What Is An Engine Oil Additive?
How Motor Oil Works
It’s helpful to know the primary purpose of motor oil itself before you can understand the function of an engine oil additive. Motor oil’s function is to lubricate your engine and reduce friction between its many moving parts. Oil also plays a critical role in protecting against corrosion, helping remove contaminants, preventing sludge build-up, and keeping the engine cool.
Your everyday engine oil is already a combination of base oils and additives. “The base oils constitute 70-90 percent of the total and are created from natural gas or crude oil, while additives round out the remaining 10-30 percent and can be a variety of things.
There are different additives for different applications. Additives can include detergents, anti-wear additives, friction modifiers, antioxidants, corrosion inhibitors, viscosity index improvers, and more. Millions of dollars and hours go into creating and testing oil formulations so that they’re just right.
Most of the brightly colored bottles you see at the auto parts store are aftermarket or supplemental engine oil additives. Some claim to extend the oil’s life and others say they reduce engine smoking. However, there’s mixed research as to whether they do what they claim. Do you want to take the chance of upsetting your engine oil's composition?
Engine Oil At Work
Use only premium grade oils as specified by your car's maker. Look up your owners manual, there is no substitute for a real oil change.
Are Engine Oil Additives Any Good?
The question of using aftermarket engine oil additives has been the subject of controversy for years, and the answer isn’t a simple “yes” or “no.” You may assume that since standard motor oil already contains additives, any additional additives aren’t necessary. But it’s not always that black and white. You’ll want to do your research, consult your vehicle manufacturer, particularly if your car is still under warranty, and make the decision for yourself.
“When it comes to supplemental additives, I always say it’s a consumer’s choice,” says Shell Lubricants Global OEM technical manager. “Petroleum chemists and automotive engineers are really smart people who know what is and is not needed,” he says. “Oil already comes with additives in it to do certain things, so the consumer should soak up that knowledge and lean towards oil additives that are carefully formulated into the oil by the oil manufacturer to provide the extra improvement in those areas.”
There are two factors to consider when deciding if aftermarket oil additives are a good idea for your vehicle, including:
Warranty: Most importantly — double-check your manufacturer’s warranty. “Adding additional [aftermarket] additives to an engine oil could unbalance the additive system, resulting in detrimental side effects and potentially invalidating the engine manufacturer’s warranty.”
Kilometres and Vehicle Age: The more kilometres you have on your engine, the more likely it is that your engine is operating at less-than-maximum performance, making it more vulnerable to possible damage. The addition of certain oil additives carefully balanced into a fully-formulated high mileage engine oil has the potential to reduce stress and wear on your high-mileage engine and help restore performance. Consistently using a quality high-mileage oil can help.
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