Ask anyone who owns a car and they’ll tell you engine wear and tear is just part of owning a car. Anytime you have metal parts moving against each other combined with a lot of heat, you’re going to have wear. And it doesn’t matter if it’s a car, truck, diesel or gasoline, every engine is susceptible.
And although you can never stop the wear and tear entirely, you can at least minimize the amount of wear by using a quality made oil and then adding oil additives to further enhance the oil’s lubrication abilities.
Combined with great lubrication and the ability to suspend dirt and other particles that can be found inside your car’s engine, these synthetic chemical additives can greatly reduce the amount of wear and tear your engine goes through in the course of its life.
Types of engine wear and tear
There are actually different types of wear that happen to your engine over time, and by getting familiar with the different types you’ll be better armed to understand how best to make sure they don’t exist inside your own motor.
Abrasive wear: Think of sandpaper here and how using some sandpaper on any metal object can affect it. This is exactly what happens when an engine is operating in a dusty and dirty environment. These particles of dust and dirt can get into the engine and literally act like sandpaper, having a seriously negative consequence on your engine over time. This is especially true for diesel engines like backhoes and dump trucks.
Corrosive wear: Corrosion can happen in a few instances, but most commonly it is either you got water inside the crankcase, or acids are forming due to the combustion process of the motor. Either way, they corrode the metal parts and slowly dissolve them or break them apart. Over a long period of time without rectifying the situation, corrosion can leave you with serious damage.
Adhesive wear: This is most common when you don’t realize there is either no oil, or very little oil in your car and the internal engine parts get so hot from the friction caused by poor lubrication that the metals actually begin fusing and then breaking apart. Although not a common scenario, it does happen so be aware of your oil light and treat it as something serious.
If your engine is displaying any of these types of wear, you need to get it to a mechanic right away and be sure you aren’t causing more problems.
How oil additives work
The whole idea of engine additives is to help stop or at least slow down the amount of wear and tear on your engine in its lifetime. These synthetically created chemicals do this by acting as a ‘super lubricant’ and help boost the oil already in your car’s lubrication properties.
But there are other option as well and we’ve laid out the most common ones below:
Friction modifiers: Friction modifiers are just like the name implies, they are present in order to reduce the friction of the internal parts of your car’s engine and are typically made from organic materials such as molybdenum, phosphorus or graphite.
Anti-wear agents: These additives are a bit different in that they don’t necessarily ‘coat’ the metal parts of an engine, but rather they chemically react with the metals creating a kind of coating similar in application to something like Teflon on a non-stick frying pan. They typically contain elements such as zinc, phosphorus or sulfur.
Detergents: Just like for your clothes, oil additives containing detergents clean your car’s engine from the inside, knocking off any dust or other deposits that can get stuck on the parts and cause abrasive damage. They contain alkaline materials such as calcium, magnesium or sodium.
Dispersants: Dispersants are added in order to take anything that is floating around in your oil, often paired with a detergent, and makes sure it stays suspended in the oil until its time to have your oil changed and the particles can be ejected with the old oil.
So oil additives are just that, additives. They enhance and add to your oil’s ability to protect your car. Not replace your oil.
Common oil additives and their benefits
There are really four ingredients that are the most beneficial and should be included on the list of ingredients on the can. Of course there are more, but here are the top ones:
Zinc: Zinc is a common chemical element found in many of the best oil additives. The compound works by reacting with the metal parts of your engine so that it actually creates another metal coating on top of the metal parts themselves. This can be very beneficial for parts like camshafts and lifters.
Phosphorus: Another element that creates a chemical reaction within your motor is Phosphorus. Similar to Zinc, it creates a thin coating on any metal parts it comes into contact with and creates a thin film that helps protect any parts from excessive wear and tear. The only problem with Phosphorus today is that it is highly regulated and there are limits on how much an oil additive manufacturer can include in their formula.
Molybdenum: Molybdenum is a friction modifier that also works to create a barrier between metal pasts. The difference is Molybdenum coats rather than melds with the metal parts. Molybdenum is also great for stopping or slowing down corrosion on metals and so has a two-fold benefit.
Boron: When Boron is added to oil additives, it works as a detergent rather than a lubricant. This is the ‘detergent’ part of the oil additive and helps keep your engine clean from the inside. The problem is that Boron can also be too strong and wear down soft metal parts, so be aware of how much you’re adding to your car.
Together, these elements all play a crucial role in helping oil additives maintain and keep your engine working as well as it can. Just be sure you’re getting the proper ingredient for the outcome you’re looking for in the oil additive you’re buying.
Choosing the right oil additive
Choosing the right oil additive isn’t rocket science or anything, even though there may be a few words or ingredients listed that you might now be familiar with.
Compatibility with your engine and oil type: Obviously no one wants to buy something that is going to do more harm than good when it comes to an additive for your car. So be really sure that the additive you’re choosing is not just compatible with your car make and model, but also the oil you’re going to be using in it.
Understanding the additive’s benefits: Be sure you clearly know what it is you’re looking to achieve by adding these chemicals to your car’s oil before even stepping into a car supply store. Each oil additive has its own strengths and weaknesses, and when used incorrectly, simply wasting money on something that isn’t needed can be the least of your worries. Be informed!
Consideration of environmental and safety factors: If you don’t think or care much about the environment, you really should. Some of these chemicals can cause a lot of damage not only to the environments where they’re originally manufactured in, but you own as well in the form of emissions and disposal of these chemicals. Don’t forget, these are synthetic chemicals so they aren’t going to break down easily and are always highly poisonous.
So be aware of which additive you need and why you actually need it.
Limitations of oil additives
Just like anything you buy for your car, these oil additives aren’t exactly magic. They do have limitations so be realistic when it comes to what you will hoe they do and what they can actually accomplish.
The importance of routine engine maintenance: Just because you use any type of additive it doesn’t mean that you don’t need to still do regular maintenance on your vehicle. These additives are an addition to your car’s maintenance routine, not a replacement!
Over Reliance on oil additives: Again, these additives are meant to enhance what you’re already doing to your car, but they are not magic. They can not fix a broken head gasket that is causing your car to blow black smoke all over the road. In fact, overuse can cause problems that weren’t even there before. So make sure you are using them as directed by the instructions on the can or your owner’s manual or both.
Incompatible or excess additives: It should be obvious that if you’re using products that aren’t compatible together it can cause a lot more problems than anything else. So you should always be sure that the additives you’re thinking of buying actually work together with your specific car and the oil you’re using. And of course using too much of anything is also a problem. There’s directions on the bottles for a reason, read them and adhere to them.
Even though all engines, no matter if they’re gasoline or diesel, will at some time succumb to wear and tear, it doesn’t mean you can’t drastically slow down the process and get a lot more mileage out of your vehicle. Nor does it mean there aren’t steps you can take to minimize the amount of mechanic visits or need to buy replacement parts.
Oil additives, when used correctly and in the right circumstances can help reduce a lot of wear and tear on your car, especially if you plan to have it for years and use it often.
They can help keep the inside of your engine cleaner, add extra lubricating properties that normal oils just can’t, and help by coating interior parts with even more lubrication through chemical processes. Yes, they can do a lot! But they aren’t a replacement for normal maintenance.