumph Trident
Previous Non-British Bikes: 1983 BMW R80RT
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yeah... Sulphur compounds in the EP additives of GL5 are bad for brass & bronze. what Amzo has I dunno

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Your gearbox has other issues if the oil in it goes above 100C. Glacier Bearings engineering handbook has the same advice for its leaded bronze bushes, sulphur based oil additives affect bushes over 100C. Most EP gearbox oils have moved over to non sulphur oil additives, seems you have found the odd one out.

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Not the only odd one out
I got 5 gallons of Volvo Syntrans 75/90 by accident as part of an auction lot
Thought it would be fie for the WM20 but nope, ate all of the bronze & brass .
And this is a very recent oil formulated by Valvoline


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If you look at owners manuals for unit singles including C15, B40 & B44VS up to about 1966, the oil spec for the gearbox was the same as the engine. It wasn't until around 1967 that gear oils were specified.

I don't think the gear oil spec for B44's is particularly high so I would try and use one of the older specs which have less sulphur. I believe GL5 oils are intended for highly loaded Hypoid differentials, not gearboxes.

I've been using EP 80/90 GL4 for a number of years without issue so that's what I would use.


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I decided to go with NAPA GL-1, basically 90 WT mineral oil. Since I just obtained the bike and have no idea what is in it now, I plan to drain the gearbox, and fill it with GL-1. After a reasonable number of miles and hot, I'll drain it again and re-fill with either GL-1 or GL-4. Currently, the engine hasn't been started since 2005. The motorcycle is a time capsule since it looks new and has very low original miles on it. I'm waiting on new corks from the UK for the petcock before I can start it.


Current Bike: 1968 Triumph Bonneville T120R, 1969 BSA Victor Special, M1030M1 U.S.M.C. Diesel
Previous British Bikes: 1968 BSA Lightning, 1969 BSA Lightning, 1969 BSA Firebird Scrambler, 1972 BSA B50 Gold Star, 1974 Triumph Trident
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This may sound like a stupid question, but when checking the gearbox oil level, should the dipstick be screwed down or simply inserted until the threads are at the top of the hole? There is nothing in the Manual and I've looked online and couldn't find anything. I ask because I have different machines that the oil level is measured both ways.

Last edited by Gary Caines; 07/07/21 10:48 pm.

Current Bike: 1968 Triumph Bonneville T120R, 1969 BSA Victor Special, M1030M1 U.S.M.C. Diesel
Previous British Bikes: 1968 BSA Lightning, 1969 BSA Lightning, 1969 BSA Firebird Scrambler, 1972 BSA B50 Gold Star, 1974 Triumph Trident
Previous Non-British Bikes: 1983 BMW R80RT
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Gary........here's what I do. You are given a known quantity for the oil in the transmission. Drain out what's in there now.....then add the correct amount.
Now you pick where and how you want to read the dip stick.

Gordon

Last edited by Gordon Gray; 07/08/21 12:18 am.

Gordon Gray in NC, USA.........as Lannis says “Gordon is either all in or all out.....there’s no in between”
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I like your answer. I just tried to drain the gearbox. I got out only a few drips. It appeared to be motor oil, possibly 40 WT and was very clean. The previous owner kept the bike in the living room as furniture, so that might make sense, except the oil tank was full. Hopefully it wasn't empty because it leaks. The primary was also virtually empty so I topped it off. I hope the petcock corks arrive soon as I can't stand looking at the bike and not trying to start and ride it.


Current Bike: 1968 Triumph Bonneville T120R, 1969 BSA Victor Special, M1030M1 U.S.M.C. Diesel
Previous British Bikes: 1968 BSA Lightning, 1969 BSA Lightning, 1969 BSA Firebird Scrambler, 1972 BSA B50 Gold Star, 1974 Triumph Trident
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Hi Gary,
Originally Posted by gunner
If you look at owners manuals for unit singles including C15, B40 & B44VS up to about 1966, the oil spec for the gearbox was the same as the engine. It wasn't until around 1967 that gear oils were specified.
Originally Posted by Gary Caines
I decided to go with NAPA GL-1, basically 90 WT mineral oil.
Originally Posted by Gary Caines
tried to drain the gearbox. I got out only a few drips. It appeared to be motor oil, possibly 40 WT
You are confused. EP90 gear oil is about the same real viscosity as 30 or 40 "weight" engine oil - when separate gear oils were developed, the SAE measured their viscosity differently to give different 'numbers', to try and prevent the paddlers at the shallow end of the gene pool putting gearbox oil in their car/truck engines.

@gunner posted when BSA changed from specifying engine oil in gearboxes to proper gear oil. There aren't any other major changes to the gearboxes so the lube can't really have thickened as much as the 'numbers' suggest - measured the same way as engine oil, a real "90 WT" oil wouldn't lubricate the gearbox components.

Fwiw, I've avoided agonising over all the GL4/GL5/yellow-metal cobblers for over three decades, first by using R40 castor oil, more recently by using Red Line Shockproof synthetic gear oils, either Lightweight or Superlight.

Originally Posted by Gary Caines
tried to drain the gearbox. I got out only a few drips.
I've experienced this. A DPO had stripped the gearbox drain plug and then either the same DPO or another helicoiled it ... with a helicoil about three times as long as the gearbox thread. The excess helicoil length pokes into the gearbox and prevented the oil draining ... 'til I removed the gearbox side cover ... facepalm

Hth.

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If you have any doubts at all about what potentially damaging additives might be in any GL-5 gear oil, play it safe and go no higher than a GL-4 gear oil.

The spec for GL-4 is higher than required (and more than suitable) for a BSA. Should still be easy to get hold of too - it certainly is here in the UK.


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GL-4 is readily available in US

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how hot do you reckon a unit gearbox gets ?
60~70 C. ? ... so if 100C . is the minimum threshold for active Sulphur to start attacking copper ... whats the problem ?
many modern EP gear oils containing some form of passivised Sulphur compound are safe to 250 C..
250 C is a long way from 70 C

if you dont want to trust the safe with copper label , you can

take some suspect EP gear oil
heat it in pan on a hotplate to 100C.

drop some copper washers in and observe the copper .
if it doesnt smear black in 3 hrs. ... the copper isn't reacting with the EP additive .

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Originally Posted by Gordon Gray
Gary........here's what I do. You are given a known quantity for the oil in the transmission. Drain out what's in there now.....then add the correct amount.
Now you pick where and how you want to read the dip stick.
Gordon

Gordon, I took your advise. I had previously drained what was in the gearbox. However, I removed the drain plug again and let it drip for two hours. I don't think it dripped any the second hour. I had a bottle of Ravenol 90W GL-4 lube I forgot I had. According to the specs for the Ravenol, the density is 0.884 g/ml at 20 deg C. According to the BSA Manual for a 1969 BSA 441 Victor Special, the gearbox holds 3/8 U.S. pints or 280 ml. If my math is correct, this means the gearbox should hold 247.5 g of the Ravenol lube. I added exactly 248 g of the lube. The level was approximately 12 mm over the full mark on the dipstick with the dipstick screwed in all the way. With the dipstick not screwed in the level is about half of that or 6 mm over the full mark. Obviously, something is wrong. I suspect that when draining the gearbox that 100% of the gear lube doesn't drain out even though I had the bike on level ground and propped up standing completely vertical. I'll take out the overage until the dipstick reads on the full mark screwed all the way in after riding for about 10 miles.


Current Bike: 1968 Triumph Bonneville T120R, 1969 BSA Victor Special, M1030M1 U.S.M.C. Diesel
Previous British Bikes: 1968 BSA Lightning, 1969 BSA Lightning, 1969 BSA Firebird Scrambler, 1972 BSA B50 Gold Star, 1974 Triumph Trident
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Originally Posted by Gary Caines
Originally Posted by Gordon Gray
Gary........here's what I do. You are given a known quantity for the oil in the transmission. Drain out what's in there now.....then add the correct amount.
Now you pick where and how you want to read the dip stick.
Gordon

Gordon, I took your advise. I had previously drained what was in the gearbox. However, I removed the drain plug again and let it drip for two hours. I don't think it dripped any the second hour. I had a bottle of Ravenol 90W GL-4 lube I forgot I had. According to the specs for the Ravenol, the density is 0.884 g/ml at 20 deg C. According to the BSA manual for a 1969 BSA 441 Victor Special, the gearbox holds 3/8 U.S. pints or 280 ml. If my math is correct, this means the gearbox should hold 247.5 g of the Ravenol lube. I added exactly 248 g of the lube. The level was approximately 12 mm over the full mark on the dipstick with the dipstick screwed in all the way. With the dipstick not screwed in the level is about half of that or 6 mm over the full mark. Obviously, something is wrong. I suspect that when draining the gearbox that 100% of the gear lube doesn't drain out even though I had the bike on level ground and propped up standing completely vertical. I'll take out the overage until the dipstick reads on the full mark screwed all the way in after riding for about 10 miles.

So how much did you drain out of it?

Regardless of it being engine or gearbox oil, it never completely drains out, you stand a better chance if the engine is warm of course.


Now let’s all have a beer beerchug

68’ A65 Lightning “clubman”
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67’ D10 sportsman (undergoing restoration)
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I would guess I only drained out about 10 - 15 ml. The gearbox was basically empty. The previous owner kept the bike in their living room and I guess they didn't want any drips on the hardwood floor!


Current Bike: 1968 Triumph Bonneville T120R, 1969 BSA Victor Special, M1030M1 U.S.M.C. Diesel
Previous British Bikes: 1968 BSA Lightning, 1969 BSA Lightning, 1969 BSA Firebird Scrambler, 1972 BSA B50 Gold Star, 1974 Triumph Trident
Previous Non-British Bikes: 1983 BMW R80RT

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