Tales of Lubrication

Lube Job: The Detroit Free Press offers this advice: "Don't be fooled by pricey, fancy oils." Some of my fellow car buddies are big fans of synthetic motor oil. I've never used it. I might feel differently if we had more extreme temperatures here in the Pacific Northwest. But we don't. I check the oil on my cars ever 500 miles or so. None of them are oil burners. I clean the engine compartments once or twice a year - just looking for odd drips and leaks which may indicate a problem.

I follow the factory recommendations on oil changes; I've seen no advantage to changing oil more frequently. If we put a million miles on cars before we replaced them, I might feel differently. But, we trade our cars every 80 to 150K miles and, even at those mileages, they're not burning oil.


I'm not much of a believer in the 'magic' of special oils. Ol' Tom McCahill used to refer to all oil additives as "Mouse Milk" and that's how I feel about synthetic oil. Unless you're planning to put 250,000 miles on an engine, it's not worth the money, in my opinion.

Same for those 3,000 mile oil changes. I've owned cars with more than 150,000 miles on them and none of them burned excessive oil. I just kept the oil level where it should be and had the oil changed at the factory-recommended mileages.

joe sherlock car blogThe only 'oil-burner' I ever owned was a Volkswagen Scirocco and that was a factory defect. It began to burn oil (400 miles/quart) at 30,000 miles or so. Volkswagen's water-cooled engines from that era were notorious for being early blue-smokers. During a routine service, the Volkswagen dealer slapped a stick-on printed ring around the gas filler hole which read: 'Check oil at each fill up.'

This was the Weasels of Wolfsburg's response to the apparently well-known oil burning tendency of all water-cooled Volkswagens: Get some stickers printed. "Eef you haf ein problem, it is obviouzzly your fault für nicht reading das sticker vitch ve haf now printed at great expensze to us. Guten tag." Jerks!

That's one of the reasons why I'll never buy anything - ever again - from Volkswagen. Für the rest uff mein life. Ja wohl!

car blogIn high school, my friend Ray Lukas used to put Royal Triton in his dad's '56 Chevy stovebolt six. Kind of like buying a 12 drinks for a nun at a pick-up bar - a waste of good fluid. Interestingly, in 1950, Marilyn Monroe appeared in a television commercial for Royal Triton, exclaiming breathlessly: "This is the first car I ever owned. I call her Cynthia. She's going to have the best care a car ever had. Put Royal Triton in Cynthia's little tummy." Gas station attendant: "Right, lady."

Marilyn: "Cynthia will just love that Royal Triton." 'Cynthia' was an old Hudson convertible.

Ray recently wrote: "Women, my spouse especially and even my late mother, are incapable of understanding gradual reawakening of a stored vehicle. All the women in my life, including both wives, mother, daughters, etc., belong to the 'jump in and drive' school. With radio blaring to boot! They never listen to the car talking to you."

I'm with him on the technique of waking up sleeping automobiles. I always start my cars before buckling up - that way the engine has time to 'wake-up' before it is stressed.

I read somewhere that 80% of all engine wear occurs during the first 30 seconds of running. I drive slowly and gently down our traffic-free street to allow all fluids and whirling devices to become intimately acquainted with one another. And any car which hasn't been run in a while gets a longer wake-up period, idling for a couple of minutes. It seems to work; my cars are well-lubed and happy. (posted 7/17/04, permalink)

The View
Through The Windshield blogIt's A Mystery: Last week, my wife took her Lincoln in for an oil change. As usual, the "mechanics" tried to hustle her: "Look at the dirt on your air filter. It needs to be replaced." Baloney. The light coat of dust means it's doing its job. She told them that will be replaced at 90,000 miles when it's due. Then: "Your automatic transmission fluid is getting dark."

She said, "No problem. I'll get that changed at 90,000 miles - along with the air filter." (Sotto voce: "And not at this place, either!") Then they tried the line about her Continental needing the special high-priced oil "for older cars." (It has 85,000 miles on the engine and burns no oil.) She told them to put in regular-priced oil.

My wife knows her machinery. He dad was a gearhead and worked at an automotive machine shop.

The "oil for older cars" trick probably came from the Del Monte dog food people who offer 'Cycles' of dog food ending with: "Cycle Four for Older Dogs." I keep waiting for them to bring out "Cycle Five for Dead Dogs." Anything for a buck. Del Monte also also manufactures that fake pepperoni snack, Pup-Peroni. Put your puppy on an all-Pup-Peroni diet and your dog probably won't live long enough to require Cycle Four.

I related the Oil Story to one of my car buddies. He replied, "One reason I have hated taking my cars to service stations, is how they try to sell something that you don't need. Your wife's recent episodes with her Lincoln is proof positive that Fraud is Everywhere. "Dust on the filter, dirty oil," etc. Same old BS! The big scam locally is "flushing the old oil out" before filling with "special, high mileage oil." They show the customer an oily dipstick and try to convince him/her that the oil is bad, because it's black, leading to a $40 flush job with 'I don't know what kind' of oil. Both Valvoline and Havoline are selling Special High Mileage Oil through Wal-Mart, at $9.97 per five-quart plastic bottles. If one reads the advertising blurbs on the container, one still doesn't know what makes their product any better than any other product. Also, it seems that a return of additives - Bardahl, STP, Marvel Mystery Oil, and a dozen others - is upon us. These dubious products have all been 'dusted off' and returned to the shelves! At higher prices to be sure, but with the same old hype that tells you nothing."

I've never used Marvel Mystery Oil but I've always liked the name. It was introduced in 1923 and came in quart cans with two color printing - black and red-orange. The cans - I have a childhood memory of them pyramid-stacked at the end of the aisle at Pep Boys - always reminded me of Halloween. The graphics were very bad - busy and jumbled - but were visible on shelves three aisles away. Marvel Mystery Oil "combats internal motor rust and corrosion, lubricates valves, piston rings, upper cylinder walls, and eliminates valve sticking. Keeps rings free and reduces piston and cylinder wear. Also keeps fuel pump and carburetor parts clean, eliminating the need for frequent adjusting. Marvel Mystery Oil retards formation of power dissipating motor deposits, such as gums, varnish, and sludge."

Wow! Spectacular claims that sound even more impressive if you repeat them in a W.C. Fields' carny baritone. Originally produced by Emerol Manufacturing Co. of New York City, Marvel Mystery Oil is now owned by Turtle Wax. MMO still has a following. Judson used to use it for lubricating their superchargers. Chicago Pneumatics recommends it for their line of industrial air tools.

Why? It's a Mystery! (posted 9/23/04, permalink)

Remember Bardahl?

Bardahl Corp. was founded in 1939. The company is headquartered in Seattle, WA. Bardahl's oil additive was advertised during the 1950s in magazines and animated TV commercials which showed the product's effectiveness in combating engine problems such as 'Dirty Sludge', 'Sticky Valves', 'Gummy Rings', and 'Blackie Carbon'. Today, Bardahl oil and additives are sold in over 90 countries.

In the 1950s, there were seemingly hundreds of miracle oil-additives. Tom McCahill used to refer to them collectively as 'mouse milk'. (posted 7/6/21, permalink)

copyright 2004-21 - Joseph M. Sherlock - All applicable rights reserved


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If I have slandered any people or corporations, either expressly or inadvertently, they should buy me strong drinks (and an expensive meal) and try to prove to me that they're not the jerks I've portrayed them to be. If you're buying, I'm willing to listen.

Don't be shy - try a bribe. It might help.