Here is an article that was oringally posted to the rec.autos.tech
newsgroup. It was sent to me via email, and I can't recall the sender.
If anyone knows who the author is, please send me some email and I
will give the proper credit. Nevertheless, this is another interesting
article, abiet more controversial than a standard FAQ article. FYI
only, I guess.
Read the following and don't buy any hype.
Information for this article was compiled from reports and studies by
the University of Nevada Desert Research Center, DuPont Chemical
Company, Avco Lycoming (aircraft engine manufacturers), North Dakota
State University, Briggs and Stratton (engine manufacturers), the
University of Utah Engineering Experiment Station, California State
Polytechnic College and the National Aeronautics and Space
Administration's Lewis Research Center.
Road Rider does not claim to have all the answers. Nor do we care to
presume to tell you what to do. We have simply tried to provide you
with all the information we were able to dredge up on this subject, in
hopes it will help you in making your own, informed decision.
You Can't Tell The Players Without A Program
On starting this project, we set out to find as many different oil
additives as we could buy. That turned out to be a mistake. There were
simply too many avail able! At the very first auto parts store we
visited, there were over two dozen different brand names available. By
the end of the day, we had identified over 40 different oil additives
for sale and realized we needed to rethink our strategy.
First of all, we found that if we checked the fine print on the
packages, quite a number of the additives came from the same
manufacturer. Also, we began to notice that the additives could be
separated into basic "groups" that seemed to carry approximately the
same ingredients and the same promises.
In the end, we divided our additives into four basic groups and
purchased at least three brands from three different manufacturers for
each group. We defined our four groups this way:
- Products that seemed to be nothing more than regular 50-rated
engine oil (including standard additives) with PTFE (Teflon TM)
- Products that seemed to be nothing more than regular 50-rated
engine oil (including standard additives) with zinc
- Products containing (as near as we could determine) much the same
additives as are already found in most major brands of engine oil,
though in different quantities and combinations.
- Products made up primarily of solvents and/or detergents.
There may be some differences in chemical makeup within groups, but
that is impossible to tell since the additive manufacturers refuse to
list the specific ingredients of their products. We will discuss each
The PTFE Mystery
Currently, the most common and popular oil additives on the market are
those that contain PTFE powders suspended in a regular,
over-the-counter type, 50-rated petroleum or synthetic engine oil.
PTFE is the common abbreviation used for Polytetrafloeraethylene, more
commonly known by the trade name "Teflon," which is a registered
trademark of the DuPont Chemical Corporation. Among those oil
additives we have identified as containing PTFE are: Slick 50, Liquid
Ring, Lubrilon, Matrix, Petrolon (same company as Slick 50),
QMl, and T-Plus (K-Mart). There are probably many more names in use on
many more products using PTFE. We have found that oil additive makers
like to market their products under a multitude of "private brand"
While some of these products may contain other additives in addition
to PTFE, all seem to rely on the PTFE as their primary active
ingredient and all, without exception, do not list what other
ingredients they may contain.
Though they have gained rather wide acceptance among the motoring
public, oil additives containing PTFE have also garnered their share
of critics among experts in the field of lubrication. By far the most
damning testimonial against these products originally came from the
DuPont Chemical Corporation, inventor of PTFE and holder of the
patents and trademarks for Teflon. In a statement issued about ten
years ago, DuPont's Fluoropolymers Division Product Specialist, J.F.
Imbalzano said, "Teflon is not useful as an ingredient in oil
additives or oils used for internal combustion engines."
At the time, DuPont threatened legal action against anyone who used
the name "Teflon" on any oil product destined for use in an internal
combustion engine, and refused to sell its PTFE powders to any one who
intended to use them for such purposes.
After a flurry of lawsuits from oil additive makers, claiming DuPont
could not prove that PTFE was harmful to engines, DuPont was forced to
once again begin selling their PTFE to the additive producers. The
additive makers like to claim this is some kind of "proof' that their
products work, when in fact it is nothing more than proof that the
American legal ethic of "innocent until proven guilty" is still alive
and well. The decision against DuPont involved what is called
"restraint of trade." You can't refuse to sell a product to someone
just because there is a possibility they might use it for a purpose
other than what you intended it for.
It should be noted that DuPont's official position on the use of PTFE
in engine oils remains carefully aloof and noncommittal, for obvious
legal reasons. DuPont states that though they sell PTFE to oil
additive producers, they have "no proof of the validity of the
additive makers' claims." They further state that they have "no
knowledge of any advantage gained through the use of PTFE in engine
Fear of potential lawsuits for possible misrepresentation of a product
seem to run much higher among those with the most to lose.
After DuPont's decision and attempt to halt the use of PTFE in engine
oils, several of the oil additive companies simply went elsewhere for
their PTFE powders, such as purchasing them in other countries. In
some cases, they disguise or hype their PTFE as being something
different or special by listing it under one of their own tradenames.
That doesn't change the fact that it is still PTFE.
In addition, there is some evidence that certain supplies of PTFE
powders (from manufacturers other than DuPont) are of a cruder version
than the original, made with larger sized flakes that are more likely
to "settle out" in your oil or clog up your filters. One fairly good
indication that a product contains this kind of PTFE is if the
instructions for its use advise you to "shake well before using." It
only stands to reason that if the manufacturer knows the solids in his
product will settle to the bottom of a container while sitting on a
shelf, the same thing is going to hap pen inside your engine when it
is left idle for any period of time.
The problem with putting PTFE in your oil, as explained to us by
several industry experts, is that PTFE is a solid. The additive makers
claim this solid "coats" the moving parts in an engine (though that is
far from being scientifically proven). Slick 50 is currently both the
most aggressive advertiser and the most popular seller, with claims of
over 14 million treatments sold. However, such solids seem even more
inclined to coat non-moving parts, like oil passages and filters.
After all, if it can build up under the pressures and friction exerted
on a cylinder wall, then it stands to reason it should build up even
better in places with low pressures and virtually no friction.
This conclusion seems to be borne out by tests on oil additives
containing PTFE conducted by the NASA Lewis Research Center, which
said in their report, "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 inlets
and act as a dam, which simply blocks the oil from entering. Instead
of helping, it is actually depriving parts of lubricant."
Remember, PTFE in oil additives is a suspended solid. Now think about
why you have an oil filter on your engine. To remove suspended solids,
right? Right. Therefore it would seem to follow that if your oil
filter is doing its job, it will collect as much of the PTFE as
possible, as quickly as possible. This can result in a clogged oil
filter and decreased oil pres sure throughout your engine.
In response to our inquiries about this sort of problem, several of
the PTFE pushers responded that their particulates were of a
sub-micron size, capable of passing through an ordinary oil filter
unrestricted. This certainly sounds good, and may in some cases
actually be true, but it makes little difference when you know the
rest of the story. You see, PTFE has other qualities besides being a
friction reducer: It expands radically when exposed to heat. So even
if those particles are small enough to pass through your filter when
you purchase them, they very well may not be when your engine reaches
normal operating temperature.
Here again, the' scientific evidence seems to support this, as in
tests conducted by researchers at the University of Utah Engineering
Experiment Station involving Petrolon additive with PTFE.
The Petrolon test report states, "There was a pressure drop across the
oil filter resulting from possible clogging of small passageways." In
addition, oil analysis showed that iron contamination doubled after
using the treatment, indicating that engine wear didn't go down - it
appeared to shoot up.
This particular report was paid for by Petrolon (marketers of Slick
50), and was not all bad news for their products. The tests, conducted
on a Chevrolet six-cylinder automobile engine, showed that after
treatment with the PTFE additive the test engine's friction was
reduced by 13.1 percent. Also, output horsepower increased from 5.3
percent to 8.1 percent, and fuel economy improved from 11.8 percent
under light load to 3.8 percent under heavy load.
These are the kind of results an aggressive marketing company like
Petrolon can really sink their teeth into. If we only reported the
results in the last paragraph to you, you'd be inclined to think Slick
50 was indeed a magic engine elixir. What you have to keep in mind is
that often times the benefits (like increased horse power and fuel
economy) may be out weighed by some serious drawbacks (like the
indications of reduced oil pressure and increased wear rate).
The Plot Thickens
Just as we were about to go to press with this article, we were
contacted by the public relations firm of Trent and Company, an outfit
with a prestigious address in the Empire State Building, New York.
They advised us they were working for a company called QMI out of
Lakeland, Florida, that was marketing a "technological breakthrough"
product in oil additives. Naturally, we asked them to send us all
pertinent information, including any testing and research data.
What we got was pretty much what we expected. QMI's oil additive,
according to their press release, uses "ten times more PTFE resins
than its closest competitor." Using the "unique SX-6000 formula," they
say they are the only company to use "aqueous dispersion resin which
means the microns (particle sizes) are extensively smaller and can
penetrate tight areas." This, they claim, "completely eliminates the
problem of clogged filters and oil passages."
Intrigued by their press release, we set up a telephone interview with
their Vice-President of Technical Services, Mr. Owen Heatwole. Mr.
Heatwole's name was immediately recognized by us as one that had
popped in earlier research of this subject as a former employee of
Petrolon, a company whose name seems inextricably linked in some
fashion or another with virtually every PTFE-related additive maker in
Mr. Heatwole was a charming and persuasive talker with a knack for
avoiding direct answers as good as any seasoned politician. His glib
pitch for his product was the best we've ever heard, but when
dissected and pared down to the verifiable facts, it actually said
When we asked about the ingredients in QMI's treatments, we got almost
exactly the response we expected. Mr. Heatwole said he would "have to
avoid discussing specifics about the formula, for proprietary
After telling us that QMI was being used by "a major oil company," a
"nuclear plant owned by a major corporation" and a "major engine
manufacturer," Mr. Heatwole followed up with, "Naturally, I can't
reveal their names - for proprietary reasons."
He further claimed to have extensive testing and research data
available from a "major laboratory," proving conclusively how
effective QMI was. When we asked for the name of the lab, can you
guess? Yup, "We can't give out that information, for proprietary
What QMI did give us was the typical "testimonials," though we must
admit theirs came from more recognizable sources than usual. They seem
to have won over the likes of both Team Kawasaki and Bobby Unser, who
evidently endorse and use QMI in their racing engines. Mr. Heatwole
was very proud of the fact that their product was being used in
engines that he himself admitted are "torn down and completely
inspected on a weekly basis." Of course, what he left out is that
those same engines are almost totally rebuilt every time they're torn
down. So what does that prove in terms of his product reducing wear
and promoting engine longevity? Virtually nothing.
Mr. Heatwole declined to name the source of QMI's PTFE supply "for
proprietary reasons." He bragged that their product is sold under many
different private labels, but refused to identify those labels "for
proprietary reasons." When asked about the actual size of the PTFE
particles used in QMI, he claimed they were measured as "sub-micron in
size" by a "major motor laboratory" which he couldn't identify - you
guessed it - for "proprietary reasons."
After about an hour of listening to "don't quote me on this," "I'll
have to deny that if you print it," and "I can't reveal that," we
asked Mr. Heatwole if there was something we could print. "Certainly,"
he said, "Here's a good quote for you: 'The radical growth in
technology has overcome the problem areas associated with PTFE in the
"Not bad," we said. Then we asked to whom we might attribute this gem
of wisdom. DuPont Chemical, perhaps? "Me," said Mr. Heatwole. "I said
QMI's press releases like to quote the Guinness Book Of Records in
saying that PTFE is "The slickest substance known to man." Far be it
from us to take exception to the Guinness Book, but we doubt that PTFE
is much slicker than some of the people marketing it.
[ Help ]