Mostly Mechanical

Auto & Truck Oils, Lubes & Filters – Separating Technology from Hype

Petroleum Oil Marketing to Gullible Consumers

I recently found this example of how extensively big-oil substitutes marketing deception for actual performance and test data. Here’s what is being passed off as “Product Specs” direct from Valvoline’s website on MaxLife:

“Product Specs

MaxLife is formulated with extra anti-wear additives to exceed the engine protection requirements of ILSAC GF-3 and GF-4, and API SL/SM standards and is safe for use in new and rebuilt engines, and will not void new car warranties.”

That’s it.  Believe it or not, those are supposed to be “product specs”. I also noticed that the description of MaxLife includes this wording “The synthetic blend formula…”   But in their FAQ’s they have this specific Q&A:

“Is MaxLife motor oil a synthetic product?

No. MaxLife is made with premium base oils and special components to help slow the aging process of a vehicle’s engine.”

Clever, huh? They tell us it’s synthetic, but they also clarify by telling us it’s not. So then maybe it’s not really false advertising after all?

But then in another MaxLife FAQ, are these gems, listed as #7 and #10:

“Has MaxLife always been a synthetic blend?

MaxLife Synthetic Blend motor oil is actually the same product as regular MaxLife. MaxLife has always been a synthetic blend oil; we just now label the product that way. It is the same oil as before. As long as you have used MaxLife, you have used synthetic blended oil.”

Why is there no mileage limit given on MaxLife Synthetic motor oil? Mobil 1 says 15,000 miles and Amsoil says 25,000 miles?

Valvoline recommends following the oil change intervals recommended in your owner’s manual no matter what type of oil you use. Most manufacturers recommend every 3-months/3,000 miles.

So Valvoline is deliberately continuing the same give-me-money 3,000 mile oil change scam that GM and California have organized to end. And sorry, but what manufacturer recommends a 3,000 mile engine oil drain interval? GM’s OLS system averages 8,500 mile oil changes, and that assumes mediocre API Licensed petroleum.

A brief background is important for the majority of Americans who have no idea about the petroleum oil scam of the decade: It is only legal in America to sell Group III (hydrocracked petroleum) oil as “synthetic”, and the shelves are full of these supposed Big-Oil “synthetics”. Why? Because their studies showed that after 25 years of effort Amsoil had succeeded in bringing the synthetic-oil-market growth to critical mass, and demand was beginning to take off. Since a growing number of their customers were willing to pay big dollars for synthetics in order to save money and gain much better performance and value, Big Oil needed a solution. So in 1999 they flexed U.S. muscles, quietly redefining “synthetic”  in order to deceive the public and cash in on the profits. 

So with the new definition of a “synthetic” being a Group III (petroleum) as background, I have to conclude that MaxLife is only a Group II, perhaps with some synthetic additives (they claim 30% synthetic in one spot): that’s as mediocre as oil can get and still (barely) pass the API minimums. Clear and factual information? Comparative test data? Forget about it.

The Treasury Department teaches that you have to know what real money is, in order to spot a counterfeit.  So because most people have never seen one, here’s a real motor oil product data page.  And here’s my idea of comparative engine oil test data.  Keep in mind that those are the industry benchmark ASTM tests that all the oil companies use  – but to the public it’s as if they don’t even exist. Only one oil company publishes meaningful test results, they’re done by the same certified independent labs that do much of the API testing, and in over 30 years of publishing results against named engine oils with embarrasing performance gaps, they’ve never once been accused of falsified data. (Hmmm.)

In conclusion, here’s my translation out of Valvoline marketing-hype into reality:
All oils that meet any minimum requirements will “help slow the aging process” more than canola oil, but you can feel good about using our run-of-the-mill-mineral-oil because we’ve studied how the magic “synthetic” word, combined with our copy writing and label-designing skills, can give you warm emotional fuzzies about paying too much money for it.

Suggestion: don’t be a gullible consumer. If you educate yourself you can triple your remaining vehicle life. The million mile van used the best synthetic lubes and nanofiber filtration technology, and is still running strong on the original untouched transmission with 150,000 mile synthetic tranny fluid changes.


May 28, 2009 Posted by | Amsoil, Engine Air Filtration, Filtration Technologies, Lubrication Oils & Fluids, Petroleum Oil, Synthetic Oil, Vehicle Maintenance | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

How to pick an aftermarket air intake filter that removes dust?

The ads all sound great, but what’s the bare truth?  Most consumers have no idea how to identify and separate marketing smoke-blowers from engineered excellent performance.  So, I’m going to tell you.

Several manufacturers of aftermarket air intake filters make great-sounding claims about how well their engine air intake filters remove the fine, sandy grit that causes engine wear.  It’s good they’re at least making some claims, because most of the worst performers just ignore the issue of wear particles that pass through their filters.  (That’s a consumer hint – don’t buy filters that don’t even attempt to tell you how well they perform.) But how great do those filters really perform in removing dust wear particles? 

One company boasts an ISO 5011 test stand with certified performance that’s “testing to the highest standards”.  Sounds great.  Another uses filter media designed Nanofiber web overlaid on standard cellulose substratewith 5 layers of progressive filtering that’s 99.4% efficient, and “so revolutionary that we applied for and received a patent.”  These filters are probably better than the OEM and OEM-style paper filters.  But what’s the best performance?  As an automotive engineer, I’m adamant in recommending nanofiber filtration technology that’s 98.7% efficient at 2 microns, and 100% efficient at 3 microns.  But 99.4% looks like a better number than 98.7%, right?  So why do I recommend something that appears to be worse performance, and how do I know that nanofiber technology is really better?  Stick with me a couple of minutes to sweep away the fogs of consumer deception, and I’ll explain.

There are four things that count in air filtration:  flow volume, holding capacity, and filtration particle size at a specific efficiency.

  1. Flow Volume.  Some companies focus exclusively on flow volume. 
    Three things to beware:
    – Flow volume at what pressure drop? 
    – What’s your engine’s maximum airflow?  Any flow beyond what your engine can use is useless to you.  In racing or pulling applications with modified vehicles, a high pressure drop (because of high air flow volume) can often collapse the filter.  The engine-damaging results are expensive. 
    – Very low pressure drop at very high flow usually means that at least 50% of meaningful wear particles are passing right through into your engine.
  2. Holding capacity.  How much particulate will the filter hold before the pressure drop across the filter is measureably reducing your fuel economy or power?  In the case of oiled-cotton-gauze filters, how much particulate will the filter hold before it’s passing nearly all the wear particles into your engine?  (The classic answer is “not much”.)
  3. Filtration Particle Size.  The accepted engineering rule of thumb is that damaging wear particles are those with a size of 5 to 25 microns.  Filtering smaller ones is icing on the cake.  Claiming filter performance efficiency on particles larger than 20 microns is a warning sign that the filter performance is very poor.
  4. Filtration Efficiency.  This is listed as a percentage, which refers to what percent of a certain size of particles are captured by the filter.  Beware: in order for either the particle-size or efficiency to have ANY meaning at all, you MUST know both numbers.  Any company who quotes one without the other is simply trying to deceive you, and generally implies that their real performance in removing wear particles is average to poor.

  So that’s the bottom line.  What matters is that AMSOIL’s Ea line of nanofiber air filters is 98.7% efficient at 2 microns.  According to an SAE research paper, that level of filtration reduces particle-based engine wear to levels so low that it is difficult to detect any wear.

What about certified ISO testing?  That’s all legitimately potentially impressive, but “the devil’s in the details”.  What’s the particle size at what efficiency percentage?  They don’t tell you, so you have to figure it out.  That’s pretty tough if you aren’t a trained engineer… and not very convenient for consumers!  For example, an “SAE  Coarse Dust Test” uses A4, and if you look at a typical sample of certified test dust (sent to me by a filter company that advertises their ISO testing), you find that more than 85% of the test dust is larger than 10 microns, less than 35% is smaller than 20 microns in size, and particles that are 5 microns or smaller are less than 10% of the dust. So, “coarse dust” does a poor job in both representing typical driving exposure, AND in representing the 5 to 25 micron wear-particle range that is so critical to your engine.

So what does that mean?  A couple of very important things. 
First, “coarse” test dust is exactly that, and it’s not going to tell you much other than that you have a filter.  It’s a good test of how well your filter will work in a baja race if you’re eating a lot of dust kicked up in front of you.  But is that what you’re doing?  If they really wanted to test and demonstrate meaningful performance, they would use “fine” test dust. 
Secondly, it means that when they do comparison “side by side” “apples to apples” testing against a much better filter, like a nanofiber media, their filter performance can look very good – even identical.  Because as the coarse dust builds up on their coarse filter, the classic “dust cake” forms, enabling the filter to take out much smaller particles than it otherwise could. If they tested it with fine dust, the results would be very different.

AMSOIL doesn’t play games.  Ea filters are tested with fine dust by the most respected certified filtration test lab in the nation, and they publish the particle size and efficiency together with flow and capacity data.  They tell us everything, nothing hidden.  No-one else does that.  15 times the dust holding capacity of oiled gauze filters, at an identical (very low) 0.5 inches of pressure drop.  And just try to beat 98.7% at 2 microns.  Ain’t gonna happen.M1A1 Abrams main battle tank in a cloud of dust

By the way, nanofiber filters don’t use oil, are quickly re-cleanable and re-useable, and are also cheaper to use than any other filter solution.  Yeh.  Use nanofiber and win on time, win on cost, win on performance.  Who can beat that?

The U.S. Army must agree with me, because nanofiber filtration technology is what the M1A1 Abrams battle tank has been using for more than a decade. 

April 4, 2008 Posted by | Amsoil, Diesel, Diesels, Engine Air Filtration, Filtration Technologies, Vehicle Maintenance | , , , | 6 Comments

Beware Auto Service Shops – an oil change can hurt you!

Imagine this: you think your car was serviced – but actually you got stiffed.   Months or years later you pay repair costs  because of that maintenance work that wasn’t done!  Will you even realize what happenned?  Probably not.  Maybe you’re convinced that you were cheated.  Can you prove it?  Probably not, unless you’ve got it on video… what a great idea.  An NBC news team loaded up two vehicles with hidden cameras to find out what would happen when they took them in to nine different Jiffy Lube locations for service work.   Guess what?  In 5 of 9 shops – the MAJORITY of those auto service centers – workers DIDN’T do work that they were paid for: a fuel filter wasn’t changed; a transmission fluid exchange never happened.  That’s fraud, at a shocking level.  When an employee was asked, confidentially, whether this happens a lot, they said “every day”.  The full eye-opening report is here, as it was presented on the evening news:  Is Your Mechanic Cheating?

As an automotive engineer, I can assure you that not all Jiffy Lubes are this bad.  But I can also assure you that there are other vehicle service centers who are just as bad or worse than what you saw in that news segment.  Some places will break your vehicle in order to charge you for a repair.  Other places will fix a $5 problem, then charge you $500 for some part and repair that you didn’t need and they didn’t do.  What does this mean to you as a customer?  How can you protect yourself?   I have some recommendations for you on how to handle your vehicle maintenance.  I can recommend them strongly because they’re exactly what I do myself on my own vehicles:

  1. Strongly consider changing your own engine oil & oil filter.  It’s not hard, you’ll know it’s done right, you won’t get the cheapest possible oil out of their bulk tank, and you won’t be putting your vehicle in “harms way” several times a year with someone you really don’t know.  Further, changing your own oil & filter is much easier if you use modern PAO synthetic engine oil and nanofiber filter technology, instead of the 30-year-old petroleum and paper technologies that the oil companies, auto service centers, quick lubes, and vehicle OEM’s want you to use.   How easy?  One year, 25,000 mile oil changes.  Typical benefits to the technologies?  It’s cheaper per year, you’ll probably gain 5-10% in fuel economy (saving cash AND natural resources – a valuable combination), you reduce engine oil use an estimated 87% (saving natural resources) and you reduce your vehicle’s wear rate by 70% or more.  Details on converting your vehicle.
    Note: if you don’t want to change your oil, you can buy the high-tech oil and filters and take them in to most shops/dealerships and have them changed for a $5 to $15 charge.  If you take in your own oil and filters, it sends a clear message to the service shop that you know what you’re doing and take your maintenance seriously.
  2. Consider adding an oil bypass filter.     The nation’s best and most profitable commercial fleet and equipment maintenance managers use this secret, combined with oil analysis.  With premium filter construction and nanofiber media, today’s bypass filters will eliminate over 90% of the normal engine wear that occurs from abrasive particles, tripling vehicle mileage life.  Meanwhile, by using the best PAO-design engine oils, you eliminate the need to change your motor oil.  So your maintenance gets REALLY EASY.  How easy?  Just change your full-flow filter annually or every 25,000 miles, and your bypass filter every 2  yrs or 60,000 miles.  DIY types will find that the installation of the “bypass” (or partial-flow) filter is simple, or you can have a good auto mechanic do the installation.  Depending on experience and vehicle, expect the installation to take 2 to 3 hours.  4 hours if you’re slow, easily distracted, very detailed, not in a hurry, and want to take pictures of the installation.  Note: if you do this, you will also want to send an oil sample in to a testing lab at least annually to verify the condition of your engine and oil for maintenance and vehicle warranty purposes – costing about $20-25 per sample test.   
  3. Take your vehicle maintenance seriously: take it only to somewhere that you know does good work.  You wouldn’t drop your child off at the cheapest care center that had an opening, without doing some leg work.  Doesn’t your mechanical “baby” deserve some consideration, too?  Check out the shop and the mechanic.  How long have they been in business?   Is the mechanic certified, and how long has he been in the area?  Ask someone who knows reputations in the area for their recommendation.  I have three shops in my area that I will recommend to people, because I am confident that they have the expertise and reputation that means they will strive to do the job and do it right.
  4. Remember the hint in the video about filters: by marking the filter with a permanent marker yourself, you can easily verify that they did change that air/oil/fuel filter – rather than doing nothing or just wiping it clean to look like it was changed.
  5. If you get in a “tight spot” and need work done by a place that you don’t know, there are some secrets that will help you.   The two keys are to ask questions and to handle the parts.  Here are some ideas:  ask to see what the new parts or filters look like that they will be installing, write down the part numbers from the boxes and physically HANDLE and examine the parts.  If the parts are a little dirty or greasy, even better – and you can wash your hands in their restroom or wash-up sink.  (They know that most customers don’t know much about vehicle maintenance and that those who do, often don’t pay attention.  So if you handle the parts and ask questions, it sends a message that you have done some of your own maintenance work, may much know more about your vehicle maintenance than what they suspect, and that you are very concerned that it is done right.  This is exactly what you want them to think – that they are at risk for being found out if they try to cheat you.)
    If they are vehicle parts (not just a filter), point to one or two key features and ask them which connection that is, or what type of connector, or where does that connector go to, or how does the part work?  You could even say something like “I’ve seen these before, but I’m curious, how does this actually work?” or “what does this actually do?”  Other good questions: “this seems like it’s in pretty good (or really bad) shape – how long are these supposed to last?  Do you see this very often?  What’s your opinion of that design compared to the Ford/Chrysler approach? (…yeh, that’s what I’ve heard)”  Tell them you want to see the part they take off your vehicle, and want them to physically show you where it’s located & how it’s mounted.   (They will usually accomodate your request, though they may have a policy against allowing customers in the service area.  If they decline, you MIGHT want to say that you understand the whole insurance bit, but you’re uneasy about using a repair shop that won’t let you see what they’re doing to their vehicle.)  

I don’t like to lie, but if you’re concerned about the shop or don’t know them, you might share that your brother/uncle/friend/father/boyfriend is a certified master mechanic in another town/state who used to train mechanics in the military and whenever he can’t do the work for you and doesn’t know the mechanic, he always makes you show them exactly what work was done so that they can inspect it… he likes to protect you & his friends, but you also suspect that he likes finding and reporting fraudulent mechanic work because it gives him more business…  you get the idea. 

Following these ideas will help you maximize your vehicle life, minimize your maintenance costs, and protect yourself even when you have no idea if the service shop is reputable or what they’re really doing to your vehicle.

December 5, 2006 Posted by | Filtration Technologies, Lubrication Oils & Fluids, Vehicle Maintenance | 2 Comments

The Best Engine Oil Filters and Air Filters? Nanofibers rule!

“C’mon.  Give it to me straight.  What’s the best filter to use on my Audi, Corvette, Chevy, Mini-Cooper, Harley, Honda, Ford, Chrysler, etc?”  OK, I’ll tell you.  Let’s talk about engine oil filters and air filters.

There are some interesting ideas “out there” about filtration.  Two weeks ago I got into a couple of long e-mail exchanges about engine oil filter performance.  A former race-engine builder had the mistaken idea that racing filters are great for regular vehicles.  He didn’t realize that they’re horrible because they let the entire range of wear particles pass freely through the engine. 

And how many people put an oiled-gauze filter in their air intake as a “performance upgrade”, not realizing that they’ve probably tripled their engine wear rates?  K&N filters are probably the most popular example, and I’m a bit embarrassed to admit I used to use them in all my vehicles.  K&N’s site is – just try to find data on the wear-particle sizes they remove, or how well they control wear.   Sure they have a million-mile warranty, but it’s on their washable/reusable filter – not your engine.  A number of people have wondered about the fact that their filter air-pressure gauge never moves with a K&N: if you can’t capture enough dust particles to clog up the filter, you’ll never see a significant pressure drop unless it’s covered with leaves and bugs.

On the other end of the spectrum are the new Ea filter line from AMSOIL – military nanofiber filtration technology that’s been used for years in the air-intake filter on the M1A1 Abrams battle tank for the US Army.   Nanofiber filtration technology has never been available for normal private vehicles until now.  These filters allow among the highest possible flow at nearly the lowest pressure drops, yet ALSO filter out the smallest particles of anything on the market – all at the same time.

Nanofiber construction magnification

Most people don’t realize how critical their filters are to vehicle life.   Here’s an excerpt from a friend of mine who has been employed by GM as an engineer for many years:

 “…EaO Oil Filters which have the best efficiency rating in the industry. EaO Filters provide a filtering efficiency in accordance with industry standard ISO 4548-12 of 98.7 percent at 15 microns.

From their site: An SAE report by David R. Staley, General Motors Corp., states: “The smallest particles most popular filters captured with high efficiency are sized 25 to 40-micron, depending on the filter brand…[however] controlling the abrasive contaminants in the range of 2 to 22-micron in the lube oil is necessary for controlling engine wear.” These tests also confirmed that removal of particles down to 2-micron in size virtually stops the abrasion wear cycle.

This paper also states “wear was reduced by 70 percent with 15-Micron filtration”. EaO, 98.7% Absolute Efficiency at 15 microns, according to this paper Amsoil has reduced engine wear by 70%!  Add to that a By-Pass system that effectively stops particles down to one micron in size and Amsoil has virtually eliminated wear all together, or at least to the point that the rest of the vehicle will fall apart first.” 

That ends the GM engineer’s comments.  By the way, the EaO filters (The O is for Oil) have completely premium construction throughout, and are warranted for 1 year or 25,000 miles in typical service.

Similarly amazing are the EaA filters (the A is for Air), because they are 98% efficient at 2 microns.  Note the GM engineer said that controlling the 2-22 micron particle size is how you control engine wear rates.   Most people don’t realize that airborne dirt is the source of the vast majority of wear particles.  So if your air filter takes out 98% of the 2 micron particles before they can enter your engine, you have “virtually eliminated wear altogether” – at least, the abrasive particle wear which is responsible for most drivetrain wear. 

Engineers will point out that this doesn’t address filtering out the additional wear particles created internally in the engine from areas of previous wear-particle surface damage.  That’s true, but a nanofiber air filter does allow that wear rate to rapidly reduce. 

The remaining part of wear is operational surface contact wear, which is handled by your oil filtration (full-flow and “bypass” filtration), and by your engine oil’s anti-wear properties… a topic for another time.

September 24, 2006 Posted by | Filtration Technologies | 1 Comment

Hello world!

One of the greatest benefits of the modern world are mechanical devices.  Cars & trucks are great examples: we can’t hardly live without them, but might wonder if we can afford them.  What vehicle we drive is determined by a very individual combination of what we can afford, what we need, what is cool, what we found on the lot, what our job & hobby activities are, and what someone talked us into buying.  Much of our vehicle money depends on the fuel, the maintenance, and the mileage life of the vehicle.  A huge number of people and companies are trying to separate our vehicle-related money from our pockets.  How are we suckers supposed to tell fact from fiction, tests from slogans, and endorsement from advertising contracts? 

Well, here I go.  Trying to rescue people from the endless drivel of marketing slogans, false product claims, and media hype.  Forget 40 year old technology with 3,000 mile oil changes.  Think REAL synthetics.  Think military nanofiber filtration technology.  Think standardized ASTM test data.  Is that a bit much?  I’ll help you through it, in plain language, so you can learn how to NOT be taken advantage of.

A word about integrity and purpose:  Whether here or on my website at I will mention various lubrication or filtration products.  I may bash them, question them, applaud them, or heartily endorse those who are worthy.  One particular product line – AMSOIL – happens to stand much taller than the rest of the field.  And it may seem, to the majority of the uninformed public, that my comments or AMSOIL’s claims are just marketing baloney.  Not so.  These aren’t crazy infomercial claims – they’re simply the measured and recorded performance results of more than 30 years of engineered excellence, from the world leader in both lubrication & filtration technology. 

No-one else offers 25,000 or 35,000 mile engine oils, no-one else offers the modern breakthrough of nanofiber filtration technology, and no-one else guarantees their product performance.  In the simplest terms, that’s why I firmly believe that there are no better products in existence.  As a mechanical engineer with 10 years of experience in the automotive industry, I stand by the performance of Amsoil products.  I recommend these products based on hundreds of hours of personal research and years of personal use in my own vehicles, so I’m confident the products will perform as claimed (or better) – to produce great benefits to you.  

In fact, I became an Amsoil dealer in order to help YOU, and I tell you about Preferred Customer membership (giving up “my” retail profit), specifically so that you know I’m not being deceptive and trying to get your money. 

Beyond that, I have a personal dislike for deception, fraud, and dishonesty.  Our society is suffering much because of moral retardation, and censorship of inconvenient facts.  Or perhaps we could say that those who pay get their voice heard, while the truth is stored in the basement.  Gay lifestyle, evolution, environmental activism, these and many more areas are dominated by deception and strong social pressure to adhere to the liberal party line.  Not going to happen here.  It’s time for Americans to find their backbone again and stand for truth, no matter how uncomfortable it might be.

July 21, 2006 Posted by | Filtration Technologies, Fuel Economy, Lubrication Oils & Fluids, Uncategorized | Leave a comment