Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Baffled Oil Pans Explained

Story and Photos by Matthew Eddy

Outside View of Baffled Oil Pan for 5.0L Mustang

Normal production cars have what is called a “wet sump” meaning the majority of the oil is stored within the oil pan.  A pick up for the oil pump is located in the oil pan and sucks the oil up to lubricate critical areas within the engine.  This system is used because it is simple and cheap to manufacture and is more than sufficient to meet the needs of the commuter consumer.  However, in motorsports the car and engine are going to be subjected to high g-forces for an extended period of time which the wet sump system may not be able to cope with.  For example, in a long continuous high g turn, the oil will slosh to one side of the pan away from the oil pick up.  No oil gets sucked up and starves the engine which leads to excessive wear and catastrophic engine failure in a pretty short period of time. 

The best method to prevent oil starvation is to go with a dry sump system.  This is used in pretty much all the top racing series cars such as Formual 1, NASCAR, Indy, and American Le Mans.  There is an oil pan but it has a very limited capacity and the sump pump basically sucks all the oil out as fast as possible and stores it in a oil reservoir the is external to the engine. Oil pressure is maintained by feeding the oil from this external oil tank back into the engine so the engine is never wanting for oil.  An added benefit of this system is since the oil pan is very low profile, the engine can be lowered to lower the cars center of gravity.  Unfortunately these systems are very expensive.  A bargain basement pump will run you at least $800 and could run upwards of $2000.  Not to mention a new, possibly custom, oil pan, lines, oil reservoir and more. 

Most weekend warriors can’t justify a dry sump system especially if you are just a track day junkie who doesn’t really have a prepped car but there are a couple lower cost alternatives.  One is to get or make a baffled oil pan.  This will limit how much the oil able to slosh around and hopefully keep it where the pump can suck it up into the engine.  Simply put a baffled oil pan will has chambers that make it easy for the oil to travel toward the oil pick up but difficult for it to get sloshed the other way. Also, they tend to increase the capacity of the oil pan so that more oil will be available in the whole system. 

Below you can see a picture of a Ford Racing baffled oil pan out of a 5.0L Mustang.  This one is used mainly for drag racing but the concepts are the same between drag and road track with some design differences to account for lateral acceleration (g-forces experienced while cornering).  

Baffled Oil Pan from a 5.0L Mustang

You will notice the oil pan has two compartments, a shallow on the right side of the picture and a deeper one on the left.  The reason for the compartment on the right (which is the front of the engine) is to allow space for the oil pump.  The hump that separates the two compartments is required to clear the front cross member that goes under the engine.  In the left compartment is a square chamber that that is designed to trap oil and that is where the oil pick up is located.  At first you may be wondering why is seems to be cordoned off, but what is difficult to see in the picture above are the trap doors that only open inward to allow oil to enter the chamber but not exit (see picture below).  A few other features to note are the lips at the top of the chamber and also one on the left side of the center hump.  These lips prevent the oil from splashing up and out of the camber.  The pan is designed such that for the oil to travel from the left or right side of the pan (up and down in the picture), it must pass through the oil pick up chamber where it will be trapped.  

Baffles in Oil Pan
Above you can see a close up of the baffling in the oil pick up chamber.  The doors can only open inward which will allow the oil to enter but not exit.

Oil Scraper in Mustang Oil Pan
The feature pictured above is called a scraper.  As the crank spins, beads of oil are flung around the inside the engine.  The scraper catches most of these to prevent the oil from going up into the cylinders and instead returns it to the pan.  

In the near future I plan to make one of these for my V6 MR2 and when I do so, I will be posting a "How-To" article.


  1. Great article, great blog. I've also got an MR2 myself albeit not at V6 like yours but a BEAMS engine. I've got A048s for track days but I'm also going to upgrade my suspension to stiffer springs and shocks so I'm also looking into baffled sumps. DIY should save some $$ hehe

  2. Nice Blog. It have lot of information related to automobile parts and Racing oil pans. thanks for sharing.

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