Remember the Saturday-afternoon infomercials for the latest “revolutionary” motor oil additive? I enjoyed one in which a group of mechanics added a bottle of additive to an engine they’d suspended from a hoist. Then they drained the oil, started the engine and lowered it into a tank of water. There it sat, gurgling away and spraying water all over the amazed onlookers as the host screamed his approval.
I immediately grabbed the phone and placed an order.
I’m not sure if the additive improved the life of my 1987 Ford F-150, but then again I never drained the oil from it and drove into a river.
What do motor oil additives do?
Aftermarket engine oil additives are “treatments” advertised to enhance an oil’s properties. Manufacturers claim these treatments reduce friction, noise and wear; maintain higher lubricity and break down sludge and varnish, protecting engine components.
To provide this added performance, aftermarket additives use different chemical components to augment the motor oil formula. Some products have advertised materials like Teflon, molybdenum or graphite. Some have used chlorine, which can be highly corrosive when mixed with water.
Should you use them?
The fact is, motor oil must fulfill several responsibilities. Wear protection is the poster child, but oil must also fight deposits, manage heat, act as a hydraulic fluid in some applications and more.
The chemists and engineers at motor oil companies work hard to fine-tune their formulations to fulfill all the requirements of a motor oil. While aftermarket additives may claim to boost performance in one or two areas, they can’t hit them all.
What’s more, aftermarket oil additives are not necessary in fully formulated oils. High-quality engine oils are blended with additives that are carefully balanced to be synergistic, performing well together. Tampering with the balance by adding other chemicals can adversely affect overall oil performance, sometimes dramatically.
The decision to use aftermarket additives is ultimately yours to make, but be wary of performance claims. Some additive manufacturers have been charged by the FTC with making false claims in the past.
For the record, AMSOIL recommends against using aftermarket additives. AMSOIL synthetic motor oils are fully formulated to provide superior protection and performance; use of aftermarket additives will detract from their performance and possibly lead to engine failure. Use of aftermarket oil additives not approved by AMSOIL INC. will void the AMSOIL Limited Warranty.