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

Good thing Amsoil doesn’t stoop to API Licensing

Irresponsible and unqualified “maroons” too often leave ugly trash commments on vehicle forums, making grossly incorrect statements about Amsoil synthetic oils that just infuriate me. Like this classic gem from the Slant Six forum: “Don’t let the Scamsoil droids convince you their expensive gunk is superior to properly-tested, properly-certified regular or synthetic name brand oil.” Or over at you find “Most of Scamsoil’s products ARE NOT API certified!!!! Sounds like you have been reading the lies on the Scamsoil website, stay away”.

If they were merely sharing their opinion and stating their credentials, people wouldn’t have much heartburn over it. But to make false statements like that, irresponsibly leading people away from the superior performance and lower costs of advanced technology, gets me irate.

So, for the record, let’s establish qualifications before we talk about facts. I’m a B.S. degreed Mechanical Engineer. I’ve been in industry for more than 20 years, the last 5 as an engineering manager, and have spent more than the last 10 in the Tier 1 and Tier 2 suppliers, where most automotive parts are made and a lot of value-added engineering is done to improve the products and manufacturing processes. As a matter of fact, while the OEM has some involvement when a subassembly has a defect, guess who is required to do an “8-D” root-cause analysis, implement corrective actions, and monitor to make sure the CA’s are effective and it can’t happen again?

In 2004 I bought a 2002 GMC Sierra with the Duramax turbodiesel and Allison transmission package. That was the beginning of a journey of extensive personal research into vehicle drivetrain lubrication and filtration, and a growing passion to tell people the astonishing facts I learned. I became an Amsoil dealer, not only to help people get literature and best pricing, but to continue learning.

Opinions are as worthless as armpits – everyone has one, but most of them are smelly. And you can see some of the smelly opinions in detail on this “scamsoil” page for Amsoil skeptics, which corrects Amsoil myths using facts.  I tell people what I know, and the conclusions I can reasonably prove with facts and data. So let’s talk about facts. But before I can get far, I have to explain the common sense backdrop to correctly “frame” the facts.

I find it interesting how one-sided the online forums often are: if an Amsoil dealer makes a statement, he’s often dissed, disbelieved, and ridiculed – even if he’s an engineer. If he’s not a “supporting sponsor” of the forum who is paying for the right to make “commercial” comments, he may get warned, censored or kicked off by the moderators for “advertising” helpful facts or suggestions. However, no one seems to question if naysayers have ever worked for petroleum suppliers, if they have an engineering degree, or if they have had training sponsored by “big oil” – and they aren’t required to be a paying sponsor to make glowing recommendations of petro oils. Couple that with a forum’s discussion environment of one or two pararaph comments, and the deck is strongly stacked against open an discussion of engineering facts and test data.

Executive Summary-in-One-Paragraph of the
Facts on API Certification of Synthetic Engine Oils
Under Their EOLCS:

Unfortunately for consumers, the API has no Certification for high performance: only minimum performance. Further, the API provides no reasonable certification options for genuine Group IV and Group V synthetics, deliberately maintaining a skewed structure that multiplies synthetic test costs by several times. In addition, the API Certification adds content restrictions (not required by the SAE, not required by the OEM’s) that prevent long drain intervals and prevent very low wear rates. So the world of API Licensing implies that high-profit mediocre products are high performance, it ensures that only petroleum-company oils can be cost-effectively Certified by the API, and it ensures that the world’s highest-performance products cannot be API Licensed/Certified at all. Fortunately for consumers who want high performance and high value, the API Certification monopoly is a voluntary trademark Licensing program that does not matter in vehicle warranties.

Now, that’s stunning information for many people.  So let me clarify:

Close examination of the OEM Owners’ Manuals shows that engine oils must meet the API/SAE Service Grade requirements that the OEM states.  Continue reading

May 23, 2009 Posted by | Amsoil, Fleet, Lubrication Oils & Fluids, Scamsoil, Synthetic Oil | , , , , , , | 8 Comments

Yes Lubrication Has a Silver Bullet – the Gold Standard

Will the real lubrication expert please stand up? I often find that I’m a bit of an “odd duck out” in engineering because I have a different philosophy, perhaps an expert’s philosophy of excellence. Most engineers seem to find respect in being “vendor neutral” generalists who are content when things are working — the classic “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” mentality. They say essentially “a lot of companies make good products, and you just need one that works for you”. To me, that’s a lazy cop-out that often carries “vendor neutrality” nearly to the point of customer/consumer abuse. Because there often ARE products of superior performance by exceptional design. If you understand and use superior products effectively, they can deliver BIG performance advantages, and synthetic lubricants are one of those areas.

Yes, learning to evaluate and compare design and performance takes a lot of work. You have to learn your field well, you have to analyze constantly, and you have to suspect everything. And yes, being an advocate for one or two products can make an engineering expert sound like a biased salesman. But I think a genuine expert has his greatest value in researching and identifying the “benchmark” performance standards, and recommending and applying them properly for the greatest customer benefit. I think it’s an engineer’s job to deliver the highest performance/value possible. I’ve done that repeatedly in multiple industries and processes, and have always been able to deliver a strong competitive advantage – usually at least an 80% improvement over what “experts” say is possible.

One paperclip is usually as good as another, and when they aren’t it doesn’t matter. But the more complex the field, the more likely that there is a world technology leader that brings stunning performance and great value to the table. In lubrication fluid and filtration performance, AMSOIL is that leader. We’ve seen it “up close and personal” in our own vehicles, it reflects what the test data and oil analysis reveal, and we know that when you understand the benefits of AMSOIL synthetic lube and filter technologies, you’ll see big benefits for your vehicles and equipment.

Marketing is worthless. AMSOIL is about performance… about data… about being least expensive to use and providing the greatest protection at the same time. That’s real value. I became an AMSOIL dealer because I recognized the best synthetic oils and the cost savings they bring. Amsoil has 25,000 and 35,000 mile oils that when you finally change them are still outperforming most oils when they’re first poured out of their bottles. Hey, show me a better or more cost-effective engine oil than AMSOIL, and I’ll recommend it. Show me a better filter than nanofiber technology, and I’ll recommend it. But my experience says you’ll waste a lot of time looking. Other companies could technically do what Amsoil does, but they won’t — because giving their customers the best value and highest performance possible is the Golden Rule, which takes too much talented dedication and is a violation of their corporate business strategy.

I recently got this e-mail from Tom, an engineer:
Brian, I’m thinking that you’ll have such a field day with the following article (Mark Barnes, “Is There a Lubrication Silver Bullet?” Machinery Lubrication Magazine. January 2006), that I was bound and determined to send it to you . . .can you let me know what you think of it?

My response:

Tom –
Yeh, that’s an interesting article alright. I’d say that if they are going to take “Noria’s strict vendor neutral policy” seriously, Mr. Barnes and a couple of cohorts ought to sign up as Amsoil Dealers and go to Amsoil U. They seem to try hard to be objective, but wow – when you’re smack dab in the middle of billions of dollars of international oil company influence, backed by years of anti-synthetic propaganda, I don’t see how neutral they can be if they don’t get the inside perspective of the one company who has most defined synthetics and has battled big-oil agendas for decades.

At the same time, I’ve seen this scenario before from people considered true experts in their field. Perhaps I’m reading too much into his comments, but it sure sounds familiar. Try this on for size:
About 2-3 years ago I took a new seminar on Global Process Control from one of the most recognized international engineering consultants in the field. 25+ yrs experience, client list history probably as long as your leg, on at least three continents. Yet I saw some serious inaccuracies in his perspectives for one particular high-visibility process – he was taking the entire range of the most expensive high-volume equipment in the industry, and saying it was all a waste of money and low-balling it’s value and performance as a whole. “Throwing the baby out with the bath water.”

Over dinner that night, I asked him if all his bad equipment experiences hadn’t been with the two specific widely-advertised household-name brands, and he said yes. I told him that’s the reason why I’ve tested but never selected their equipment – they’re mostly marketing hype jobs with a lot of problems, limitations and quirks, as he had basically pointed out. Then I asked him if he had ever worked with two other lower-profile and lower volume brands which were my top two standards for benchmark performance levels. He looked at me quizzically and said “no”.

I told him something like this: Ed, you and I are great engineers who come from completely different worlds. But for three years, I walked in your shoes a little as the miracle worker they asked to come in ASAP. You need to understand that as a high-performance consultant, you’re never urgently called in to see how great someone’s processes are working. You’re never called in to optimize a process that’s already working real well, but they are curious if it’s possible to improve the performance by another 80%, or if 2% is all they can hope for. These other guys have great performing equipment that’s capable of high performance advantages if you know how to use it, but you never see any of it in your customers – they all call you because they bought crap that doesn’t work and they need you to perform a 15 minute miracle because they’re losing thousands or millions of dollars an hour. The companies I’ve worked for will never call you because their processes run rings around their competitors, far better than anything they’ve ever done before, and they’re optimized to be very profitable and stable. And I gave him an example from one of my automotive launches for Ford, so stunning that he found it hard to believe my numbers: 20% faster than possible, at a defect rate at least 70% below what the suppliers thought was possible. As a favor, I called a plant engineer and verified my memory.

Well, he took that to heart. And the next day he said, you know, what you’ve accomplished for companies is very impressive. But you need to realize that none of the customers I work with have an engineer trained in these processes – much less a good one. They don’t need to buy fancy equipment that makes it easier for them to screw up more things, because they’ll never get the potential out of it.

Several months later I found that on his website he had changed his tune and was applauding a company whose equipment actually performed well.
Can you see what I’m getting at?

In the article, Mr. Barnes says “What about synthetics? What about fuel economy and extended oil drains – it is assumed that I have a preference. Again, my response is the same: I own a newer model car, so I don’t need to be concerned with high-mileage issues. I am fortunate to live in a temperate climate where I am not forced to start my car when it’s -40°F. Most of my driving is on highway (mostly to and from the airport, given how much traveling I do!), and I do not own a boat or trailer to tow uphill on weekends. Therefore, I’m content to change my oil every 5,000 miles as my owners manual recommends. And lastly, I do not race my car in the passing lane (I guess I’m getting old!).

Based on these factors, I choose a brandname, 5W30 mineral oil, which again meets the API and SAE requirements for my vehicle. [Oops – by the API’s own admission, those requirements are minimums only.] That is not to say that you should not use any other oil type, or that synthetics or high-mileage formulations are gimmicks – they’re not. If you live in a colder climate, wish to extend oil drains, have an older car, have a high RPM motorcycle or have particularly severe duty, you may choose to spend the money to upgrade. For me, this doesn’t make sense. By ensuring I maintain my vehicle properly (tire pressure, timing etc.), I can achieve better fuel economy than I can by switching from one oil brand to another.”

Yes, but that distracts from the fact that a 5-10% fuel economy bump when using AMSOIL synthetic oils is an extra boost, in addition to normal proper maintenance. It also ignores the savings of money, and savings of 80% in time and natural resources that you get with 25,000 mile oil changes instead of 5,000 miles. And it ignores the benefits of minimum 70% wear rate reductions which triple the remaining life of an engine.

Look at the last three sentences that conclude his article:
“If you know an application is having lubrication issues, instead of opening the Yellow Pages to look for the next lubricant supplier to invite through the revolving purchasing door, look in the mirror and ask yourself: “Is my lubrication program – areas that I can control such as correct application, cleanliness and storage – up to par?” Is looking for a silver bullet really the answer?”

Here’s a guy (Mark Barnes) that is clearly a seasoned expert but is not focused on high performance cost-savings, because with every customer he’s dealing with the high costs of basic ignorance, or poor practices that create mistakes waiting to happen, or maybe the aftermath of incompetent lube sales guys. I can almost guarantee he’s been in companies whose new maintenance lube guy pumped the wrong grease into 10 different $3,000 motor bearings and they all failed within a day. (That’s why the equipment manufacturers use the grease they do in their bearings: it’s not the best choice, but it IS the one that will sell more motors or rebuild parts when standard greases chemically interact with theirs and pour out of the bearings.) It’s those customers with serious problems that bring him in, because they’re desperate and they heard this guy can help.

And he’s going to buy a new vehicle when his current one has 80,000 or 120,000 miles on it, and he sees no advantage to synthetics because as he admits early in the article, he’s never taken as hard a look at it as his customers assume he has. None of them understands that he doesn’t know his subject matter when he’s talking about synthetic engine oils, or that while his advice works it is FAR from optimal in either cost or performance.

– Brian

A big challenge for both experts and students is data. What data exists, where do you find it, and is it valid? Most lubrication “experts” have never learned to sift through these questions, and data can be hard to come by unless you generate it yourself – which takes lots of time, and requires additional experience and skills. I occasionally see the claim in online forums that Amsoil has no performance data, which is pathetically hilarious because Amsoil has been the King of published data for decades – publishing not only their performance but also the performance of their competition who won’t tell their customers their ASTM test results. Either people can’t find AMSOIL data because they don’t look very hard, or they just listen to others who say there is no data. Mr. Barnes’ expertise is evidently grease, but if he downloaded the Gear Lube White Paper comparison of gear lubes, he might find a clue as to how Amsoil’s greases perform in comparison to conventional petroleum embarrassments.

Another claim is that Amsoil data can’t be trusted because they are the ones who publish it. Several funny problems with that claim: first, they are publishing ASTM test results from certified labs that are used by many oil companies, so if their data isn’t good then neither is any API or SAE data; second, AMSOIL is the only one who publishes test data (even when Exxon-Mobil was asked point-blank for ASTM test data on Mobil 1 vs AMSOIL, they provided nothing but marketing sleight-of-hand); third, although published data claims are legally wide open to false advertising lawsuits, and AMSOIL has huge competitors with deep petro pockets, AMSOIL has never been the subject of even one accusation of false advertising – even though they often publish test results right on their packaging, naming competitive oils. So the decades of legal inaction from AMSOIL’s competition is actual proof that AMSOIL’s test data is accurate.

What Mr. Barnes and Noria seem to miss, steeped in the decades of mediocre petroleum products and synthetic dis-information campaigns, is that the petro companies have a barely-get-by-for-the-specific-application approach, in order to maximize profits. That is reflected in many areas, including the clever API Licensing restrictions which don’t allow high-performance synthetics, and the engine sequence tests. (Fortunately, owners manuals and warranties are based on meeting API/SAE Service Grades, not on being Licensed to display a trademark.)

See, Amsoil’s approach, to engineer the highest possible performance, is the odd duck out. When AMSOIL ran one of their synthetic engine oils through a API Sequence IIIF and had them extend it to triple length, and it flatlined 40% below the failure threshold, the lab boys were stunned – the history of the engine stand had never seen anything like it. To me that makes it rather obvious why Amsoil isn’t going to waste time whining about the API locking them out of Licensing unless they dumb down their product content and performance to the mediocre levels of high petroleum profits.

The ironic thing about Mr. Barnes’ article title is that Amsoil strives to be that Lubrication Silver Bullet — that seems to be their endless mission, and they do it well. To hear Saab experts tell it, AMSOIL is the best Silver Bullet there is to combat fatal sludge formation in sludge-prone engines that cannot stomach API licensed petroleum products, which matches his definition of a Silver Bullet as “a magical weapon, especially one that instantly solves a long-standing problem”.

So from one lubrication expert to another, I’d say that yes, there is a Lubrication Silver Bullet that can stop wear in its’ tracks, lower operating temperatures, lower maintenance costs, use less energy to operate, not allow sludge and varnish buildup, maintain turbochargers in like-new condition, and double or triple equipment life with maximum-performance synthetic lubrication and nanofiber filtration technology. AMSOIL does seem a lot like a Silver Bullet. But in the world of lubrication engineering, you find many who call AMSOIL the Gold Standard.

May 20, 2009 Posted by | Amsoil, Fuel Economy, Lubrication Oils & Fluids, Synthetic Oil, Vehicle Maintenance | , , , , | Leave a comment

Differential Fluids, Differential Covers, and Towing.

OK, what’s the real scoop on differentials?  What do aftermarket differential covers do for you?  Should you buy one or make it yourself?  When should you worry about it?  When do you need a temperature gauge for your differential?  Those questions and more came up in a recent online user forum, and the experts’ answers were excellent.  If you do any towing, I believe this information is critical for you.

OEM’s agree that to maximize your differential life you need to do your first fluid change at 5,000 miles, and lubrication and drivetrain engineers will add that a high-performance synthetic is the best and longest-lasting choice.  Maybe you’ve heard that, but what synthetic should you choose?  Remarkably, there are downright embarrassing differences in the tested performance of gear lubes on the market.   In fact, using the wrong one in a towing application will probably take your differential into early failure.   You can download a free research study detailing the performance testing of 14 name-brand gear lubes.  Think it doesn’t matter much?  On the contrary, we found it very disturbing that over half of the name-brand gear lubes failed one or more of the standard performance tests.

That study is also excellent because at the beginning, as background, it outlines the results of operating-temperature studies done on differentials in towing applications.  The information from those studies is eye-opening.  So enjoy.  And remember, your entire vehicle and towing load rests on TWO GEAR TEETH in your differential: your gear lube choice is critical !

February 25, 2008 Posted by | Amsoil, Diesel, Diesels, Fleet, Lubrication Oils & Fluids, Vehicle Maintenance | , , , , , , | 2 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 | 3 Comments

CJ-4 Diesel Oils only for 2007 & later models – they’re NOT for earlier diesels!

DO NOT use CJ-4 oil in vehicles prior to 2007 models, unless you want increased wear and more frequent oil changes: because the 2006 and earlier models do not have diesel particulate filters (DPF’s), they do not need the restricted formulation of these CJ-4 oils. 

Amsoil’s new DEO oil is a premium 5W-40 synthetic diesel engine oil that is certainly among the best examples of the new CJ-4 emissions-spec oils.   In fact, it’s one of the only examples: most oil companies still don’t have a CJ-4 diesel engine oil formulation, much less have it available in the U.S. market as of October 2006.  Even more kudos to Amsoil, because their CJ-4 oil performance is still better than most CI-4+ oils, and because it’s proven – it has already logged over 12 million fleet miles.

To be fair, this article title isn’t completely true:  if you’re changing your fleet over to Amsoil and take it all to CJ-4 so that you can be certain of always using a DPF-compatible oil, you are still getting a better performing oil across your entire fleet than your current petroleum CI-4+ oil.  So don’t take me wrong.  

But while this CJ-4 oil is the best that Amsoil can formulate within the specification requirements, and it is the best performer available in this group, the CJ-4 spec does compromise oil performance with brand-new limitations on the oil additive contents.   This is why Amsoil only recommends DEO “for use according to the longest service interval established by the engine, vehicle or equipment manufacturer”: there is concern that the additive package cannot handle the dramatically extended (25,000+ mile) drain intervals with the conservative safety margins that Amsoil’s other diesel oils are designed for.   Oil sampling analysis will be a more essential element than ever before in fleet management for 2007+ diesels.  

So in 2006 and earlier model diesels, always use the 15W-40 (AME) or the high-fuel-efficiency 5W-30 (HDD) if your goal is to maximize fuel economy and engine life while minimizing your maintenance costs.  Amsoil will NOT be discontinuing these CI-4+ oils anytime in the foreseeable future.

Which oil should you use for 2006 and earlier diesel models?

The two best choices on the market – per the published technical performance test data, field fleet testing, and product warranty – are the Amsoil 15W-40 Premium Heavy Duty Diesel & Marine oil (product code AME), or the Amsoil Series 3000 5W-30 Heavy Duty Diesel Motor Oil (product HDD).  Despite your owner’s manual recommendation of a 15W-40 oil, your PowerStroke/Duramax/Cummins/Volvo/Caterpillar engine – like nearly all engines – is designed to use a 30-weight oil.  The 15W-40 recommendation is not based on engine design, but on the assumption that 40-weight petroleum oils will often “shear back” to a 30-weight oil in diesels, and if you use a 30-weight oil that shears back to a 20-weight oil you will have wear problems (or worse).  Of course, AMSOIL’s full PAO synthetic HDD formulation will maintain viscosity as long as you are using it as recommended in a healthy engine (no fuel getting in the oil, for example) – so your engine will enjoy year-round benefit from the 30-weight oil it was designed for. 


Both oils are 25,000 mile oils that outperform every other available diesel oil on the market, and are LESS EXPENSIVE to use because of those extended drain intervals.  Both oils are also superb performers in gasoline engines.  Either oil will work well for you, but my best recommendation is for you to make an informed choice based on your specific needs.  Here are some suggestions to help you:


        For this Application…                                         Pick this oil:

             Fuel Economy                                           Series 3000 5W-30 (HDD)

    Cold Temperature Performance                             Series 3000 5W-30 (HDD)

    All-fleet oil for home/farm/garden                          Series 3000 5W-30 (HDD)

            Lowest oil usage                                              15W-40 (AME)

          OTR Freight Hauling                                 5W-30 (HDD) – or 15W-40 (AME)*

       All-fleet oil for class 3-8                              15W-40 (AME) – or 5W-30 (HDD)*

All-purpose oil for logging/heavy-construction                    15W-40 (AME)*


*While it is difficult to compare them, Engineers generally agree the thicker 15W-40 (AME) will provide slightly more wear protection than 5W-30 (HDD) in extremely heavy applications, particularly off-road/gravel/rock-crawling applications where drivetrains are subject to heavy torsional shock-loading.  However, for highway/city mileage, HDD fuel economy savings probably exceed savings from reduced wear with AME – if there is any reduced wear at all with AME in highway/city driving.

More diesel info here

October 23, 2006 Posted by | Diesels, Lubrication Oils & Fluids, Vehicle Maintenance | 5 Comments

2007 Diesel Regulations – Environmental Irresponsibility?

2007 Diesel-engine vehicles are all about an expensive attempt to meet the new EPA regulations by using high EGR percentages, Diesel Particulate Filters, CJ-4 motor oil specifications, and Ultra Low Sulfur diesel fuel.  Now, all this has increased the cost of fuel, reduced fuel economy by 10% (burning MORE non-renewable resources!), increased engine wear rates, and – one can argue – may well increase the amount of used motor oil dumped in the environment, which has a highly negative environmental impact.  So the questions need to be asked: Does the EPA’s strict new diesel emissions regulations really benefit the environment, or does it create a heavier environmental impact?   How important is it to feel good about ridiculously low NOx emission levels which have no demonstrable benefit? 

This could get quite technical, but I’ll keep it simple.  For low engine wear rates (prolonging vehicle life, and reducing both oil consumption and maintenance costs), you must control soot and acid content in the diesel motor oil.  Good levels of ZDDP (a Zinc compound) and sulfated ash are clearly the best and most effective ways to achieve those goals, producing low wear rates and high TBN’s (total base number) for neutralizing acids.  Having plenty of ZDDP and high TBN in a high-quality synthetic oil base-stock means that oil change intervals can be dramatically extended to 25,000 miles in typical diesel pickups, or – by adding bypass filtration systems – oil changes can be completely eliminated.  Amsoil turned this technology into a proven science decades ago, which has been proven in extensive oil analysis sampling and fleet engine rebuild results, and has been repeatedly noted for the strong environmental benefits: 25,000 mile oil change intervals produce more than an 87% reduction in motor oil useage.  The environmental benefits of “extended drain” oil and filter technologies include increased fuel economy, dramatic reductions in the amount of “dumped” used oil and of filters disposed, and improved vehicle emissions.

Unfortunately, the new CJ-4 spec places strict limits on what you can use to get good TBN, keep the engine clean (minimizing emissions increases), increase fuel economy, and reduce wear  – essentially it cripples the oil formulation so that we can’t get what we need for best use of resources.   Amsoil played a vital role in writing this spec, which is what made it possible for the vehicle OEM’s to meet the new EPA emissions reg’s and not destroy their engines or emissions equipment before the warranty is up (they hope).

The issue all goes back to NOx emissions: that’s the first “domino” in the chain, and I’ll walk you down the chain from link to link.  Both Oxygen and Nitrogen are abundantly present in the air anyway.  So the environmental importance of extremely low NOx emissions is highly questionable in my opinion (and I’m not alone in this).  Apart from this, the newer 2002+ diesels are VERY clean and environmentally friendly.  However, based on an assumed importance for extremely low NOx, the EGR (exhaust gas recirculation) rates had to be dramatically increased – from a typical 10-15% for the earlier EPA standards, to an amazing 25-35%.  The proof of the technical ridiculousness of this is not that it creates hotter-running engines, but that it results in about a 10% reduction in diesel fuel economy – much of that due to a lot of unburned fuel that exits the exhaust (“soot” as black smoke).  That’s where the diesel particulate filters (DPF’s) come in: these are required in order to trap the soot (unburned fuel), then periodically burn off that unburned fuel – by consuming more fuel.  Once you do all that, you now have exhaust that is both clean AND extremely low in NOx emissions.

Now, you might say “wait a minute.  Do I understand correctly that in order to reduce NOx emissions, they are increasing fuel consumption by 10% – trading a small and very questionable environmental improvement for a 10% increase in the amount of fuel used?”  Yes.  You’ve got the environmental picture so far, except that the story gets worse. 

The DPF’s typically contain SCR technology (Selective Catalyst Reduction), which is a catalytic converter for diesels.  These “cat bricks” will slowly plug up from deposited solids that can’t be burned off, while the fuel economy will get worse and worse as the exhaust backpressure continues to increase.  OEM’s are hoping that they’ll “last” 150,000 miles before the fuel economy gets absurdly bad, but no-one really knows.  Many are concerned about the public backlash when people find out how ridiculously expensive it’s going to be to service or replace these units.  The main factors determining the effective life of an SCR/DPF are fuel quality, engine oil content, and the amount of engine oil that is burned.  (In other words, if you want to keep good fuel economy and avoid expensive repairs on a 2007 diesel for as long as possible, pay close attention!) 

Due to the sensitive nature of the DPF’s, automakers had to reduce every possible source of deposits that could kill DPF performance over time – primarily these two sources:

1) Sulfur in the fuel.  This was dropped from 5,000 ppm (parts per million) to 500 ppm in 1994 with the Low Sulfur Diesel (LSD), and now again in 2006 and 2007 – down to an unbelievable 15 ppm with Ultra Low Sulfer Diesel (ULSD).  Why is this bad?  Not because it’s a pollutant, but because it slowly plugs your DPF.  That’s why you DO NOT want to use LSD in a 2007 or later diesel: it kills your DPF 33 times faster. 

Problem is, the Sulfur is an important lubricant for the fuel injector pump and the fuel injectors, and Europe’s experience proved the ULSD puts these expensive components in a junkyard in far less than half their normal life.  U.S. experts don’t think the federal regulations will do much to ensure that fuel-station owners and attendants will remember to dose the diesel with the correct level of lubrication additives.  So a word to the wise: put your own additive into your fuel tank during every fillup!

2) Sulfated ash, Phosphorus, Sulfur, and Zinc in engine oils.  Those contents all play key roles in oil performance, but now they must be restricted.  Because after all, a very slight amount of oil does get consumed in the engine and exits through the exhaust.  And with higher EGR rates, even more oil is likely to be burned.  Again, the problem with each of these four is that they accumulate in the DPF catalyst “brick” and plug it up.

By severely limiting these elements and compounds in the motor oil, the performance capability of the oil has been limited.  And to a great extent, the use of synthetic oils becomes almost essential.  But whether synthetics or fossil-oil, this logically means that the diesel engine oil must be changed more frequently than would otherwise be needed, again consuming more natural resources that are non-renewable, and probably increasing the amount of used oil dumped in the environment.

Specifically, the CJ-4 oils are limited in their capability to reduce wear, to control/disperse soot, and to neutralize acids.  The soot and acid issue means that premium synthetics are limited to lower maximum extended drain intervals. At the same time, the higher EGR rates are producing more soot and more acid in the oil, both of which are proven to reduce engine life.  So oil performance and engine life have both been compromised by these CJ-4 requirements.  To better see what I mean, compare the specs for AMSOIL’s new CJ-4 diesel oil, with the flagship CI-4 Plus Diesel Oil: the new CJ-4 doesn’t perform near as well in the NOACK volatility or the 4-Ball Wear Test, and check out the huge difference in TBN’s.

Kudos to Amsoil, not only because their CJ-4 oil performance is still better than most CI-4+ oils, but because it’s available and has already logged over 12 million fleet miles: most oil companies still don’t have a CJ-4 diesel engine oil formulation, much less have it available in the U.S. market as of October 2006. 

So here are the cards we’ve turned over: the risk of increased motor-oil dumping, an additional 10% fuel consumption penalty (that just gets worse as the DPF back-pressure increases), an additional $700-7,000 per vehicle for the technology, and reduced engine life (at least compared to what it would otherwise be, not accounting for tribology advances that may offset the difference now or in the future).  Now that all those cards are on the table, who wins?   Does this make any environmental sense?  Are those penalties really justified merely in order to take very low NOx emissions to an extremely low level? 

Why did sales of 2006 diesels skyrocket as large fleets pushed to replace all older equipment with 2006 models?  Because the people who know the situation are deeply concerned about the large negative impact of these new regulations on our businesses and economy.  And don’t let the media fool you – the people who pay the bill for ALL of this are us – the consumers, and the taxpayers.

Knock, knock, EPA – is anyone with a brain at home?  Why would responsible environmental groups push for such results or support them?  Sounds like lunacy to me.  Has the EPA abandoned being an Environmental Protection Agency?  Since when did Congress vote to make them a Politically Correct Regulation Agency?  I vote for rolling back the 2007 NOx diesel emissions requirements, in order to reduce diesel fuel consumption by 10%, reduce the cost of the vehicles, reduce vehicle maintenance, extend vehicle life, and not force everyone to waste money to harm the environment while pretending to help it.  Anyone else on the side of sanity and holding government agencies responsible for their assigned roles?

Update on environmental FRAUD: 

October 23, 2006 Posted by | Diesels, Environment, Environmental Issues, Lubrication Oils & Fluids | 11 Comments

VW 505.01 Spec – Is Amsoil AFL “approved”?

AMSOIL AFL Bottle LabelI got an e-mail this week from a mobile lube company owner, asking about the AMSOIL European Car Formula 5W-40 product (“AFL” product code). 

I use Amsoil in my personal cars and sell quite a bit to customers. There seems to be a lot of discussion on several boards about VW 505.01 Approval list and the fact that Amsoil is not listed. I can understand that there could be many reasons for this, but…”

AMSOIL AFL Bottle Label

The AMSOIL “European Car Formula 5W-40 Motor Oil” (AFL) IS approved by VW and Mercedes, and DOES meet the 505.01 VW spec and 229.51 Mercedes Benz spec.  Some older lists (especially the original lists) do not include the AMSOIL product, because for several months they (Volkswagon) would not release either the spec or testing requirements, or identify a testing lab that could perform the tests – this is a common delay/ploy intended to benefit the original oil mf’r (such as Castrol) who worked with them to formulate the spec and product.  The only questions are the product code and the age of the cases you have in stock.  If they have the AFL product code and have been purchased since about February 2006 (very rough approximation), they will have the new label you see here which is the new formulation.  The old version of Amsoil’s AFL did not meet the new spec because of the tighter restrictions on Zinc content, which is a key component to most high-end-product wear-reduction additive packages: some exhaust design engineers are concerned about the possibility that certain forms of Zinc could possibly reduce the long term performance of extremely low emission catalytic converters.  It remains to be seen whether these concerns have any validating data, or if the concerns are related only to specific zinc compounds.  Meanwhile the oil companies are forced to use much higher cost wear-control additives if they want to meet the new specification. 

For those who aren’t aware, this oil is designed to meet all the European specs for both gasoline and DIESEL engine applications, including the latest ultra-clean-emissions diesels with diesel particulate filter (DPF) units.  Here are some performance details on the product:

September 23, 2006 Posted by | Lubrication Oils & Fluids | , , , | Leave a 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