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curtisr's Avatar
Join Date: Dec 2011
Location: Kingston, Ontario, Canada
Posts: 1,153
Oil Additives and the FTC

From Car maintenance bibles: Oil Additives comes this really useful bit on false advertising, the FTC and oil additive companies. In the words of Bill & Ted, this bit of reading was 'most excellent'.

Happiness is ..... an engine treated with mineral oil filled with food colouring?

To illustrate the whole point about additives, consider this. In the manufacture of synthetic oils, once the bases are created, anti-wear additives such as zinc dithiophosphates (essentially combinations of zinc, phosphorous, and sulphur molecules) are added. These combinations are extremely effective as anti-oxidant, anti-wear, anti-corrosion inhibitors. Anti-wear additives such as zinc do not react quickly or at all to typical oil contamination. Boron is a super anti-wear in its ability at wear reduction (but it does suffer from reaction to water), and sulphur can be active at higher temperatures where it has some transference into the metals.
Now look at the contents of some of the after-market additives. Wow! Zinc, phosphorous and sulphur! Imagine that. Those aftermarket additives are actually exactly what your oil manufacturer has put in already.

The largest potential for aftermarket additives might be in oxidative stability. Most aftermarket additives fail by design long before the oils start to suffer. They're mostly organic and so react quickly with contaminants and therefore degrade quickly over time. Consider also chlorinated hydrocarbons found in some additives. Whilst these still find use in metalworking fluids because they are the best extreme pressure additives available, they are potentially carcinogenic and there's issues with possible metal embrittlement.
It's worth noting again the differences between anti-wear additives and extreme pressure additives: Anti-wear such as zinc and boron layer on the metal surfaces and attempt to keep the metals apart, finding applications in sliding actions like pistons and bearings. Extreme pressure additives such as sulphur phosphorus react to the metal surface making it harder and less subject to wear, such as on gears and cam lobes.
The other consideration is ingressed contaminants such as dirt. Dirty oil is dirty oil and no additives will help that. Changing the filter is the answer there.
Examples of challenges between the FTC and various additive manufacturers

Given the above premise, if the aftermarket additives are so brilliant, why do the companies always seem to end up in trouble? Well - misleading advertising and non-active "active" ingredients claim a lot of victims. Below are a sample of some of the historical run-ins between different manufacturers and regulatory or advertising standards agencies.

Slick 50's $20M lawsuit.
In 1997, Blue Corral, the manufacturers of the Slick 50 engine oil additive, were banned by the Federal Trade Commission from making claims about reduced engine wear, increased fuel economy and lower running temperatures in their advertising in America. The Federal Commission found the company's claims of increased performance and reduced wear were unsubstantiated, and Blue Corral agreed to pay upwards of $20M in damages to affected customers.

DuraLube challenged by Car&Driver.
The manufacturers of the DuraLube engine additive were dealt a smack in the face by a Car & Driver Magazine report into their product. C&D tried the same tests as Consumer Reports did on ProLong, and had similar results, but in a much quicker time. The C&D engines treated with DuraLube lasted a staggering 11 seconds without oil. You do the math. The Federal Trade Commission banned DuraLube from making claims on any of the following: reduced engine wear (by any percentage, dollar or other figure), prolonged engine life, reduced emissions, reduced risk of serious engine damage when oil pressure is lost, improved gas mileage.

MotorUp's deceptive advertising claims.
In an ongoing campaign targeting ads that tout motor oil additives with deceptive claims that they reduce engine wear or extend engine life compared to motor oil alone, the FTC charged the seller of Motor Up Engine Treatment with making unsubstantiated and deceptive advertising claims, in violation of federal laws. Motor Up Corporation and its principal, Kyle Burns, faced an administrative trial.

FuelMax's deceptive advertising claims (the magnet-on-your-fuel-line boys).

The marketers of the Super FuelMAX automotive fuel-line magnet, advertised as providing dramatic fuel-saving and emissions-reducing benefits, agreed to settle Federal Trade Commission charges that their claims were unsubstantiated. These guys claimed that sticking a pair of magnets around your fuel line would increase your gas mileage by 27% whilst reducing harmful pollutants by 42%. Yes hydrocarbon fuels can be affected by diamagnetic influence but does that improve fuel economy?
The FTC alleged that the manufacturers did not possess or rely on reasonable substantiation for the claims they made. The complaint also alleged that the manufacturers falsely represented that tests performed at a certified EPA laboratory prove that Super FuelMAX performed to the above figures. Finally, the FTC charged that ads for Super FuelMAX featuring a testimonial from Alexander Elnekaveh endorsing the product did not reflect Elnekaveh's actual experience with the product or the typical or ordinary experience of members of the public who use the product. Therefore, the FTC complaint said, the representations concerning the testimonial were false or misleading.

Examples of the additive manufacturers fighting back
In order not to paint a completely one-sided picture of the aftermarket additive market, here are some examples of the manufacturers fighting back and ultimately winning.

The zMax win against an FTC settlement for misleading advertising.
The Federal Trade Commission filed suit in a U.S. District Court that sought to halt false and misleading advertising for zMax auto additives and which asked the court to order refunds to consumers who bought the products. The agency alleged that enhanced performance claims for the product were unsubstantiated, that tests cited to support performance claims actually demonstrated that motor oil treated with zMax produced more than twice as much bearing corrosion than motor oil alone, and that the three different products - an engine additive, a fuel line additive and a transmission additive - were all actually mineral oil tinted with food colouring.
However, on 20th March 2003, Speedway Motorsports Inc. (TRK) and Oil-Chem Research Corp., the manufacturers of zMax, announced that they had settled their dispute with the FTC. The Concord, North Carolina-based Speedway said that the dispute was concerning the advertising of zMAX Power System. Marylaurel E. Wilks, VP and general counsel said, "We at Speedway Motorsports are very pleased that the staff of the Federal Trade Commission has specifically confirmed that Oil-Chem can continue to make the following claims in its advertising and promotion of zMAX:".

zMAX soaks into metal,
zMAX reduces friction,
zMAX increases horsepower,
zMAX dissipates engine heat,
zMAX helps to improve or restore gas mileage and reduce emissions in older cars, by virtue of reducing engine deposits,
zMAX helps to maintain gas mileage and emissions in newer cars, by virtue of reducing engine deposits,
zMAX helps to reduce engine wear on engine valve-stems and guides and piston rings and skirts, by virtue of reducing engine deposits,
zMAX helps to extend engine life, by virtue of reducing engine deposits.
The manufacturers of the ProLong engine additive were dealt a smack in the face by a Consumer Reports Magazine report into their product. CR attempted to reproduce the "no oil" test where all the oil was drained out of an engine which had been treated with ProLong, and then the engine was run. CR managed a maximum of 13 seconds running out of each of two engine before they seized up, welding the pistons to the barrels. The case was brought to a Federal Commision for prosecution for false advertising claims.
Source: Consumer Reports, October 1998.
The FTC ultimately settled its investigation with Prolong, without fines of any kind. After 18 months of testing the FTC indicated that Prolong is exactly what they say it is. Further, the FTC approved Prolong's new advertising statement, currently in print in Car and Driver, as "The World's Most Powerful Oil".

Read more: Car maintenance bibles: Oil Additives
Old 10-10-2012, 03:10 AM
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