VIDEO: What Happens When You Run WD-40 As Engine Oil?

We’ve said it before, and we’ll say it again, sometimes you can gain some real educational insight from people doing stupid things. No, we aren’t talking about sociologically, but real “scientific” data. In this instance, a bunch of young guys with too much money and time (and not enough adult supervision, apparently) decided to see what happens when you drain all the oil out of an engine and replace it with WD-40.

Now, we’ve seen plenty of videos where people drain the engine of oil and let it bounce off the rev-limiter until something lets go. Well, apparently so has Orion Dajnowicz, of Haggard Garage – and now “Life OD” – fame. So, instead of pulling that tired old stunt, he decided to see what would happen if he replaced the oil in his 1993 Ford Probe with WD-40.

Now, as a reader of EngineLabs, we’d like to assume that everyone reading up until this point knows what a stupendously bad idea this is, already. However, we’d be lying if we didn’t admit that there was a small part of us which is a little bit curious as to what will happen.

Right up front, for those of you who don’t suffer Automotve Buffoonery™ well, you can skip to 3:07 in the video unless you’re a fan of front-wheel drive burnouts and failed tray sliding, and 7:17 if you just want to see the final moments of the engine’s life (spoiler alert: it doesn’t make it.)

Orion and crew do in fact drain all of the oil in the Mazda FS-DE 16-valve, DOHC engine, and refill it with what appears to be a full gallon of WD-40, which is half a quart more than the FS-DE’s standard capacity, and then proceed to start the engine.

After idling for a few minutes with no obscene noises, the trio jumps into the Probe and drives it to an empty field. Early on in the drive, the car doesn’t make any scary engine noises traditionally found with a lack of lubrication and there are no warning lights illuminated on the dashboard. It appears as if the engine might make it.

However, as is typical, young-guys-trying-to-break-a-car shenanigans start occurring, and things start going downhill fast. Pushing the engine hard, they finally make it to the field, where they give the engine a rest long enough rig up a device to hold the accelerator pedal in neutral for the coup de grace.

After several minutes of banging off the factory rev limiter, the homemade side-exit exhaust starts glowing red, and spitting flames, presumably because of the factory ECU’s ignition-cut rev-limiter spitting raw fuel into the exhaust stream where it ignites. The engine starts struggling, something lets go, and the whole engine bay is engulfed in a fireball.

As anyone who has ever used WD-40 and a lighter to handle spiders in the shop can attest, WD-40 is way more flammable than oil, so between the gasoline and WD-40, there is plenty of fuel to create quite an automotive inferno. However, the engine can still be heard running for a bit after the flames erupt.

After the car gives the onlookers one final surprise, the fire dies out and they drag the car back home. From this, we can conclude, that even if WD-40 could somehow sustain the abuse endured by proper motor oil, its chemical properties make using it as an engine oil a far riskier proposition than a simple lack of lubrication. Leave the WD-40 to door hinges and the other applications it was actually designed for.

Was there ever any doubt that this would be the result of running an automotive engine with WD-40 in place of engine oil? Actually, the surprising part was how long the engine held together before letting go, which is a testament to WD-40’s effectiveness as a lubricant, even when used NOT as intended.

About the author

Greg Acosta

Greg has spent over a decade in automotive publishing as Senior Editor of Race Pages magazine. In his free time, he is a firearms instructor and volunteer in the police armory.
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