Snake oil

By: Steve Atkinson, Photography by: Steve Atkinson


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Some oil additives don’t have a good reputation in the industry, especially with the people having to strip and rebuild engines, transmissions or anything else that has to be filled with oil.

Snake oil
Snake oil

Not everyone can afford the purchase price of a new or near-new truck or machine. There are also cases of late model gear not being required due to long periods of downtime and this can be especially true in the large farming community. Naturally, the older gear still needs to perform when the time comes to do the business and generally it will then get pushed pretty hard before being parked up to await its next tour of duty. Owners of these trucks and machines always try to maximise their equipment's life and will often look at different ways to keep the gear going as long as possible. Oil additives are one way to possibly extend equipment life and a number of companies supply a wide range of additives for varying uses but for only one purpose – equipment life extension.

Ross McLean doesn't look like a fool. In fact, to me, he looks like someone who dots his 'i's and crosses his 't's. One can be sure he thoroughly researches everything he does. So what is an ex-biological scientist with more than 47-years research and development experience, doing peddling what some might think of as snake oil?

Originally seeking the cure for his smoky boat engine, McLean tracked down an overseas supplier of the products he now distributes. Their advertising had some heavy-hitting testimonials from large, well-known companies and after the products cured his boat engine, McLean decided to carry out some due diligence which has ended up in his company, Neptune Products, distributing the three different additives to New Zealand's on-line buying community.

McLean takes delight in showing me his 'road test' vehicle, which is a 1997 Toyota Hiace Regius 1KZ-TE (3L TD, 4WD), with 156,000km on the clock. To show the effectiveness of his products he carries out a simple demonstration to show oil and engine internal cleanliness – the 'finger rub test'. This involves placing oil from the dipstick between the thumb and forefinger and rubbing them together. McLean says that the pores in the skin on the finger and thumb should be left nice and clean-looking. If the oil is wiped off and it still leaves the prints of the fingers blackened, then there are problems and the oil should be changed immediately – its cleaning ability is exhausted, the engine is accumulating sludge and this black abrasive soot is causing excess wear.

With every confidence in his products, McLean demonstrates and shows, even before wiping, no dirty smear whatsoever left on his fingers, as the photos attest to (for perspective, this oil had done just under 6000km but McLean has run chemical analysis tests up to 72,000km). Just to make sure this was no trick from a snake oil salesman, I also carried out the 'finger rub test' with the same results; so clean I could have sat down at my computer and typed out my days work without leaving grubby fingerprints on the keyboard.

Although the three different additives can be used individually, which they frequently are, McLean says the best results are achieved by using all three as a program of which he describes:

DeSLUDGE

Emptied into an engine and run for around 30-mins before draining with the old oil, DeSLUDGE does exactly what its name says. McLean says it's amazing to see how much gunk can pour out when this procedure is carried out and advises that a bigger-than-usual waste oil container is necessary the first time DeSLUDGE is used. Changing the oil filter also needs to be carried out before the old oil is replaced.

FTC CATALYST — engine decarboniser

Aptly named, this additive removes carbon build-up from within the engine. Unwanted carbon can have a very detrimental effect on injectors, piston rings, valves and other components, which can lead to poor performance and diminished fuel economy, let alone the wear that will eventualy kill engine longevity.

According to McLean, FTC is rather unique in that it actually burns (oxidises) the carbon off internal components without any abrasive action. He also explains FTC is a combustion catalyst, giving a bigger, cleaner bang for buck and extends engine life due to reduced abrasive carbon wear.

SupaSLIP

This was the first product that got our attention and was the reason for our first contact with McLean. He tells me that one of the biggest fears with oil additives is that some products may contain Teflon (also known as PTFE and polytetrafluoroethylene), that has been said to clog oil filters and build up around oil galleys. There is also talk about it baking into interior engine surfaces and causing problems when rebuilders have to do machining work. Not so in the case of McLean's SupaSLIP product, as he says that it contains no Teflon.

I am told that this product is suited for all types of engines including small two-strokes. Being non-Teflon based, it doesn't adhere to interior surfaces, so needs to be replaced when the oil is changed. The benefits of its non-adhesion properties are that should any problem arise, simply removing the oil (which contains the SupaSLIP), will restore things back to how they were prior to pouring in the additive. McLean says that the product works equally well in transmissions, diffs, and hydraulic systems.

Summary

McLean is an excellent ambassador for his products and it is hard to argue with the comprehensive but simple-to-understand facts and figures he has compiled from his own testing, which are backed up by independent authorities. He goes on to say that it's quite usual for those that start using his company's products to be impressed by the way an engine burns cleaner and runs with increased efficiency. McLean claims his products have saved many engine rebuilds.

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