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For motorcycles, it seems synthetics are readily available in several different blends. I can only find dyno oil in 20w50 blend (which for me is to thick for starting at low temps in high altitude). I may have to start using synthetic, even though BMW says not to (affects the wet clutch).
I do not recall having seen motorcycle-specific synthetic motor oil in Mexico or Central America. It is possible that it is available in Guatemala, where there is a heavy concentration of motorcycle enthusiasts, and a lot of dealers and aftermarket shops in the city. Possibly also in Costa Rica. There is a shop with a lot of Belray oils in Perez Zeledon CR, but I don't remember seeing synthetic motor oil there.
Synthetic automotive oils are somewhat available. I have only seen Mobil 1 in Panama, but other brands like Quaker State and Pennzoil synthetics are available in Mexico, Honduras, Guatemala, Costa Rica, and Panama. You may have to ask at a few shops before you find them.
This could probably start another thread, but the info I have seen, including the Motorcycle Consumer News tests, indicates that there are only minor additive differences between the better automotive synthetic oils and motorcycle-specific oils. So I would feel confident using an automotive synthetic in my bikes.
I was involved in the oil business (as retailer) for a few years. It is a myth that you cannot or should not change brands, grades or blends in your engine. The metal parts and gaskets, etc in your engine have no memory of this.
May I add my two centavos?
A straightforward answer to WannaRoam's question as to what kind of oil he should run in the US before his trip: look in your owners manual and note the grade i.e the API classification they demand and the range of viscosities they recommend. That is all you need to know . Nothing more. That is it.
As an example let's assume the book tells you your bike needs a good oil of API class SG in the viscosity 20W50.
Now, go to any autoparts store, motorcycle shop, gas station, department store etc.etc.etc. and go to their shelf of oils and pick any bottle of oil which has on its label the viscosity 20W50 and the little circular emblem specifying it is API class SG. It is even acceptable for you to buy an oil which has a n additional API class starting with C ( for example CE )which indicates it is good for diesel engines too . Buy it . Drain old oil ,install plug, pour in this new oil.Done.
The colour of the container, its shape , and its size have no meaning in this and the brand name on the label or the colour of the oil have only a secondary importance.
With this purchase you have demonstrated a certain level of trust in the honesty of your fellow man, just as you did when you bought your motorcycle , when you bought your latest food item, ,clothing ,anything. You trust that the product is what it is claimed to be.
With the oil the manufacturer has given you his earnest promise that the oil was 20W50 and API class SG . This means it meets all the requirements that your manual demands. This is what the API is guarding. The manufacturer is permitted to add other features and chemicals which might enhance the oil's properties, but you have no way of determining if that is the case. Doing so would drive up his costs, hence the price. Does buying high priced oil ensure that you are getting a better product ? NO. The high priced products while still bearing the API SG class are still only guaranteeing that they meet the minimum requirements for that class. Synthetic oil of SG class admits to being no better than ordinary SG oil.The high price may simply be a reflection of the fact that the oil was imported over a great distance ,with the added cost of import taxes and transport factored in plus a certain amount to enhance the cachet and image of exclusivity and supposed superiority. Just like the expensive coffeehouse that sells a cuppa for several bucks.
The brand name on the label is only an aid in establishing familiarity and so , it is hoped, create trust and customer loyalty.
Simply because an oil container has some brand unfamiliar to you does not mean it is a poor quality. Several motorcycle companies and car companies sell oil with their own brand on it. These bike and car makers do not have their own oil wells or refineries. They are simply paying an oil company to bottle its oil under the bike/car-makeer's name.The same goes for the store brand of all the autoparts stores and department stores .
Oil companies have been joining together and buying up[ old established and regional brands . It is safe to assume that after such mergers their product lines were rationalized to avoid duplication and waste of money .Mobil -EXXON is one company, Chevron -Texaco is one company, Shell is the owner and boss over Pennzoil and Quaker State, and more such examples abound.
Now to oil in Mexico.: everything I just said above applies here too. Motor oil manufacturers in Mexico ar e members of the API quality control system. Their oil cans and bottles bear the same viscosity and API class data as in USA and Canada. Much of the oil sold in Mexico under the brands familiar to norteamericanos is "made in the USA" or imported from othe refinining points of the major multinational oil companies. These companies are very unlikely to try to sell garbage oil with the API logo saying it is higher quality- it would be verrrry verrry bad for their business.It would ruin their good reputation world wide in a hurry. SG in Mexico means that . Trust it.
Oil availability in Mexico is no problem. Just visit any autoparts store etc if you only want to buy a bottle for topping up. But if you want to do an oil change do find one who is willing to lend you a drain pan and will accept the old oil for recycling.
I find it simplest to go to an oil change shop or Cambio de Aceite. They usually have an assortment of oils and if they do not have what you want they will be very helpful in locating it for you.,often sending somebody out to the nearby store that does have what you want.
How do I know this? Practice. For 40+ years I have been pouring owner's - manual -specified oils into all my bikes and cars- but I always buy the least expensive oil I can locate which has the specs. This means store brands , as well as the major brands on sale. In all those years I have NEVER wrecked or burned up an engine i n any car or bike, well over 2 million km. In Mexico I do regular oil changes and buy the local brands - with the correct API class and viscosity rating- and have never had a problem with them.
Kevin Cameron , technical writer for CYCLE WORLD magazine has an excellent little article in the February 2007 issue of that magazine in which he explains and debunks the myths surrounding synthetic oil.
I would suggest NOT buying the cheapest oil in the API range for your vehicle .
I did that from a supposedly reputable source [ COOP Agricultural ] and very soon every damn engine I had was leaking from the crankseals .
Not very funny .
For engines that I care about ,like bikes, I will only buy premium oils.
Checking the volatility of an oil will give an indication of the oil's ability to withstand high temps .There is a huge difference between the cheap and the premium brands .
The [ better] smaller companies will buy base stocks and formulate their own oils inhouse. It is not always the case that big companys simply rebadge their oils for small companys .
When travelling you will always have to compromise , your favourite brand will not always be available ,c'est la vie .
Looking at the API classification is a good guide but it's not the whole story .
True enough, PEMEX is the only company which operates oil wells and the refining and distribution system for gasoline and diesel fuel. However there are several secondary oil processors which, as you say, may very well be restricted to buying their base stock from Pemex.That does not count against them since all other small specialty lubricant formulators in the USA and Europe, and elswhere also obtain their base oil from other larger refiners, and then do their secret work on it to give us a good product.
One such Mexican company is called Roshfrans, and you can read all about them at :: Roshfrans ::. I have used their product with no ill effects to my R1100 . Last year I was nosing around the stores reading oil labels and checked out the prose on their premium syntehetic oil and it said that it was --- produced in Canada .! This year the same oil was labeled " Hecho en Mexico" just like their regular oils.
This past winter I bought some Chevron-Texaco (Supreme, 20W50 API SL) and it was Made in the USA. : did an oil change with Motorcraft (Ford part) Made in the USA. I also bought the same spec oil on several occasions at Wal-Mart of Mexico. This store-brand Supertech was at some stores in bottles saying the oil was " made in Mexico for Wal-Mart Mexico ,bla bla bla..." while at other locations the same store-brand colour, shape and size container of that oil was labeled , in Spanish, ' imported by EXXON-MOBIL de Mexico--- American oil , and it gives us a clue who the refiner for Wal - Mart is at this time.
The US made Motorcraft oil was in plastic bottles which , except for the colour of plastic, were identical to the Wal-Mart containers so I would bet it was also from the same production line.
In past years I have bought in Mexico oil by Quaker State , Pennzoil, Union 76 , Valvoline , Castrol - all Made in USA. Who imports them through what channels I have no idea.
At the moto dealerships one can often locate oils brands formulated and produced in Europe. which sell at premium prices. Most Mexican motorcyclists ride small utilitarian 150cc to 250cc singles or twins, dominated by a large number of Asian -import brands with motors that are obvious copies of Hondas and the other three brands to a lesser degree . Most of the sport bikes and big bikes one sees are a few years old and were brought in by private import, mostly repaired insurance write-offs from the USA.The remaining number of newer officially imported racing, sport and touring bikes are the domain of the Rich Urban Bikers- RUBs (nice acronym Pat)- and these riders are the target for most of the sales of the pricy specialty imported oils.
In no way am I suggesting that any of these high priced and imported oils are inferior, but much of the price has to do with the cost of transporting and taxes, and the bragging rights it confers to the rider.
That one sees smoking relatively young cars is true but the reasons may not be obvious. Many cars are also imported crashed and repaired insurance write-offs, a flourishing industry. Motors are often a mix and match setup also. Car ownership in Mexico, so I've been told, is a very expensive proposition, if all the licensing rules and legalities are to be followed. The wealthy have no problem and buy many brand spanking new cars but your average Jose will seek out any economy he can. On the store shelves you will also find certain brands of oil which often have a label displaying a US flag stylization and a name such as "American Oil." If you read the prose on the back of the bottle it will say that it is "API class A" and it suggests that it be used only to top up engine oil in older vehicles and that under no circumstances should this be added to an engine beyond the rate of 25% of the specified crankcase oil volume.
Has anyone alive ever even seen an engine for which API A oil was specified? What would it be good for- hydraulic jacks, garden gates? How likely is it that an owner forgets to calculate how much oil he has been adding during these running oil changes? Soon enough any additive properties of the original oil are diluted beyond the limits of usefulness and the motor starts wearing and smoking. This is not an exclusively Mexican phenomenon because even in the USA I have visited various discount dollar stores which also sold oil" API A, for topping up engines, not to exceed 25% of oil capacity" and that stuff was labelled "Made In The USA" and " smokers " exist too.
Each of us has our own priorities . We should read and understand what the oil industry is telling us on the labels but we should also be smart enough to distinguish between useful factual information and advertising jargon and hype which obfuscates or tries to sell image.
If I can just give you an answer to part of your question without the technical debate on oils - synthetic oil is available in Argentina. I brought oil with me from UK and bought some Castrol motorcycle oil in Salta - I was offered synthetic oil but don't think my 15 year old Tenere would appreciate it! As for the rest of South America I can't say.
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