Choosing The Right Fabricated LS Oil Pan: What You Need To Know

While it’s a natural inclination for enthusiasts like ourselves to gravitate toward engine upgrades that provide instant results, all the output in the world is useless if it’s not reliable. As the life blood of an internal combustion engine, it’s crucial that the oiling system is up to task – if the engine is starving for lubrication, the chances of mechanical failure go up astronomically.

When an OEM puts together an oiling system for a particular production engine – be it for use in a garden variety commuter or a high-performance muscle car – the combination and design of the parts chosen are based around expected uses and a specific output. That’s perfectly fine for powerplants that are left in stock form, but what about when modifications enter the picture?

The louvered windage tray on this Canton Racing LS oil pan not only helps maintain steady lubrication to the motor, it also helps free up horsepower that's lost when excess oil clings to the rotating crankshaft.

The louvered windage tray on this Canton Racing LS-series oil pan not only helps maintain steady lubrication to the engine, it also helps free up horsepower that’s lost when excess oil clings to the rotating crankshaft.

When we design our performance oil pans we focus on using as many of the oil control features as we can reasonably build into the pan. -Jeff Behuniak, Canton Racing Products

As you increase mechanical grip, add internal stresses with more power, or substantially change the way the engine is being used (going from a daily driver to a purpose-built autocross car, for instance), the OEM oiling system can quickly become inadequate for the job, and you risk grenading the internals of a mill that you just spent a ton of money to modify. That’s something you’d probably like to avoid, right?

Beyond performance expectations, OEM engines are designed to fit into specific engine cradles and around specific suspension layouts. So when you’re looking to swap, say, an LS-series engine into a car that wasn’t originally designed to house an LS, fitment issues quickly come into play as well, and oil pan design can play a huge factor in whether or not you’ll be able to shoehorn that LS into a 50-year old engine bay.

Canton Racing LS Oil Pans

  • PN. 13-274: Drag racing pan designed for installing LS1/LS6 blocks into earlier chassis. Fits A, F, Y, and 1970’s X-body cars
  • PN. 15-276: Front sump road race/drift car oil pan designed for GM LS1/LS6-powered cars that require a shallow front sump oil pan
  • PN. 15-284A: Road race pan, deep rear sump for Dart LS Next blocks.
  • PN 15-286A: Road race pan, deep front sump for Dart LS Next blocks.
We spoke with the folks at Canton Racing and Moroso Performance to get their take on what features you should look for, how to select the right pan for the job, and other upgrades they’d recommend performing while you’re at it.

Street Cars

Even if your project isn’t a full-on competition build, there are still a number of reasons you’d want to consider opting for an aftermarket oil pan rather than sticking with the OEM piece. “The first reason – and one that’s a performance improvement regardless of the specific use – is weight,” says Thor Schroeder of Moroso. “Our aluminum oil pan that was used on the 2014 COPO Camaros was six pounds lighter than the cast aluminum production oil pan that was used on the 2012 and 2013 COPO Camaros.” And that weight savings can be even greater when compared to the typical pans used on street cars.

20145_part

This Moroso pan (PN 20145) is designed specifically for LS swaps where a rear sump is required.

“Chassis restrictions when performing an LS swap is the second reason,” Schroeder continued. “Crossmembers will interfere with an OEM pan in certain situations, so an oil pan is needed that has a shorter front to back sump to clear these crossmembers. Also, some swaps can require a front sump oil pan instead of a rear sump oil pan.”

Additionally, if there’s a good chance the car might see performance use beyond the street at some point, it’s wise to consider future-proofing the oil system. “If the car is going to be used on the road course, autocross or drag strip occasionally and the builder wants to make sure that they are protecting the engine from oil starvation or putting extra heat into the oil from an unbaffled OEM oil pan, an aftermarket piece that’s designed to address these issues provides added protection.”

The baffles shown here in this cutaway image help route oil through the system more efficiently and reduce oil temperatures, which in turn helps the oil do its job and prevent it from breaking down at a molecular level. The baffling systems used in Canton’s oil pans have been developed through extensive testing on various types of tracks with different engine configurations, using a combination of precisely positioned trap door baffles, oil runners, and slosh baffles to control the oil in the sump and direct it to the pick-up.

Dragstrip

All high-performance oil pans are not designed in the same ways. Pans designed for drag racing have specific features that enhance both performance and protection based specifically on the demands of drag racing.

With popularity of LS swaps – particularly in high performance, track-focused builds, having the ability to add a dry sump oiling system on vehicles with LS engine swaps is a high priority for many builders. To that end, Canton offers a pan that will swap an LS engine into GM A, F, Y and X-Body cars for road-racing [PN 15-274], while Moroso’s custom shop offers swap pans for numerous vehicles that commonly receive LS transplants, like Nissan 240SX, the Mazda MX-5 Miata, Trailblazer SS, and many others.  

With popularity of LS swaps – particularly in high performance, track-focused builds, space is often at a premium, but fitting components that are up to the task remains essential. To that end, Canton offers a pan that will allow you to swap an LS engine into GM A, F, Y and X-Body cars for road-racing [PN 15-274], while Moroso’s custom shop offers swap pans for numerous vehicles that commonly receive LS transplants, like the Nissan 240SX, Mazda MX-5 and many others.

These oil pans help maximize engine output by keeping excess oil off of the rotating crankshaft, thereby reducing the crankshaft’s “mass” and allowing it to spin with the maximum amount of efficiency. However, there are some LS-specific factors to consider here.

The "power pouches" or intends seen here on the side of the pan serve to reduce the parasitic power loss. While some aftermarket LS blocks allow for the use of features like these, the   skirted design of the stock LS block means windage trays have to play the role of keeping excess oil off of the crank.

The “power pouches” or intends seen here on the side of the pan serve to reduce the parasitic power loss. While some aftermarket LS blocks allow for the use of features like these, the skirted design of the stock LS block means the windage tray has keep excess oil off of the crank by itself.

“When we design our performance oil pans we focus on using as many of the oil control features as we can reasonably build into the pan,” explains Jeff Behuniak of Canton Racing Products.

“The LS is a different beast because of its skirted block. With a typical small-block we could build in power pouches to really free up the crank and reduce the parasitic power loss, but with the LS we are limited to a windage tray to remove the oil from the crank.”

Behuniak points out that this issue is addressed with some aftermarket LS blocks though.

“Dart has actually addressed the skirted block issue with their LS Next block and our LS Next pans are able to utilize the old style power pouch to really free up the power.”

Road Race, Low Clearance

With the high lateral g’s generated at speed when cornering, combined with the high stress on the engine that’s inherent to extended wide open throttle acceleration, road racing is perhaps the most demanding racing discipline on engine components – and a situation where you want to make absolutely sure your motor is getting proper lubrication.

CAPTION - The consumer has to really pay attention to the specifications of the oil pan they are interested in. If the consumer has any intention of taking the vehicle to a road course or even auto cross on a regular basis then they should make sure that the specifications list baffling or trap door baffling. Trap door baffles are designed and positioned to open and allow oil to easily flow toward the pickup and to close to prevent oil from flowing away from the pickup. Under cornering force, the doors will keep the oil from shifting in the pan and keep it at the pickup.

Even on skirted engine blocks like the LS, the engine will greatly benefit from the use of a windage tray. In recent years GM has embraced windage trays on production vehicles, too, and thumbing through 2016 GM Performance parts catalog you will see windage trays displayed with their crate engine offerings. Morose designs its oil pans so that they will work with either its own LS windage trays or with GM.

An oil pan designed for road racing will make an excellent drag race oil pan, but an oil pan designed for drag racing would be a horrible choice for road racing because the lack of a reserve of oil during cornering. -Thor Schroeder, Moroso Performance

“An oil pan designed for road racing will make an excellent drag race oil pan, but an oil pan designed for drag racing would be a horrible choice for road racing because the lack of a reserve of oil during cornering,” Schroeder explains. “Drag race oil pans will typical have an oil collection sump that doesn’t T-out on the sides and a baffle towards the front of the oil pan to feed the oil pump pick up area during acceleration.

“Road race oil pans will have baffling that keeps oil contained in the oil pick up during cornering. For instance, if you make a left turn, a trap door on the right side of the oil pan will swing open and let a reserve of oil go to the oil pump pick up area,” he continued. “The trap door on the opposite side of the oil pan will swing shut so that oil can’t escape from the oil pump pick-up area. If you make a right turn, a trap door on the left side of the oil pan will swing open and let a reserve of oil go to the oil pump pick-up area and the trap door on the opposite side of the oil pan will swing shut so that oil can’t escape from the oil pump pick-up area.”

These road racing pans will also have the same features at the front and back of the pan to compensate for the g forces experienced during rapid acceleration and hard braking.

It's vital to verify all the specifications of an oil pan you're considering before you pull the trigger. If you have any intention of taking the vehicle to a road course or auto cross on a regular basis it's important make sure that the specifications list baffling or trap door baffling. Trap door baffles are designed and positioned to open and allow oil to easily flow toward the pickup and to close to prevent oil from flowing away from the pickup. Under cornering force, the doors will keep the oil from shifting in the pan and keep it at the pickup.

It’s vital to verify all the specifications of an oil pan you’re considering before you pull the trigger. If you have any intention of taking the vehicle to a road course or autocross on a regular basis it’s important make sure that the specifications list baffling or trap door baffling. Trap door baffles are designed and positioned to open and allow oil to easily flow toward the pick-up and to close to prevent oil from flowing away from the pick-up. Under cornering force, the doors will keep the oil from shifting in the pan and keep it at the pick-up.

Moroso Performance LS Oil Pans

  • PN. 20140: Fits 1968-’72 Nova, 1965-’72 Chevelle, 1967-’69 Camaro
  • PN. 20142: Fits early F-Body, race baffled, fully fabricated steel
  • PN. 20145: For use with LS swaps that require a rear sump
  • PN. 21151: Fits 2012-up COPO Camaro, wet sump, fully fabricated aluminum
If you foresee your build getting some time on the road course – even outside of a competition setting – it’s vital that you make sure your oiling system is up to snuff. “At track days over the years I have witnessed first-hand on several occasions owners who pushed their vehicles pasted the design parameters of the OEM oil pan and paid for it with hurt engines,” Schroeder added. “A proper road race oil pan will also keep oil temperatures down by keeping the oil contained in the oil pick-up area and not bouncing back up into the rotating assembly which will aerate the oil and put more heat into it.”

Occasionally the oiling demands of road racing and fitment requirements of engine swaps can be addressed simultaneously.

“A perfect example of that is our Front Sump LS Drift Pan (PN 15-276),” says Behuniak. “We worked with a number of guys that were putting LS engines into the Nissan 240sx chassis. Due to the chassis restraints they needed a unique pan to make the engine fit, but they were also going to be using it for something that needed oil control, so we designed around the space constraints and built in oil control features as well.”

Dry Sump Solutions

With popularity of LS swaps - particularly in high performance, track-focused builds, having the ability to add a dry sump oiling system on vehicles with LS engine swaps is a high priority for many builders. To that end, Canton offers a pan that will swap an LS engine into GM A, F, Y and X-Body cars for road-racing [PN 15-274], while Moroso’s custom shop offers swap pans for numerous vehicles that commonly receive LS transplants, like Nissan 240SX, the Mazda MX-5 Miata, Trailblazer SS, and many others. Whenever a dry-sump oiling system is used, it’s necessary to have a filter at each scavenge port to prevent the pump from sucking up junk in the event of a parts failure. This ARE pan uses an integral windage tray to pull the oil away from the rotating assembly and send it out to the pump and tank.

While dry sump systems add complexity to the oiling system, in some applications they’re necissary to avoid serious engine damage. In a dry sump oiling system like this one, you’ll need to have a filter at each scavenge port to catch debris in the event of an internal failure in order to prevent the pump from sending those objects through the oiling system. This particular pan uses an integral windage tray to pull the oil away from the rotating assembly and send it out to the pump and tank. Canton Racing offers a dry sump oil pan for the LS1/LS6 [PN. 12-200] as well as the Dart LS Next block [PN. 12-280A], while Moroso offers a universal dry sump pan for LS series blocks [PN. 21156].

Whether it’s a purpose built race car or a high performance daily driver, oil starvation can be a serious concern with vehicles that are capable of high lateral G cornering, and dry sump systems offer the most comprehensive solution to oil starvation issues.

The main idea behind using a full dry sump design is the ability to have complete mechanical control over the oiling system rather that simply dictating the oil flow behavior by the pan’s design.

While a traditional wet sump system is fine for most vehicles, using a dry sump system resolves the potential issues of crankshaft windage and oil aeration by running it through the external components of the dry sump system.

Recommended Upgrades

Oil pickup assemblies like this Moroso piece (PN. 24050) will work with both the stock oil pump and Moroso's high volume unit as well.

Oil pick-up assemblies like this Moroso piece (PN 24050) will work with both the stock oil pump and Moroso’s high volume unit as well.

Another important consideration is to ensure that the oil pick-up tube you’re using is designed to work properly with the oil pan you’ve chosen. Changing the pan depth without changing the pick-up tube in turn can result in it being too close to the bottom of the pan, where it will repeatedly toss up impurities that have settled at the bottom of the pan – or even worse – prevent oil from flowing to the oil pump.

Too far away can be equally detrimental, as it can increase the chances of the pump being starved for oil under high g-force situations, like hard acceleration, heavy braking, or high speed cornering.

This high volume oil pump from Moroso (PN. 22120) fits Gen III and Gen IV, 4.8L, 5.3L, 6.0L, 6.2L motors and increases volume by 18% over the stock oil pump.

This high volume oil pump from Moroso (PN 22120) fits Gen- III and Gen IV, 4.8-, 5.3-, 6.0-, and 6.2-liter engines, and increases volume by 18 percent over the stock oil pump.

And like the pick-up tube, an aftermarket oil pump should be considered when you’re using other non-OEM oil system components to ensure the system is supplying the right amount of oil to the engine.

If you’re building an engine that creates significantly more power than it did in stock form, a high volume oil pump will help to increase oil pressure, in turn bolstering protection. However if you’re using an aftermarket block you’ll want to consult that company’s specifications, as some use oiling systems that differ from the stock design and they may not recommend using a high volume pump in certain applications.

Avoiding An Expensive Paperweight

It’s understandable if your engine build doesn’t include oiling system components toward the top of the wishlist, but the higher you go up the performance food chain the more crucial proper oiling becomes to make sure the engine doesn’t tear itself apart.

“With high-dollar engines a rebuild can sink a lot of people,” Behuniak points out. If you’re going to invest a chunk of change into performance parts, it only makes sense to do what you can to make sure they’re going to last. When you’re in the midst of competition, these are the kinds of considerations that can make the difference between a podium finish and a DNF.

Article Sources

About the author

Bradley Iger

Lover of noisy cars, noisy music, and noisy bulldogs, Brad can often be found flogging something expensive along the twisting tarmac of the Angeles Forest.
Read My Articles

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