Choosing the Right Oil Pump for Your Strip Burner

Oil-Pumps

 

Drag Race 101: Choosing the Right Oil Pump for Your Strip Burner

The right oil pump for your strip burner engine can allow your perfectly-designed and assembled engine to finally deliver the type of performance that you’ve spent hours poring over specs and designs for. It can justify those hours, and the ones you’ve invested putting the various parts together to bring your vision into reality. On the other hand, the wrong oil pump can, at best, rob power, and at worst, cause your engine to seize up. So how do you know what’s what?

There are several brands of oil pumps that give you a choice of specifications and drive-type. This article will highlight a few of the major players in the market and cover a few types of pumps they manufacture. Then we will address the different methods of driving an oil pump, each of which has its supporters and detractors, as well as those that claim there is no noticeable difference in the results you’ll see with them. Finally, we’ll cover the different specifications you should be looking for your in your strip burner’s oil pump.

The Major Players in the Oil Pump Market

Everyone has an opinion on who makes the best pumps on the market, and like many things there really is no single best answer. The manufacturer and type of oil pump you use is dependent upon your needs and budget. There are several companies that make performance oil pumps, but a few of them stand out since they’re used by major racing teams in all racing circuits and series.

A “traditional” high performance high volume/pressure oil pump of the type that mounts inside the block/oil pan.
A “traditional” high performance high volume/pressure oil pump of the type that mounts inside the block/oil pan.

Melling is the manufacturer I’m most familiar with. They make the type of oil pump that everyone is most familiar with, the kind that mounts to the underside of the block and is driven by a rod running between the pump and a gear on the camshaft. They have a good-sized list of pumps of available.

Moroso is another well-known maker of oil pumps. They make both the gear and shaft-type oil pumps shown above, as well as a type of oil pump known as a dry sump oil pump. These typically mount to the outside of the block, are driven by a pulley or a gear, and have an external reservoir.

When I was building engines regularly, Milodon was one of the two brands I looked for and would base my decision mostly on in-stock availability and pricing at my local Speed Merchant or Goody’s Speed Shop. They’ve got a range of pumps for all domestic makes that come with a variety of specifications.

GM, Chrysler/Mopar, and FoMoCo also make high performance oil pumps. There are other makers too, such as Peterson Fluid Systems, Manley, Federal Mogul, and others, but aside from Manley, the ones mentioned above are those held in the highest regard by most engine builders I know.

A Moroso external dry sump oil pump designed for ultra-high performance applications.
A Moroso external dry sump oil pump designed for ultra-high performance applications.

Two Major Ways to Mount and Drive an Oil Pump

The type of oil pump most of us are familiar with, especially those of us that also build daily driver-economy car engines, is the type that mounts to the block under the crank and is driven by a shaft driven by a gear on the camshaft. These pumps are available in either cast, forged, or billet designs, usually in either aluminum or steel. These pumps are used in what are known as wet sump oiling systems which use the block/crankcase and an internal oil pan as the oil reservoir. The major advantage to this type of oil pump, besides price, is that since it’s inside the engine, it’s protected from debris flying up off the road surface.  However, their major drawback is that pressure and flow rate are both dependent upon engine speed. Drive dowels/pins have also been known to snap at inopportune moments in high-demand installations, leaving the engine without lubrication. If caught in time, you still have to drop the oil pan to fix it.

You can also find a performance oil pump from a number of makers that mounts to the outside of the block and is driven either by a belt and system or by gears. Both are driven by the crankshaft. There are two main advantages to this type of pump. The first, (and most important in my opinion) being that you can fine tune the pressure to get the best performance out of your engine AND not blow any seals or gaskets. The other main advantage to these is that they can put out a constant pressure and volume, independent of engine speed. Some builders of strip burner engines say that this type of oil pump robs less power from your engine

Externally-mounted oil pumps come with a large parts kit that hopefully comes with everything you need to install the oil pump. They are usually with external oil coolers and relocated oil filters since their plumbing taps into the engine’s lubrication system where the filter usually mounts.

External pumps are also available as either wet sump pumps, as described above, using the crankcase and an oil pan, or dry sump pumps that utilize an external oil reservoir. Another thing I like about external oil pumps is that IF the drive dowel/pin snaps, and you’re able to shut the engine down in time, you don’t have to tear the engine apart to replace it.

Oil Pump Specifications

For most of us, there are two main things we want to know about an oil pump: How much pressure they can deliver, and if they’re high or low volume pumps. The more pressure a pump can generate, within limits, the better. Also, under most circumstances, the higher the flow the better as more flow means better cooling and lubrication qualities.

If you’re leaning towards the internally-mounted type, you’ll also need to choose between billet, cast, and forged, as well as steel or aluminum, although those are opinion-based decisions. One specification that will be important is the length of the drive rod used.

With the externally-mounted oil pumps, your first decision is going to center around the pressure output. The next decision will be what side of the engine the pump will mount on. Some pump makers also give you the choice between left/right and top/bottom mounted inlets and outlets. Finally, you’ll have to decide between wet sump and dry sump.  With all of those decisions made, it’s time to let that oil hump help your engine do what you’ve designed it to do best: run like hell!

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About Mike Aguilar 202 Articles
Mike's love of cars began in the early 1970's when his father started taking him to his Chevron service station. He's done pretty much everything in the automotive aftermarket from gas station island attendant, parts counter, mechanic, and new and used sales. Mike also has experience in the amateur ranks of many of racing's sanctioning bodies.
  • RiverMikeRat

    This article was written only to tell people the difference between wet and dry sump on the most basic level. There’s another article being published very soon that goes into more detail. Following that, there will be another one that goes into detail of the various wet sump pumps and another one to do the same for dry sump pumps. Most of the decision process for the amateur bracket racer is going to be money-driven, unless they are independently wealthy.

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