Lubrication - Your Car's Fitness Regime

In an era of 12,000 mile service intervals and “sealed for life” components, it is easy to become complacent about the need for regular lubrication of older cars but regular lubrication is your car’s fitness regime. It is what keeps your car covering the miles trouble-free for years on end, so ignore it at your peril. Some lubrication points need attention every 1,000 miles which seems like no distance at all these days.

Rather than attempt to stick rigidly to the regime laid down in the workshop manual and on contemporary lubrication charts, you may like to develop a regime that more closely matches your pattern of using the car. So if you are doing roughly 3,000 miles every year, it makes sense to start the new season by tackling the 3,000 mile service schedule, which will also include one of the 1,000 mile lists and over the years will roll up the services that are multiples of 3,000 miles. You will see below that much of what is recommended at 1,000 mile intervals is about checking and topping up, so can be achieved quickly and easily, perhaps before leaving for a regular Club gathering. However, it does also include some significant items requiring greasing, so a definite discipline is needed.

Although the servicing schedule is set out in the workshop manual, I will reiterate the lubrication items here for ease of reference. A full explanation of all the lubrication points follows. Then I will consider the range of lubricants currently available that meet the same specification as when the original schedule was set down.

EVERY 1,000 MILES (1,660KMs)

 Check and top up oil level in engine, gearbox & rear axle

Lubricate all grease nipples

Check & top up carburettor dashpots, oil-bath air cleaner.

Lubricate carburettor controls and linkage

EVERY 3,000 MILES (4,800KMs)

Carry out all operations from 1,000 mile service


Change the engine oil

Wash air cleaner and re-oil

Lubricate distributor cam and advance mechanism

Lubricate all body hinges, locks etc


EVERY 6,000 MILES (9,600 KMs)

Carry out all operations from the 3,000 mile service


Fit a new engine oil filter

Lubricate water pump sparingly (if you still have one with a lubrication point)

Change the oil in the gearbox and rear axle

Repack front hubs with fresh grease

EVERY 12,000 MILES (19,200 KMs)

Carry out all operations from the 6,000 mile service


Lubricate dynamo bearing

Lubricate steering rack

Lubricate speedo cable


Grease nipples

Two per front wheel, one on the top of the stub-axle casting and one at the bottom of the swivel pin knuckle joint. (Total four)

One on each steering tie-rod ball joint (Total two, unless your car has the later “sealed for life” ball joints that require no ongoing lubrication)

One on each universal joint on the propeller shaft (Total two)

One on each side of the handbrake cable (Total two)


Check level with the dipstick, drain by removing plug from sump when the engine is hot, fill via filler-cap on engine rocker cover.


Check level with dipstick (Lift the carpet on the RHS of the transmission tunnel, remove the oval rubber blanking plug for access).

Fill via the dipstick hole (a funnel is normally needed)

Drain by removing the plug from the bottom of the casing.

Rear axle

The level is checked by removing the filler plug from the rear face of the differential housing. Fill until oil is overflowing from the filler hole and the level is correct.

Drain by removing the plug from the bottom of the differential housing.

Steering rack

Add oil via filler nipples, one on top of the pinion housing at the bottom of the steering column, one on the left hand front of the rack housing, just outside the mounting bracket (Total two nipples)


Remove the hexagonal plug from the top of each dashpot and add thin oil (SAE 20) to each until the level is about ½” from the top. Dashpot oil in a handy dispenser is available from specialists. Engine oil is too thick and will slow acceleration.

Add a few drops from the oil can to all pivots, joints and moving parts

Air  Cleaner

Oil-bath type: add engine oil to bring the level up to the line marked on the inside of the body.


Add a few drops from the oil can into the hole in the rear bearing housing


Remove the cap and HT leads. Remove the rotor arm. Add a few drops from the oil can to the centre of the spindle, around the central screw. This will drain down to the bob-weight pivots and there is a drain hole to deal with any surplus. Apply a few drops to the vacuum advance mechanism threaded adjuster end and where it passes through the distributor body. Very lightly oil the points pivot. Apply a little oil or grease to the cams on the top of the spindle.


Wheel Hubs

Remove the cap from the end of the hub. Clean out any old grease and re-fill the cap with new. Do not over-fill or the grease will extrude from the hole in the cap when it expands with heat.

Water Pump

Older water pumps had a screw plug that could be removed to apply oil to the bearing. Most have long since been replaced with the later sealed bearing type.


The first step in applying the grease gun is to clean the nipple to avoid pumping in grit with the new grease. Push the connector nozzle on to the nipple squarely or the grease will simply flow out from the side of the nipple, not into it. You should feel resistance. Most nipples just need two or three steady strokes of the gun. My preference is for a side-lever grease gun with a flexible connector pipe. The side lever type enables you to apply significant pressure and this is often needed to force old grease out of the joint. When new grease is being properly forced into the joint, you should see the old black grease emerging from around the bearing surface that is being lubricated. This is a good sign that enough has been applied. Clean away the accumulation of old grease or it will become a magnet for dirt and grit. When greasing steering parts like swivel pins I generally prefer to remove the wheels and let the suspension drop so it is not under load. This not only makes it easier to access the nipples but it is easier for grease to penetrate where it is needed if the joint is not under stress at the time.

Please note that although the steering rack has nipples, it is not greased. It needs hypoid oil of the same type that is used in the rear axle. Keep a separate gun for this to avoid having to clean out the grease gun.


The popularity of classic and vintage cars has persuaded the lubricant manufacturers like Castrol, Millers and Penrite to introduce specialist ranges aimed at older cars. Although they often attract premium pricing, one does at least have the reassurance that they are not packed with additives that will damage older components. Even engine oil can be damaging if the specification is not right for the older engine. Modern engines are built with much tighter tolerances and require different detergent characteristics too. Click here for an article on the reasons for choosing the right oil. Originally, in the era before multigrade oil, we were recommended to use SAE 30 in the summer and SAE 20 in the winter. The arrival of 20W/50 changed all that. Fortunately 20W/50 oil is still available to original specification.

The required lubricants are:

Engine Oil                                                           20W/50 Multigrade

Gearbox                                                              Use engine oil or SAE30 single grade

Rear Axle & Steering Rack                              SAE 90 EP oil for hypoid gears

Grease                                                                 General use high melting point grease

Dashpot Oil                                                         Sold specially for this purpose by specialist spares suppliers

Oil can                                                                   SAE 20 oil or similar

The following links to the main manufacturers’ websites will show you what is currently available and will generally help find a local supplier. Halfords also supply their own 20w/50 Classic oil, though availability in branches can be patchy.  

Castrol Classic




If you were getting into cars in the late 60s, like me, you were probably weaned on that lovely green Duckhams Q20/50. After a lot of searching I can't find out whether it is still available, The Duckhams brand still seems to be around but I can't find out who owns it.  


I bless the day when I acquired a purpose made oil-drain catch-tank. Previously I used to use an old metal oilOil_Drain_Pan gallon-can with one side cut out but it was messy. Now I have a low-profile plastic container with a good lip on it but, best of all, it has a pouring nozzle, so I easily pour the old oil into the container that I have just poured the new oil out of and take it to the local disposal point. It's made by Draper.


Please dispose of waste oil responsibly.  Most municipal waste sites now have a collection tank for old oil and it goes on to be used for another useful purpose. 



See also the Modifications section for guidance on fitting a spin-off oil filter that makes oil changes much easier.

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