Are Aftermarket Oil Additives Beneficial?

Noria Corporation

"Would you recommend using aftermarket engine oil fortifiers? Have any studies or research been done on the benefits of using these types of oil additives?"

There are currently more than 50 products on the market that make claims of reduced engine wear, increased horsepower, improved fuel economy, etc. Just about any automotive or even general store will have multiple brands and varieties. So what is in them that makes them so special, and are they beneficial?

The product data sheets for all of these products are nearly identical. With a few exceptions, most have an SAE 50 base oil with standard additives. One of these exceptions is polytetrafluoroethylene (PTFE), which was invented by Roy Plunkett of Kinetic Chemicals (DuPont) more than a half century ago. To this day, DuPont claims that "PTFE is not useful as an ingredient in oil additives or oils used for internal combustion engines."

The NASA Lewis Research Center conducted a study in which oil additives containing PTFE were tested.  The conclusions of this test were as follows: "In the types of bearing surface contact we have looked at, we have seen no benefit. In some cases we have seen detrimental effect. The solids in the oil tend to accumulate at the inlets and act as a dam, which simply blocks the oil from entering. Instead of helping, it is actually depriving parts of the lubricant."

Aside from PTFE, many of these products contain a base oil, zinc, phosphorous and sulfur compounds. It should come as no surprise that this is exactly what the oil manufacturer has already put into the oil. The only difference is that when the oil manufacturer adds compounds, it is in very precise quantities, at specific temperatures and in a certain way to give the end lubricant very unique performance properties.

Think of the lubricant as a chemical soup with very specific characteristics. Mixing additional ingredients into the soup will have an effect on the outcome of the recipe. How often do you walk into a world-famous chef’s kitchen and toss in a handful of what you think it needs, not knowing what was in the soup in the first place?

Other important questions to ask before using an engine oil fortifier would include why are there so many Federal Trade Commission (FTC) fines and lawsuits against the aftermarket additive companies for misleading advertising, why don’t car manufacturers recommend their usage, where are all the official studies and who is conducting them.

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