Adding additives to engine oil – good or bad idea?

The additives are supposed to boost the properties of an engine oil and allow users to save money. However, these miracle additives are often far from having the qualities used to market them.

Motor oils what you need to know

Engine oil is used primarily to cool and lubricate the engine while removing impurities. By carrying out this cleaning action, the oil accumulates soiling particles and must therefore be changed regularly. It can be of three different types on the market, namely synthetic, semi-synthetic or mineral. You can also find a selection of the best products here.

When the automobile was still in its infancy, the prevailing engine oil was mineral. This is simply refined crude oil. Its use was polluting and the emptying frequencies had to be very frequent. Later, semi-synthetic oils appeared. This type of oil is a mixture between mineral oil and synthetic oil. Synthetic oils are obtained by chemical transformation in laboratories. They have been designed to better protect the engine and reduce the frequency of oil changes. To achieve their performance, various additives are also added to synthetic oils.

Benefits of additives

Synthetic oils are currently used by the majority of modern engines. The additives present therein have various functions. They can be used to reduce corrosion and promote the cooling property of the oil. They can also allow the oil to obtain an optimal viscosity.

The more viscous an oil, the thicker and more consistent it is. This consistency is useful when the engine is heavily loaded and the temperature is high. Under these conditions, the oil must not break in order to avoid damaging the engine. On the other hand, at low temperatures like during starting, the oil must be more fluid to be pumped easily.

Thanks to additives, an oil can be very fluid at low temperature and sufficiently viscous at high temperature. These oils containing additives have been subjected to several tests to be able to correspond to international standards and to be suitable for all types of engines. Some car manufacturers, however, set their standards to allow optimal use of their engines.

The mixture of oils

The standards depending on the manufacturers are linked to the additives they use. In this sense, oils from different brands are distinguished above all by their respective additives. Whether for diesel or gasoline, regardless of the brand, oil generally has the same properties. You can therefore choose a different brand from that recommended by your car manufacturer without having serious repercussions on the engine. The only risk is to have an engine that is no longer efficient enough. However, mixing two different oils can have serious repercussions. The same goes for adding supposedly miraculous additives to improve your oil. For each of these practices, you risk losing the warranty offered by the manufacturers. The reason is that by altering the properties of an oil,

The danger of additives

Oils produced in the laboratory have a composition capable of improving the performance of your engine. As mentioned earlier, additives are the cause. According to a certain logic, it would therefore suffice to add a chemical having certain virtues to improve an oil. It is with this way of thinking that miracle additives have gradually appeared on the market.

By being aware of their usefulness, users are tempted to believe that they can offer them a real performance gain. However, many witnesses say that these additives are harmful. Reduced performance, overconsumption of fuel or a corroded engine are the consequences that can result from the use of these products.

In this case, the most plausible explanation is the modification of the properties of the oil following the addition of the additive. The presence of the latter can indeed lead to the mutation of the molecules that make up the oil and may also have gained random properties. Therefore, an additive supposed to have precise effects can give the desired properties to an oil while creating other constraints.

Furthermore, in certain cases, the additive can be ineffective and harmless, therefore useless. But the worst part is when it damages the engine instead of protecting it. This is what John Rowland, a chemist in charge of development research at the Fuchs Silkolene lubricants laboratory in England, claims, among others.

Expert opinion

Additives have detractors just as they have strong advocates. The latter are the incredulous, the individuals in search of profit or those who need solid arguments before deciding. As a solid argument, there is nothing better than the word of an expert having practiced in the field for more than 30 years to be fixed with regard to this problem.

In fact, John Rowland claims that the maximum achievable gain is only 3% of the initial energy contained in gasoline, in a 4-stroke engine. It is therefore impossible that an additive can exceed this figure by reducing friction. On the other hand, achieving a gain by manipulating the viscosity of the oil and facilitating its pumping is feasible.

Following his experience in the field, he established a categorization of these additives. There are those which are useless, but harmless to the engine. Others pose no risk to the engine, but also do not bring real improvements. Some, in addition to being ineffective, pose a risk to the engine. Among these are Teflon additives, viscosity boosters and TBNs. The most dangerous are those that are really harmful and destroy instead of protecting or improving. These very aggressive products are additives based on chlorinated paraffins and silicones present in different solvents. The use of these products leads to various corrosions and other inconveniences.

Expert advice is not to be taken lightly. The big oil players such as Total, Castrol and Elf also have the same critical point of view on these additives. Unfortunately, profit-hungry individuals continue to tout the benefits of these products. The victims are ignorant consumers who believe they are doing the right thing.

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