Jeff Anderson - T-1 Certified - Southeast Michigan - Independent Amsoil Dealer
Synthetic Performance Oil is your Michigan based Amsoil Dealer Serving Detroit, Flint, Pontiac, Lansing, Oakland, Lapeer and Genesee Counties and all of Michigan
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All You Really Need to Know About Motor Oil Additives
So What's In This Stuff Anyways?
by Ed Newman
This article appeared in National Oil & Lube News, October 2001
It has been a long long time since motor oil was “just oil.” In the 1930's someone decided to begin putting wax modifier in the oil to address the problem of wax residue after the refining process. Thus was born the motor oil additive market.
Today, motor oils contain a variety of ingredients designed to improve the performance capabilities of motor oil, whether petroleum or synthetic. This article is an overview of the various Motor Oil Additives used in automobile engines and drivetrains.
Motor Oil Additive Job Descriptions
Motor oil additives have three essential functions: to protect metal surfaces, to expand the lubricant's application range, and to extend lubricant life. Additional considerations for additive selection include ease with which they can be handled by formulators, stability in storage, toxicity, and their smell. Yes, smell is a serious consideration.
Surface Protection Additives
Corrosion and rust inhibitors like zinc dithiophosphates (a multi-purpose additive), metal phenolates, fatty acids and amines are used to prevent corrosion and rust on the internal metal parts of the engine.
Detergents keep surfaces free of deposits. By use of metallo-organic compounds of sodium, calcium and magnesium phenolates, phosphonates and sulfanates varnishes and sludge are neutralized and maintained in a soluble state.
Dispersants, such as alkylsuccinimides, alkylsuccinic esters and mannich reaction products, keep insoluble contaminants dispersed in the lubricant. Contaminants are bonded by polar attraction to dispersant molecules, preventing them from agglomerating.
Friction modifiers alter an oil's coefficient of friction. Typical friction modifiers include organic fatty acids and amides, high molecular weight organic phosphorus and phosphoric acid esters.
Performance Motor Oil Additives
Seal swell agents help to swell elastomeric seals by causing a chemical reaction in the elastomer. Organic phosphates and aromatic hydrocarbons are sometimes used to achieve this effect.
Viscosity modifiers help reduce the rate of viscosity change when temperatures rise or drop. Polymers and copolymers of olefins tend to expand as the temperature rises, counteracting against the tendency of oil to thin. Other compounds used for this function include methacrylates, dienes and alkylated styrenes.
Protective Motor Oil Additives
Antioxidants slow down the rate of oxidation by decomposing peroxides and terminating free-radical reactions. Zinc dithiophosphates, hindered phenols, aromatic amines and sulfurized phenols are used to this end.
Metal deactivators are used to reduce catalytic effect of metals on the oxidation rate. In other words, without organic complexes containing nitrogen or sulfur, amines, sulfides and phosphites, the rate of oxidation would speed along unchecked. These compounds form form an inactive film on metal surfaces by complexing with metallic ions.
What's Goin' On?
One example is the battle between corrosion inhibitors and antiwear additives. Sometimes these additives battle for sites on a metal surface. If you use too much corrosion and rust inhibitor the antiwear properties of an oil can be diminished.
It is important to realize that additive chemistries can themselves have disadvantages as well as advantages. The usage of various additives involves tradeoffs. Here are just some examples of negative side effects additive may possess.
The rule of thumb here is that if an application does not require a Motor Oil Additive do not use it. This holds true especially for aftermarket Motor Oil Additives. Motor oil formulators go to great lengths to build balanced systems that meet pre-designed targets. Not only the choice of chemistries, but the concentration at which an additive is used will have a major impact both on how well a lubricant performs a task and on its cost.
AMSOIL INC. uses only the highest quality Motor Oil Additives and thoroughly understands how each interact. Not only are the specific basestocks selected for their ability to provide extended drain intervals, but the additive package plays a vital role in a lubricant's performance as well. As car manufacturers demand longer motor oil drain intervals, these aspects of lubricant performance will become increasingly important to all motor oil manufacturers
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