If there is one thing we can all agree on, it’s that a discussion about fuel and oil supplements can spark a heated debate. There are some enthusiasts who say oil supplements are not worthy of consideration. However, some will swear the products will improve the performance and lifespan of an engine. Some of the benefits touted by those who use supplements announce longer oil life, reduced engine noise, and even better fuel mileage. But are engine oil additives/supplements worth pouring into your ride?
In an attempt to get some clear and concise information, we contacted Tom Bogner, director of R&D, at Lucas Oil. With his help, we will take a closer look at how oil supplements work and the different types available for oil and fuel. By considering the potential benefits of using oil and/or fuel supplements in your vehicle, you can decide if adding them are the right choice for you.
What Are Oil Supplements?
Before we begin, we need to clarify what an oil supplement really is and what it does. The primary purpose of engine oil is to lubricate your engine’s internal, moving parts to reduce friction between those parts. However, oil also needs to serve several other critical functions inside your engine. It needs to protect against corrosion, remove contaminants, prevent sludge build-up, and help cool the engine. Unfortunately, asking this fluid to do many things means it probably cannot do any of them to its full potential. Since oil cannot properly do all of this by itself, supplements can be included to improve oil performance.
We all laugh about people we know who never change their car’s oil, but continuing to use an oil for overly extended periods of time can result in its additive package being depleted. Once that happens, increased wear and tear on your engine is a result. It could even reduce fuel economy and increase rust and corrosion, oil sludge, overheating, breakdowns, and other serious engine damage. By including aftermarket oil supplements, you could actually improve oil performance between oil changes and protect your engine in the long run. We are not advocating that you do not need to change your oil, but adding a supplement could help your oil last a little longer as well as offer other benefits.
“Older, high-mileage vehicles, as well as new cars, can benefit from supplements, yet no one additive will best fit them all,” says Bogner. This need for various products results in a much wider range found on the shelves of your local automotive parts stores. I like to think of oil supplements as a way to boost or amplify existing engine oil to accomplish the needs of your vehicle.”
We’re certain that all of you reading this has spent some time in the auto parts store and turned the crank handle on the Lucas Heavy Duty Oil Stabilizer display. It is a small, but memorable display, with two sets of gears encased in a plastic container. One set of gears is coated with only engine oil while the other has engine oil treated with Lucas Heavy Duty Oil Stabilizer. When you turn the crank handle for each, you can see how much better the oil with the Lucus additive coats and sticks to the gears. What’s more, when you stop cranking, you can actually see how well the Lucas-protected gears remain coated when the oil drains down.
“Lucas Oil Heavy Duty Oil Stabilizer was originally developed for solving problems in the trucking industry,” says Bogner. “It contains a unique additive package with viscosity improvers and modifiers to help maintain higher oil pressure in worn engines as well as extending the oil life of both gasoline and diesel engines.”
By adding an oil stabilizer, you are helping your oil more thoroughly coat and lubricate the engine components. Reducing wear is a good thing, right? What’s more, we’re told a stabilizer will help extend the life of the oil. Do you change your oil every 3,000 miles? Maybe you squeeze 4,000 miles between changes. While your “experience” and oil both have recommendations about how often to change this protective engine juice, there is no actual way to tell exactly how much use you will get out of oil without having it analyzed. Notice I didn’t say miles. A lot of factors go into determining the usefulness of the oil.
For instance, The high temperatures and other stresses placed on the oil while it is in use cause it to chemically change over time. Driving conditions that cause dirt and other impurities to invade the oil system will vary. Recommendations and “personal theories” are guidelines to indicate when, on average, you can expect the oil’s viscosity and protection capabilities to deteriorate.
Why Wait Until It’s Too Late
Many car owners think they need to wait until their vehicle reaches a high mileage condition before needing to use additives like this. The truth is, you can begin using oil stabilizers once your engine is through its initial breaking-in phase. In fact, Bogner suggests the earlier you start using stabilizers, the more they can do to reduce wear and tear on your vehicle, extending its useful life.
“I highly recommend treating your vehicles from the first oil change. Why wait for contamination to build? I have been servicing my own vehicles for more than 40 years now, using additives in both fuels and engine oils which has kept my vehicles out of the repair shops while keeping the performance at peak levels for the long haul.”
Get The Zinc Outta Here
If you’ve been hot-rodding for any length of time, you surely remember when almost every enthusiast was experiencing inexplicable camshaft failures. It was first spread around the internet that the cams were no good which was later found to not be the case. In fact, it was because the zinc previously added to engine oil was removed to help curb emissions.
Protecting the camshaft lobes is the main reason your engine needs either zinc or a zinc additive in the engine oil you feed to it. When the camshaft rotates, valve spring pressure works against the camshaft lifter, pushing against the camshaft lobe as it forces the intake and exhaust valves open. Lubrication of the cam and lifters occurs when pressurized oil is fed to the lifters through holes in each lifter bore. And as the pressure builds around the lifter, it lubricates the camshaft lobe and lifter.
For older cars that use a flat-tappet camshaft rather than a roller cam, the much-needed anti-wear properties of zinc bond to metal parts, creating an anti-wear coating. This coating is able to withstand the friction created between the lifter and camshaft lobe keeping wear to a minimum. In short, flat-tappet engines need zinc or a zinc replacement additive in the mix to keep the lifters and camshaft from wearing down before they should.
We’re told Lucas Oil’s TB ZINC additive was developed over 15 years ago to address the problems associated with the reduction of ZDDP or Zinc dithiophosphate in engine oil. “As engine oil had the levels reduced, wear issues began to show up, especially in the high-performance applications,” states Bogner. “ZDDP being highly effective against metal-to-metal wear is used as an anti-wear additive. TB ZINC can also be used to increase zinc levels in gear oils as well as transmission fluids.”
Proper Fuel For The Fire
One question we hear a lot is, “do fuel additives actually work? If you search Google, you really will not get a clear answer. Your search will reveal multiple articles that claim they don’t and just as many that claim they do.
The biggest detriment to the perceived worth of fuel additives is time. Most who try a fuel additive expect to see the benefits immediately. Unfortunately, it will take the use of multiple tanks of treated fuel before most additives provide any noticeable performance improvement. That doesn’t sit well when most people are used to getting what they want without the need to wait.
The reason to use a fuel additive is that, over time, carbon deposits form on your engine’s valves, and in the combustion chamber. This buildup causes you to notice a reduction in power, throttle response, fuel economy, and/or drivability. That’s when you pick up a fuel additive at the gas station or parts store. You plan to fix the issue whether you are doing it the right way or not.
“Using fuel additives can also benefit the carburetor as it lubricates the internals improving throttle idle as well as performance, says Bogner. “I have personally used Lucas Oil Original Upper Cylinder and Injector Cleaner in my race cars in both Leaded as well as Unleaded Race Gas. This helps protect the entire fuel system. If you are running Ethanol (E10- E90), I highly recommend using Lucas Oil Safeguard additive for every fill-up. I run E85 in my Supercharged Mustang and have been able to inspect both the inside of my fuel tank, pumps, injectors, and I am very pleased with the cleanliness upon inspection, even when sitting for well over eight months.
Now that you have read the article in its entirety, there is no need for us to tell you that you should be using any fuel or oil supplements in your oil and fuel. However, by reading the article, if you haven’t figured out how doing so can benefit your car’s engine, maybe you need to reach out to the folks at Lucas Oil and ask the questions you feel need to be answered. Once you get the full download, your car will thank you.