Vintage Gas Engine Oilers

A study in three types of vintage engine oilers and how they work.

| October/November 2017

  • Oilers you'll see on most gas engines include common oilers, check-ball oilers and sealed-type oilers.
    Photo by Andrew K. Mackey

There are several types of oilers you’ll come across working on vintage engines, some more common than others. For this article, we’ll look at three particular types and study them in detail.

The common oiler

Most often used on machinery shafting and many different engines, the common oiler is a simple reservoir with a means to regulate the flow of oil in drops per minute from the reservoir to the object needing lubrication. This can be either a machine or an engine. Most common oilers have a small sight glass below the reservoir so you can view the rate of oil drops. Common oilers are mainly used on shafts and bearings. Some are used on engine pistons, which is OK as long as there is no back pressure that would push the oil back into the reservoir. The top of the common oiler reservoir is open to the atmosphere, and the oil fill is often a sliding cover. If an engine has some compression loss or has a closed crankcase (like the F/M ZC or ZD engines, or the IHC M series), then a check-ball oiler may have to be used.

Common oiler operation: The reservoir is filled with the necessary oil through the fill hole (#10) in the upper cover (#14) to within 1/2 inch of the top, visible in the glass body (#12). The lever on top (#1) is lifted and is locked in place by spring tension (#5) on the metering needle (#4). The thumb nut (#3) on the oiler center tube (#6) is adjusted to raise or lower the metering needle (#4) to allow a certain number of drops per minute to ensure sufficient lubrication of the item being lubricated. When the top lever is lifted, it raises the metering rod (#4) off its seat on the oiler base (#19), thus allowing oil to pass through the oil port (#8), past the oiler base (#19) and into the supply pipe (#20). When engine operation is done the top lever is turned to one side, thus allowing the metering pin to seat in the base, shutting off oil flow.

common oiler

Common oiler legend:

1) Oil stop lever
2) Oil metering pin retainer
3) Oiling rate adjuster
4) Oiling rate metering rod
5) Metering pin spring
6) Oiler center tube
7) Air equalizing inlet
8) Oil port
9) Oiler fill cover
10) Oiler fill hole
11) Oil
12) Glass reservoir body
13) Cork reservoir gaskets
14) Upper reservoir cover
15) Lower reservoir cover
16) Cork sight glass gaskets
17) Sight glass
18) Sight glass view port in oiler base
19) Oiler base
20) Mount coupling to engine or machine bearing/piston
21) Oil drop


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