Oil additives are synthetically manufactured chemical compounds that can greatly enhance your car’s performance and even help to extend the overall life of your truck or car’s engine.
But the additives are meant to be used in conjunction with a quality oil, not as a substitute for your engine oil. Most mechanics agree that treatments should coincide with your normal oil changes to be effective and overuse can actually be dangerous rather than beneficial.
But in order to know which oil additives you should be using and why, it takes a little knowledge that can give you the results you’re looking for, and even save you money by buying what you need and not spending money on something that really isn’t benefiting your car at all.
So read on to understand what may seem like a confusing topic, but is really just a matter of knowing what is available and what your car can actually benefit from.
Types of Oil Additives
There seems to be an oil additive available today for just about anything that could possibly go wrong with a car or truck today. Just to give you an idea of the plethora of products available, here is a list of the most common additives on the market today:
Viscosity Improvers: Viscosity has to do with how thick or thin your motor oil is in accordance to the weather outside. In extreme hot or cold instances your oil can easily become too thin or thick and may no longer coat the internal parts of your engine the way they should be. This is where viscosity improvers come in.
Friction Modifiers: Friction is what causes most of the problems on any type of combustible engine, diesel or gas. So the less friction on any of the engine’s internal parts always means needing to use less fuel and far less wear and tear on the engine.
Detergents: Just like anything, engines also get dirty, even on the inside. Oil additives that include a detergent help keep all the parts clean so there is no sludge buil up or other forms of contamination to your engine.
Anti-wear Agents: These types of additives actually create a molecular bond through chemistry meant to give you an added layer of protection to any metal the additive comes into contact with.
Corrosion Inhibitors: Over time corrosion can wreak havoc on a car’s engine. Changes in weather, water or other contaminants can easily start to break down and corrode or even rust internal metal parts without you even knowing until it’s far too late.
Pour Point Depressants: These additives are usually used in cold weather climates and for more commercial type uses. Oftentimes tractor trailers or work machines like bulldozers can benefit from these in low or even frigid temperatures.
Anti-Foaming Agents: You may not realize, but with all the heat and pressure that goes on inside an engine can cause your motor oil to foam and start to break down. This happens most often when people don’t change their oil regularly and the consequences can be severe.
Knowing which oil additive does what can go a long way in helping you determine exactly which additive you should be using.
Performance Comparison of Different Types of Oil Additives
Viscosity Improvers: The viscosity of a liquid has to do with the thickness or thinness of a liquid at a specific temperature. This not only matters when the engine is running and the oil is warmed up, but also when the engine is not in use and the motor is sitting idle.
For example, if you have a diesel engine and it’s super cold outside, it’s extremely hard to start to begin with. Not compound that with an oil that is up to three times thicker than normal due to the cold and you can see why a viscosity improver that can help keep the oil thinner during cold weather can be really helpful.
Friction Modifiers: Friction modifiers can arguably be one of the most important types of compounds added to oil additives for most car or truck owners. After all, they do exactly what’s implied by their name, reduce the friction between your engine’s moving metal parts. The rational being the less friction or drag you place on your engine, the less fuel it will consume. Also, the less friction between parts, the less wear and tear you put on the motor. Both which of course mean less money spent in gasoline or at the mechanic’s shop. But be aware, not all friction modifiers work the same and some may be better at long distance highway driving while others may be more appropriate for city driving.
Detergents: Detergents are used to clean the engine by preventing the build-up of sludge and other harmful deposits. They have been shown to be effective in keeping engines clean and running smoothly for extended periods. However, some detergents are more effective than others depending on the type of gasoline being used and the driving conditions. As a general rule of thumb, the higher the concentration of detergent in the motor oil, the better the performance in cleaning and reducing deposits.
Anti-wear Agents: Most anti-wear agents actually work through a chemical reaction that works to bond tiny particles to any exposed metal engine parts. You can equivocate this to the way your non-stick frying pan works in the way it has a coating that was chemically added in order to make it slippery and resistance free. Anti wear agents basically are doing the exact same thing. And of course the less wear and tear you have on your engine, the longer it should last you as well as being maintenance free.
Corrosion Inhibitors: Just because your motor is ‘sealed’ doesn’t mean that condensation can’t build in the engine, or debris can’t get in somehow. All of these things can have some serious negative effects on an engine including corrosion and or rust. And the biggest problem with these types of issues is that you normally don’t even know this is going on inside the motor until it’s too late and the engine starts to rally underperform.
Pour Point Depressants: Mostly used in very frigid areas, pour point depressants help keep your oil viscosity, or thinness in extreme cold weather areas. Think the gold miners in Alaska that use bulldozers and heavy equipment in the extreme cold, this is where pour point depressants can be very valuable. For extreme cold, this is one oil additive that is definitely a must have and not just an afterthought!
Anti-foaming Agents: There is a tremendous amount of pressure and heat inside your car’s engine. As your motor oil starts to age, it becomes more susceptible to foaming and usually occurs when a normal maintenance routine including regular oil changes isn’t adhered to. Once the oil does begin to foam up, it quickly begins losing its lubrication properties and leaves your engine vulnerable to a host of problems.
Factors Affecting Performance of Oil Additives
There are a number of different factors that can affect just how well any oil additive performs in your car. And although there may be a super long list, for the sake of your eyes we’ll just go over some of the more obvious ones here:
Oil Type: There really are a lot of different types of oil whether they are natural oils or synthetically made oils. Each one is different and so are their production methods depending on the manufacturer. And although some believe synthetic oils are the ‘perfect’ oil, even synthetics can benefit from additives like detergents and friction modifiers.
Engine Design: Engine design and even how old your engine is are all factors on how well an oil additive can realistically perform. Then you have speciality engine’s souped up and are turbocharged or supercharged. These types of modifications put even more stress on additives and often require additives containing anti-wear agents or corrosion inhibitors.
Driving Conditions: The environments you drive in also play a key role on the effectiveness and need for oil additives. Places with extreme weather conditions like those found in the northern United States can all do well with additives with higher concentrations of viscosity improvers or friction modifiers.
Additive Concentration: The amount of additives you use is still highly debatable. While using more can increase their effectiveness, this also increases the cost of using them as well. And too much of anything can have negative side effects too. It’s always best to follow your car’s specific recommendations, or the instructions printed on the can when in doubt as to how much to add.
Oil Change Interval: How often you change your motor oil or even the quality of the oil can have a big impact. Since it’s recommended that you add oil additives to the oil when you do an oil change, not keeping up with a regularly scheduled maintenance routine can put both the oil and the additives at jeopardy.
If you just take a minute to understand some of the common factors that effect the additives, you can see what types of additives are best to use and why so that you can get the most out of your car’s engine.
When it comes to how well certain types of oil additives do in comparison to each other as far as the performance of your car is concerned, we can see there really are a lot of factors that affect how well, or not well each type of additive performs.
In extreme temperatures we can see that viscosity improvers are one of the best ways to improve your oil’s performance whether the weather is too hot or cold. Then we have friction modifiers that can be used in any type of weather, and it’s the driving conditions that matter.
So in order to get the most out of whichever type or brand of oil additive you choose to use, you really need to know the conditions you’re driving in, the type of oil you’re using, and what you think your car or truck really needs as far as age and type of engine you have. It may seem a bit confusing, but hopefully we’ve helped you find the one that’s right for you.