Diesel engines and gasoline direct injection (GDI) engines both produce soot due to incomplete combustion of the fuel and some enters the lubricant where it accumulates between drain intervals, promoting wear of rubbing engine components. Currently the most favoured mechanism for this wear is that the anti-wear additives present in engine oils, primarily zinc dialkyldithiophosphates (ZDDPs), react very rapidly with rubbing surfaces to form relatively soft reaction products. These are easily abraded by soot, resulting in a corrosive-abrasive wear mechanism. This study has explored the impact of engine oil dispersant additives on this type of wear using combinations of dispersant, ZDDP and carbon black, a soot surrogate. It has been found that both the concentration and type of dispersant are critical in influencing wear. With most dispersants studied, wear becomes very high over an intermediate dispersant concentration range of ca 0.1–0.4 wt% N, with both lower and higher dispersant levels showing much less wear. However a few dispersants appear able to suppress high wear by ZDDP and carbon black over the whole concentration range. A series of experiments have been carried out to determine the origin of this behaviour and it is believed that high levels of dispersant, and, for a few dispersants, all concentration levels, protect the iron sulphide tribofilm initially formed by ZDDP from abrasion by carbon black.
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