Strapping on a supercharger, or swapping out suspension components, certainly adds performance and handling, but have you ever thought about what the lubricants and additives that you put in and on your car, do for your performance? Does the brand of oil make any difference? For instance, inside the engine there are powerful forces at work as it is burning fuel and building horsepower. These same forces are also working to tear the motor apart. Friction kills an engine, so the oil that you put into the crankcase is very important. A basic daily driver may be just fine with bargain-brand oil, your high-performance car needs something better. We have compiled a list 14 lubricants, additives and cleaning products that you need to know about. Some add performance, others help aging parts last longer, while some simply make your car look better. In the end, they just plain work.
Modern vehicles have been using roller cams in production engines for many years, but older cars were not fitted with such friction-reducing fare. If you have rebuilt your engine with a flat-tappet camshaft, you need proper break-in oil. The EPA has put serious restrictions on Zinc in oil, which is a big problem. The failure rate on flat-tappet camshafts has skyrocketed in recent years because the oil on the shelf has no zinc in it. Zinc (actually Zinc dithiophosphate or ZDDP) is a crucial anit-wear compound that bonds to metals inside an engine. The relatively soft metals used for camshafts and lifters need this compound to protect them from premature wear in those first few minutes of life. The metal on metal contact can destroy a camshaft lobe in seconds, sending metal shavings through the entire engine, often ruining main or rod bearings in the process. The ZDDP helps protect the cam in the early stages of break-in, so that the wear pattern is established and the lobes don’t get wiped out. The EPA forced the oil companies to remove the zinc from oil because this compound damages catalytic convertors. Roller motors don’t need it, but flat tappet engines do. To solve this problem, (and a significant warranty issue) Comp Cams has released their own break-in oil. Rich in ZDDP, this oil is designed to be used with any engine during the initial firing and break-in, especially flat-tappet engines. This ensures your engine will have the protection it needs at a critical time.
It is advised by most engine builders to use conventional oil for at least the first 500 miles, so the rings can seat and all the proper wear patterns set. After that, synthetic oil is the key to maximum performance. Not all synthetics oils are the same either. Manufacturing tolerances and various additives change the protection quality of synthetic oil, as does the quality of the ingredients themselves. Royal Purple is the leader in synthetic oil because the products that go into making it are the best. Through advanced chemistry, the film strength of Royal Purple oil is so high that it can actually improve the condition of metal surfaces. Film strength is the oil’s ability to withstand the loads without breaking down and losing viscosity. When an ordinary oil would break down and squeeze out of the friction surface, Royal Purple stays in place, protecting the surfaces of the engine. We have been told of Mustang owners swapping Royal Purple into their engine and picking up 20 horsepower on the chassis dyno. Freeing up friction means freeing up power, and for that, we use Royal Purple.
Do your lifters rattle no matter what kind of oil you use? Does your motor have 200,000 miles on it and you are hoping to get another 100,000? Then you need to take care of the internal components. Using specialized molecular chemistry, Prolong has engine and transmission treatments that not only protect your engine from damage, but can actually reverse some types of damage that may have already occurred. By treating the metal surfaces with Prolong’s AFMT (Anti-Friction Metal Treatment), a new protective layer is added to the surface, which reduces friction. This stuff really works. We recently used it in the engine of a 1963 project car, and it now runs better than it ever did. Prolong works so well that in the event of a coolant or oil pressure loss, the engine will remain protected for a considerable amount of time, where loss of oil pressure with conventional oil alone would result in immediate damage. Your transmission can be serviced with additives as well. Prolong makes a similar treatment to smooth out sloppy shifts and recondition seals and valves inside the transmission.
Heavy Duty Engine additives
Trucks and other high-mileage and heavy use vehicles get abused, and the engine takes the brunt of it. Pouring one of these products from Justice Brothers down the crankcase will free up a little lost horsepower and treat the metals in the engine with JB Metal Conditioner. Older engines get clogged up with all kinds of gunk, from oil and carbon deposits, to dirt and grit. These treatments free up sticky valves and lifters, and also protect the engine for the long haul. Treating the metal, not the oil is Justice Brother’s tag line, and it works. Neutralizing acids inside helps eliminate corrosion leading to a longer life.
Pump gas is just not very good. Unreliable octane levels can wreak havoc on your high-performance engine. If you drive a vintage Ford, then you might have issues with low-octane fuel such as detonation, poor performance, and bad fuel economy. In many places, 91-octane may be the highest you can get at the pump, which just isn’t high enough for muscle-car era high-compression engines. Sometimes you need a boost. For that, an octane booster is the right product. By adding a single 12-oz bottle to a near empty tank and then filling it with 16-20 gallons of fuel, you can pump the octane rating up to about 1-2 octane, which can make a difference. A common misconception about fuel octane is that higher octane fuel will make you go faster or make more power, which is just not true. What higher fuel octane does is it allows you to run higher compression or more boost without pre-ignition or detonation.
Fuel System cleaners
Over time, the fuel system in your car will get dirty. Contaminated fuel, dirt, oil, and other junk gets past the fuel filters and into the fuel system at the engine. Carburetors can be cleaned with a spray can in many cases, but fuel-injected systems are not accessible from the outside. Pouring a bottle of fuel-injector cleaner in the gas tank does wonders to break up carbon-clogged injectors and fuel rails to restore performance in your engine. The Justice Brothers air-intake system cleaner is a spray can designed to spray inside the air intake of the engine to clean up the throttle body and lubricate the moving parts. If your engine idles rough, stalls and has lost performance, the problem may lie with a dirty, clogged fuel system. Clean it up with some fuel-injector cleaner from Prolong or Justice Brothers.
An engine generates a lot of heat as a byproduct of making horsepower, an engine also must run at a certain temperature range to operate efficiently. For this, you have a radiator that helps regulate the engine temp via the coolant. There are several types of coolant, but they all do the same thing. You can add performance to your cooling system by adding in some Royal Purple Purple Ice or JB Radiator Cooler. What these products do is stop rust and acid, prevent foaming, and lubricate water pump seals. It also helps make the coolant more effective at cooling the engine. This is done by reducing the surface tension of the water. Surface tension creates a barrier between the metal of the radiator and the coolant. By lowering the surface tension, this barrier is thinned, allowing the heat to transfer faster and more efficiently. Radiator coolant additives work well to help reduce operating temperatures and cooling system efficiency, but they are not intended to function as a band-aid for failing systems. Don’t try to fix a bad water pump with a coolant additive, get a new water pump.
You may think that all brake fluid is the same, but it isn’t. The DOT ratings determine the minimum boiling point and chemical structure of the fluid. Cheap part store brake fluid is just that, just enough to get the job done, but a high-performance car needs high-performance fluids. Justice Brothers High Perfromance Brake Fluid has a higher boiling point, so that the fluid that is at the end of the brake lines, in close proximity of the hot rotors and calipers, doesn’t boil. Boiling breaks down the fluid and push it out of the lines. Another unique feature of the JB fluid is that it helps prevent brake system leaks. It is compatible with DOT 3 and DOT 4 fluids. What you can’t do with it is mix it with DOT. It uses the latest in brake fluid technology and is silicone based, not glycol based like the other fluids. Glycol fluids are hydrophilic, meaning they absorb water, even right out of the air. If your brake fluid is anything other than clear, it has absorbed water and needs to be replaced.
There are so many car care products on the market, it is hard to separate the wheat from the chaff. Top-shelf products like those from Mothers and AutoGlym are easy choices. Protecting your paint, wheels, upholstery and plastic components from the sun is not an easy task, and you need quality products to do that.
Without protection, the plastic components on the car get dirty and haze over. Even just a few years old, this 2005 Mustang radiator cover has become chalky. Using some Mothers Back to Black underhood and bumper restorer polish, we worked half of the cover. The left passenger side has been buffed back to a nice sheen, the driver side is hazy. A little goes a long way, and it is a good idea to wash the part and let it dry before using the polish.
How many times have you fired up the AC for the first time of the summer only to be blasted with a viscous, rank stench that is worse than a junior high locker room? Even one summer in a high-humidity environment can develop mold, mildew and other bacteria inside the ductwork of the AC system. The heater is usually not involved in this scenario, since it is the cool air mixed with a hot car that causes condensation to form. Eventually, bacteria and mold form in the ducts, the same forces at play in Legionnaires Disease, but on a smaller scale. Cleaning the ducts by hand is not really possible, since there are so many small passages and not access panels. Justice Brothers developed AC-Clean to destroy the bacteria, mold spores and add some freshener to the AC ducting. By simply spraying the AC air intake (with the AC blowing at the maximum settings), the job is done. It might take couple of treatments to get all the bacteria killed, but it works. Only a few seconds of spray is needed, so one can lasts a long time. Use it before the season and right after to help maintain a healthy AC system.
Protecting the paint of your car means protecting it from the outside environment. This requires waxing the paint. Waxing was originated in Germany to protect paint on horse-drawn carriages. The wax was made from animal fat. Today, there are natural and synthetic waxes to keep the sun’s UV rays from breaking down and baking the .004-.006” thick clear coat on your car. The wax serves as a barrier to the outside world, without it, the sun will bake the paint, it turns chalky and may even peel. Show cars are rarely waxed because they rarely see sun, but a street car needs it. Since you need to protect your paint, it is a good idea to get a quality wax. We first saw AutoGlym at the 2009 SEMA show, as it was being released in the US. This product of Britain comes from a company formed in 1965 as a solution for professional detailers and valet services. AutoGlym is used by both The Queen and The Prince of Wales (by their auto care providers, can you picture The Queen waxing a Rolls Royce?), so it should be good enough for your Mustang. At $49 for this small jar, it better be good stuff. It comes with a special moist applicator and a microfiber buffing cloth. We have used this stuff on a couple of show cars, it is quite impressive. With a combination of carnauba, microcrystallines, waxes and saturated hydrocarbons, many years of development went into AutoGlym’s High Definition Wax. This is wax is not designed to buff out scratches or swirls, it is the final stage wax, there are no abrasives or emulsifiers found in most other waxes.
Super Resin Polish
If your paint has some scratches, swirl marks or other imperfections, then you need to polish the paint. AutoGlym’s Super Resin Polish cleans, polishes and seals the paint of even mildly damaged paint. This stuff even works on the new water-borne paint. Here is a cool tip- apply the polish to the entire car then perform the rest of your detail BEFORE buffing the polish off. This helps protect the paint from being marked up during the rest of the detailing process. As long as you don’t do the work in the sun, the polish will buff off with ease.
We use the AutoGlym Perfect Palm Applicator to impart a smooth application of the polish. This ergonomic finger-grip coverage reduces hand fatigue and speeds up the process to boot. For only $10, it is a great way to upgrade your detail box.
Wheels and tires
The last process in detailing is the wheels and tires. Wheels get all kinds of nasty- from brake dust to roadkill splatter, wheels are hard to clean. Our favorite wheel cleaner is Mothers All Wheel & Tire Cleaner. This cleaner uses foaming action to cut through the grime, and then is washed off with a simple water hose and left to dry to a clean finish. It is safe for all wheel types, even hubcaps. Once the wheels and tires are clean, the tires need some shine. Mothers FX Tire Shine is specially formulated to not discolor over time or sling off the tires, which makes a mess of fenders and inner fenders.
Waterless Wash and Shine
Right before any car show or photo shoot, we like to give the cars a quick detail. Using water or carrying around a big ‘ol detail box is a pain, so we use Prolong’s Waterless Wash and Shine. As a final detail shine, this stuff works great for photo shoots. Any time you drive a car, you are going to acquire some level of road grime and bug splatter. This detail cleaner removes all of the dirt and bug residue from your cars finish without hazing or smudges, the perfect final finish product for any car.