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Whale oil in auto transmission fluid?

I’m not making this up. Someone at the nearby auto-supply store told me that Dextron II auto transmission fluid contained whale oil, and that because using whale oil is no longer allowed by international treaty, Dextron II was banned, so they had to start selling only Dextron III, which contains no whale oil.

I believed this whopper at first. Then I did a little research, and it seems from what I can tell, whale oil hasn’t been used in auto-transmission fluid for 40 years.

So, did Dextron II ever contain whale oil? Or was this just the story of a store clerk with too much time on his hands and wanted to rib me a little?

No. Dexron II or type C never had whale oil in it. Dexron type A & B did have whale oil in it. They stopped using whale oil in transmission fluid in 1971. Not only because whale oil was banned as a lubricant in the US, but whale oil couldn’t handle the higher temperatures that the transmissions were producing because engines were being designed to run hotter to reduce emissions. And if the engine runs hotter, the transmission runs hotter.


The posi traction in my new 81 Olds developed a chatter on tight turns after a few thousand miles. The cure was adding a small bottle of an additive that the dealer said was whale oil. I assumed thats what it was but didn’t know it was used in transmission fluid too.

Up until 1970, we were importing up to 55 million gallons a year of Sperm Whale Oil which was mostly used to manufacture cosmetics and to improve the lubricating qualities of petroleum oil…This trade stopped with the passage of the Endangered Species Act…Synthetic whale oil was developed, produced mainly from Jojoba beans and Rapeseed…Castor beans have also been used to produce high-quality lubricants and racing oils…

Wow, guys! I am pretty impressed with your knowledge of obscure trivia like this.

This was addressed recently in Cecil Adam’s Straight Dope column

Sounds fishy to me.

Its nothing to start blubbering about.