From Abracadabra to Zombies
7 Jun 2004
I was the Creative Director of the ad agency that launched Slick 50 into the UK and wrote all the material that supported it. I hasten to add that I have had no connection with the company for many years.
Unfortunately, my records have long gone but I believe it was around 1985 that we were approached by Mitchell Marketing and the UK representative of Slick 50. As a motoring enthusiast myself, I refused to even consider yet another new 'wonder glop' until I was presented with independent test evidence - which indeed was forthcoming.
Our ASA (Advertising Standards Authority) are rightly very quick to jump on unsupported claims and I knew we would be challenged. Incidentally, the ASA does not except 'unsolicited testimonials' as evidence.
At this point I must add that I can only speak for the UK product. I believe that this differed at that time from the US product in two significant respects: it used a different base oil as a carrier and, more importantly, the PTFE chemical package was developed in the UK to a different formulation. Even the nature of the PTFE 'platelets' was different.
Two independent test reports were supplied in support of Slick 50. One was by Engineering Research and Application Ltd - an authoritative UK company - and the other by TUV - a German company considered to be Europe's leading testing authority.
ERA recorded, amongst other improvements, an average power increase of 12.70% and TUV an average friction reduction of 19.10%.
At that time, engine management systems were not chip-controlled and, after changing the oil and filter and introducing Slick 50, the treatment could be completed by idling the engine for 30 minutes. During that period users invariably found (I know I did!) that the idle setting had to be continually backed off as friction reduction caused the idle speed to increase.
As an empirical test, we also took three ordinary saloon cars to Mallory Park racing circuit. Two had been given the Slick 50 treatment. On arrival all three had the engine oil drained from the sump and were then driven around the circuit at a steady 50 mph. I recall that the untreated engine seized up within one mile, but the other two lapped continuously for 50 untroubled laps - one was being driven by rally champion Roger Clark.
I also recall that whereas the original UK formulation could have the Slick 50 platelets trapped by an unchanged oil filter (as the Automobile Association discovered the hard way when they attempted to test the product and forgot to read the instructions!) - a later improved formulation reduced the micron size to below 5 microns, which would pass through most conventional oil filters, although the filter change is still recommended.
Incidentally, I believe that the particle bonding system was also improved to the extent that the one to two micron thick layer of Slick 50 would require grinding off to remove it. I mention this layer as I note a reference to ' blocking oilways' - which I suggest would be extremely unlikely at this level of thickness.
I also recall another test on a DAF Turbo-diesel truck. This time the supercharger was dismantled after 150,000 miles and, despite the mileage and extreme operating temperature, wear was found to be negligible, with the Slick 50 coating virtually intact.
I believe that one of your other contributors asked why engine manufacturers didn't use this process, if it was so good. Again it is my recollection, and no doubt they might confirm this, that Ford did in fact start to use a PTFE coating for their pistons.
As you might imagine, rival products (now long gone) popped up to challenge our claims. So as well as the ASA we also had to provide supporting evidence to the satisfaction of Trading Standards Authorities - which we did.
As an amusing aside, I recall an account of a how one rival product based in Australia produced their own UK evidence by submitting a newspaper report of their treated car being driven without engine oil across Australia. Unfortunately, they published a picture of the car and the Australian Slick 50 representative recognised it as the same car that had previously been treated by a Slick 50 dealer and subjected to a similar, earlier test!
We suggested that even if the second treatment was indeed effective (we made no claim that it wasn't) the results may have been affected by the earlier Slick 50 treatment.
Personally I agree that consumers should always be sceptical. I often pointed out that if you added up all the claims made by performance improvers, then treating your whole vehicle should reduce fuel consumption to nearly zero!
Our claim was really only to do with friction reduction and it was up to the driver to decide how they would exploit that benefit - improved mileage or improved performance.
Initially, Slick 50 regarded the treatment as being effective 'for the life of the engine' but I believe that in the UK they now recommend retreatment after 100,000 miles. I suspect that this has more to do with credibility and the dangers of appearing to overclaim, then any real wear risk.
I hope this has been of some value and will gladly try to find more detail if you would find it useful.
Syresham, Northants, UK.
07 Jun 2004
The author of the latest comment about Slick 50 engine oil makes a good point about the '5 Minute Lie', and then makes a statement showing that he believes in one.
I've worked as an automotive engineer for ten years, and I have never been asked to design anything that will fail after a certain period of time or cycles of use. Nor have any of my co-workers. There is no 'planned obsolescence' conspiracy within the automotive industry.
There are two reasons for this. First, any failure is assumed to reduce customer confidence in the companies product. If your transmission fails, you are less likely to buy any product from that company again. The automobile companies know this, and are continually increasing their reliability requirements.
Second, to design something to fail after a certain period of time or cycles of use is cost prohibitive. I would have to add parts, and thus cost, in order to design for obsolescence. The automotive OEMs would never award me the business because my part would be a couple of dollars more than one of my competitors.
Could I design a part which is more reliable than I currently make? Yes, because cost pressures from competition means that I can't use materials which I would use if I didn't have to win the business. However, the improvement in reliability would be marginal. I couldn't design a part which would last forever. In fact, designing parts to operate properly across a broad range of temperature and environmental extremes is not all that simple.
My parts have to operate properly in temperature extremes from -40F to +185F. They have to operate properly in extremely dry environments to 95% humidity. They have to operate properly over ten years in a salt spray, or ten years in a dust storm. The electronics have to operate properly even if you are parked next to a high-powered radio antenna. This is a bit more difficult than designing say, a computer, which will usually sit in an air-conditioned room for 3 years without moving.
Obsolescence is not planned. Failures occur because perfection is impossible. Yet, as an example, we have one complex electronic part which we supply about 2,500,000 parts a year and get about 200 returns. That's a reliability of better than 99.99%.
In short, planned obsolescence is a fallacious belief which I am tired of hearing about.
Automotive Switch Engineer
3 June 2004
Is anyone familiar with the "5 Minute Lie"? It takes 5 minutes to lay out an accusation. It takes weeks, months, and years to disprove it. Sometimes it can never be disproven. Just ask the Republicans. Everyone loves to "dis" on Slick50. I have no financial interest in the product and do not work for the company in any way. I am an independent consumer.
People always ask: Why don't the auto companies require this product?" Well, Geeze Loueeze, wake up and smell the coffee. Anyone ever heard of "planned obsolescence"? The auto industry is in the business of selling cars. They have no interest in seeing cars last twice as long. Why do you THINK they don't endorse a product that makes their engines run longer? Why would they?
So ask a couple other questions: Why do so many other companies market a copy cat? Why does Slick50 offer an engine warranty when using their product? Why has Slick50 lasted so long without being shown to cause "damage"?
As you say "There are about 50 other products on the market which make similar claims, many of them being just duplicate products under different names from the same company." Emulation is the highest compliment. Maybe its just because it makes money - BUT - if Slick50 were causing damage "sometimes" - do you think they would still be around? Not only have they been tested by market forces but others can't wait to get into the deal as well.
As for settling with the FTC I can't really speak for the company, but have you ever been sued by the US Govt? It costs and costs and costs. Settlement doesn't equal admission of wrong. Would Slick50 settle if they weren't making false claims? You bet - to avoid millions of dollars in attorney fees, expert witnesses, independent studies, etc, etc, etc. Of course, the legal system isn't perfect. You CAN be right and still lose - AFTER spending millions on fees and costs. It isn't a perfect world.
In your own words: "The University of Utah Engineering Experiment Station found that after treatment with the PTFE additive the test engine's friction was reduced by 13.1 percent, the output horsepower increased from 5.3 percent to 8.1 percent, and fuel economy improved as well." OK, let's expand THAT part of your whole story, rather than dismiss it lightly. Isn't it amazing that the whole tenor of your article scares consumers away from a product that BY YOUR OWN ADMISSION provides all of the benefits that they advertise? 13% friction reduction is nothing to sneeze at. Obviously engine oil alone is NOT as good. Case closed, no?
As a "alley mechanic" during my teen years, I and every other teenager who worked on cars were well aware of the cold engine wear concept. Oil lubricates better when it warms up. It also runs off of the engine parts when the engine stands idle for extended time periods. "Highway miles" are much better than "city miles". That's why a car with 50k miles on it driven 3 miles per day was worth far less than a car with 50k miles driven 50 miles per day. It would certainly get a much higher total mileage on it before failure. Slick50 addresses this very issue in a credible way.
You also mischaracterize disclaimers as affirmative admonitions as follows:
"If you use a synthetic oil, such as Mobil 1, you are advised not to use any engine treatments or additives. Mobil claims that The use of an engine oil additive is not recommended, either by Mobil or by virtually any vehicle manufacturer. In fact, it may void your new-car warranty."
They are not advising people to avoid Slick50 or any other additive, although your article says exactly that. Mobil is telling their customers that they are not in the business of evaluating other companies' engine treatments or additives or how to properly use them. They have nothing to say about it. Some engine additives and treatments may result in damage and void the warranty but apparently not Slick50 or they would say so! Slick50 gives a supplemental warranty for 50,000 miles. IF the manufacturer determines that use of Slick50 actually voided the warranty (they never have in 30 years), Slick50 will cover it or prove their treatment wasn't the cause (in which case the manufacturer has the ball back in their court). But since no manufacturer has, in 30 years, voided their warranty because of proper use of Slick50, why generate this innuendo? Is that a fair statement?
Personally, I use the stuff religiously together with synthetic oil. Although I can't prove that Slick50 is precisely what makes the difference, I CAN say that my strategy works. My autos routinely exceed "reputed" expectations for American made autos. My automobiles routinely go over 100k miles without drips, leaks, or major mechanical failure. I change my oil twice per year (whether it needs it or not) which means I go about 12,000 miles on each oil change (gasp). I drive mainly GM but have owned other vehicles as well. My inventory includes a 1977 Dodge Van, 1984 Ford Van, 1982 Plymouth Van, 1986 Jeep Cherokee, 1987 Dodge Van, a 1987 Chevy Cavalier, 1989 Pontiac Bonneville, and 1997 S-10 Blazer. All have gone over 100k miles. The Bonneville went 145k at which time I sold it over time and it was fully paid off and running several years later. The 97 Blazer is now at 160K and has zero drips and leaks. All were sold. None blew an engine. None burned oil. None required gasket changes or rod replacement. None were overhauled. None required major engine repair at all. NONE! Maybe it wasn't the Slick50 but you couldn't prove it looking at me. In any event, Slick50 sure didn't HURT anything I've driven over the last 30 years.
Slick50 was "dis'd" coming out of the starting gate. After all these years of marketing their product, nobody seems able to point to any research showing "damage" beyond clogging the oil filter until the next oil change. Big deal. Its stupid to change your oil without changing the oil filter. Anyway, it hasn't hurt me - ever.
If you are going to destroy a reputation, you better be able to back up your accusations with more than innuendo. The only independent study you cite backs up every claim Slick50 makes. Citing an unproven FTC complaint is the heart of the 5 minute lie. Ever heard of "innocent until proven guilty"? Ever ask why the FTC settled if they had an air tight case against Slick50? I think they ought to sue you for libel and slander.
You remind me of the Democratic National Committee who has perfected the 5 minute lie. But their libel and slander is in the political arena which is protected. What you're doing is like accusing someone of being a child molester. You have no proof and people will grant that, but the accused can't prove he's not, either, and parents will keep their children away from him all the same "just in case".
5 minutes is all it takes to slander someone. Imagine enlarging the 5 minutes into 30 years. I doubt Slick50 can overcome it. Unlike the political arena, slander that causes monetary damage is actionable. How much has their sales been hurt by suspicion, innuendo, and unsubstantiated accusations? How much money have they lost over the decades? How much money have you and others made by feeding the paranoia? You take a lot of potshots at Slick50 without apparent substantiation. If it is without substantiation, I think Slick50 should sue you for libel and slander.
reply: Libel and slander. What kind of attorney are you? You haven't demonstrated that a single claim I make is false. Nor do you demonstrate that I've damaged anybody's product. Thanks to satisfied customers like you, whose reasoning I will not evaluate here, Quaker Oil and similar companies will never go broke. Since you cc'd a copy of your essay to slick50, let us know if they offer you a job in their legal department.
25 Dec 2002
Many years ago Slick-50 changed formulations without telling their customers (they fell out with their suppliers). Yet they continued using tests of the original formulation in their advertising until relatively recently. It is the cut-off between the original and the new Slick-50 that defines the good and the indifferent tests. The original formulation stood up to testing. Magazines including the Consumers Digest recognised that it worked. In recent testing Consumers Digest gave Slick-50 the thumbs down. However they were not testing the same product they had in the past. I hope they redo the tests with the original formulation.
The original Slick-50 formulation is now being sold as Xcelplus. It is this original formulation that had all the impressive testing done to it. Xcelplus have quite extensive and interesting documentation on their site verifying this. Some of the material includes Supreme Court findings and legal documents. Slick-50 have now taken all the tests referring to the original formula out of their advertising material. Unfortunately most people still don't know the tale of the two formulations. This is creating a lot of confusion as they're not comparing apples and apples. Now we know why original testing showed up different results to more recent testing.
Links to your site were instrumental in sorting this out. BTW:
The original formulation contains no Teflon.
PS. It's me you're quoting extensively on your web site so it would be nice to put up this clarification.
15 Sep 2000
Wow, I didn't expect so many defenders of these additives to appear. I do have some insight to the testing, if you don't already have it.
I am a Society of Tribologists and Lubricatin Engineers Certified Lubrication Specialist. I worked until February 1998 at a well respected independent petroleum analysis laboratory in Vallejo, CA.
The 3 published test papers related to Slick 50 are available from the Society of Automotive Engineers, and, as part of a project evaluating Slick 50, DuraLube, and other additives, I ordered copies of the three (I would give you the six digit numbers, but I do not recall them. They were referenced in an article by Petrolon in "Lubrication Engineering", the STLE magazine). What it boils down to- they are very turgid- is the four ball test results (ASTM D2272, IIRC) performed by (IIRC, again) Southwest Research in San Antonio, TX.
The test results did not seem to be that different to me. But what really makes me laugh is that the four ball test bears little relation to what happens in an engine.
Three steel balls are fixed in a triangle in a cup. The fourth ball is placed in a chuck at the end of a vertical shaft, set against the three fixed balls to a set loading, and spun. The resulting wear scars are measured for area. The cup is generally filled with the candidate lubricant.
The major difference? The relative sliding motion is in a constant direction, temperature, and force. This simplifies the hydrodynamics greatly. In an engine, this is not the case. The PTFE particles can not be counted on to lay flat against a surface (don't get me started on the "coating"). In fact, if they are caught more perpendicular to a surface, they can cause damage just like any hard contaminant.
Most of the non-PTFE additives were either just higher viscosity or
contained high amounts of chlorinated anti-wear additives. These additives
do work- but so do the ones already in motor oil- but they should not be
used here because of chemical reactions which form corrosives. Nitric,
carbonic and sulfuric (in diesel) acids are problem enough, why add
reply: Maybe the users want to make sure their cars gets all the food groups for a well-balanced diet?
28 Nov 1999
Consumer Reports did an oil test on 60(?) New York taxi cabs. What they did was strip the engines down every 6000 miles and measured wear, etc. Anyway, all oils are basically the same with synthetic showing slightly less wear. AND, two oil additives, similar to Slick 50 if not the same, showed a propensity to cause more wear.
Well, I would not normally bother someone with this fact, but, you
seem to have a bunch of flakes out there who believe in snake oil. Now,
you can have a reference done through an independent study.
reply: I haven't seen that issue, but Consumer Reports said in 1996 that "anyone using one of today's high-quality motor oils shouldn't need an additional engine or oil treatment. We reached that conclusion in our July 1996 report on motor oils after we tested Slick 50 Engine Formula and STP Oil Treatment in New York City taxis." Consumer Reports also once tried to duplicate the Prolong commercial but burned up the engine.
4 Nov 1999
Slick 50 is not like synthetic motor oil as some of the recent letters may lead one to believe.
There are no proven studies on the efficacy of adding TEFLON - which Slick 50 is - to the oil.
Synthetic oils have been proven to such a degree and are considered so superior in resisting heat breakdown that federal law allows only synthetic lubricants in jet engines - ask any Airframe and Powerplant (FAA certification) mechanic...
AND there are studies showing the reduced wear on engine components when synthetic lubricants are used - the FAA has that, too...
Comments also alluded to "...increasing oil change
frequency..." when using synthetic oil. Wrong again. Even the
manufacturers recommend filtering and re-using of synthetic oils in
automotive applications. In fact, synthetic oil used in cars can be
filtered/re-used many times.
31 Oct 1999
Having used slick 50 for about 15 years and through over 20 vehicles I feel well qualified to say "It works".
reply: My mother went through 20 rosaries over 70 years and she was sure her prayers worked, too, but I have my doubts.
However when starting out I wasn't so sure so I did oil analysis (yes metal wear decreased significantly). I also continue to use magnetic sump plugs so that I can see how much visible ferrous metal comes out of my engines each time I change my oil.
reply: Doesn't everybody?
Over the years I have also noted mileage improvements (usually around 10%): I keep log books.
reply: You keep log books, but do you do controlled studies? What is the 10% compared to? Do you run half your vehicles with Slick and half without? What do you use for comparison? My mother thought she had a high success rate with her prayers but she never kept track of the unanswered ones, or she just figured God decided they weren't worthy of being granted. Either way, she was satisfied.
Other improvements include decreased temperature: very noticeable on air cooled motorbikes or by noting the position of your temperature gauge before and after.
Decreased noise (sometimes the difference is huge).
reply: Are these validations based on subjective experience? If so, there is the danger of self-deception.
I agree that Slick-50 sometimes exaggerate the perils of not using their product.
reply: So did the FTC when they when they got Quaker State Corporation (which makes Slick 50) to pay $10 million and agree to quit making false and unsubstantiated claims.
However I figure that if my engine gets up to 50% less wear I get up to 100% more life out of it. This is particularly relevant to the air cooled 4 stroke motorbikes I favour. I have accumulated over 500,000 Kms (300,000 miles) with slick and motorbikes and more in cars. I have also had a few engines lose all their oil with no damage (often after running many miles dry).
reply: That's good figuring but that's a big "if". By the way, for a guy who is so meticulous about keeping records on his oil, you don't show much care for your vehicles if you let them run dry.
I accept that sometimes slick-50 may not be at its optimal level after 50,000Kms but in my experience even if it has slightly worn away it is still working. As my air cooled motorbikes run so hot and the gears run in the engine oil whipping it to premature failure I'm not surprised Slick wears out quickly. I just add about 10ml of slick with my oil changes to keep the coating 100% all the time. However in cars this is not necessary and one treatment does genuinely appear to last well past 50,000 Kms.
And the cost...? Well if I get a 10% improvement in economy it takes me about $500 of fuel to pay for the treatment. I do this in about 1/2 a year. This totally discounts the savings in repairs that I might otherwise have to make. Say I only get 5%... then it would take a year. What about 0%? Well I still get the power and decreased repair bills. How can I lose?
reply: Even if your "if" isn't actual, everything's still satisfactual.
I've seen the booklets Slick put out. They contain either full reports or excerpts. I know they're correct because I have sourced a few direct from the testing organisations concerned. One of the best ones is the Consumers Association report, quite a few years back, which stated it was the only product they could find that did work (I sourced that one direct too).
Enough proof? No? Well try it... I did and that's what really sold
Michael Czajka <email@example.com>
reply: I don't usually print e-mail addresses, but I couldn't help but notice the name you go by. You are one devoted person.
1 Nov 1999
Michael Czajka says in support of Slick 50:
Other improvements include decreased temperature: very noticeable on air cooled motorbikes or by noting the position of your temperature gauge before and after.
This is not possible on a typical car engine, whose coolant temperature is controlled by a thermostat. Assuming the cooling system can keep up with the rate of heat production of the engine (i.e., assuming there isn't something grossly wrong like no coolant), the temperature gauge will remain fixed whether or not Slick 50 has been added.
Czajka's stated improvement of 10% in fuel economy on average cannot
be considered statistically significant. Such a change could be caused by
increasing tire pressure, reducing engine or transmission oil viscosity,
fixing dragging brakes, performing routine maintenance, or changing one's
driving habits, among other things.
21 Sep 1998
Thanks for taking up these wonder additives.
But I would not recommend single viscosity oil, even for old cars. If your old car does not consume too much oil, use synthetic oil and maybe increase the drain interval by 50 % if you think the oil is too expensive. Oil consumption will be smaller with synthetics. If it does consume lots of oil, you should fix the engine, not try to run it on cheaper single viscosity stuff.
So here is a skeptic comment: Your reasoning in terms of science is very good, but what is your expertise in the fields of internal combustion engines? You do not refer to any source in your last paragraph, so I assume that it is you speaking in the last paragraph. How do you justify the sentence "That multi-viscosity stuff is for the younger set." What do you mean? I personally use Mobil 1 in both my cars (Rabbit -86 and Jetta -91).
reply: I've noted my source.
According to my (professional) sources, it is the best oil on the market. I think Porsche even supported extended drain intervals, but maybe that was changed again (too complicated, I guess). This is no evidence, but the Jetta's engine still does not need any oil fill-up between the 10,000 intervals after 130,000 Miles. Moreover, the oil level is almost constant.
Since the oil consumption is reduced with synthetics due to their higher boiling
points, catalyst poisoning is reduced which might save you trouble (at least here in
Europe) because you may need a new catalytic converter later. Alright, this is theory, I
do not own 1000 cars which run under comparable conditions for 40,000 Mlles each.
25 Jun 1998
I have recently downloaded and updated my desk copy of your quite brilliant Skeptics Dictionary. Over the last year or two it has seen much use, fighting of MLM people, I used it to chase a tarot reading maniacs back to where she belonged, and your piece on Ancient Astronauts has come in handy, when members in my book club had the weird idea that the pyramids were built by aliens.
Your article on Slick 50 oil additive got a real chuckle out of me, I have become a part time mechanic, looking after my VW Beetle. If you have the time, take a look at "The Sermons of Bob Hoover." This guy is in Southern California someplace and he has written a companion manual for looking after a VW Beetle (or any darned car). His style is unique, urges a common sense approach and spends lots of energy trying to keep his readers away from things like Slick 50 and other 'Go Fast' ideas that are really stupid. His site is not as cool as yours, it has a rugged functionality about it. I have downloaded his entire manual and keep it in the same directory as the Skeptics Dictionary. Take a look at http://www.type2.com/sermons/
Keep up the good work.
Durban, South Africa
reply: I was sorry to see that Bob Hoover was hounded off the Internet by flamers with dim bulbs. It took me awhile to get used to the uncivil and vicious criticism that comes my way on occasion, but using filters on the mail program helps. So does that little trash can icon.
12 May 1998
Enjoyed your site, will keep coming back to read more. Would like to tell you about using Teflon additives in a two-stroke motor. I used to race go-karts and a Teflon additive for the lubricating oil would drop engine temp a good 15 degrees and add about 400 rpm on the top end to the engine. When the engine would be occasionally torn down to service it, the piston would look like it was polished, almost no scuff marks were visible.
Experience in my auto was another story. Teflon engine oil additives would plug up
oil filters and cause a loss of oil pressure. Using a Teflon additive in my manual
transmission was helpful and added noticeably to the ease and smoothness of shifting
gears. I think there is a use for Teflon in auto's but not in the motor, use it in grease
for the ball joints and bearings, and use it in manual transmissions and it will make a
08 Aug 1996
I found your site by accident. It is great!
I do not know much about most of your topics in the Skeptic's Dictionary, but I know a thing or two about lubricants and you are 100% right on the money about the scams in this arena. In fact, I have some very entertaining discussions with my neighbor about this subject. He is a lube specialist with Texaco here in Houston. He really does know his stuff and he supports everything you say. They spend a lot of time tweaking the mixture of their additive packages to balance all of the desired effects. If you just pick a good oil, stick with it and change it often, there is nothing else you really need. Over time, with wear on the engine, you do need to change the oil viscosity you use, but that is about all.
Keep up the good work!
17 Sep 96
In addition to the oil additive scam, you might include the "you have to change your oil every 4000 miles or your engine will spontaneously explode" scam. All of the speedy lube joints are now making every effort to scare the heck out of motorists, insisting that horrible things will happen if you don't rush in every 90 days or 4000 miles for that dump-and-pump.
Automobile manufacturers have pulled back their requirements for service, based on lawsuits filed against firms which provided false representations of adequate intervals for service. I have had an extensive career in the automotive and heavy equipment service industry. Oil analysis performed on both automotive and diesel engines indicated that the average vehicle has the oil changed about 10 times more frequently than required. Not only is this a massive waste of petroleum products, it also initiates a massive amount of petroleum wastes which require disposal in some form.
In the early 80's we extensively tested synthetic motor oils through an independent laboratory. When the results, indicating exceptionally high metal content were brought to the attention of the oil manufacturer, they immediately stopped all communication with our firm, in spite of the fact that we were (at the time) a major distributor. In one specific test, we operated a 6-cylinder GM engine under moderate to severe conditions for over 250,000 miles without changing oil. There was no indication of any engine damage or reduction of the lubricating quality of the oil below minimum requirements. There was a reduction in the additive functions, such as anti-foaming and contaminant suspension. Because the average engine uses a quart of oil every 900 to 1500 miles, the quality of the oil was sustained through the addition of that oil.
I recently watched a TV report on the possible side-effects of not changing oil at
close intervals, where a "mechanic" reported that "a head gasket could just
blow or anything." Anyone who can associate extended oil change intervals with the
failure of a head gasket must have certified through correspondence courses.
reply: I think Irv's right about oil changes. My absolute favorite Public Radio celebs, Tom and Ray Magliozzi (Click & Clack), say that changing your oil more frequently than at 5,000 mile intervals is unnecessary given today's oils and engines. Even this, they say, may be overdoing it. They also say, by the way, that you can mix and match any oils, even different brands, as long as you stick with the same viscosity and don't use olive or cod liver oil. [Sacramento Bee, "Click & Clack Talk Cars," Sept 20, 1996, C. 1. If you haven't heard Tom & Ray on Saturday mornings, you are missing out on one of life's great treasures and pleasures. They even have good advice once in a while. And they are on the WWW.]
20 Jun 1997
I think it's unfortunate that Marvel Mystery Oil has been tarred with the same brush as Slick50 and similar "miracle engine cure-alls-inna-can."
I ignored this product for years because of the name alone.
A bit further down the page, another person mentions the Car Talk radio show (which I also enjoy). Well, Car Talk has a web site, http://www.cartalk.com and they've been developing a database of car facts from their visitors. The study's nowhere near done, of course, but already, it's turning out that owners of Japanese cars seem to be pretty sloppy about maintenance procedures. Those kinds of owners can either flush their engines with some really harsh cleaners, after mucking their engines up by not changing oil in 25,000 miles, or use a product like Marvel Mystery Oil, which leaves behind an oil coating as it cleans. If they've gotten to the point of needing to take off a valve cover, and find a real nasty mess in there, try putting an inch of Marvel in the cover, along with a few nuts and bolts for agitation - and just shake it a bit. This stuff cleans quite well, without entirely destroying all the oil film the way many ordinary flushes do.
I feel obliged to point out I am a home mechanic, I don't sell any of this stuff. Adding a few ounces of MMO to the crankcase in a really dirty, neglected engine and driving it around for about forty miles made a real difference in one car I experimented on (a 1987 Nissan truck with 100,000 miles). There's a hill near my house I use as a sort of diagnostic test. It had been chugging up that hill at 35 mph, with hesitations, pedal to the floor. After running with MMO in the crankcase for a bit, it went up that hill at 50 mph, with less hesitation. I can view a section of timing chain from the oil filler hole. It was WAY cleaner after running MMO.
I looked into why this legitimate product had such a hokey name. It turns out the
inventor's name was Marvel and he got his start back in the early days of aviation. People
were less reactive to lurid product names in those days, I suppose. Tradition and name
recognition have their own momentum. Whatever, it's unfortunate, but there it is. It is a
legitimate product anyway. The major ingredients, naphtha and wintergreen, have been
around for decades as solvents and cleaners. If you've heard anything disparaging about
them, I'd sure appreciate hearing it.
reply: Actually, Chita, I've never hear from anyone paraging or disparaging Marvel Mystery Oil until you wrote. I hope those readers who only change their oil every 25,000 miles take your advice. Though I think such people have more than car problems.
15 Aug 1997
I read your discussion about Slick 50 and other oil additives. However, I would like to set the record straight as you are erroneously lumping Slick 50 in with all the other charlatans in this industry.
Slick 50 does have the test results to back up their claims with respect to wear reduction. These test results are from the ASTM Sequence III-D Wear Screener conducted at a nationally recognized testing facility in San Antonio, TX, which I won't name at this time. These tests were conducted a number of ways, using the reference oils as specified in the test parameters and utilizing well known commercially available oils for reference. In each instance, the test with the Slick 50, resulted in wear reductions of approximately 50% when compared to the reference oil. The III-D Sequence test is, or was at the time, the industry standard for wear evaluation, oil oxidation, and viscosity results with respect to engine oils. The test has since been upgraded to the III-E Sequence test. The difference being the D used an Oldsmobile V-8 and the E uses a Buick V-6 engine, making it more closely reflect the engines on the road today. Since most of the wear occurs during the first of the test, the Wear Screener portion can be run without going through the entire test where viscosity and oxidation are concerned. I was the consultant charged with seeing that this work was accomplished under strict industry standards, and I have copies and results of all this work. I would be happy to talk with you about these tests and the results if you are interested in the facts where Slick 50 is concerned.
reply: Send me the reports and maybe I'll publish them on the WWW.
Additionally, the carrier oil utilized by Slick 50 is not an SAE 50 viscosity, but a crossgraded, multiviscosity, fully formulated API SH/SJ. To my knowledge, they have never used a single grade SAE 50 viscosity, although they did use an SAE 30 viscosity before switching to the multigrade product. The oil carrier manufacturer is a national oil company that I won't name either.
Early in the 80's, Slick 50 was a dubious player and their entire emphasis was on multilevel marketing, not product development or technical verification of the claims made about the product. The company back then was called Scientia and Petrolon. However, when Ron Fash took over the operation, he undertook to prove or disprove the capabilities of the product and develop the product from a technical standpoint to allow its introduction into the mainstream market. Fash has since moved on, but the product has been improved from his time and does have the accepted industry tests to back up its claims.
A couple of other points. DuPont and Slick 50 entered into a joint agreement some time ago to further develop the aspect of PTFE to lubricants. I don't know if that partnership still exists, but the statement that you mention in your discussion from DuPont is close to 15 years old and meaningless today. As further credibility for Slick 50, the company was recently bought by none other than Quaker State, indicating that the snake oil mantle is ill placed on Slick 50.
reply: I assume Quaker State would buy Slick 50 because they believe they can make money from the deal, not because of the integrity of the product. Rather than see the credibility of Slick 50 go up by this deal, some might see the credibility of Quaker State going down. The FTC wasn't too impressed with Quaker State's advertising campaign for Slick 50. I assume you did your tests after July 1996, or did the FTC lambaste you as well as Quaker State?
I too am a skeptic when it comes to products like these since I have been in the lubrication industry for some 30 years. All the others are just "me tooers" and none have spent the money and effort to verify the credibility of their "products" like Slick 50. Testimonials, racer endorsements, engines running without oil, squealing bearings, and other such gimmicks don't impress me. Yes, Slick 50 did use these dubious methods at one time, but not since the early 90's.
I would trust that you will examine the facts that I have mentioned and correct your
misconceptions about Slick 50 and inform your readers of these facts also. I will be happy
to talk with you about my comments and anything else pertaining to Slick 50 that you may
want to know. Thanks for your time.
Jerry T. Shelby
reply: Whatever the test results, the questions will still remain: does the average person driving the average car really need to put any of these additives into their oil pan? Are there cheaper alternatives? Are the cars that benefit significantly from such additives going to last that much longer or perform that much better than they would from either no intervention or intervention with a cheaper product?
26 Aug 1997 reply to the reply:
Your response to my letter was not unexpected and typical for a pseudo expert such as yourself...don't confuse me with the facts, ignorance is bliss.
The report results have already been published in several Slick 50 marketing brochures, but since you don't seem to believe them, why should I think you would believe the source reports.
You are right, the mere purchase by Quaker State does not necessarily lend credibility to the company or the product, but you conveniently failed to address the DuPont matter and partnership. Would DuPont get involved with snake oil people?
I never said Slick 50's use was necessary, only that the benefits of its use can and have been documented in industry recognized tests and evaluations.
Your lack of resourceful research and objectivity in this matter leads me to question all the information on your web site, and as such I will delete it from my favorite places....who cares, right!!!???
reply: It never occurred to me to use a Slick 50 marketing brochure for objective evidence on the accuracy of the claims made in their advertising. I must have swallowed too much sea water as a child and it's affected my critical sense. As far as Dupont goes, maybe they saw the light. Since Slick 50 and others were just putting their product, Teflon, into their additives, why not join forces? Anyway, I did check out another source, Ray and Tom Magliozzi, who write:
Slick 50 has actually conducted some bonafide research. And the research was legitimate enough to be published by the SAE, the Society of Automotive Engineers. And that research showed--to our satisfaction--that Slick 50 does make a difference during those first few seconds of operation (although there is still no evidence that it does anything to improve mileage). ...
According to the report published in SAE, Slick 50 adheres to the moving parts of the engine, and serves as a lubricant before the engine oil gets distributed. And those first few seconds ARE when a lot of wear and tear take place. ...
So, if you think it is important to protect those moving parts during those first few moments, by all means, use Slick 50. Just remember that while you are coating the moving parts you are also coating the non-moving parts, like oil passages and filters. While you're at it, write to all the car manufacturers and ask them why they don't recommend using Slick 50. Are they hoping our engines will wear down faster, so we'll have to buy a new car sooner than if we'd had that extra protection? [Click here to read the vice-president of Slick 50, Doug Ross, answer this and many more questions about the miracle product.]