The Facts About Aftermarket Oil Additives
(With groundbreaking answers from our automotive engineers in the Q&A section below, for questions from owners and fleet managers.)
What is the best oil additive to use and how do they compare? What about Oil Additives like Slick 50, Prolong, Zmax, Archoil and others?
Does Prolong work? Does Lucas Oil Stabilizer work ? Does ZMax work? Does Bestline work? Does Archoil work? Which engine oil additive is the best? What is the difference between an oil additive and an oil treatment?
The fact is that most oil additives are totally useless and in many cases actually harmful or damaging to your engine. If you quietly corner a lubrication engineer (in case he works – or might one day work – for one of “those” companies) and ask him “off the record”, he’ll tell you that most oil additives are the modern version of “snake oil” sales: completely fraudulent, they’re an unethical embarrassment to the lubrication industry. The Federal Trade Commission has issued charges of false and deceptive advertising that these and many other additive manufacturers have misled consumers into believing that their products offer increased engine protection and performance when added to your motor oil. (See below for FTC examples of false and deceptive advertising.)
[There are a FEW exceptions to this such as the Archoil 9100, which we deal with separately in a Q&A below.]
The first problem with additive marketing is that it’s mostly based on wrong questions and false assumptions, used to prey on people’s ignorance of lubrication modes, and of the designs, sciences, and functions of lubricants in mechanical devices. Newer products haven’t been out there long enough to get a damaged reputation, but the claims are similar. Keep in mind that every engine oil has had to use “sulfur replacement” technologies, and every lubricant works on a “micro” or “nano” level and “treats the surface of the metal”. But engine oils sell their whole balanced package, not two or three marketing technology words and phrases.
Simple chemical element analysis of new oil isn’t going to tell you much, despite the tribal online consumer fan-bases of such approaches, because the presence of elements tells you absolutely nothing about the compounds they exist in or the structure of the molecular chains. The nature of the oil’s base stock (whether it is Group II, III, IV or V) tells you a lot about its performance potential. But beyond that, you don’t really know much of anything unless you subject an entire complete lubrication package to the carefully designed standardized ASTM tests, or evaluate the oil sample databases from different company fleets across millions of miles. I’ve looked at many consumer-targeted oil additives, and I’ve never seen a single one that publishes actual standardized test data – that failure is a big red flag to lubrication engineers, but normal people don’t know that.
And consider this: In addition to the major petroleum oil companies, and the few synthetic oil companies, there are only a few globally known companies that specialize in supplying ALL lubrication manufacturers with specialty additive products and combined packages. These additive-development companies, such as Lubrizol, have scientific and R&D teams who know every single additive and additive package on the market, and have spent many decades developing better and better additives and package content. Lubrizol is on public record in the lubrication industry, saying that one thing they know for certain is that whenever they have something better, AMSOIL immediately wants to know how it can improve performance and how they could begin to use it in their formulations. Lubrizol engineers made such statements precisely because that corporate relationship is so very different from business-as-usual “how much does it cost” in the lubrication industry with every other client they deal with, and Lubrizol’s expertise views it not merely as a mark of AMSOIL’s leadership, but as a foundational reason for AMSOIL’s performance excellence. (Additional references: the AMSOIL Skeptics page, and AMSOIL’s Ultimate Performance.)
There are three key points to glean:
- First, while a few additive products exist that can be helpful additions to conventional petroleum oils, NONE of them is going to improve AMSOIL performance in a beneficial, balanced way. In fact, they’re not likely to improve any true synthetic by a useful margin – because synthetics come out of the starting gate with 7 to 10 times the film strength of a petroleum oil, just because of the oil base-stock performance.
- Second, in every case, if you can find a TRULY beneficial additive and put it in your petroleum oil, you have equaled or exceeded the cost of buying and using AMSOIL… but you still haven’t equaled AMSOIL’s overall balanced performance.
- Third, regarding the various “wow tests” and “demonstrations”: unless you are a lubrication engineer or engine tribology engineer, you’re going to have a hard time discerning the different ways that we are being “gamed” with these visually impressive “tests” that conveniently substitute for the ASTM test data that could easily be compared to the performance of untreated name-brand oils. Prolong and Bestline are two examples that have done various engine-running examples, including driving around a race track several laps after draining the oil. What they don’t tell you, or breathe a word about, is that the engines have to be rebuilt afterward because internally they are an absolute wreck.
Want superior oil performance? The highest-performance, most-tested, and most cost-effective solution is simple: buy a superior oil. Here’s how to pick the best motor oil for your engine.
Federal Trade Commission Charges zMax with False and Deceptive Advertising
ZMax is the latest company to be charged in a long list of companies. (Read about the latest FTC charges against zMax in our informative articles links below). The FTC has successfully halted false and deceptive advertising by the marketers of Dura Lube, Motor Up, Prolong, Valvoline, Slick 50, STP and other major brands of engine treatment systems. Unfortunately, halting the deceptive advertising does not correct the false word-of-mouth advertising which continues to be spread by unsuspecting customers who don’t know they were originally lied to.
Without going into extensive detail here’s what you need to know about most aftermarket oil additives: There are basically two types of additives used, either Teflon based with PTFE (like Slick 50) or Chlorinated based (like Dura Lube) with some type of carrier, usually a paraffin based carrier or other mineral oil. Some have extremely large amounts of moly (or MoS2 – Molybdenum Disulfide), zinc or phosphorus: all are EP (extreme pressure) agents which are detrimental to a motor oils’ proper function in the amount that these additives use.
EP additives are great in gear lubes (where they’re widely used by the whole lubrication industry), but they typically cause increased friction, heat, and reduced fuel economy at the lower-pressure loads in an engine application. And at the higher operating temperatures that engine oils are subjected to, EP’s typically break down and cause corrosion of copper/bronze/brass components (bearings).
Teflon does absolutely nothing beneficial inside your engine. Teflon must be heated up to about 800 deg. F to get it to stick to anything for friction reducing purposes, just like the Teflon on a frying pan. In your engine what those suspended microscopic colloidal Teflon particles do is gradually attach to your oil pick-up screen and reduce oil flow to your critical components as well as reducing the oil flow in other critical internal engine passages by attaching themselves to the passageway walls. In addition, as your oil filter captures some of these suspended Teflon particles, your filter flow rate will be reduced with a higher pressure drop across the filter. The increasing restriction can gradually default more often into by-pass mode even at moderate temperatures and engine rpm’s, which means more unfiltered oil will be flowing through your engine. At higher rpm’s, some filters can collapse from the higher pressure differentials, starving your engine for oil and producing rapid engine failure.
Ever get bleach on your fingers? It’s pretty slippery isn’t it? Same principle here. Add enough Chlorinated components to a carrier and mix it with some type of teflon, moly, zinc or phosporus & you can reduce the friction, except for one “minor” thing: Chlorinated additives mixed with oil and subjected to heat form hydrochloric acid! Hydrochloric acid is extremely harmful to your internal engine parts. Get the picture?
That’s the summary picture. Bottom line is: When using a properly formulated motor oil you do not need any additives whatsoever and additionally, the additives you may put in can react negatively with the additives the oil company carefully blended in. Do yourself a favor and stay away from aftermarket oil additives, regardless of how appealing the bogus claims are in their advertising! Instead, use a high-performance synthetic oil that publishes their ASTM test data… instead of implying with a marketing-Jedi mind-wave “you don’t need to see our data”. (Yes, you really do.)
What if They Have a Test To Show How Their Additive Works?… Read On…………
At a trade show we attended, one of these miracle oil additive companies was there with a machine that demonstrated how their additive reduced friction. It was a motor with rotating solid steel disc secured to the motor shaft and a torque meter with a flat piece of steel mounted on the torque arm. They put every type of oil on the market, one by one, on the machine & pressed hard on the torque meter and at about 20-40 lb-ft torque the torque arm would stall the motor….that is, until they cleaned it off & tried their (chlorinated) additive “IXL” on the bearing & ran the test.
People were amazed as the meter peaked out at 140 lb-ft. torque and still didn’t stall the motor! We knew what was happening but many unsuspecting consumers were eating it up and standing in line to buy the additive! The next day we showed up with some Head & Shoulders Shampoo disguised in an oil bottle & had the IXL additive people try it on their test machine. The operator was amazed as the motor barely stalled at 140 lb-ft! The operator says that’s pretty good stuff, what is it? We said Head & Shoulders. He was quite embarrassed to say the least. Head & Shoulders has high levels of ZINC in it that attaches itself to ferrous metals. Coke soft drink will do exactly the same thing. ZINC reduces friction and provides anti-wear protection and is present in most motor oils at a much reduced level. Now, would you put Head & Shoulders in your engine?
Additionally, the test machine was measuring EXTREME PRESSURE. This was their secret demo trick. Motor oils do not have extreme pressure (EP) additives blended in like gear lubes do. There is absolutely no need for EP additives in a motor oil. A gear lube would not stall the motor as easily because gear lubes have high levels of Extreme Pressure additives blended in, but do you think they would test their IXL additive against gear lubes? Heck no! They use motor oil…. They are comparing apples to oranges & tricking you into buying their additive! Same theory holds true for Slick 50, Prolong, Dura Lube, Motor Up, Valvoline Engine Treatment and many others.
By the way, I requested and reviewed the available IXL “test data”: they had to mail photocopies. When I reviewed it, I could see why it wasn’t available online: just a couple of simple made-up tests done by a university lab that measured HP and RPM differences so small that they could be due to instrumentation error or morning/afternoon air temperature differences. No standardized ASTM tests were performed at all: IXL has none of the API industry-standard controlled testing results whatsoever. The logical conclusion is that the product cannot show any favorable results in standardized testing procedures. (“Standardized” industry tests are tightly defined by ASTM and adopted by the SAE and API because they are proven to be very reliable and repeatable.)
Yes, but what about Lucas Oil Stabilizer?
Isn’t it used extensively in drag racing? Yes it is, and it’s a unique category in oil additives with a milder version of deception. With high-alcohol fuels and high horsepower, there is a huge problem with the engine oil becoming VERY rapidly diluted (thinned out) by the alcohol. To combat this problem, drag racers commonly use a very heavy racing oil (like 60 weight), then add Lucas to the oil because it increases the viscosity even more. That way, as the oil is being rapidly diluted going down the dragstrip, when they back off the throttle it might be a 30 or 40 weight oil instead of a 10 or 20 weight oil that would allow a lot of engine damage.
Now, what does ANY of that have to do with your vehicle? NOTHING ! Adding their product to your oil will increase the weight (viscosity) of your engine oil, which will decrease your fuel economy and increase your oil pressure. Increasing the oil pressure beyond the 30 or 40 weight that the engine’s designed for doesn’t help you. In fact, it’s a negative because it adds load to your starter and battery, especially in cold weather, and it makes your engine wear faster. That’s right – your engine wears faster for two main reasons: because during cold starts it takes longer to get the oil to all the components, and the higher oil pressure drop across your oil filter means that more of the oil will bypass the filter than normally occurs while your engine is warming up during driving. So you’re pumping additional wear particles through the engine rather than filtering them out.
The Lucas Oil Stabilizer marketing deception is that they want you to assume that what’s good in a top-fuel dragster is good for your engine, without actually making that claim on their bottle. Based on belief of that implied benefit, consumers use the product in every-day vehicle engines. The result? They get accelerated engine wear and reduced fuel economy in their engines.
Lubrication engineers say: Motor oils, transmission fluids and gear lubes are carefully designed and balanced lubrication packages that are scientifically formulated and rigorously tested. Want better performance? Buy a better product whose performance is proven by industry standardized testing. Please DON’T be fooled by oil additives!
No oil additive will ever produce a Million Mile Van.
Oil Additive Questions and Answers
about lubrication, filtration and other truck maintenance issues:
These e-mailed/posted questions were answered by our degreed automotive engineers.
(None of them are employed by AMSOIL, Inc.)
Q: What is the difference between an oil additive and an engine treatment?
(A common question.)
A: Some additive marketers claim “it isn’t an oil additive, it’s an engine treatment”. They aren’t an “additive” according to industry definition, purely because they are not added in a high enough volume to exceed a magical percentage where they “officially” become an “additive”. Because they “aren’t an additive”, then they choose to call them an “engine treatment”. However, playing these word games is just a dodge to avoid being nailed for false advertising. The “engine treatment” is claimed to improve on performance that’s lacking in the oil’s “additive package”, which is also “treating the surface of the metal”. Every engine oil’s additive package works on a “micro” or “nano” level and “treats the surface of the metal”… just like an “engine treatment” or oil additive.
Q: Why are you so hard on Slick 50 without giving any evidence? (February 2009 e-mail)
I came across your website while searching for some Slick 50 products. It is really sad to see that even after 30 years of Slick 50 being on the market in its present form that you synthetic guys still don’t (won’t) understand it and continue to lump it in with the glorified engine flushes like Dura Lube.
You can get as defensive as you want but after using the Slick 50 products since 1981 in everything from lawn mowers to a P51 Mustang, I know that the product does what it says it will do, is an engine treatment not an additive and is definitely not ‘snake oil’. Even on your website you make no case against it. Your FTC article only chastises Quaker State for “over stating the wear on an engine with just oil” in the crankcase. Isn’t that pretty much one of the synthetic arguments? Also, Slick 50 does not contain Teflon, just PTFE, the building blocks of Teflon and can only treat, not through heat but heat and friction. The PTFE resins are less than 1 micron is size and absolutely cannot clog any oil filter on the market.
Don’t talk to a lubrication engineer, talk to a petroleum engineer. They will still tell you as they would 30 years ago that they can make a natural oil product that is as good or better than any synthetic, but they can’t sell it without the synthetic hype. Synthetics are definitely better than today’s standard oils, but unnecessary and too expensive once the engine has had ONE quart, ONE time of the Slick 50. I know, I proved this hundreds of times in the 80s. Not through ‘I think it is working’ or subjective checks of gas mileage but through independent lab testing of oil samples before the use of the Slick 50 and an oil change or two down the road from when the Slick 50 was introduced. Wear levels were always down over 50%, with the chromium being down consistently over 70%.
I know you are not convinced nor would I expect you to be. All you have to do is look at a couple facts:
The product has been around in its present form for 31 years (Dura Lube, PRO Long and the others won’t make it that long); The product was FAA accepted for aircraft in 1981 only 9 months after application (how long did it take Amsoil to be accepted for aircraft, 15+years); NO other product of its type is owned by a major oil company. The engineers at Quaker State, now PennZoil are not idiots, they would not put their name on “snake oil”.
I have been completely satisfied with the product in all of my Corvettes over the last 28 years that I have been using Slick 50 and while I think that Mobil 1 is a good product, I do not waste my money on it after I get the engine treated with Slick 50: a nice 30W Quaker State does just fine.
This was just a long way of saying that your website lacks credibility since you obviously don’t know anything about a product that you degrade.
Larry in Texas
A: Larry – Thanks for the comments. I’m a mechanical engineer. I try to stay as unbiased as I can. So I’m completely open to getting new information, and reserve the right to change my opinion based on new/additional or corrected data. And I’m learning and researching all the time.
Having said that, here’s how I currently see the Slick 50 product stacking up for consumers:
Calling it an “engine treatment” is a marketing ploy that is used by many oil and fuel additive manufacturers to create a mythical uneven playing field where they can test their product, but you can’t, and where they supposedly can’t show their advantages in the proven industry-standard ASTM tests because they somehow don’t apply. It’s pure baloney. It can be just as legitimately argued that the additive package components in a motor oil or gear lube treat the engine or metal surfaces and aren’t additives. But wait – they’re called “additives” because they’re added to the base oil stock to produce specific effects in metal surface interaction, and many of them “bond to the metal” and “fill in the microscopic valleys”… just like aftermarket oil additives.
Ref: http://www.ftc.gov/opa/1997/07/slick.shtm 1997 FTC – $10M settlement for false claims.
I’m not presenting data about Slick 50 because it’s not my job to perform such testing: what test data have THEY presented… to anyone? The Slick guys have had over 17 years to get some certified ASTM test results to document some of their claims, to put to bed the fact that they showed nothing to the FTC. And no – still nothing that I have seen. If you find some test data, let me know. I’d certainly like to learn anything contrary to what I currently know about Slick 50. But I’d venture a guess that you don’t know as much about it as you think you do.
“NO other product of its type is owned by a major oil company. ” If I’m not mistaken, some of the other oil additives were started or owned by oil companies at various points in their history.
Any engineer who is fairly well versed in this arena knows that the vast majority of the oil additives out there are – point blank – fraudulent snake oil. (Some, like Lucas Oil Stabilizer, are mostly a negative deception even though their oil-viscosity thickening does produce lower wear rates. If you want thicker oil, just use a 40 or 50 or 60 weight in your vehicle to start with, but the biggest performance leap is to use a real synthetic because the film strength is 7 to 10 times higher than petroleum.) And nearly all of them have settlements and/or lawsuits against them, yet they’re all still on the market. Including the ancient Marvel Mystery Oil. They don’t stay on the market because of their performance, but because of the customer followings they’ve gained through marketing techniques/gimmicks and tricks, including false advertising statements. Those customer followers and the “tribal knowledge” contained and incubated within their ranks, combined with very high profit margins, mean that the legal fees and settlements are only a small percentage of their annual profits.
So why do they keep selling? Profits. If snake oil is profitable in spite of legal costs, they will sell it. So big deal if they had to change their label content and lay low for a year or two and ride on customer-repeated hype – hey, maybe later is the right time for a new label, a new infomercial.
So again, Slick 50 has had every chance and opportunity to raise themselves above the snake-oil fray and demonstrate clear, tested, proven advantage. It would be easy to do using a few of the same ASTM tests that AMSOIL and the petroleum oil companies use. (You’d have to do at least three oils to prove that it’s not only Super-Cheap-Crap-Oil and Syn-Marvel that benefit from the Slick 50.) Simply run the tests with a few standard/typical oils, then run them again with the same oils with Slick 50 added. The testing expenses are a small percentage of a $10M settlement, so what legitimate company wouldn’t make such an obvious investment to repair a legal poke in the eye? The fact that Slick 50 has done nothing is rather self-incriminating, don’t you think?
Is Big Oil really that credible? Let’s see. There’s the decades-long push for 3,000 mile oil changes, often through their owned chains like Jiffy Lube, whose president publicly admitted in an industry speech that it’s about the money: getting their customers to shorten their drain intervals by 100 miles puts another $19M in their pockets in profit – not including increased sales of add-on products/services. Yet GM’s OLS system safely produces an average 8,500 mile change interval with conventional petroleum oils, and California and GM are so fed up with the 3,000 mile oil-change fraud that they have created and funded a consumer campaign to help end it. But wait, Jiffy Lube is a wholly owned subsidiary of Pennzoil-Quaker State … en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pennzoil
I also find it educational that big oil wasn’t very embarrassed by a 2005-2007 series of editorial articles in the industry’s primary publication “Lubes and Greases”, calling big-oil on the carpet for the environmentally irresponsible fraud of pushing 3,000 mile oil changes.
And then there’s fuel prices. Now, market futures speculation never drove oil prices before, until Big Oil pushed through the invisible congressional committee regulatory changes to allow that to happen. Even if gas prices were legitimately higher, how do we explain diesel fuel that costs less than regular gasoline to produce, yet is priced about 40 to 80 cents/gallon higher than premium gas? It certainly helps explain the long series of new historical profit-margin highs in $ billions.
And then there’s the API (American Petroleum Institute), controlled by the oil companies, whose public charter even acknowledges their devoted purpose of supporting petroleum oil companies. They’ve worked hard to get consumers to believe that only oils they License to display their Trademarks meet the ASTM test minimums and maintain vehicle warranties – yet none of that is true. And they’ve set up their Licensing program to make certain that: 1) Licensing only recognizes minimum performance, 2) Licensing is several times more expensive for actual synthetics, and 3) high-performance synthetics are not eligible for Licensing unless they reduce their performance to be barely above a top-tier petroleum oil, and also render themselves incapable of oil-drain intervals beyond about 10-15,000 miles. (Follow the API link above for more details on these issues.)
But back to the subject. If you ask a lubrication engineer, they’re going to tell you that the best way to get better lubricant performance is to buy a better-designed lubricant. You mentioned that a petroleum engineer was a better resource, and that “They will still tell you as they would 30 years ago that they can make a natural oil product that is as good or better than any synthetic, but they can’t sell it without the synthetic hype.”
That, Larry, is a perfect example of half baloney or half-truth. A petroleum engineer is steeped in nearly a century of company culture that’s grown up around making money by pumping crude out of the ground and refining and transporting it. Yeh, they can make a natural oil product “as good as any synthetic” – as long as they get to limit which tests to take, and pick which synthetics to call “any”. (Keep in mind that only in the US, and only since 1999, has it been legal to call a Group III petroleum oil a “synthetic”.) In addition, however, there are a couple of glaring problems from a consumer viewpoint. #1, even though they could make a high-performance oil, they don’t, and they’ve long ago decided they won’t. #2, just because it tests good when it pours out of the bottle doesn’t define consumer value: how well does it perform after 10,000 miles, after 20,000 miles, after 30,000 miles? See, part of what they call the “synthetic hype” is that consumers know AMSOIL synthetics not only deliver superior performance, but deliver that high performance throughout a very long service life. [Review the seven lessons from the Million Mile Van. To see Amsoil’s shocking [archived] performance in the API Engine Test Sequence IIIF, click here. The most recent AMSOIL tests are here.] Big Oil’s minimum performers with big hype are mostly mediocre and NONE will hold up in extended drain intervals: therefore they can’t produce “synthetic hype” that’s legitimate.
Larry, you also mention that “a nice 30W Quaker State does just fine”. It only does “fine” if by that, you mean that the petroleum oil breaking down and forming sludge, varnish and carbon buildup is OK with you. [There is almost nothing you can add to a petroleum oil to change that fact – see discussion on the Archoil exception below. So if you have one of the 4.5 million engines that are known to be prone to damaging levels of sludge buildup with API certified petroleum oils, then your engine is being slowly killed by a problem which is completely avoided when using AMSOIL.]
The real question for consumers is not “what can I buy that I think will tweak my oil’s protection”. That question is already a bit of a scam, and is always a scam setup. I think the real question is this: “since I have to change my motor oil anyway, what is my best bang for my maintenance buck in cost and in protection”. That’s why AMSOIL is my benchmark for the best, and why they’ve been the internal gold standard in the lubrication industry world for at least the last three decades. I’m doubtful that we could come up with any dollar numbers that would support your contention of Slick 50 being more cost-effective and synthetics too expensive, if the “synthetics” include one of AMSOIL’s genuine synthetics. I don’t see any likely cost-justification, because on an annual basis AMSOIL is usually cheaper than regular petroleum oil, even without including the extra cost of an additive to boost petroleum’s mediocre performance.
AMSOIL generally beats everyone in actual annual maintenance costs, and they beat everyone in proven and tested ASTM/API/SAE performance. Here are some examples of cost-savings using Amsoil-based maintenance technologies. And here’s the case study of how the Guardian Pest Control fleet dramatically boosted their fleet performance, service life, and profits.
[Two other valuable articles on this website: Lessons from the Million Mile Van, and Three Biggest Maintenance Secrets of the Auto Industry]
You mentioned reduced wear. OK, let’s say Slick 50 does that. Does Slick 50 reduce wear this much? (If the link doesn’t take you to the right spot on the page, you’re looking for the last 2 paragraphs just above where Question #8 starts, where it talks about the wear rate reductions for the refuse hauling fleet, beginning with “We forgot to mention this to M”.)
You mentioned longer engine life. OK, let’s say Slick 50 does that, too. But by how much? Does it extend engine or transmission life enough to produce the million mile van? And how about the value of those 25,000 mile oil and filter changes? Obviously, AMSOIL had to have worked real well since it wasn’t even installed until 68,000 miles on the odometer! But that’s both AMSOIL oil and AMSOIL filtration, and only for the last half of the engine’s life did it have nanofiber filtration. There’s a reason we say that the AMSOIL solution stops wear in it’s tracks. When you see results like this van, and when you repeatedly see wear metal rates so low in oil sampling that you wonder if it’s real… you realize the level of engineering is superb, and the determined commitment to excellence is formidable.
AMSOIL doesn’t use PTFE in its formulations for the simple reason that other more expensive anti-wear agents are higher overall performance, and provide better value.
Seems to me that if consumers can get lower wear rates, lower maintenance costs, and save a lot of maintenance time with AMSOIL, that’s more attractive than Slick 50… even without considering the typical 3-10% fuel economy improvement savings that they get with AMSOIL.
Oh, and one of the most highly respected experts in the high-output Corvette engines has been pretty clear for a number of years that AMSOIL makes the best performing oil for the Corvette engine. I’ve got an article interviewing him about that… somewhere.
I hope this is helpful. Please let me know if you have any other thoughts or questions. I’ve got a lot more data, and if you have some I would love to see it, but I’ve got to end for now.
Brian Dobben – BSMET / WET
Former Chrysler headquarters Sr Engineer
LeTourneau University Alumni
Society of Manufacturing Engineering
American Welding Society
Q: Z-Max (November 2015 e-mail.)
Brian, I read your article about the false statements about oil additives. I used to wonder if they really worked and I regularly got 200,000 Miles on each of the engines in the automobiles that I owned. After selling my vehicles, people would tell me they had their mechanic check the engine and the mechanic would tell them that the compression and the state of the engine was almost like a new engine. I used Zmax for my additive. Many years later while driving my 2003 Dodge 2500 Cummings , I blew an injector and all of the oil came out of the engine and diesel fuel was the only thing left in the crankcase when I arrived in Fort Myers after leaving Tampa. The mechanic at the Dodge dealership told me that the engine would be a total loss and he would let me know what he found out. Come to find out that there was no oil in the engine and the engine turned out to be completely fine with no damage or loss of compression. The mechanic scratched his head and said I don’t understand. That was 120 miles without oiI in the engine. I told him it was because I used Z-Max. Don’t believe all they tell you.
Sent from my iPad
A: Dave –
I appreciate your approach, and the perspectives you share. This is good information to have on Z-Max. I believe performance testing, and results. And when they both combine and agree favorably, then that’s a wise place to spend money and place trust.
But consider these questions:
- How is anyone to believe/trust in any oil additive product, if there is no ASTM test data provided to comparatively prove actual performance advantages?
- How is any engineer to recommend an additive product which has no testing pedigree, when the ASTM tests are used by every single developer of lubricants and oil additives globally, and these tests are painstakingly devised by international teams of engineers to produce useful, effective results that correlate to performance attributes in actual application use, and are always performed in exactly the same way on calibrated equipment in certified labs by certified technicians? Further, most of these tests are relatively inexpensive ways to demonstrate superior performance advantages.
Regarding your experiences with Z-Max, I suggest you consider the following:
Technology has advanced. Every modern engine is designed to run at least 200k miles on proper oil/filter changes. To get less than 200k miles on it is a result of engine design weaknesses [and/or poor maintenance], not lubricant/filtration performance. [Except the engine oil sludge problem is produced by petroleum oil breakdown through the combination of OEM engine design changes to meet EPA emissions mandates.]
AMSOIL also has proven long-life performance in engines, in transmissions, in differentials, in towing, in racing, and in commercial off-road construction. But the proof of that performance is two-pronged:
- ASTM comparative test data proving overall genuinely superior performance across the many important attributes recognized by OEM engineers, and
- Real-life results that are not only extreme in their superiority, but are proven, verified and validated in measurable ways by objective professionals.
– For example, AMSOIL doesn’t just offer the leading technology engine cleaner, P.I. Performance Improver, by claiming it with marketing slogans. They actually proved the performance with fuel-economy testing results, and with professional before/after engine tear-downs on used car engines, to document the changes. Not bad for a $10 bottle that you treat once every 4k miles and has a money-back performance guarantee.
– A far more important example is the Million Mile Van, and you can download the report here from my website. Some of the highlights, and additions which aren’t covered/explained include:
- With over 1.2M miles, still the original untouched tranny, courtesy of 150k mile fluid and filter change intervals with AMSOIL transmission fluid;
- the first ball-joint replacement at over 400k miles with AMSOIL synthetic grease;
- changing the differential fluid to AMSOIL and then forgetting about it, replacing the needle bearings 400k miles later, and then at 1.2M miles (700k miles after needle bearings) still doing great with 150k mile AMSOIL diff-fluid changes; [Here are the secrets on how to completely avoid differential failures]
- original engine 1M mile teardown by certified engine rater showing like-new condition with three components not meeting OEM tolerance for new parts (two were 1% outside the tolerance window, and the 3rd was the defective valve keepers which were never hardened by the supplier and wore out after 1M miles causing them to fall off the valves and the engine quit running).
Other vehicles have had unfortunate experiences similar to yours, such as a Volkswagen TDI with a cracked and empty oil-pan due to road debris, where the driver continued home with the check-engine light on, found no driveway staining or identifiable problems the next day so drove to work, then drove to the mechanic shop, and after oil-pan replacement and AMSOIL refill, drove fine ever since. I have been meaning to find that report and put it on my website, but haven’t done it yet.
The Nordic Waste staff documented their experiences with a trial use of AMSOIL compared to their existing oil analysis monitoring of their historical fleet, and the shocking differences they saw while running 3X longer drain intervals. [Oil analysis sampling is a common and essential component of large-fleet maintenance, because it reveals not only the health of a lubricant, and it’s performance in protecting, but also enables identifying components which are rapidly wearing and need replacement prior to failure.] Operating temperatures were down and fuel economy was up, but the huge shocker was in all the metal wear particles which dropped by 70 to 98% depending on the metal, but averaging over 90% reduction. Roughly and conservatively, that translates into tripling or quadrupling engine life between rebuilds: a large cost-savings.
Considering AMSOIL’s extended drain intervals, and what that means for actual annual costs of oil changes, how does the cost of AMSOIL compare to the cost of standard oil changes with Z-Max? If you drive few miles a year, perhaps the cost is similar or slightly less for petroleum oil plus Z-max. But if you drive a typical 12k miles or more, I can’t envision that AMSOIL will not save you in costs. AMSOIL will certainly save you in time, and what is your time worth per oil change?
Without chemical analysis and engine-tear downs, you cannot know the methods or the resulting operating environment [and long-term impact] created by the addition of Z-Max to an oil. The oil’s additive package is being altered, and something is very likely going out of balance. Zero oil pressure occurs both at engine startup, and whenever there is no oil in the engine to pump. There are ways to protect against zero-oil-pressure wear, for example, that slowly eat out your engine bearings. That kind of problem is only hinted at by oil analysis and proven in engine teardown, and a spun bearing might not seize the engine until somewhere over 250k miles.
I trust this is helpful, Dave. Thanks again for your input.
Brian Dobben – BSMET
Automotive Engineer, Lubrication Specialist
Former Senior Engineer – Chrysler headquarters
LeTourneau University Alumni
AMSOIL University Alumni
Society of Manufacturing Engineering
American Welding Society
Q: What about HEUI injector problems with cold-temperature starting and rough idling? [Petro-glued “stiction”]
What can you tell me about the Archoil AR9100 oil additive? I used it in my 6.0L HEUI PowerStroke and it made my bad injectors work like new.
Wayne – [Petroglued] in Canada (December 2015)
A: Wayne –
Thank you very much for the question, because Archoil was new to me. I’ll have to include the information on “stiction” and Archoil in my new diesel pages and oil additive page. After digging into this, I can see how the relatively new Archoil AR9100 would resolve your problems with rough starting/idling in cold weather. Kudos to them for creating a weapon to endlessly and profitably battle the root-cause problem. But, the optimal solution for PowerStroke (and all HEUI diesel) truck owners is to not arm or battle the enemy in the first place but banish them with far superior technology that’s been around since before HEUI systems went into production. Here’s how I would break it all down:
This is an issue inherent to engines that use HEUI fuel injection systems, because they can boost the normal 22-90 psi engine oil pressures well above 3,000 psi during normal operating conditions. So the oil is subjected to immense shear forces, and the variety of long, complex, non-uniform petroleum molecules simply cannot hold up under that onslaught like the designed, uniform shorter-molecule structures of true synthetic Group IV and V oil base-stocks. Therefore HEUI engines should only be running a fully synthetic oil, because the problems with cold weather startup and lack of cylinder fuel injection are directly caused by petroleum oil deposits on the actuating spool valves that fire the injectors. It’s not actually an “injector problem”, but what could be called an HEUI injector-valve glue-contamination problem: the petro-oil deposits don’t allow the oil-actuated spool valve to move adequately to properly fire the fuel injector when the engine is cold.
It’s interesting that this prevalent petroleum problem is now being identified (started by some marketing group?) with the term “stiction”, when some new word like “petrogumtion”, “petrogummed” or “petrosludged” should be coined to more appropriately identify HEUI injector valves that are gummed-up by petroleum sludge, varnish and carbon deposits. The “stiction” term was coined prior to 1950 by combining “static” and “friction” into a name for static friction, as being different than dynamic friction: stiction is the frictional resistance to overcome in order to begin sliding (dynamic friction). Static friction does not describe the adhesion which is incidentally created when tar/varnish is gluing the sliding surfaces together as a bonding material. Tar and varnish are sticky but fluid when hot, yet they become effective gluing agents when cold, like hot-melt glue. The force required to break that chemical/physical petro-glue bond is NOT friction – just as a penny that’s stuck with chewing gum to the bottom of a school-desk chair is not “friction”. To me, applying the term “stiction” to this condition is erroneous, and helps to mask the cause. Hmm… I’ll go with “petroglued”.
If you look at the TruckTrends “stiction” article for HEUI PowerStrokes, they do point to the root cause of petroglued injector spool valves. http://www.trucktrend.com/how-to/parts-accessories/1405-archoil-ar9100-for-ford-power-stroke-engine-diesel-tech/ These causes are also reflected in Archoil’s rendition of the article. The contents of Archoil “effectively liquefy the oil, carbon, varnish, and sludge deposits within the spool valve — not to mention it cleans the rest of the injector and entire fluid system.” So they are identifying the petro-gummed problem, without emphasizing that these deposits are the entire issue. Once you remove the deposits, the problems disappear… and hopefully the contacting valve surfaces have not been too badly damaged, because carbon deposits are extremely hard and abrasive.
To summarize, the TruckTrends guys hooked up and measured the severity of the injector non-firing problem when the engine was cold. Then they put Rotella T6 in the engine, and poured in the Archoil. Then they idled the engine for 30 minutes and took it on a 15 mile drive. This procedure allowed time for the deposits to be dissolved that were causing the spool-valve sticking, and the oil they put in was not going to significantly contribute to recreating deposits.
But they make the deceptive statement “Knowing that changing to a thinner-weight oil wouldn’t alleviate the severe stiction problems with this truck…”. If we overlook the misuse of the stiction term then they were correct in their statement, but the deception (perhaps unintended) is that the oil wasn’t simply thinner weight – it was also a “fully synthetic” oil, according to Shell (http://rotella.shell.com/products/t6.html).
Although, what Shell deliberately neglects to mention on their website is that the T6 base stock is a Group III (petroleum hydrocracked oil that the petroleum industry agreed to re-name as “synthetic” and conned U.S. government officials into accepting). The petro industry generally limits the subject of base-stock Group to internal discussions, and avoids educating Consumers about their existence or differences. In fact Shell’s T6 brochure is a pure marketing piece that compares only the improvement percentages from their previous formulation, and avoids giving actual performance measurement values from standard ASTM tests. (I can’t help but notice that this benefits Shell in that they give no objective values for the ASTM tests, so that they cannot be directly compared to AMSOIL’s published test data.) A Group III will perform much closer to a true Group IV or V synthetic than a petroleum oil will – it performs better in cold temperatures and does not break down into deposits as readily.
AMSOIL’s equivalent to Rotella T6 is the 15W-40 OE Synthetic Diesel Oil – not because of the viscosity, but because it is a Group III base-stock, and so is cheaper per quart than a true synthetic oil. But while the OE oil does deliver a cold pour point of -36, it only handles standard recommended oil drain intervals. The better choice is AMSOIL’s 15W-40 AME Premium Synthetic oil, which delivers a conservatively recommended oil-drain interval of 3X Ford’s recommendation, plus AMSOIL’s EA15K88 oil filter which delivers a 70% wear-rate reduction and 15,000 mile filter life. This extended 15k+ mile drain interval means that AMSOIL is the lowest-cost solution for HEUI oil changes, when annual maintenance costs are the measure instead of per-quart pricing. When adding the AMSOIL remote bypass filtration system, you can eliminate over 90% of engine wear and extend the drain interval indefinitely, as verified by oil sampling analysis.
Because the Winter viscosity value is determined at 0 F, a 5W rating doesn’t tell the full story in the temperature-performance difference between Group II, III, IV and V base-stock oils. With a cold pour point of -40, AMSOIL’s 15W-40 equals or outperforms even “5W-40” petroleum oils when the temperature goes sub-zero. The reality is that if you are going to start a HEUI-equipped diesel engine below -20, you should probably plug in the block heater for a few hours before you expect to start it.
In any case, switching to a synthetic and perhaps using a lower cold-weight oil is the perfect recipe for preventing these poor-starting, rough-idling problems with the 6.0L and 7.3L PowerStrokes and other HEUI engines. The remaining question then becomes how to resolve existing problems: how do you clean out the deposits? You can either clean using an additive, such as Archoil, or AMSOIL Engine Flush, or you can wait for the additive package of the synthetic oil to “do it’s job” – which can vary greatly depending on driving habits and on which oil you have chosen to use.
Just changing to AMSOIL DOES do the job of cleaning out the engine during the first 500 – 2000 miles, but it can use up enough of the detergent package to reduce AMSOIL’s extended-drain life. Further, if an engine has a substantial sludge buildup problem, the safe way to clean it out is without engine load at low rpm, using a high detergent concentration for rapid dissolving: this makes it impossible for dislodged sludge pieces to cause engine damage by plugging the oil pump screen or oil passages. We agree with AMSOIL’s changeover recommendation to use the engine flush procedure with AMSOIL Engine and Transmission Flush, dumping it into a warmed engine and letting it idle for 15-20 minutes prior to draining the oil and installing the AMSOIL oil and filter. (This isn’t new, but well-proven: see converting to AMSOIL.)
If TruckTrends were to perform this standard AMSOIL changeover procedure with another “test mule” truck, they would get identical results of perfect like-new-running performance. The benefit of doing it with AMSOIL is that the superior performance of the engine oil is fully tested and published in public data, rather than having a mediocre name-brand oil in the truck with an expensive additive every (standard-drain-interval) oil change. Frankly, AMSOIL’s AME has been an important “secret weapon” for cold-weather diesel fleets for decades and hundreds of millions of miles, delivering superior lubrication technology that completely eliminates pesky HEUI problems. It’s not AMSOIL-equipped fleets that are buying Archoil, but individual truck users and smaller fleets that don’t know about AMSOIL technology.
Bottom-line: Archoil plus a Group III synthetic resolves HEUI injector petro-gluing, but do the math and consider the technology difference. The 16 oz Archoil 9100 bottle is $42 (USD on ebay with free shipping, or $37 and pay shipping) plus the oil. The solution of using $10 AMSOIL Engine Flush plus AMSOIL synthetic oil is superior, and lower (or at least equal) annual cost. In addition, the AMSOIL nanofiber oil filter delivers an additional 70% wear-rate reduction. In fact, with the combination of AMSOIL oil and filters we often see 90% wear-rate reductions. Archoil can’t accomplish that feat.
Of course, anyone can make generic statements and unsupported claims. When people don’t ask for data, marketing wins the game with emotional deceptions and clever words. But data is where engineering battles marketing on the field of reality, and wins.
Read through these results of oil analysis, cold-temperature operation and engine teardown of an HEUI engine that is notorious for poor cold-weather starting and rough idling. https://ultimatesyntheticoil.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/11/NordicWasteFleetg2695.pdf Please notice that this severe-duty Midwestern U.S. truck fleet operates year-round near the Canadian border, and was comparing AMSOIL AME to their previous history of trying many oils but primarily using Rotella T as their benchmark standard! And pay close attention to their change in wear rates across all the engine metals.
It’s logical that since there were no petro deposits in the engine, there would be none in the HEUI injector actuator spools. Three excerpts:
“With conventional lubricants, when trucks weren’t plugged in, starting would be difficult, if even possible, and even if the trucks turned over, engine protection would be minimal because no oil pressure would appear on the gauge,” said Johnson. The test truck’s operator, Wayne Carlson, noticed the difference with AMSOIL Synthetic Diesel and Marine Motor Oil right away. “The truck has excellent performance in winter,” said Carlson. “It fires right up without being plugged in and there is instant oil pressure with AMSOIL. In trucks I have driven using conventional lubricants, it could take more than a minute to build any oil pressure when cold, providing little engine protection.” AMSOIL 15W-40 Synthetic Diesel and Marine Motor Oil is formulated to provide exceptional cold-temperature performance.
Use of AMSOIL 15W-40 Synthetic Diesel and Marine Motor Oil, along with oil analysis, has allowed Nordic Waste to extend its trucks’ oil drain intervals to nearly 1,000 hours – four times the length of service possible when using Shell Rotella T.
“We buy significantly less oil, fewer filters and we experience lower labor costs,” said Johnson. “Our biggest savings have been the reduced number of engine overhauls and replacement parts.”
[I anticipate that someone will ask, “yes but what about the nano technologies in the AR9100 additive?” First, understand that despite the “nano-technology” phrase, “nano” is a SIZE – not a technology. The nanometer is a common unit of measurement used with electron-microscope images and related microscopic examination methods. Second, all lubricants, including AMSOIL, are operating on a nanometer scale. Archoil makes some statement examples about what types of nano particles they are including in their products, but of course they don’t have much competition and don’t go into detail. And besides including a good detergent package in their product (pretty smart considering that nearly all potential customers will add it to petroleum oils, which inherently has sludge/varnish/carbon buildup problems), they are essentially adding some of the more advanced additive-package components which can boost petroleum oil performance.
AMSOIL prefers to not give their competitors (via the public domain) any information about what types of “nano” components/forms are included in their additive packaging in various products. However, they bring formidable expertise and a long legacy of superior ASTM test performance data to the table, along with fully balanced lubrication solutions that do EVERY important task either well or exceptionally, superbly well. This stands in stark contrast to the Archoil solution of adding detergents and additive agents to any/every petroleum/synthetic oil without regard for the overall impact across all of the API/SAE/ASTM performance test results.
Archoil does cover a lot of ground in customer accolades from many types of applications, where customers added Archoil to standard Group II petroleum oils or Group III “synthetic” petroleum oils. However, AMSOIL has gotten similar accolades for decades, and there seem to be no customers who added Archoil to Mobil 1 or AMSOIL and saw improvements – and I doubt there will be. If there were no Group IV / V synthetic oils available, I might very well try, use, and recommend Archoil with reserved excitement – knowing that there is no test data to validate the presence/absence of unintended combined effects of the motor oil and Archoil additives. However, when you consider the difference in performance testing, and do the math on the actual cost of annual oil changes with an Archoil approach versus an AMSOIL approach that handles 15-25k miles, then Archoil only barely gets a Bronze medal in the lubrication Olympics – maybe. AMSOIL still takes the Gold.]
Having shared all that, Wayne, I suggest you try this experiment on your 6.0L PowerStroke: the next time you change your oil, put in AMSOIL AME 15W-40 Premium Heavy Duty Synthetic Diesel & Marine Oil with an EA15K88 oil filter, and don’t do anything but top off the oil for 15,000 miles or 1 year. (Buy at Wholesale Dealer pricing and have it shipped to your door: as a Preferred Customer through UltimateSyntheticOil.com, you automatically get our full and free support for any questions or personalized recommendations, with our depth of automotive engineering experience.) I also suggest that you pull an oil sample for analysis at the end of that time before you change the oil, so that you know exactly how both the oil and your engine are doing. Then consider the results, add up your annual costs for oil changes, and decide how you’d like to proceed. You might also want to consider spending the money (under $500) to add an AMSOIL Dual Remote By-Pass Filtration System, to virtually eliminate oil changes and engine wear. (AMSOIL Bypass oil filtration is another closely-guarded fleet secret.)
Automotive Engineer, Lubrication Specialist
Former Senior Engineer – Chrysler
LeTourneau University Alumni
AMSOIL University Alumni
Sr Engineer, DMT Technical and UltimateSyntheticOil.com
Over 20 years in the automotive industry
Links to a few of the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) articles on the false and deceptive advertising used to market oil additives:
- Carefully consider the lessons from the Million Mile Van.
- Related article: how to pick the best engine oil.
- Fleet management resources include the diesel and fleet page, and the Christian ministry and business fleet vehicle maintenance page.
- Know a skeptic who thinks AMSOIL may be just marketing hype? Send them to our AMSOIL Skeptics page.
- NO, AMSOIL synthetic oils don’t cause gasket leaks or oil-seal leaks: oil-seal leaks are caused by petroleum oils.
Why you will be thrilled after switching to AMSOIL –
Once you have installed AMSOIL you will have the following benefits:
Easier cold weather starting, improved cold weather pumpability and circulation, smoother engine performance and more horsepower, reduced exhaust emissions, superior wear protection, improved fuel economy, extended engine life, extended starter life, excellent engine cleanliness, long drain intervals, longer spark plug life, reduced engine temperatures, reduced oil consumption, excellent resistance to sludge, coke & varnish deposits (Thermal Stability), reduced/eliminated piston groove sticking, reduced/eliminated valve sticking, superior shear stability, superior resistance to viscosity increase (Volatility Resistance), superior film strength, no more stuck oil filters (using AMSOIL EaO filters), money and time savings.
You will not get any of these benefits with conventional petroleum oil !!!!!
When you compare….
there is simply no comparison to AMSOIL synthetic oils.
And don’t forget to be a hero, because an opportunity this big is rare! Share this information with your friends and tell them about Preferred Customer membership that lets them buy at wholesale, get it shipped to their door, earn redeemable points and get exclusive incentives – they’ll owe you big-time, and will always respect you for it. How do we know? Because AMSOIL has one of the highest customer-loyalties of any group of products in the world, and 75% of AMSOIL dealers took that step because of their stunning experiences as AMSOIL users.
One of the most common comments from the hundreds of thousands of AMSOIL customers: “I wish I had known about AMSOIL years ago!”
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