Hooniverse Asks- Do You Use "Additives"?

Oil treatments, gas treatments, water pump lube, the automotive aisles are filled with more liquids and powders to make our cars last longer, and perform better, than you can shake a dipstick at. Some are recommended as maintenance retinues, while others are the last ditch attempt of an owner, whose car is on its last legs. Are you either of those, or do you stay away from these performance poultices like they were snake oil?
When a car rolls off the end of the assembly line, it’s filled with gas, lubricant, coolant, and that new car smell. But over the months and miles, wear and use can degrade both performance and your car’s health. That’s why many owners turn to automotive steroids- chemicals that promise increased power, better mileage, and whiter teeth. Well, maybe not that last one, but you get the picture.
Do you use any of these elixirs? Do you marvel at how a certain mystery oil improves the functionality of your engine’s top end? Do you envision STP slipping through the oil passages like the screwdriver through the fingers in that old TV ad? Or, do you stick to the basics- oil, gas and a 50/50 mix of coolant?
Which are you, a believer in better living through chemistry, or someone for whom the additive aisle holds no appeal?
Image sources: [HSPN News, HOSlotcarracing]

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70 responses to “Hooniverse Asks- Do You Use "Additives"?”

  1. LTDScott Avatar

    Nope, never have. The closest would be sucking a bottle of Seafoam or GM Top Engine cleaner into the engine with a vacuum hose to get rid of carbon, but that's not really an additive.

  2. muthalovin Avatar

    I have used Fuel Injection Cleaner several times, but never have had incredible results.
    This may sound silly (but maybe not), but I like to "treat" my truck to 93 octane gas once in a while. Maybe like every other month or so, when I am flush from a pay period. Anyone else to this?

    1. rocketrodeo Avatar

      If the engine doesn't require it and your ignition timing circuitry can't detect the difference, you are pretty much wasting your money. Additionally, you may not getting complete combustion, which is likely to gunk up your top end, rather than clean it out. This lack of benefit has been proven on the dyno time and again, with engines making more power on lower octane grades of gasoline. Most name-brand fuels share the same additive package across the octane range, so you're getting no benefit from that perspective either.
      As far as additives go, I've had decent results from Techron; much less with STP.

      1. W. Kiernan Avatar
        W. Kiernan

        Lower octane gasoline actually does have more calories or ergs or whatever per gallon than premium. However, I sure hate to hear that knocking sound. Supposedly my '99 Miata is designed to use 87 octane, yet there's that damned clanky-bangy sound under on-ramp acceleration, that entirely goes away when I use the high-priced stuff.

    2. joshuman Avatar

      Both of our vehicles require 92 octane or better.

    3. Age_of_Aerostar Avatar

      I think years ago it may have made a difference when oil companies used more detergents and what-not in only the premium grade gasoline, but now a days, I don't think there's a difference.

  3. Target29 Avatar

    Used to use all sorts of STP additives (got them free from work), but stopped once various gaskets started deteriorating with constant frequency. Just use Fuel Injection Cleaner and gas line anti-freeze now.

  4. tenbeers Avatar

    Marvel freed up some sticking/ticking lifters in my '92 Chevy truck after it had sat for a year while I was overseas. Probably could have accomplished the same thing with ATF.

  5. BGW Avatar

    Is bourbon considered an additive? If not, it oughta be- keeps me running smooth(er, anyway) and knock-free all day. Drink enough and the injectors really get cleaned out too.

  6. Jo_Schmo Avatar

    I am really interested to see what responses we get here. The only oil additive I have ever used is Lucas. I've tried the occasional fuel treatment but I don't think they have much effect unless your car has been sitting for awhile.

    1. n00b Avatar

      I've used Lucas as well and had some pretty good results. I put it in the tranny after I hit a pothole which caused my axle to pop out and leak fluid. Lucas stopped the leak until I could get around to fixing it.

    2. n00b Avatar

      I've used Lucas as well and had some pretty good results. I put it in the tranny after I hit a pothole which caused my axle to pop out and leak fluid. Lucas stopped the leak until I could get around to fixing it.

  7. skaycøg Avatar

    I have used this by on occasion. I highly recommend it.
    <img src="http://i.ytimg.com/vi/cY1YndLmbXQ/0.jpg"&gt;

    1. W. Kiernan Avatar
      W. Kiernan

      A long time ago I used to keep a can of ether spray in my trunk. Between ether spray and a manual tranny so I could push-start my car, there was no parking lot that could trap me and make me wait for the tow-truck (which I couldn't afford anyway).

  8. Alff Avatar

    Too much can fry your ECU, though.

  9. Alff Avatar

    Sorry, can't play at that other thing today. Too much work.

  10. Jo_Schmo Avatar

    Where can I get this? I am probably going to need some this weekend…

  11. lilwillie Avatar

    Only Octane Boost which I haven't seen having a helpful effect on the Camaro which is why I switched up and made it E85 capable. The octane rating for E85 helps with the compression ratio I am running. PAH!
    I'll also throw a fuel stabilizer in every tank when winter storage comes around.

    1. Eggwich Avatar

      you win!

  12. M44Power Avatar

    Octane boost and radiator stop-leak. Obviously not in the same hole. Neither worked.

  13. Jo_Schmo Avatar

    HAHAHAHA! Awesome!

  14. Jo_Schmo Avatar

    Ooooh! Stop leak works really good at stopping your heater from working, or so I've heard…

  15. rocketrodeo Avatar

    I don't do additives in my oil or generally in my gas, but I do recognize that all fuel isn't equal since the last time the EPA messed with detergency standards, and I'm a believer in Top Tier fuels for reasons that are clear if you read the website. I've been in the habit of using a shot Techron in my motorcycles every few tanks, because until recently I didn't have regular access to Chevron or Texaco gasoline, and if you've ever rebuilt the carburetors on a first-gen Honda V4 you'd do almost anything to avoid having to do it again. I try to avoid ethanol in my bikes but my truck doesn't care since it's flex-fuel capable.

    1. KAdams1476 Avatar

      Regarding the Honda V4: I had to do that unbearable chore about eight years ago. Even thinking about it makes me want to curse. I did love the power and sound of it though, just hated some of the maintenance hassles. On yours did you have to drop the radiator to change the two front cylinder spark plugs?

      1. rocketrodeo Avatar

        Nothing special to do the plugs, but the valve clearance adjustment is less than fun. Step 1: disassemble motorcycle. No, seriously. To access the front valves, the entire front fairing must be dropped to remove the radiator (yes, drain the cooling system first), and to access the rear valves, the seat and fuel tank come off. The motorcycle looks a lot like a picked-over parts bike at this point. And since the cams weren't line bored, there is an incredible amount of slop in the cam-to-journal clearance, and the valves must be adjusted in pairs–two gauges at a time. The good news is that they hold their adjustment pretty well after their initial seating. Doesn't make them any easier to get to to verify this, though.

  16. soo΄pәr-bādd75 Avatar

    Regular oil changes, a throttle body cleaning every once in a while and a tranny service every 40-50k and that's about it. I don't need any damn snake oil in my cars!

  17. soo΄pәr-bādd75 Avatar

    GM seal tabs will stop just about any coolant system leak. The key is to use a whole pack of them, and instead of dropping in the tablets, bust 'em up with a hammer and dump the resulting powder into the radiator. It even works really well on the 5.7L intake coolant leaks. I will say that it's only a temporary fix to get by for now, like if you're trying to get it through the auction lane or something. Not that I would do that. If you do it to your own car, get it fixed and flushed soon. As Jo said, it will clog a heater core with a quickness if it's not cleaned out soon.

  18. dmilligan Avatar

    No additives here, engines make enough gunk on their own without adding to it. The nearest thing I use is synthetic engine oil like Mobil One. To my knowledge it just lasts longer than regular oil and won't screw up your seals, gaskets or hoses like a lot of additives will.

  19. Feds_II Avatar

    I try them out now and again, depending on how worthless my car is, or how broke/lazy I am.
    2 oil changes using Valvoline max life stopped the oil burning in my 323. it was using 1 quart per oil change before that.
    I once drove from Toronto to New Orleans in an Oldsmobile Ciera. Sprung a rad leak on Decatur St.,bought some stop leak at the nearest Walmart, and drove that car home, and another 2 years.
    My pathfinder has a slow oil drip, so I have a bottle of engine stop leak waiting for the level to drop enough to give it a try. It's too damned cold to do a main seal, hopefully this get me by until Spring.
    I've had decent luck with additives. I thin people expect them to counter 15 years of neglect, which they won't do. Temporary fixes for small problems.

    1. Goingincirclez Avatar

      I'll second that MaxLife antidote. My '88 T-bird had a slow leak from a rear main seal. On a whim I tried the MaxLife and I'll admit, I was shocked when the leak quit – and apparently for good – after the first change!
      I haven't tried much else. Fuel Injector cleaner always "seemed" to help the '97 birds but is useless on the Freestyle. That's really about the only thing I've used. Oh I did use some Restore on the Angstmobile once I got it moving, figured it wouldn't hurt – it actually helped a bit but I won't be using it again.

      1. ptschett Avatar

        Hmm. I tried MaxLife once in the T-bird and it seemed like I was adding twice as much oil as usual, which has me scared from trying it again now that the car uses/leaks twice as much oil as its baseline just before and after the MaxLife experiment.

  20. thomasmac Avatar

    I tried Zmax and it soaked into the metal!!!!! My grass burnouts instantly became 1000 times easier!
    [youtube hOZ-xketIR0 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hOZ-xketIR0 youtube]

  21. om_nom_de_plume Avatar

    Just Lucas Oil Zinc additive for me oil.
    Considering a little Seafoam or Marvel for top end cleaning soon.

  22. njhoon Avatar

    On my truck I use the occasional lucas gas treatment. Prior to my truck I had a 94 Tbird, in that i used Lucas gas treatment all of the time and noticed a vast increased mileage, around 4 mpg better. I also used an additive for the transmission but I can't remember what the name was, it was like slick 50 but for trannies. It worked well, I got 120K miles on that trans before the implosion that normally happened around 70 to 80K.

  23. Slow Joe Crow Avatar
    Slow Joe Crow

    Chevron Techron (the straight stuff) in the cars once in a while and octane booster/lead substitute for the motorcycle. The bike is a 78 BMW that was specced for leaded premium so even after a swap to flat top pistons I sometimes get pinging in hot weather and the lead is a JIC for the valve seats.

  24. Smells_Homeless Avatar

    I used Slick50 in the first engine I built because I worked at NAPA as a youngster and the sales rep was REALLY convincing. I didn't notice any ill effects. No good effects to speak of either. Not that it was all that scientific of a test.

  25. Deartháir Avatar

    I actually just choked on my coffee at that one. Well done, m'dear! Haven't had an almost-spit-take in at least a few days.

  26. skaycøg Avatar

    I'm glad I made you almost spit.

  27. engineerd Avatar

    I use engineerd brefass scotch in the morning and craft beer on the way home. No ill effects have been noted today, and I believe my driving has improved dramatically.

  28. Eggwich Avatar

    I'll pour a few of those NOS energy drinks in the tank every once in a while, then troll the internet asking "WTF why my engine no like NOS energy drinks?"

  29. Deartháir Avatar

    Don't worry though. In the end, I did swallow.

  30. skaycøg Avatar

    That's naughty! You're naughty!

    1. Deartháir Avatar

      I have no idea what you're talking about. I see nothing naughty about that at all.

  31. SSurfer321 Avatar

    I tried the various injector cleaner additives in older cars and the tank I didn't add it to, the performance deteriorated.
    I've sworn off all additives ever since.

  32. ptschett Avatar

    The bike gets Sta-bil in the gas tank for the 3 months when it transforms into an immobile but handy hanging place for the extension cord to my pickup's block heater. I do dump Seafoam in the car gas tanks once in a while out of habit, but I'm not convinced it's doing much.

  33. Goingincirclez Avatar

    I would imagine it does work, but probably best in only a certain set of circumstances. In my case, it was a very slow drip-leak that would amount to a quart over 2 months or between routine changes. So if MaxLife really works as advertised, it may only be in those sort of minor situations. If it was burning or leaking like a sieve well, I wouldn't expect much from it. It did get me to switch to the Valvoline line of products though, and I've been satisfied ever since. But as they say, your mileage may vary.
    My 88 T-bird was odd. Its 3.8 was Ford's infamous dark heart of fail, but it was good for silky smoothness and 33mpg highway (on a 3300 lb sled) right up to when it failed at 144K. And it always ran better (mileage wise) on premium than regular… none of my cars since could make that claim.

  34. Alff Avatar

    Only once – Marvel Mystery Oil in the gas and oil of a car that had not run in 7 years. It did seem to help with the burning oil that I attributed to valve guides.
    Burnt a valve in that engine three months later but I attribute that to a sustained over-rich condition, likely the result of an exhaust leak ahead of the O2 sensor or possibly a failing airflow meter.

    1. tenthousandfeet Avatar

      Burnt valve from over-rich? Richness might lead to carbon deposits on valves maybe, but valves burn up due to a lean condition.

  35. skaycøg Avatar

    It took me a minute, but I gotcha! 😉

  36. skaycøg Avatar

    I used to put it in my ex's coffee…..it worked wonders.

  37. Ermott Avatar

    In my diesel pickup truck, and in my tractor trailer type truck, I use Howes Diesel Fuel additive. This time of year, it stops #2 diesel from gelling up, and it actually adds a little power. I notice it when I don't have to shift as many gears in the big truck while in the Canadian Rockies, and I notice smoother running and better economy in my 1998 GM 6.5 turbo-diesel.
    Howes is all I ever use. I don't add anything to the oil, as most of those products dilute it, or (as with STP or Motor Honey or Lucas Oil additive) the stuff creates bubbles in the oil. Bubbles don't lubricate too well.

  38. asterisk Avatar

    Nope but I did find this still sealed bottle of STP in my grandparent's garage while cleaning:
    <img src="http://farm4.static.flickr.com/3350/3663608159_6e819ea30b.jpg&quot; border="0">

  39. James Avatar

    I use fuel injector cleaner on occasion, and I've sucked some seafoam through the vacuum lines. The seafoam seemed to have a positive effect; not sure about the fuel injector cleaner – but nothing bad came of either, I can say that much.

  40. Eggwich Avatar

    I'm glad that you're glad that you almost made him spit.

  41. engineerd Avatar

    Nice. I should try Red Bull. It's supposed to give you wings and a flying car would be kick ass.

  42. skaycøg Avatar

    You said that you almost spit. I said that I was glad you almost spit. Then, you said in the end you did swallow. Oh, never mind.

  43. ptschett Avatar

    The bike gets Sta-bil in the gas tank for the 3 months when it transforms into an immobile but handy hanging place for the extension cord to my pickup's block heater. I do dump Seafoam in the car gas tanks once in a while out of habit, but I'm not convinced it's doing much.

  44. Texan_Idiot25 Avatar

    The truck gets a can of ZDDP or RESTORE (when I cant find Zinc shit) for the flat tappet cam in the truck.
    Hell, I rarely have the right mix of antifreez though. It rarely freezes here for one, and the truck has ran cooler with a more water-heavy mix.

  45. CptSevere Avatar

    I used to run Marvel Mystery Oil along with straight 39 weight in my truck's engine when it was freshly rebuilt, and it seemed to help with the break-in. Didn't hurt it, anyway. Now I just run synthetic blend, which works fine. I've had decent luck with fuel treatments, need to run something through next time I fill the tank because the carb float seems to be sticking.
    I've added that shit to one vehicle or another that is supposed to stop seals from leaking, but it never worked for me. I added some stuff to the slipping transmission in my long departed '56 Cadillac, and it helped. I dunno, keeping the fluids fresh in your vehicle is the best policy. Marvel Mystery Oil doesn't seem to hurt anything, I've used it many a time, but I can't swear that it helps, either.

  46. Saturnsufferer Avatar

    I've used marvel mystery oil to unstick a lifter in a oil change deprived '77 Monte Carlo and sucked seafoam into the intake a few malaise era v-8's to clear up carbon induced pinging. I currently use high mileage Mobil 1 in my 225k mile Saturn (that counts as an additive?). But in general I stay away from the "motor honey/slick50/restore/zmax" stuff.

  47. Age_of_Aerostar Avatar

    I put some radiator stop leak into an 89 Sable that I had, where it was loosing coolant to the outside of the engine, creating many a fearful look from other motorists seeing the "smoke" rise out from the edges of my hood. (College student, no money for engine repairs) The shop recommended specifically that I use the "metal filing" stuff and not the big clumpy liquid stuff, so I figured $4? why not! , and put it in.
    Believe it or not, IT WORKED! I'm not sure I want to know what other damage that caused, but at least nothing happened while I owned the car, which was for about another year or so.

  48. Gomer_Pyle Avatar

    I dump a bottle of Lucas injector cleaner in the gas at every oil change. I don't have much faith in miracle fixes in a can but being oil based it treats my fuel pump to a little lubrication. Any actual performance or milage increase is just a bonus.

  49. Mad_Science Sr. Avatar
    Mad_Science Sr.

    I had a buddy in college who filled his radiator with beer. Does that count?

  50. Disturbed Avatar

    I replaced a clogged heater core in my ex-wife's Buick Riviera after she added two containers of Bar's Leaks to the cooling system. One is okay, two is bad. True for ex-wives, as well as Bar's Leaks.

  51. Ambersand Avatar

    The only thing I use is STA-BIL for when the cars sit over the winter. Haven't tried anything else that gave me visible results. Once in a while I'll toss a tank of high test in the Element because I feel bad she's treated as the pack mule, not for any *real* reason.

  52. degenertate1991 Avatar

    My dad dumped a bunch of radiator stop leak, the aluminum silicate stuff, into my '91 Accord when it blew a headgasket; it slowed the leak to a small crawl (as opposed to gulping antifreeze before), and the car has run fine, intermittently adding coolant, since then. I've driven it that way for probably 20,000 miles, and it hasn't failed me yet; the heat even still works.

  53. degenertate1991 Avatar

    My dad dumped a bunch of radiator stop leak, the aluminum silicate stuff, into my '91 Accord when it blew a headgasket; it slowed the leak to a small crawl (as opposed to gulping antifreeze before), and the car has run fine, intermittently adding coolant, since then. I've driven it that way for probably 20,000 miles, and it hasn't failed me yet; the heat even still works.

  54. Froggmann_ Avatar

    On the Max no, them newfangled Nissin overhead bumpy thing 'gins don't like them snake oil produkts! But on the Bronco I usually put in a can of Restore every 2-3 oil changes. Especially at 251,000 miles (Original 351W BTW) you really do notice a difference both on power and oil pressure.

  55. Los Angeles Carpet Cleaner Avatar

    that could be quite interesting. It presented me a couple of ideas and I’ll end up writing them on my web site soon. I’m bookmarking your blog and I’ll be backside. Thank you again!

  56. HossWhisperer Avatar

    I was once able to cure a low speed misfire in a 2001 Mustang with a single application of Marvel Mystery Oil in the fuel tank. I suspect that it cleaned out a sticking injector. But I wouldn't put any of this stuff in a crankcase. If you want to clean your engine, use a good synthetic oil and forget about additives.