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Using Teflon ® Additives
Not very smart

By: James R. Davis

I will admit at the outset that I have no experience whatever in using Slick 50 (nor will I ever). Further, though much will be said of Slick 50 in what follows, it is all generally true of any other synthetic additive containing Teflon®.

Slick 50 is a PTFE related product (i.e., a Teflon® powder suspended in standard oil). Powder, you will note, is a SOLID. Your oil filter is designed to remove solids and tests have shown that oil filters clog substantially sooner when Slick 50 is used than if using standard oils without it - naturally. Manufacturers claim that the particle size of this powder is smaller than the pore size of oil filters, implying that they will pass right through them, but they do not also say that these particles expand rapidly when exposed to heat - so that they may well pass thru when cold, but not after they reach normal engine temperatures. Tests also demonstrate that other oil passageways also tend to clog when PTFE is used.

Tests? By whom? Are they credible? Answer: by organizations like NASA Lewis Research, the University of Utah Engineering Experiment Station, and even DuPont Chemical Corporation, the corporation that invented PTFE (Teflon®) and that provides PTFE to the manufacturers of these 'magic' oils.

Wait! They sell the PTFE to companies like those that make Slick 50 yet they argue that it clogs oil filters and other oil passageways? Not exactly. In a statement issued about ten years ago, DuPont's Fluoropolymers Division Product Specialist, J.F. Imbalzano said,

"Teflon is not useful as an ingredient in oil additives or oils used for internal combustion engines."

They went on and REFUSED to sell PTFE to anyone that intended to do so!

Naturally, they were sued by, guess who, on grounds of 'restraint of trade'. DuPont lost and have changed their position as follows:
DuPont now states that though they sell PTFE to oil additive producers, they have "no proof of the validity of the additive makers' claims." They further state that they have "no knowledge of any advantage gained through the use of PTFE in engine oil."

NASA Lewis Research also ran tests on PTFE additives and they concluded that:

"In the types of bearing surface contact we have looked at, we have seen no benefit. In some cases we have seen detrimental effect. The solids in the oil tend to accumulate at inlets and act as a dam, which simply blocks the oil from entering. Instead of helping, it is actually depriving parts of lubricant."

As to my earlier assertion that Teflon® cannot be made to bond to engine parts, despite what Slick 50 says, the Chief Chemist of Redline Synthetic Oil Company, Roy Howell, says:

"... to plate Teflon on a metal needs an absolutely clean, high temperature surface, in a vacuum. Therefore, it is highly unlikely that the Teflon in Slick 50 actually plates the metal surface. In addition the Cf (Coefficient of friction) of Teflon is actually greater than the Cf of an Oil Film on Steel. Also, if the Teflon did fill in 'craters' in the steel, than it would fill in the honing of the cylinder, and the oil would not seal the piston rings."

Well, you get the picture. PTFE products like Slick 50 tend to clog oil filters and passageways, resulting in faster ENGINE WEAR. Further, Teflon® is NOT as slippery as an Oil Film on Steel.

Nobody is arguing that you won't get higher engine performance (power) or better gas mileage if you use it. On the other hand, if your engine wears out faster I wonder if that's worth it along with the very much higher price.

If you find that you have to change your oil more often, and use this pricey stuff in it each time, the effective cost is even higher. If you decide that clogged oil filters and oil passageways are something you'd rather do without, how do you get rid of it once you put it into your system? Well, in the case of your clutch, by taking it apart and cleaning it! That's an expensive additive 'cost'.

It is no wonder as far as I'm concerned that Slick 50 is often called 'snake oil'. You might not be stupid if you put it into your motorcycle, but I would be.
Following is a press release from the Federal Trade Commission that you will find interesting if anything I said above fails to be persuasive - JRD


Agreement Safeguards $10 Million in Redress to Consumers

Three subsidiaries of Quaker State Corp. have agreed to settle Federal Trade Commission charges that ads for Quaker State's Slick 50 Engine Treatment were false and unsubstantiated. Under the terms of the settlement, the companies will be barred from making certain claims and required to have substantiation for claims about the performance, benefits, efficacy or attributes of their engine lubricant products. In addition, the settlement will preserve the Commission's option to seek consumer redress if class action suits currently being litigated against Quaker State and its subsidiaries result in less than $10 million in consumer redress.

The three Quaker State subsidiaries named in the settlement are Blue Coral, Inc., Blue Coral-Slick 50, Inc., and Blue Coral-Slick 50, Ltd. Blue Coral, Inc., is based in Cleveland, Ohio. Since its 1978 introduction, Slick 50 has about 30 million users world-wide and retails for about $18 a quart. The company claims to have about 60% of the engine treatment market.

In July, 1996, the FTC issued a complaint against four now-defunct Quaker State subsidiaries, which have been succeeded in interest by the three subsidiaries named in the settlement. The FTC's 1996 complaint charged that ads for Slick 50 claiming improved engine performance and reduced engine wear were deceptive. According to the 1996 complaint, Quaker State's subsidiaries aired television and radio commercials and published brochures carrying claims such as:

--"Every time you cold start your car without Slick 50 protection, metal grinds against metal in your engine";

--"With each turn of the ignition you do unseen damage, because at cold start-up most of the oil is down in the pan. But Slick 50's unique chemistry bonds to engine parts. It reduces wear up to 50% for 50,000 miles";

--"What makes Slick 50 Automotive Engine Formula different is an advanced chemical support package designed to bond a specially activated PTFE to the metal in your engine."

According to the FTC complaint, these claims and similar ones falsely represented that without Slick 50, auto engines generally have little or no protection from wear at start-up and commonly experience premature failure caused by wear. In fact, the complaint alleged, most automobile engines are adequately protected from wear at start-up when they use motor oil as recommended in the owner's manual. Moreover, it is uncommon for engines to experience premature failure caused by wear, whether they have been treated with Slick 50 or not, according to the FTC. Finally, the FTC alleged that Slick 50 neither coats engine parts with a layer of PTFE nor meets military specifications for motor oil additives, as falsely claimed.

The FTC complaint also charged that Slick 50 lacked substantiation for advertising claims that, compared to motor oil alone, the product:

--reduces engine wear;

--reduces engine wear by more than 50%;

--reduces engine wear by up to 50%;

--reduces engine wear at start-up;

--extends the duration of engine life;

--lowers engine temperatures;

--reduces toxic emissions;

--increases gas mileage; and

--increases horsepower.

In addition, the complaint alleged that the company did not have adequate substantiation for its advertising claims that one treatment of Slick 50 continues to reduce wear for 50,000 miles and that it has been used in a significant number of U.S. Government vehicles.

Finally, the complaint challenged ads stating that "tests prove" the engine wear reduction claims make by Slick 50. In fact, according to the FTC complaint, tests do not prove that Slick 50 reduces engine wear at start up, or by 50%, or that one treatment reduces engine wear for 50,000 miles.

The agreement to settle the FTC charges bars any claims that:

--engines lack protection from wear at start-up unless they have been treated with Slick 50 or a similar PTFE product;

--engines commonly experience premature failure caused by wear unless they are treated with Slick 50 or a similar PTFE product; or,

--Slick 50 or a similar PTFE product coats engine parts with a layer of PTFE.

In addition, the agreement will prohibit misrepresentations that Slick 50 or any engine lubricant meets the standards of any organization and misrepresentations about tests or studies.

The settlement also prohibits any claims about the performance, benefits, efficacy, attributes or use of engine lubricants unless Quaker State's subsidiaries possess and rely on competent and reliable evidence to substantiate the claims. In addition, it prohibits the Quaker State subsidiaries from claiming that any other Slick 50 motor vehicle lubricant reduces wear on a part, extends the part's life, lowers engine temperature, reduces toxic emissions, increases gas mileage or increases horsepower unless they can substantiate the claim. The subsidiaries also will be required to notify resellers of the product about the settlement with the FTC and the restrictions on advertising claims.

Finally, the agreement holds open the option that the FTC may seek consumer redress. If the private class action suits against Slick 50 currently under litigation do not result in at least $10 million in redress to consumers, the agency reserves its right to file its own federal district court action for consumer redress. In addition, the FTC has reserved its right to seek to intervene in any class action suit to oppose a settlement it believes is not in the public interest.

The Commission vote to approve the proposed consent agreement was 5-0. A summary of the agreement will be published in the Federal Register shortly and will be subject to public comment for 60 days, after which the Commission will decide whether to make it final. Comments should be addressed to the FTC, Office of the Secretary, 6th Street and Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W., Washington, D.C. 20580.

NOTE: A consent agreement is for settlement purposes only and does not constitute an admission of a law violation. When the Commission issues a consent order on a final basis, it carries the force of law with respect to future actions. Each violation of such an order may result in a civil penalty of $11,000.

Copies of the complaint, consent agreement, an analysis to aid public comment and an FTC brochure, "Penny Wise or Pump Fuelish" are available on the Internet at the FTC's World Wide Web site at: and also from the FTC's Public Reference Branch, Room 130, 6th Street and Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W., Washington, D.C. 20580; 202-326-2222; TTY for the hearing impaired 202-326-2502. To find out the latest news as it is announced, call the FTC NewsPhone recording at 202-326-2710.

Teflon® is a registered trademark of DuPont.

Copyright © 1992 - 2021 by The Master Strategy Group, all rights reserved.

(James R. Davis is a recognized expert witness in the fields of Motorcycle Safety/Dynamics.)

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